Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Greden and Easthope play chicken with DDA, lose.

6. July 2005 • Murph
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At today’s DDA Annual Meeting / Retreat (expect A2News article tomorrow), City Councilmembers Greden and Easthope attempted to talk the DDA into compromising their current goals and working on a Two-Site Plan that would leave out the parking lot at 1st & William. DDA Board members gave reactions ranging from silence (at the most positive) to derision; the general conclusion was that the Councilmembers can’t wiggle out of taking some official position on the Three-Site Plan. The DDA plans to ask the Council to discuss the Three-Site Plan and vote – yes, no, or amended, the DDA members seemed not to want to proceed without some official guidance from Council, especially when they saw this idea as giving up on some of the public benefits they saw in the Three-Site Plan.

No official proposal was brought forward by the Councilmembers; the general concept involved,

  • Adding public parking to 1st/Washington, increasing the height of the building. (Ray Detter of the Citizens’ Advisory Council noted that this would make that project physically identical to one that had proved completely politically infeasible a few years ago. Easthope contested the claim that the Old West Side association had blocked that proposal.)
  • Adding public parking to development at the Kline’s lot by going further underground. (Private parking to serve on-site uses is expected to require 2 levels underground; 1-3 more levels were tossed around as possibilities. Adrian Iraola of Washtenaw Engineering, formerly DDA staff, brought up an engineering study from a past proposal on the Kline’s lot showing groundwater at 31 feet, meaning that any underground parking past 2 levels would require extra cost and have to be continually pumped out.)
  • Potentially adding levels to the Ann-Ashley and 4th/William parking structures. (DDA Board members Rene Greff and Rob Aldrich noted that this would cut into the DDA’s ability to use those potential expansions to serve needs past the Three Site Plan.)
  • Leaving 1st/William as is. Greden noted that lot would be needed for parking until the rest of the project was finished, for vehicles displaced from the other sites during construction, and no plans were mentioned for any action on that site even after construction.

Greden and Easthope seemed to think that their idea could serve all of the goals served by the Three Site Plan, in a smaller area, at lower cost, and with a better chance of Council approval. The DDA was skeptical.

While the DDA agreed that they’d explore a “Two Site Plan” if that was what Council wanted, they seemed unwilling to give up on the Three Site Plan or to undertake an entirely new planning process without firm guidance from Council – if Greden and Easthope wanted the DDA to scrap the Three Site Plan, they were going to have to bring it to a vote at Council, vote against it, and provide direction for a revised planning process. Mayor Hieftje, who sits on the DDA Board, was silent during the discussion until directly asked for his opinion, at which point he stated that he did not support building a parking structure on the 1st/William site, and additionally was against “ramming anything down anybody’s throat”, giving as an example the conversion of Main Street into a pedestrian mall as something that he was in favor of but wasn’t pursuing because the Main Street merchants are against it.

After the Councilmembers’ failed attempt to get the DDA to back down without Council taking any official stance on the Three Site Plan, the theme of the meeting moved from chicken to golden goose – The next item of discussion was the potential of supplying the City with $15-$18million in aid to construct an expansion to City Hall. DDA Board member Rob Aldrich(?) noted that the DDA had become involved in the City Hall expansion discussion at a point when that expansion included several hundred public parking spaces, with the DDA estimating a $15million involvement to construct that parking. Current discussion of the City Hall involves no public parking, but Roger Fraser and other City officials are still expecting at least the same amount of assistance.

UPDATE, 7 July, 1pm (Murph): The Ann Arbor News has two stories online about yesterday’s DDA meeting; one on this conversation and one on proposed changes to parking rates:

> Ann Arbor News, 7 July: Easthope calls for change to DDA’s redevelopment plan
> Ann Arbor News, 7 July: Parking structure rates will decrease



  1. (Five hour meetings are pretty tolerable when there’s this much entertainment included…)
       —Murph    Jul. 6 '05 - 06:42PM    #
  2. I wish i had been there to see it all.

    John Hieftje supports the creation of a pedestrian mall on Main Street. That sounds like cutting edge urban planning…of the 1950s. Maybe he should put down his bedside reading of Victor Gruen and look at what the cities who created pedestrian malls thirty years ago are have been doing with them—tearing them up and opening them to traffic. What a leader.

    Good for the DDA for not backing down.
       —Dale    Jul. 6 '05 - 08:26PM    #
  3. Dale: I really don’t understand your radical opposition to a pedestrian mall on Main Street. Walking & eating dinner outside there is currently a loud, fume-filled affair. A pedestrian zone something that (my family) has been asking for at least 6 years now.
       —Matt Hampel    Jul. 6 '05 - 10:22PM    #
  4. Perhaps the idea of a pedestrian mall has recycled back (what goes around…it’s been 30 years) with better planning ideas.

    The pedestrian malls I’ve seen (from 30 years ago) were sorry affairs 10 years (or less) after they were built. Battle Creek comes to mind, a city I lived and worked in—early 80s.

    I have lived here all my life and I never eat outside on Main (and don’t really frequent most of the eateries on Main anymore). Ah, to be able to sniff the aroma of gas and oil burning…better to go somewhere “off Main.” Main, to me, is for tourists ;)

    Anyway, a great site is www.pps.org (Project for Public Spaces). I’m sure the people on this topic know about this site. One article (of serveral) on ped malls is below:
    http://www.pps.org/gps/one?public_place_id=473
       —Anne    Jul. 6 '05 - 10:48PM    #
  5. The pedestrian mall I imagine extends only 4 blocks on North (& South) Main from E. Liberty to Catherine. There are parking structures on both ends and both sides of this stretch. The one logistics question I have is how to deal with cross-traffic on Huron (and what will happen to Business 23?).

    Apologies for the thread comment-jack.
       —Matt Hampel    Jul. 6 '05 - 11:14PM    #
  6. Correction on my imagination: any pedestrian zone should extend to William.
       —Matt Hampel    Jul. 6 '05 - 11:33PM    #
  7. “Radical” opposition, Matt? I am opposed to thoroughfares being used for only one form of transportation, first off (bikes are frequently banned in ped malls). Second, pedestrian malls saw widespread implementation and they failed for many reasons, but think about #1 for starters. Think about simple urban continuity, too. Also think about local business owners’ claims that they need in-and-out customer traffic. Why would we use unsuccessful gimmicks to improve upon tried-and-true urban design issues?
       —Dale    Jul. 6 '05 - 11:42PM    #
  8. I suppose by radical I meant scathing. Ped malls are still very successful in Europe. Of course, this is where the very valid “America is not Europe” argument comes in.

    I’m interested in learning more about urban planning & design. Do you have any recommended reading, or suggestions where I can start?

    Also, Wikipedia has an entry on pedestrian streets that specifically mentions Ann Arbor, which is confusing. Is it outdated? Any idea what streets it refers to?
       —Matt Hampel    Jul. 7 '05 - 12:01AM    #
  9. Braun Court is the only one I can think of offhand. . .
       —[libcat]    Jul. 7 '05 - 12:05AM    #
  10. Wikipedia lists Oak Park, IL but that has been “reopened” to traffic.

    http://www.pps.org/gps/one?public_place_id=108

    As far as examples in AA—the Diag?
    But bikes, etc. are on that too, which is good.

    I’m hardpressed to think of any other examples right now, save Briarwood Mall.
       —AJ    Jul. 7 '05 - 07:01AM    #
  11. “Adding public parking to 1st/Washington, increasing the height of the building. (Ray Detter of the Citizens’ Advisory Council noted that this would make that project physically identical to one that had proved completely politically infeasible a few years ago. Easthope contested the claim that the Old West Side association had blocked that proposal.)”

    This makes me so angry that I’m going to just going to have to walk away from the keyboard.
       —todd l.    Jul. 7 '05 - 08:37AM    #
  12. Pedestrian mall?

    Some people seem to think that local businesses need to be run more like a pro sport: Let’s make it as difficult as possible for you to survive, and make as many contradictory rules that we can think up to make it impossible for you to last more than a couple of years.

    Handicapped people, or the elderly? Sheesh, they don’t need to get to Main St. businesses. They don’t eat much anyways…let’s ignore the thousands of dollars that businesses like mine have to spend to make their business accessible to the handicapped, and then turn around and make it so anyone in a wheelchair can’t make it to my front door unless the weather is perfect.

    People who are in a hurry. Nope, let them go elsewhere.

    Main st? No, that’s not a Main artery through town that connects M-14 and I-94, let’s direct the increasing commuters “elswhere”, wherever that is. We should definetly shut it down so that we can all eat outside for the 40 days that it’s either not winter or raining real hard. Anything that will make it harder for local business owners….I’m all for it.

    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

    Sorry. I’m in a pretty bad mood after reading this post.
       —todd l.    Jul. 7 '05 - 09:03AM    #
  13. (The wikipedia article is talking in the past tense – note they’re saying that most of those were “judged as failures and reopened to traffic”. I still don’t know where they’re talking, though.)
       —Murph.    Jul. 7 '05 - 09:10AM    #
  14. “Adding public parking to 1st/Washington, increasing the height of the building. (Ray Detter of the Citizens’ Advisory Council noted that this would make that project physically identical to one that had proved completely politically infeasible a few years ago. Easthope contested the claim that the Old West Side association had blocked that proposal.)”

    My advice would be to try it again and not worry about what happened a few years ago. Increase the size of the building on the Kline’s lot and the First/Washington lot. The current proposal for Klines is for six stories. Make each site eight to ten stories (higher than that and you will have complaints) and leave First and William as a park. I think you will get better response to this now than before. Frankly, there wasn’t any opposition (a few suggestions, but no opposition) to the proposed ten-story building on the Kleinschmidt lot two weeks ago so there is no guarantee of a lot of opposition to one at First/Washington.
       —Juliew    Jul. 7 '05 - 11:26AM    #
  15. “A few suggestions, but no opposition”?

    Then why was the ten-story building at the Kleinschmidt site rejected by the Planning Commission?
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 7 '05 - 11:38AM    #
  16. Larry, go to the post on the 10-story building and read comments #24-35 for a full recap.
       —Juliew    Jul. 7 '05 - 11:45AM    #
  17. Bullshit. They’ll pretend to agree to eight to ten stories until they get their fucking park, and then they’ll want nothing higher than three. Hold their balls over the fire. Tell them they can have a park, but not until after we get two fifteen story building. Until the fifteen story buildings are done, First and William is where the porta-johns for the builders go.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 7 '05 - 11:46AM    #
  18. As for pedestrian malls, I’m with Todd and Dale. First of all, they work best in places with warm, dry climates and lots of tourists. Ann Arbor isn’t really a strolling and eating outside city most months of the year. Secondly, Main St. does well now with a combination of walkers, bikers, cars, strollers, and tables. What does a walking mall give us? If you don’t like sitting on the sidewalk with exhaust, go inside or go to Dominicks or Prickly Pear. I lived in Boulder for four years and I have visited Burlington several times and although the walking malls seem nice enough when you are there during the day, they tend to get scary pretty early. There isn’t the traffic and movement of cars, so walking malls seem to stagnate and feel less safe. The flow of people and traffic just isn’t the same as in a vibrant, working downtown. They tend to appeal primarily to tourists who are gone by early evening. My relatives live in Boulder and they only go to the mall when visitors come. Walking malls tend to be very much like, well, malls. They usually have a lot of chain stores, a fake atmosphere, and large groups of people who make other people nervous.

    The special events we have on Main St. are only possible because there is a road. You couldn’t do runs, bike races, or car shows if Main Street was a walking mall. Even Art fair would be in jeopardy because the stores would have moved out into what is now the street.

    The pedestrian mall I can think of off-hand in Ann Arbor is East University north of South University which was converted from a street in the late 70s. Making it a pedestrian mall certainly cut down on traffic of all kinds. Now there aren’t that many people who even use it as a walking area.
       —Juliew    Jul. 7 '05 - 11:50AM    #
  19. “Bullshit. They’ll pretend to agree to eight to ten stories until they get their fucking park, and then they’ll want nothing higher than three. Hold their balls over the fire. Tell them they can have a park, but not until after we get two fifteen story building. Until the fifteen story buildings are done, First and William is where the porta-johns for the builders go.”

    Amen to that.

    We’ve heard rhetoric from the Friends and other groups about the coming “density”; that it is inevitable, and we should put parks in to contrast with the new density. I am asking all groups now, since it sure looks like they’ll get their fondest wishes fullfilled, to stand up, be a true citizen, and remove (completely) the ceiling height restrictions for building in the DDA area. No more protests. No more micromanaging. Let the Planning Dept. do their job.

    Show you meant what you said. I said before that I’d support the park if these groups would sign off on tall buildings. Will you put your money where your mouth was? Or will you do as many have predicted and go right on protesting project after project?

    I am really hoping for true compromise from those who have said that they want both density and parks.

    Seems fair to me.

    Comments?
       —todd l.    Jul. 7 '05 - 12:51PM    #
  20. PSD and Todd: note that the plan described above is a “no change” on 1st/William. It’s not a “park on 1st/William” plan, but a “ignore 1st/William entirely at least until after the other two sites are completed.” If the DDA and Council go with this plan, it will be a “victory” for the Friends in the “block the parking structure” sense, but not in the “get a park” sense. They won’t be able to “get a park and then block development anyways.”

    The only way this is a “compromise” is that everybody is giving something up, and nobody’s getting anything. The DDA is being asked to pack as much goodness into two envelopes rather than three (with Easthope asserting that they can do it more cheaply that way!), and, meanwhile, 1st/William is left with no park, no greenway segment, no rail crossing improvements, no soil clean-up, no drain repairs – none of the $3 million in not-parking-structure-related work that the DDA was originally proposing.

    Sure, the DDA’s original plan may have blocked the “anchor park for a full-scale greenway” that Margaret Wong mentions again in today’s A2News, but this compromise brings no park, and no greenway. Yes, go ahead and call this a victory, Friends. If “no parking structure and no parks” means a victory, then I guess I have to give up on offering the benefit of the doubt and thinking that you were sincere about the parks and not just trying to block the parking structure.

    Plus, offering the DDA more height in order to make up for the 1st/William site is a terrible deal! If “more height” is seen politically as bad, then how is that at all a good trade-off for “no park and no greenway”, which should also be considered bad, politically? If the Council is willing to allow a certain height when the DDA is not doing $3 million in contamination removal, safety improvements, and park construction, why would they be unwilling to allow that same height in a plan that allows those other goodnesses as well? If they’ll allow higher buildings, great! Build the higher buildings! But keep the parking structure and park and greenway at 1st/William, in order to get the maximum goodness out of the plan! Don’t sacrifice goodness on all three sites and achieve nothing but blocking a parking structure!

    Me = angry and ranting. Time to go search real estate websites for houses in Ypsi to calm down…
       —Murph.    Jul. 7 '05 - 01:07PM    #
  21. Pedestrian malls might seem like a nice idea while it’s warm and pleasant, but what kind of environment would a pedestrian mall Main Street be like in the middle of January? Not so appealing, I think.

    And, as Todd noted, Main Street is a major artery. Where would you divert the traffic to make this work?
       —archipunk    Jul. 7 '05 - 01:27PM    #
  22. Goodness is in the eye of the beholder. I’m pretty sure that the “friends” would gladly settle for a weedy, polluted parking lot. They’ve been living next to it all these years; they’re comfortable with it. Better the devil you know, I guess. And they could always treasure the hope that someday, on that big rock candy mountain, the city would build them their park. I’ll bet if you put it to a vote they would overwhelmingly pick the status quo over the parking structure and park with its $3 million in improvements.

    And regarding the pedestrian mall. I think that Main, north of Huron, is Business 23. So I believe the city would be prohibited from shutting it down unless they could provided a viable alternative. Anybody know who controls Business Routes? Also, Kalamazoo recently removed their pedestrian mall. I recollect that it was a disaster.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 7 '05 - 01:40PM    #
  23. Hmmm, $3 million for the not-parking-structure related work at First and William. Interesting how that is $2 million more than the last number I saw from the DDA. Inflation is killing us. Now that you all put it this way, I guess we should all bow down to the beneficence of the DDA. They are after all, out of the goodness of their hearts, giving us the parking structure, the park, and the first piece of the greenway. Gee, aren’t they just the greatest. Of course, where are they getting that money? Oh, that would be from city taxes and city parking money. So silly of me to be concerned about where my money and the city money goes. I guess I should just trust those good people around me who know better than I do. Just because I live, work, and shop downtown doesn’t make me an expert. After all, these are business people and even though most of them don’t live downtown and several don’t even live in Ann Arbor, I guess they do know what is best.

    Just be careful what you wish for. Remember, the more housing you build downtown, the more downtown residents you will have. Since downtown residents are obviously the scourge of the earth and the reason Ann Arbor is supposedly falling apart, the more of us there are, the worse everything will be. Perhaps it would be better to have only urban-planner types and developers living downtown. Then anyone could build anything anywhere and Ann Arbor would be a Midwestern paradise. Our own little Manhattan on the Huron …
       —Juliew    Jul. 7 '05 - 01:51PM    #
  24. I believe a Business Route falls under the authority of the folks who control the “real” route; Feds for US-23. At the very least, I believe that all of Main Street is a County Road, so you’d need the Road Commission’s permission to take it out.

    In other interesting notes from yesterday’s meeting, though, several DDA members seem interested in taking some action on a greenway outside of the chunk they’re proposing to build themselves on 1st/William. One of the Committees includes in their work plan for the year the idea of hiring an architect to look at the DDA-relevant portion of a greenway, stretching from First/William to the Huron River and considering things like how to handle street crossings. Someone (Leah Gunn?) suggested that this investigation might want to be expanded outside of just the rail corridor, perhaps looking at using part of the Ashley or First right-of-ways for part of the length. Yep, those dastardly, corrupt DDA members are trying once more to sink the greenway – this time by hiring architects to work on it!
       —Murph.    Jul. 7 '05 - 01:54PM    #
  25. A town full of planners sounds a lot nicer than the six square miles of prairie surrounded by endless miles of stripmalls that asshole Cowherd would give us. Hey, they’re my tax dollars too, and I want them spent on a parking structure.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 7 '05 - 01:58PM    #
  26. And anyway (rant over) why does every jerk resort to that “they’re my tax dollars” shit whenever he’s pissed off? My brother gets that way when he sees she state planting flowers along the freeway. “They should spend my tax dollars on improving the roads!” Well la di da, since I don’t drive anywhere of import, I’d prefer the state spent my tax dollars on flowers. But within the city, since auto commuters subsidize my decadent walk-to-work lifestyle by paying to travel here and work/shop, I’d like to see them parked efficiently in a structure.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 7 '05 - 02:06PM    #
  27. The DDA’s 10-year-plan (version from yesterday) includes $3m in TIF and $19.5m for parking for 1st/William among the assumptions. Nothing’s going to be final until a lot more is done, but those are the assumptions for now.
       —Murph.    Jul. 7 '05 - 02:14PM    #
  28. PSD, it is that whole “taxation without representation” thing. We tend to feel strongly about it in this country for some reason.

    Murph, so that is $3 million that the DDA will collect from taxes related to the TSP and $19.5 million that the DDA will collect in parking revenue from First/William over the next ten years? How do they know how much (even just assuming) they will get from the two building sites? Do they have developers already? Can they mandate a certain building height, size, value, etc. or do they only get money from the sale price of the lots rather than the value of the development?
       —Juliew    Jul. 7 '05 - 02:22PM    #
  29. State of Michigan TIF FAQ
       —Dale    Jul. 7 '05 - 02:38PM    #
  30. Yeah, but Julie, it makes you sound like such a Republican bitch.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 7 '05 - 02:41PM    #
  31. Juliew,

    The $3m and $19.5m are what the DDA plans to spend on 1st/William, and roughly correspond to not-parking-structure and parking-structure expenses; sorry for the ambiguity on that previously, that was meant to be an answer to your comment about past price tags on 1st/William.

    TIF revenues would take into account both the sale of city-owned land and any development on top of it – all of that would be captureable increase in value. The revenue side of the 10-year-plan is less itemized than the expenditure side, and just includes a 2.5% annual increase in TIF revenues, non-specific in source.

    Generally, sale and development of 1st/Washington and Kline’s would be done much like the sale and development of the old Y site; the DDA and City would come up with an RFP for each site, solicit responses from developers, and then select a developer; if the developer doesn’t agree to the terms that the DDA and City are looking for, then they don’t get to buy the property. Things like height, size, uses could be specified in the RFP, at least in terms of ranges.
       —Murph.    Jul. 7 '05 - 02:53PM    #
  32. PSD: sheesh, lay off.
       —Murph.    Jul. 7 '05 - 02:53PM    #
  33. I’m sorry I called you a Republican bitch. But that “my tax dollars” crap just falls under the heading of Duh! Yeah, you tax dollars this, your tax dollars that, everything the government does it does with your tax dollars. Does every single dollar spent benefit you personally? No. Could it? Never? Does that mean you’re being taxed and not represented? No, it just means that someone else is getting represented at the moment. Like when the state plants flowers for me instead of adding another lane to 23 for my brother. I will never, ever, personally benefit from this garage. I could walk there faster than I could drive. I will never park in or near it. But it makes sense. It’s good planning, it maximizes the resource and is a big improvement over what’s there. And I believe it benefits the community at large, even if it happens to constitute an example of “my tax dollars” being spent on someone else.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 7 '05 - 03:09PM    #
  34. Sorry about being such an asshole. You should all be gratefull I don’t show up at meetings and talk.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 7 '05 - 03:11PM    #
  35. PSD, I might be a bitch at times, but never a Republican. You asked why people trot out that phrase and I answered. It is something that is drilled into our heads from birth. Personally, I prefer to question just about every line that a government or governmental authority feeds me. Right now the DDA is feeding everyone a line. They might be right that the TSP is the way to go, but the patronizing “we know better than you do, you stupid NIMBYs” is a little too Bushian for me to take on face value. Give me data on parking (and I’ll say it again, I think there does need to be more parking downtown, but they don’t know where or when or why people park). Tell me why First and William is the best site to put a parking structure and I might agree. But don’t tell me it is the best place because we can’t put anything else there. That is a sure recipe for a waste of $22 million.
       —Juliew    Jul. 7 '05 - 03:57PM    #
  36. 1st/William may not be clearly the best place to put parking in terms of where existing demand patterns are, but it is the best in one sense: exactly the one you’re claiming it’s not:

    don’t tell me it is the best place because we can’t put anything else there.

    Parking is not a valuable use in and of itself, just a necessary evil in the service of people’s real activities. One of the largest costs of parking is not the price tag of building it, but the opportunity cost – what you can’t build because you’re building parking. A site with the fewest and least necessary alternate uses has the lowest opportunity cost. (And I do, yes, consider “a 1-acre park instead of a 1/3-or 1/2-acre park” to be a “least necessary” alternate use.) Which parking lot is a bigger waste of space? The current 1st/William lot, or the Library lot? 1st/William or the Palio’s Lot? 1st/William or the Kline’s Lot? Look at the potential of each of those sites if not used for parking, and 1st/William is the best place to put parking, in that context.
       —Murph.    Jul. 7 '05 - 04:08PM    #
  37. It’s the best place because we can’t put anything else there. Sorry, but it’s true. And the fact that people park there already, and in the other two surface lotts, which are both within two blocks of it, seems to indicate to me that parking there would be used. It’s not like it’s adding lots of new parking spots—it’s just replicating the parking that already exists on the three surface lots. AND it doesn’t even really matter whether anyone WANTS to park there, the monthly parkers are just going to be assigned to it. So it will have a built in set of users while it frees up spots in the structure up on 4th.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 7 '05 - 04:09PM    #
  38. The County Road Commission has no authority inside the City of Ann Arbor (be grateful for that!)
       —Leah    Jul. 7 '05 - 04:16PM    #
  39. Juliew, maybe I missed it in an earlier comment, but why do you want the site to be a park?
       —Steve Bean    Jul. 7 '05 - 04:32PM    #
  40. “AND it doesn’t even really matter whether anyone WANTS to park there, the monthly parkers are just going to be assigned to it.”

    Except that people aren’t going to want to pay as much as the city charges to park this far away from where they work (and First/William is darn far away from where most people work downtown). As we have all noted here on AU, there are many alternatives for a company. A small company already pays a premium for being downtown. Their employees pay a lot for parking because monthly permits in downtown are pretty expensive (especially when compared to the U rates). So if it is expensive and inconvenient, companies will leave downtown. My husband’s company almost left because their private parking was going to be taken away. The staff said they would not pay to be in Ann-Ashley because it was too far away and too expensive (and it would be closer to them than First/William). The company had almost signed a lease in the State St. area by the mall when they got the lease back on their private parking. So they, and their 50+ employees, stayed downtown but it was close. First and William is basically in a residential neighborhood. Is this really where it is best to put a parking structure? Besides, the lot at 4th and William is rarely full during the day so monthly parking permits which are used primarily during the day won’t have much of an effect.

    And why, why, why if you are going to build a structure, aren’t they adding spaces? If there is a problem with parking now, why would they build a new structure that doesn’t add any spaces to downtown parking? I don’t get that at all.

    Oh yeah, and that floodway thing.
       —Juliew    Jul. 7 '05 - 04:34PM    #
  41. PSD writes like the Right Wing Republican Reactionary that he is. Republicans traditionally favor developers, concrete and $$ over anything Green.

    I bet that Murph moves to Chicago when the DDA cuts his gig. He won’t be around for the long haul. His peeps just aren’t into stability and building community. Isn’t a bit disingenuous to claim to be offering the truth of the matter when indeed Murph has a vested interest in his DDA overlords decisions? I also think Murph is incredibly naive in his quest for a New West Side. Laughable!! Uh, been there, done that… About 35 years ago.
       —mucho gusto    Jul. 7 '05 - 04:42PM    #
  42. Steve, I don’t care if First/William is a park. I’m not a greenway supporter. It could be a temporary concession stand during football games for all I care. I think a park would be fine use, especially if it could be used as a place to mediate flood waters. If someone wanted to come up with something more creative and make it in to some sort of arts/athletic/educational/fair venue, that would be fine too. I think the DDA is trying to make a parking structure fit, but it isn’t a good fit for environmental or practical reasons.

    One of the questions in the Floodway Mitigation presentation was “should the city buy up properties in the floodway in order to prevent structures from being build on them.” Ha! I was struck by the irony of that!
       —Juliew    Jul. 7 '05 - 04:48PM    #
  43. Juliew, so are you (still?) thinking that the library lot is a better spot for a structure? I realized while writing my last comment that I hadn’t yet considered that site in terms of permit parking during the week, with 4th & Wm. freed up for public parking (as I had for 1st & Wm.) It would be more centrally located for workers, and not as much of a concern for them crossing the perceived barrier of Fifth and the ‘dead’ block of the Fed building between there and Main as it would be for shoppers/visitors.

    On the other hand, the peak demand is on the weekends and evenings. If we could count on the Brown block lot staying open, the distribution just might be okay. If that gets developed without public parking and both the other surface lots and 1st & Washington are gone, that leaves Ann/Ashley, 4th & Washington, and 4th & Wm.—and the hypothetical library structure—to serve the Main and Ashley area. I’ll ask Jill what she thinks of that possibility and report back. How does that sound to you, Todd?

    This would be a different TSP, with the library lot considered in place of 1st & Wm. Did that concept come up at the meeting, Murph? If the floodway studies come back with stop signs attached, this could be the next step for the DDA anyway.

    Sorry if I’m rehashing anything. Just trying to see everything from all angles.
       —Steve Bean    Jul. 7 '05 - 05:47PM    #
  44. Following up on the thought of alternative plans, I’m wondering if the lesson that comes out of this in terms of public input process for such decisions might be that an alternatives-based approach is better than a plan-based approach.

    I’m reminded of the way federal agencies—FWS, NPS, BLM, etc.—do site planning by offering up multiple alternatives, usually including a minimal-impact or do-nothing alternative. (The Precautionary Principle promotes a similar approach.) The affected public then gets to choose between alternatives rather than voting on one at a time. (Another analogy might be the difference between the current winner-take-all voting system and instant-runoff voting, wherein voters get to rank their preferences and all options are considered in a single election.)

    This approach might also deal with the concerns that Todd and others have about opposers to a particular plan then opposing all subsequent plans, potentially resulting in minority rule.

    Am I off base here or might council have something to learn?
       —Steve Bean    Jul. 7 '05 - 06:01PM    #
  45. Steve, yes, I do think the Library lot is a better spot for a parking structure because it is more central to all parts of town and so more useful to all parts of town, especially for monthly parkers. I would make that structure big (800 spots) and have monthly and hourly parking (perhaps with a small part of the Library lot remaining a surface lot for library patrons and have some metered parking in the structure for those who prefer to pay (or not pay) cash). Then I would restructure the monthly permit parking for the city so that it is cheaper (at least match the University price) and open it up to more permit holders. This would, in effect, create a “hunting license” and oversell parking spots but would leave fewer spots unused. I would also do a lot more in the way of directions, wayfaring signs, etc. to direct people to available parking options. But we are beholden to the “highest and best use” god and the Library lot is considered too valuable for other potential uses so probably won’t be developed solely as a parking structure without an accompanying development.

    I also agree with the idea of presenting multiple choices. This whole TSP scenario has gotten way out of hand with people coming down firmly on one side or the other too early in the process. The DDA said at the beginning that this was a proposal and they would like input, but now seems to be defending this proposal to the bitter end. I don’t know if they ever intended to accept input or if it just got ugly too fast, but I don’t see any working together now. It would have been good to have three or so plans. Presumably there is an end goal in site and it seems unlikely that there is only one way to get there.
       —Juliew    Jul. 7 '05 - 06:28PM    #
  46. Months of work on a charge from council for no pay and not get defensive when it’s opposed from the get-go? Possible, but not reasonable to expect. The DDA got put in a win-or-lose (the next worst thing to a no-win) situation. They’d like to prove themselves worthy of acting on behalf of the community and their constituents—both businesses and residents. Completely understandable. It also doesn’t help when your opposition resorts to misleading rhetoric. And now to have the rug pulled out from under you by those who requested your effort in the first place. Ouch.

    Who knows, Julie, maybe your vision for the library lot is the highest and best use for the site. Don’t give up on it.

    I just read the News article. Murph, did you misquote Hieftje or did the reporter? No biggie, but they’re different.

    I have to agree with the DDA members who characterized Easthope’s action as a quick fix. Will there now be adequate public input on the new two-site plan? (A question that brings back memories of the parks-only proposal.) Chris says they can act on it this month, not having to wait for the floodway study results.

    If only that were the (legitimate) focus of opponents of the TSP we might not be in this mess.
       —Steve Bean    Jul. 7 '05 - 08:38PM    #
  47. perhaps with a small part of the Library lot remaining a surface lot for library patrons and have some metered parking in the structure for those who prefer to pay (or not pay) cash

    Why not arrange the structure so that the gates, booths, etc., are not directly at the entrances, but at the bottom of the ramp(s) to the second floor, so that the first floor area can be left open for meters and very-short-term library patrons?

    BTW, certain “Textile formatting” seems not to work, specifically the ‘blockquote’ mechanism. . .
       —[libcat]    Jul. 7 '05 - 08:43PM    #
  48. Why not get rid of the huge parking lot at the library and free it up for real development?
       —js    Jul. 7 '05 - 09:48PM    #
  49. Nothing in the article indicates to me that the DDA is unwilling to revamp or alter their plan. I’m glad they’re willing to stand fast and make the council go on record—yea or nay. Let’s keep it out front for all to see.
       —Dale    Jul. 7 '05 - 10:15PM    #
  50. mucho, glad to have you around, and thanks for such a substantial contribution to the conversation. I don’t have anything against Chicago, mind you, but it’ll take a lot to get me out of Michigan. That whole six-generations-of-family-around-Detroit thing makes me particularly interested in a lack of community, cutting ties, and getting the heck out of the area, but maybe I’ll stick around despite growing up here, thanks.

    Steve, wording is different, and I acknowledge that mine is not a direct quote. If you think there’s an important difference, I’ll defer to Gantert, but I don’t know that there is.
       —Murph.    Jul. 7 '05 - 11:36PM    #
  51. Months of work on a charge from council for no pay and not get defensive when it’s opposed from the get-go? ... They’d like to prove themselves worthy of acting on behalf of the community and their constituents-both businesses and residents. Completely understandable. It also doesn’t help when your opposition resorts to misleading rhetoric. And now to have the rug pulled out from under you by those who requested your effort in the first place. Ouch.

    ADUs, anyone? this is exactly what happened with the whole idea of granny flats. A group of volunteers worked for years on the affordable housing issues, came up with the ‘low hanging fruit’ idea of granny flats, wrote the language to incorporate it – and it was killed by Council in a pre-emptive strike before Planning Commission even got to review it because of misleading rhetoric from some neighborhood groups. Council alienated a lot of hardworking people by doing that.
       —KGS    Jul. 8 '05 - 10:30AM    #
  52. KGS—can you think of any materials produced in the course of that research and work on ADUs that the city might still have or that I might get my hands on? An ordinance draft or a study or something?
       —Dale    Jul. 8 '05 - 10:43AM    #
  53. Re: University parking vs. DDA parking permits, I’m not sure the cost difference is a great as people think it is. IIRC, the U permits are about $500/year for a blue pass (aka parking spot “hunting license”) for employees, but departments also must pay the same amount, so the total cost is somewhere around $1000/yr. Again, IIRC, DDA permits are in the neighborhood of $100/month, no? ~$1000/yr is pretty comparable to ~$1200/yr…
       —Scott Trudeau    Jul. 8 '05 - 10:47AM    #
  54. Last time I checked, DDA permits are $105/month for a pass, $135/month for a reserved space. This was for the Ann/Ashley structure, I don’t know if it is the same for all structures. By way of comparison, I pay $75/month for a space pn the little private lot on 1st on the south side of the Phoenix Building.
       —tom    Jul. 8 '05 - 10:51AM    #
  55. Steve: “If that gets developed without public parking and both the other surface lots and 1st & Washington are gone, that leaves Ann/Ashley, 4th & Washington, and 4th & Wm.-and the hypothetical library structure-to serve the Main and Ashley area. I’ll ask Jill what she thinks of that possibility and report back. How does that sound to you, Todd?”

    I have to say that, given the projects that I believe (emphasis on the word believe: this is my opinion, not fact) will be occuring in the near future on the Blind Pig block together with the Fleetwood block, I have to say that I believe that 1st and William appears to be the best location for “new” parking. I think that the reason that many don’t think that 1st and William site makes any sense is that they are looking at it from the perspective of how buildings are laid out currently. We all have to remember that the 1st and William structure wouldn’t be open for business for about 3 years. That’s an awful long time.

    Julie: “I also agree with the idea of presenting multiple choices. This whole TSP scenario has gotten way out of hand with people coming down firmly on one side or the other too early in the process. The DDA said at the beginning that this was a proposal and they would like input, but now seems to be defending this proposal to the bitter end. I don’t know if they ever intended to accept input or if it just got ugly too fast, but I don’t see any working together now. It would have been good to have three or so plans.”

    This makes sense on its face Julie, but you have to admit that we all know what the outcome would be if there were alternatives offered: the Friends would select whatever alternative eliminated the parking structure. Now how would this completely predictable outcome further the process?

    If this sounds mean-spirited, that is not my intent, but their input on the 3 site plan is utterly useless. Why? Because their position is that they don’t want a parking structure, and they just happen to live near the proposed project. Well, duh. That’s a surprising position. Now how does this help us make a design decision that is in the best interest of the whole city?
       —todd l.    Jul. 8 '05 - 10:59AM    #
  56. “the Friends would select whatever alternative eliminated the parking structure. Now how would this completely predictable outcome further the process?”

    By not setting up the choice to be ‘pro’ or ‘con’ by only having a single plan to speak for or against, presenting multiple alternatives might result in a group like the Friends simply being counted in favor of one of the alternatives—just like anyone else. Being against a particular alternative would take on less weight. The measure of an alternative would be the numbers in support, much less the numbers in opposition (and their persistence.)

    That might sound like only a minor difference, but let’s think it through. Instead of a TSP, suppose the DDA was charged with presenting alternatives for achieving the goals of maintaining existing public parking availability in the Main/Ashley area, increasing affordable (workforce) housing downtown, increasing market-rate housing downtown, and increasing downtown retail space. (Am I forgetting something?)

    Alt A: Do nothing. Actually, the closest to doing nothing that’s possible would be to rebuild the 1st & Washington structure. The other goals beyond parking would be forgone in this case.

    Alt B: The TSP. Side benefits of soil cleanup, drain pipe replacement, and a chunk of greenway.

    Alt C: A two-site plan?

    Alt D: A three-site plan with the library lot instead of 1st & Wm?

    And so on up to five or six alternatives.

    Don’t like Alt A? Choose Alt D or another one to support. With so many alternatives to consider, would it be worth the effort to immediately form an opposition group to just one? I doubt it. And if that alternative is ultimately the choice of the majority, you can fight it, but you’ll have to point to another alternative as being better and have a very strong case for why the preferred one is truly bad for the community.

    In addition, this approach makes it easier for anyone to say, “I like Alt A, but we don’t know enough about the floodway to make that a good choice. If we have to decide next month, I’d have to support another alternative.” No lesser-of-two-evils concerns, just picking the best option by weighing all the information. (Again, the IRV analogy comes to mind.)

    I think this scenario is sufficiently different—in a positive sense—from what we’ve been going through to consider it for the future.

    I’m wondering if this is actually the process that the DDA went through internally in a way (though limited to considering the three city properties.) Having that process open to the whole community from the start would eliminate much of the potential for some of the other bad feelings that have arisen in this process. (E.g., see Juliew’s comment #35 re: patronizing (actual or not) and the feelings it engenders.)
       —Steve Bean    Jul. 8 '05 - 12:20PM    #
  57. Wow. And here I checked out for a week or so because I thought MY rhetoric was getting too fiery (and, in some spots, it was.)

    I think Steve’s idea has merit, of course, because it’s perfectly reasonable as Steve often is. However, I can’t dismiss Todd’s concern about the APPARENT motives of the Friends, based on many of their statements and actions. In other words, while I don’t believe that Margaret or Sonya or any of those they represent are necessarily malicious or completely self-interested, I do think that they are having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees in a ‘good for the overall community’ context.

    That being said, given that we do have a community here of people that have a high level of planning and community interest and a certain level of planning expertise AND backgrounds/experience from across the spectrum (business, environmental, etc.), is it completely out of the question to compile a compromise plan and begin pitching it to Friends/DDA/councilmembers?

    I’m not suggesting this to engender feelings of ill will on the part of those who’ve already done a considerable amount of planning and research by suggesting that we reinvent the wheel. But clearly there is a problem. And that problem is exacerbated by the assumptions of ulterior motives and hidden agendae on both sides. (Julie and Murph, you heinous conspirators, you. No trial. Straight to Gitmo… ;) )

    In any case, I’d certainly be interested in gathering at, say, Todd’s place sometime next week and mappping something out. Perhaps we could even grab Vince from the ACWG to get proper info on the floodway issues. We already have Murph to presumably give more detailed background on the DDA process…
       —Marc R.    Jul. 8 '05 - 12:39PM    #
  58. Marc, I’d be willing, but not in the next week (out of town).

    I don’t know exactly how the DDA got from “consider these three sites” to the Three Site Plan in its current incarnation; I do know that there was some process (how much can I vague that up?), and that Margaret Wong and Sonia Schmerl were involved in at least the first several months of that process. I have no idea how well-publicized that process was – I think Margaret and Sonia were invited to it specifically as neighborhood members – or what alternatives were looked at internally, since that was before the time I was paying attention to the DDA.
       —Murph.    Jul. 8 '05 - 02:11PM    #
  59. Greff’s, Pollay’s and DDA members’ comments in the press have indicated that, once the main issues and priorities were decided upon, eg no loss of parking spaces, parking consolidation, affordable housing, increased city revenue, the TSP was decided as the best way to achieve those priorities. Which I think is an excellent way to go about it. And I think indicates why they defend a ThSP at this point as better than a TwSP—it would negate the established set of priorities that led to the actual plan.
       —Dale    Jul. 8 '05 - 02:24PM    #
  60. That’s my estimation of some of the driving priorities, BTW; I wasn’t involved in the process.
       —Dale    Jul. 8 '05 - 02:25PM    #
  61. ” Adding public parking to development at the Kline’s lot by going further underground. (Private parking to serve on-site uses is expected to require 2 levels underground; 1-3 more levels were tossed around as possibilities. Adrian Iraola of Washtenaw Engineering, formerly DDA staff, brought up an engineering study from a past proposal on the Kline’s lot showing groundwater at 31 feet, meaning that any underground parking past 2 levels would require extra cost and have to be continually pumped out.)”

    This section of Murph’s opening post was of interest to me, as it pertains to my earlier suggestion that a parking deck, if needed, might be built into the hillside next to First and William, out of the floodway.

    I had posed the question as to whether any numbers had been crunched on how the economics of building underground would stack up against building a free-standing structure.

    Now it seems that there has been some kind of analysis. Murph, or anyone, I wonder if the study mentioned by Mr. Adrianola could be secured, scanned into pdf, and posted on this site’s library. I think it would be an interesting addition to the discussion.

    For example, Mr. Adrianola (or at least Murph’s second-hand reporting) indicates that an underground structure would involve “extra cost.” Fine; everyone can probably acknowledge that from the get go.

    But, what is this extra cost? If we have a specific figure, we can start a discussion of balancing this extra cost of building into the hillside vs. creating additional public safety risks by building a parking deck in the floodway.

    And, incidentally, I find the statement that building underground would require constant pumping of groundwater to be intriguing. This is not a negative to me, if one looks at such groundwater as a potentially valuable resource. It could be the water supply for a water feature in a park on the First and William site.
       —Jim Nicita    Jul. 10 '05 - 10:22PM    #
  62. Today’s Ann Arbor News

    “After months of community debate, it appears the parking lot at First and William streets in downtown Ann Arbor won’t become a parking structure or a park anytime soon.

    City Council Member Chris Easthope appears to have enough support on the council to get through a compromise that would implement two parts of the Downtown Development Authority’s three-site plan to create housing and retail space downtown but leave the controversial First and William lot as it is.”
       —Dale    Jul. 11 '05 - 11:45AM    #
  63. Fucking imbeciles on the City Council. Feeble minded toads. Craven bootlickers. Cowards.

    I’m going to burn a couch a night at the corner of First and William until every one of those bastards has been tarred, feathered, and dragged out of town behind an electric car.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 11 '05 - 12:28PM    #
  64. Maybe somebody can help me out with explaining a “two site plan” while Murph is out—so we’re going to replace a parking garage with no parking; we’ll replace a surface lot with something that has no parking; and we’ll leave an existing surface lot to pick up the slack? Yay.
       —Dale    Jul. 11 '05 - 12:57PM    #
  65. They are NIMBY’s one and all! This proves all along that the Accidental Activist was only fronting for the Cowerd led “Enemies of the Parking Structure.” Well at least Easthope, Cowerd and Wong will be able to sleep soundly knowing that a mirage threat to their property values has been defeated.

    I’m sure their next priority is to get a Starbucks or Gap to go into the Liberty Lofts commercial space.
       —Kurt    Jul. 11 '05 - 01:34PM    #
  66. Ah, if only it were that simple, Kurt. I’m sure there are a few anti-density people worried about property values in the Friends group(s), but many of them I’ve spoken with have a genuine interest in downtown vitality and locally-owned businesses. Just not a parking structure on First and William.
       —Lisa    Jul. 11 '05 - 07:34PM    #
  67. Ah, if only it were that simple, Lisa. Their leaders’ rhetoric says otherwise and these “many” people who have an interest in downtown vitality sure only spoke up when it looked like they’d be looking at a parking structure and that they might scam another nearby park or three out of it.

    If there is a genuine interest in downtown vitality where in all this discussion did they and their groups speak up to allow for taller buildings in downtown?

    They said it was about getting a park (and not just about stopping the structure) and Easthope’s plan shows that that was a lie all along.
       —Kurt Maier    Jul. 11 '05 - 08:02PM    #
  68. A2 NIMBYs (and especialy cowherd)love to step directly on the toes of the township NIMBYs. Hell, let’s keep fighting density in A2 so that the judges can keep smacking around the surrounding communities for not providing their fair share of dense housing.

    What’s wrong with you people? ITS A CITY. let it grow like one. you want something a little quieter, move to Saline. Hell, according to Money magazine, its way better anyway for your kind.
       —Mr. Rogers    Jul. 14 '05 - 01:53PM    #
  69. Ann Arbor has been going through an identity crisis. It can’t decide if it’s big town or small city. All trends are toward the latter, but some people are having a hard time coming to grips with that, and they happen to be the loudest … Of course, dense cities are great for the environment.
       —Scott Trudeau    Jul. 14 '05 - 04:57PM    #
  70. City Council passed a resolution tonight in support of a “Two-Site Plan,” leaving First and William out of consideration. Only Kim Groome voted against it. The resolution was amended so that affordable units are to be considered on both remaining sites.
       —Dale    Aug. 1 '05 - 11:01PM    #
  71. The “Two Site Plan” appears to be shrinking again.

    The News reports (http://tinyurl.com/o7qk9) that council is considering bids for a One Site Plan at 1st & Washington. Apparently council has appointed a committee to provide recomendations on three bids:

    1) 4-star hotel with 50 condos

    2) 72-unit condo with 276 parking spaces in 8 stories. 48 units would be “workforce” housing.

    3) 114 luxury apartments with 205 parking spaces and “resort class amenities” in 5 stories. Highfalutin!

    A related article in the Business Review (http://tinyurl.com/m5lcq) points out that,
    “When bids went out to redevelop the property several years ago, five responses were received. Negotiations with the chosen bidder, Joseph Freed & Associates, fell apart, and the city spent years redefining what it wanted on the site. ”

    I’m not aware of any success in redefinition on this site, only more arguments (granted that arguments are part of redefinition). Does the city have clear goals for this site now? Do they have support of the DDA and the greenway contingent?

    The RFP indicates “120-200 public parking spaces, allowed up to 10 stories and provides contributions toward parking- either above-grade or underground- and affordable housing.”

    I’d be interested to hear peoples preferences, given the three options, and how you think this may impact the greenway debate.


       —Scott TenBrink    May. 31 '06 - 04:28AM    #