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impact2005: "a frank conversation about our region"

26. August 2005 • Murph
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The Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce is hosting the one-day conference impact2005 on September 14 to discuss Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan’s attractiveness to “innovative companies”. From their press release:

“Impact 2005 will focus on how to expand and grow our economy, how to attract and retain those businesses that every state is trying to land—those in the innovation, biosciences, information, professional, tech and related sectors. Anyone who is interested in the future economic growth of our region should attend” Keeley said.

While the event’s website rosily states, “The Ann Arbor region and Southeast Michigan is becoming a hub for innovative companies,” Brandt Coultas, the Chamber’s Director of Government Affairs, says the purpose is not just to laud past successes, but to discuss the City and region’s failures. “Why don’t people (not just 22-35 year olds) move here and why do they leave? Why don’t more cool, emerging, innovative companies locate here/start here?”

The event’s $75 registration fee will probably dissuade most bloggers from attending, but any thoughts here on how to do Richard Florida / Jane Jacobs better than “Cool Cities” will probably make their way back to the “region’s decision-makers”.

EDIT, 26 Aug: by e-mail, it looks like a “student rate” of $30 has been introduced for the conference – “This rate covers the Chamber’s cost of hosting the event (food & beverages) and hopefully allows the students an opportunity to attend and participate in a conversation of how to shape the future of the region.” Alan Barr of Creative Change Associates is the contact person for student registrations – alanb@creativechange.org. Good enough for me…



  1. They really know how to appeal to our demographic with that title. Grammar is for old, non-innovative people!!!
       —Brandon    Aug. 10 '05 - 07:46PM    #
  2. i attended a meeting like this once and found myself in a room full of suits, the only participant from the “innovation, biosciences, information, professional, tech [or] related sectors.” i spoke up once and it felt like the whole room was staring at me the way you would stare at a talking cat.
       —peter honeyman    Aug. 10 '05 - 08:22PM    #
  3. bq. i spoke up once and it felt like the whole room was staring at me the way you would stare at a talking cat.

    Oh man, and here I thought that I could get to one conference during my internship.

    You know what someone should do? Create an awesome technology conference. Without the talking cat factor.
       —Matt Hampel    Aug. 10 '05 - 11:03PM    #
  4. i went to this one a couple weeks ago … some pix here

    social issues were on the agenda … but not much on parking rights or air space rights, just boring old digital rights.
       —peter honeyman    Aug. 11 '05 - 12:08AM    #
  5. I’m a Chamber member and got the mailer on this one. Loved this line:

    “It is a frank conversation about our region, before, during and after the conference.”

    During? Does that word have any meaning in that sentence? Sounds more like these people had a leetle too much coffee in their marketing brainstorm meetings. Well, that or gin.

    On a more serious note, I’m glad to see that they’re at least trying to talk about it. My sense is that the current business establishment (and by that, I mean the ones who have some history here in the area) has no clue as to why young people move in and out of the area, and why there aren’t more innovative companies here. But the problem with this conference is that they’ve priced it out of the reach of the people they need to talk to the most. Talking to each other isn’t going to answer those questions for them – actually talking to young people and to innovative companies would be a much better place to start. Yes, research statistics presented in lovely power point presentations have some value – but how much of it actually applies in Ann Arbor?

    The cost of things – whether it’s housing or conferences or leased commercial space – has a lot to do with where young people and innovation turn up. Has it been so long since our local ‘business decision makers’ were young and not settled into stable, profitable business models that they’ve completely lost sight of that?
       —Laura    Aug. 11 '05 - 08:00AM    #
  6. “My sense is that the current business establishment (and by that, I mean the ones who have some history here in the area) has no clue as to why young people move in and out of the area, and why there aren’t more innovative companies here.”

    I actually have to disagree here. The conversations that I have had with business owners (and, yes, I’m talking about some of the owners who’ve been open for business for decade) are more in tune with what’s happening in Ann Arbor than any other demographic.

    Why? Well for one thing, most of them employ the very last of what the Cool Cities people like to call the creative class. The owners get to hear first hand how difficult it is to live here, and what options there are in Ann Arbor in terms of nightlife.

    The problem with Ann Arbor…and I would think that this is pretty obvious…...is that it has an identity crisis. It hasn’t really grown in it’s central area (save UMich, obviously) for quite a while now, allowing for new bars, shops, restaurants, residences, etc. At the same time, the cost of living has gone through the roof.

    What does this mean to young people? Easy: they look at their limited means and ask: “what do I get from Ann Arbor for my dollar?” When the answer is “not much, I can get much a nicer residence with better transit and job opportunities elsewhere…with a much better social and community life”, they bail.

    On the other hand, if you have the means, a nice job and a couple of kids and only go out once a month, Ann Arbor has to look like paradise. These people aren’t comparing Ann Arbor to, say, Portland or Cambridge. They are comparing it to other parts of suburban America, and from that perspective, things like the Ark, Top of the Park or Art Fair have to look like terrific places to visit because they don’t exist in traditional burbs.

    This is where the lines are drawn, IMHO. The younger set, together with the business community see Ann Arbor as either a dying commodity, or already dead…while the other crowd are thrilled with the city just the way it is, and can’t fathom why anyone would want to change it. (Yes, that’s big sweeping generalization, but there ya go.)

    The problem with the latter view, IMHO, is that Ann Arbor doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and as Zinn put it “you can’t remain neutral on a moving train”.

    In other words, the very fact that we have, for the most part, chosen to do nothing in this town is what is creating the greatest amount of change in all areas of Ann Arbor life.
       —todd    Aug. 11 '05 - 09:16AM    #
  7. Right Todd. To me and my preteen kids, Ann Arbor is wonderful. A tame version of a real city. I’m also a grad student with 20-something friends who think AA is deadly dull. And they’re right. How many times can we sit around at Ashley’s before thinking it’s time to get out.

    You need a real city, with real places to work. You need to lure Google into building a tall building downtown, with parking. You need to pry loose venture capital out health care and auto-related businesses. *Auto is DEAD, btw. You need to fund other types of startups.

    It means higher density development. it also might mean that the greenbelt was a really stupid idea.
       —JennyD    Aug. 11 '05 - 09:22AM    #
  8. (scrolling back up: well, this certainly turned into a stream of consciousness mini-rant…)

    Laura, I agree, but will extend to not just cost, but immediacy. Where is the housing, the commercial space, the events that young, no-capital innovators can afford, and how do they get from one to the other? What’s around each of these things? Can you get to and from your workshop/lab at any time of day, as inspiration strikes? How hard is it to go out and catch a show? (“Mass transit prevents drunk driving!” as an ex-housemate liked to say.) How likely are you to run into half a dozen people you know as you’re walking down any given street? How likely are you to at least recognize your neighbors? Do you need to take a cab to your front door in order to get home safely all the time, or only after midnight?

    One of the problems that I see with Michigan is that the few places that fit the immediacy criteria don’t fit the affordability criterion at all. In order to stay in Michigan, rather than running to Chicago, and achieve the style of life that you want, you have to be willing to shell out a lot more for housing and transportation. (Tragically, I can’t put my finger on the article right now, but I saw something on PLANetizen a month or so ago saying that Detroit/Ann Arbor/Flint was the second most expensive metropolitan area in the country in terms of the portion of household income that’s spent on housing + transportation.)

    If you look at the Jane Jacobs “Economy of Cities” model (or the pop-culture Florida “Creative Class” version), then economic vitality is built on having a whole mess of stuff going on together, with heavy cross-pollination of ideas and talent across fields. Plenty of opportunity for people to live cheaply while tinkering on their latest album / exhibit / computer program / vegan high-energy sports food / etc, and to pop out for a quick cup of coffee and conversation with somebody doing something totally different. If you have a situation where people need to work for the University or Pfizer full-time in order to afford to live in the places where that kind of thing might be physically possible, you cut down on the actual opportunity for people to do such things.

    I think part of the problem can be stated as “Ann Arbor’s downtown/campus area is a scarce good in southeast Michigan, and therefore is too expensive for people to actually take advantage of it.” We need, I think, to reach out to the other cities in the region (Ypsi would be a good start), and Dearborn next, once that train comes along, and take a good hard look at urban form and at the types of behaviors it enables.

    Take a look at the Michigan Suburbs Alliance’s Redevelopment Ready Communities Project : rather than calling development an evil practice by evil people, the MSA is looking at what it can do to improve those communities. I think it’s particularly important for Ann Arbor to get involved in the MSA, and in the RRC program, because we’re better situated than River Rouge or Ypsi to move to the next step – reclaiming poorly used parts of town. While RRC seems so far to be focused on making it not totally ludicrous that anybody would want to invest in a city, Ann Arbor doesn’t so much have that problem. We can spend our time figuring out how to encourage best form to come out of redevelopment. Watch a couple of A2 Planning Commission meetings, and you’ll see that, for every controversial downtown development that gets batted around, there are a dozen condo-developments or single-story retail with big parking lot developments that happen around the edges of town, and are allowed to go totally unchallenged. We recognize how valuable downtown and the near-neighborhoods are – why are we allowing the outer half of our city to be wasted on sprawl? At the 1st Ward meeting last week, Hanson suggested (and Colenback followed cautiously) that there was plenty of space for dense development near Briarwood – no need to put all of it downtown. While Hanson seemed to be thinking of where development could go and cause the least harm, that approach is totally backwards – we need to look at these spaces and recognize how much good could come if we encouraged the right kind of redevelopment. (Oh, and the MSA’s second annual conference was free to two representatives from each city and $15 to anybody else. That’s how you get a good range of ideas.)
       —Murph.    Aug. 11 '05 - 09:59AM    #
  9. (wow, multiple new comments to respond to while I composed that monstrosity…)

    Todd: “The younger set, together with the business community see Ann Arbor as either a dying commodity, or already dead”

    Colenback last week invoked “Keep Austin Weird” as the kind of thing that Ann Arbor needs to do. Sad, that. My Austin-native housemate who wears his tie-dyed “KAW” t-shirt around the house does so in the style of a 35-year-old in a tattered Kurt Cobain T – it’s already dead, and the only thing left is the nostalgia. He’s commented that Ann Arbor reminds him a lot of how Austin was when it was merely on the ropes, and not actually quite down for the count. (Listening to him talk about Austin and Ann Arbor is actually eerily like listening to Todd talk about Boulder and Ann Arbor…It’s only the people who don’t know those cities who think they’re good models for A2.)

    JennyD: ”*Auto is DEAD, btw. You need to fund other types of startups.”

    Yes, and not in the sense of, “Okay, now let’s fixate on biotech!” Picking a new direction to move in is bad – picking 100 new directions to move in is better. (Letting the people who are going to do the moving pick the directions is best…impact2005’s “lead, follow, or get out of the way” tagline has the unintended JJ/RF correctness of not trying to lead young innovators around by their noses, but getting out of the way and enabling them to do what they want.)
       —Murph.    Aug. 11 '05 - 10:11AM    #
  10. “You need a real city, with real places to work.”

    Interesting statement – when will Ann Arbor become a “real city”? We – the collective we here at AU – talk a lot about what form/ function/etc. that Ann Arbor should adopt/grow into/etc. But when will we know we’ve reached that point? And what is that point where we say “Ann Arbor is now a ‘real city’” and not the pretend-city that many people seem to view it as?

    Right now, Ann Arbor, in population and size, is one of Michigan’s largest cities. What are we aspiring to reach? Warren has almost 140,000 with no downtown so we now that the suburban sprawl model can create a fairly large population base within an area roughly the size of A2. Or are we shooting for Grand Rapids almost 200,000? It’s larger geographical but not significantly so.

    I ask this not as a tilt against growing but asking “how large do we want to become”? Because I think that defines the boundaries of how we want to grow. Do we want to be a city of 150,000? 200,000? As we set the bar higher, it means a different set of choices about density, building heights, style of development, etc.

    And what are the intangibles that define a “real city”? Is Warren a real city or a pretend city? In population and size, it’s larger than Ann Arbor. But I don’t see a mass exodus of people there. So what will be in the future Ann Arbor that will make those seeking a “real city” come here?
       —John Q.    Aug. 11 '05 - 10:13AM    #
  11. Re: housing + transportation costs being very high in Metro Detroit—it’s definitely true. I’m planning to move to NYC, and at first I balked at rents > $1000, even in less desirable neighborhoods, for studio apartments. But then I realized my g/f and I were paying $850 in rent, but we also had car & motorcycle payments/insurance/maintenance/gas, which easily makes up the hundreds of dollars a month, making the cost of living in nice-ish Brooklyn neighborhoods, with easy access to Manhattan, just slightly more expensive than living here. WTF?
       —Scott T.    Aug. 11 '05 - 10:28AM    #
  12. John Q, I’ll offer the answer, “It’s not about growth, it’s about development.” And the two are not the same.

    Ann Arbor is not a city of 114k, it’s a metropolitan area of 250-350k, expected to grow by 80k in the next 15 years, even if we do nothing. We don’t need to worry about growth, we need to worry about quality. Being a “real city” has much less to do with size than with style. Trenton, NJ, is only about 45k people, and New Brunswick even smaller, but both of them have a more “real place” feel to them than Ann Arbor. (Granted, both of them had their problems, as well.) Ann Arbor is on the edge of Princeton territory and marching steadfastly in – it’s not a real place, it’s Disney’s conception of a real place.

    If we have 80k people moving to the Ann Arbor area in the next 15 years, and we take no action to affect the form that this growth takes, the area will get worse. We need to take action to make sure this growth is accompanied by development – moving to a higher and better stage – so that it makes Ann Arbor better, instead. (We also need to work with other cities in the region, since the region’s not growing, just moving around. Ann Arbor will be beseiged by the oh-so-evil growth factor until we, personally, help fix Detroit/Wayne County.)
       —Murph.    Aug. 11 '05 - 10:36AM    #
  13. Murph, I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but is there such a thing as an “entrepreneurial index” for Ann Arbor or elsewhere? I think it’s interesting (if not vital) to know how many new businesses we have, how long they’ve been around, and how much of the city employment they provide.
       —Dale    Aug. 11 '05 - 11:04AM    #
  14. If Ann Arbor wants to spurn entrepneurialism it needs to take a step like Arcata, Cali. (as featured in the documentary “The Corporation”) which capped the number of chain restaurants in the city. Although this is a small start, is an achievable policy goal in the next year or so.

    Capping chain restaurants would promote local entrepeneurs to start up, would keep capital within the city limits, would make ann arbor culturally distinct from every other city with 5+ starkbucs.

    It would also create service ecologies as local businesses are not getting pre-fab architectural and food products from all over, could create synergy with local organic farmers, etc.

    AA already has a thriving local restaurant/bar/coffee scene, but has clearly changed and become more sterile, corporate, and banal even in the time I am here.

    I am a cultural worker that i am sure this city wants to retain, but as it stands when i graduate I am outta here.

    Having a more dense downtown, with 1st floor locally owned and opreated businesses, continuing public transportation options and bikability, etc. would help me want to stay though.

    A chain restaurant or chain store cap would be a good first start to keeping things desireable for the creative class.
       —Zack Denfeld    Aug. 11 '05 - 11:35AM    #
  15. I’m not feeling it. Coercive policies should be a last resort; the city could promote/incubate local businesses in far better ways.
       —Dale    Aug. 11 '05 - 11:48AM    #
  16. I do think it is true that we need to stop fixating on downtown Ann Arbor and look at the city of Ann Arbor as a whole. Downtown is but one neighborhood. There are many people who live and work happily in Ann Arbor, shop locally-owned stores, who walk or bike to work, but never set foot in downtown. We can add a lot of high-rises downtown and say we have done our part for density, but if the jobs aren’t downtown (and many of them are not and will not be), adding density to downtown just increases the traffic flow out in the morning, it doesn’t make downtown more livable.

    Murph is right, we are building one-story strip housing and retail all over the city. I think we should look at that in addition to downtown. How about we say that all new building in Ann Arbor should be at least three stories. Everything out by the mall, everything by the airport, all the tech parks, everything along Washtenaw, Plymouth, and Stadium Roads should have minimum heights and minimum setbacks. Move the parking lots to the backs of the buildings. If we continue to focus on building more and bigger in downtown, we run the risk of destroying the functional downtown we have. Yes, we can make downtown better by selectively building up and adding residential and retail, but does it really make sense to focus on it to the exclusion of all else? If the average number of people who want to live in a downtown hovers around 2%, we can aim for 10%, but where does everyone else live?

    I think we should take the Calthorpe exercise and extend it to the whole city. Where should we put high-rises, medium rises, and low rises? Where should we put retail and new residential? I think we need to start asking different questions. Rather than think of downtown as a bigger version of the downtown circa 1900, we need to think of what makes sense. Does it really matter that downtown doesn’t have a big grocery store? Why doesn’t Plymouth Road have more restaurants? Should all strip malls have residential built over them? How can we make the city as a whole better?
       —Juliew    Aug. 11 '05 - 11:53AM    #
  17. (/me swoons with plannerly joy)

    Juliew: hear hear! I will offer two modifications/extensions to what you’ve said.

    If we’re going to make the city more liveable/sustainable/etc, we should probably focus on improving nodes; I think city-wide at a time is too big a task for anybody to “vision” well, at least at a reasonable level of detail. We should take other areas piece-by-piece, I think.

    There is a design element that can be done city-wide, though, in designing a City Comforts -style pattern language specific to Ann Arbor. What places are good? What are the elements that make them good? How can those elements be prescribed for creating other good places in other parts of town?

    Perhaps do that first, so that everybody can get on the same page regarding “what is the good?” Then pick parts of town, maybe one in each Ward, so that everybody can work on something nearby, and do the “neighborhood”-level visioning. (Neighborhood is in quotes because these are the places that definitely don’t qualify as neighborhoods right now.)
       —Murph.    Aug. 11 '05 - 12:13PM    #
  18. On the other hand, if you have the means, a nice job and a couple of kids and only go out once a month, Ann Arbor has to look like paradise. These people aren’t comparing Ann Arbor to, say, Portland or Cambridge. They are comparing it to other parts of suburban America, and from that perspective, things like the Ark, Top of the Park or Art Fair have to look like terrific places to visit because they don’t exist in traditional burbs.

    Even compared to Portland and Cambridge (and Chicago and Boston), Ann Arbor looks pretty good. I’m in that demographic and let me tell you—those of us with good jobs and a couple of kids go out a lot more than once a month (we can afford to – I’m pretty sure that people in my demographic go out more and spend more on average than single 20-somethings). And the relative smallness of Ann Arbor is a good thing. Live in downtown Chicago, and you have to drive for an hour just to get out of the city and through the vast ring of suburbia and out into anything like open space. For open space where you’d actually want be (e.g. not cornfields), you pretty much have to head for Wisconsin (or Michigan).

    Economically, Ann Arbor is in much better shape than it was when I first came as an undergrad—then, Main Street was full of declining old-line businesses (parking on Friday and Saturday nights was definitely not a problem), and north 4th still had the porno shops.

    But, because it was more ragged and less prosperous, it was a cheaper, easier place to live for grad students and other 20-somethings. Overall, I can’t pretend that the changes have been a bad thing (though I suppose no longer being a grad student has something to do with it).
       —mw    Aug. 11 '05 - 03:15PM    #
  19. Auto is DEAD, btw. You need to fund other types of startups.

    Nah – the way things are going, Toyota is going to pass Pfizer as the largest non-university employer in the area. The Big 3 may be under a lot of pressure and auto manufacturing in Michigan doesn’t appear to have a very bright future, but SE Michigan looks to remain the center of R&D, engineering and design for the auto industry in the U.S. (and manufacturing isn’t Ann Arbor’s niche anyway).

    But, of course, other kinds of businesses are important as well – it would be excellent to have Google in town.
       —mw    Aug. 11 '05 - 03:26PM    #
  20. What role is Ann Arbor going to play in the future of Washtenaw County? What about Southeast Michigan? Michigan? etc.

    Are we going to be the big metropolitan area that spurs southeast michigan? I don’t think so. I think that has to be Detroit. Do we want to stick with the we are an island thing or do we want to be a part of southeast Michigan?

    I agree with Todd we have an identity crisis, and I think it extends beyond downtown issues and beyond the city limits. And when I say Ann Arbor, geographically, I mean as far out as the outside world view extends (one way to measure this is how far out people around here say ‘Ann Arbor’ when someone from far away asks them where they live).

    Maybe we don’t have enough venture capital? Maybe we don’t have the right people to start the companies? Whatever it is, people turn us down everyday and go somewhere else and we have a bad habit of reassuring ourselves we are awesome.
       —Brandt Coultas    Aug. 11 '05 - 04:55PM    #
  21. People say they live in “Ann Arbor” if their post office address and school disrict is Ann Arbor. And that’s a pretty settled boundary, a little ways outside the freeway ring, a territory with a population around 200,000.

    That includes the city and township of Ann Arbor, major portions of Pittsfield and Scio townships, and smaller parts of Lodi, Webster, Northfield and Superior townships.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 11 '05 - 05:22PM    #
  22. Brandt, I think we definitely have to consider ourselves part of the larger Detroit area – Ann Arbor’s not going to become the Big City At The Center Of It All, nor would I want it to. A major actor in the region, yes, but just one actor among several.

    I think the lack of connection (denial of connection?) to Detroit hurts Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor can’t provide big city excitement, which is what a significant portion of at least young (and single) “innovators” want. I know that a lot of the young people who work high-paying jobs around Princeton certainly don’t live there – they live in Manhattan and commute out an hour on the train. (Some Princeton grad students do this, too…) Hour-long commutes are not something Ann Arbor businesses can offer recruits as a perq…
       —Murph.    Aug. 11 '05 - 05:52PM    #
  23. How about Jennifer Granholm does a mission to Silicon Valley and NYC to snag some venture capital for startups here?
       —JennyD    Aug. 11 '05 - 05:53PM    #
  24. Jenny,
    A lot of VCs want to be physically near to the businesses in which they invest. They want to have regular face-to-face meetings with the officers of the companies they are invested in, and be able to go the offices of their companies if they think their is trouble. So most west cost VC firms, like Kleiner Perkins, simply will not consider midwest startups, or make it a condition of investment that they relocate to California. What the state should is persuade VCs to establish offices here.
       —tom    Aug. 11 '05 - 06:24PM    #
  25. Why don’t young folks move to Ann Arbor? Duh, could it be because they CAN’T AFFORD IT? When the anti-development forces keep the supply of housing limited, demand forces the prices UP! (That’s basic Econ 101, for those who actually attended the U.)

    To get more young folks, build more housing they can afford. And if you want to keep housing off the market, or as the PC crowd would say, “fight sprawl,” then YOU should buy the land to keep it vacant. Don’t try to force me to cough up tax dollars to buy up land to keep it away from developers!
       —Garry K    Aug. 11 '05 - 06:25PM    #
  26. “their is trouble” should be “they are in trouble”. Yeesh.
       —tom    Aug. 11 '05 - 06:25PM    #
  27. When you say “people turn us down every day”, are you talking about people we’re trying to bring here? That’s always seemed to me to be kind of a zero-sum game. (Or negative sum: lots of people are spending money/energy to recruit a company that will only move to one place.)

    Don’t we have enough homegrown talent here that we ought to be able to make something of what we already have? How many patents does UMich put out every year? How many students and grad students does this place generate annually? Why can’t we retain them? EdV noted a while back that A2 has a “just passing through” quality, and that long-timers have to get used to getting new friendsets every few years; UMich graduates seem to have an Ann Arbor halflife of about a month, and then they go to other, more desirable places, even if they don’t have jobs. (I know of at least half a dozen recent MUP graduates who are now jobless in Chicago…)
       —Murph.    Aug. 11 '05 - 06:40PM    #
  28. Are we going to be the big metropolitan area that spurs southeast michigan? I don’t think so. I think that has to be Detroit.

    I’m not sure it has to be either one – it’s not clear to me that a metropolitan area has to have a main central city. Detroit is not really the dominant center of economic (or cultural) activity in the region and hasn’t been for quite a while. There is no center. Does there have to be? Why aren’t several smaller centers an acceptable alternative?

    In comparing the downtown core of Detroit to that of Ann Arbor, it may be tha if you only count occupied buildings and going concerns, Ann Arbor’s downtown is already the larger of the two. And given Detroit has lost over half of its population (and wasn’t ever a particularly dense city), Ann Arbor is probably more densely populated, too.
       —mw    Aug. 11 '05 - 07:04PM    #
  29. UMich graduates seem to have an Ann Arbor halflife of about a month, and then they go to other, more desirable places, even if they don’t have jobs. (I know of at least half a dozen recent MUP graduates who are now jobless in Chicago…)

    Well, there’s way that Ann Arbor could retain all or most of a given year’s graduates (do the math). I know quite a few people in their 30’s and 40’s who now live in Ann Arbor but when young and single lived in Chicago for a couple years (or New York). Plenty of young people who move to the big city for excitement after graduation don’t end up putting down roots and staying to raise families.

    And these older people, by the way, are a lot more important to the economic life of the community than they could have been in their 20’s—they (not the 20-somethings) are in their prime entreprenurial age.
       —mw    Aug. 11 '05 - 07:14PM    #
  30. I’m not sure it has to be either one – it’s not clear to me that a metropolitan area has to have a main central city. Detroit is not really the dominant center of economic (or cultural) activity in the region and hasn’t been for quite a while. There is no center. Does there have to be? Why aren’t several smaller centers an acceptable alternative?

    Well, I certainly don’t mean “Detroit” in the 1950 sense of the city – city-of-Detroit-proper is not going to be a Chicago or a Manhattan anytime in, well, ever. (And never was.) But Detroit-the-constellation-of-small-cities has certainly been more important than Ann Arbor economically for all of Ann Arbor’s history, and I don’t imagine Ann Arbor’s going to prosper in the future without that “Detroit”.
       —Murph    Aug. 11 '05 - 07:54PM    #
  31. While Detroit may not ever be “New York City” in terms of importance, we still have to recognize that Detroit will, to some extent, always be the public face of Southeast Michigan. It’s gonna be the city that the regions pro sports teams claim, its gonna be the only place with a skyline, its gonna be the only place with a cultural history that’s relevant to more than one group of people. It’s Rock City and Motown, among many other things.

    If everyone could realize how many people diss the WHOLE state of Michigan just because Detroit is falling apart legislators would cry, on television. Without a true anchor city the state will be irrelevant. The Sporting News says Iowa City is the number one college football town in the country, implying a certain type of young, collegiate, vibrancy and no gives a flying f*** about Iowa. By the way that same Sporting News article lumps Ann Arbor and Ypsi in with Detroit, thus making the D the number 3 sports city in the U.S. (August 12th issue for those interested).
       —David    Aug. 12 '05 - 01:47AM    #
  32. Despite that previous post I recognize that we must be a polycentric region. Not everyone in the world wants the same thing. I’m the guy in the Calthorpe thread who wants to make Briarwood into downtown #2. Therefore all this downtown A2 stuff is almost pointless. What we need to focus on is downtown Ypsi and more importantly the unholy meeting of AA and Ypsi between Meijer and Walmart. Ypsi township is going to be the place all us New Urbanists point to as where we never want to be, give it 3 years, nothing but McMansions, trust me.
       —David    Aug. 12 '05 - 01:55AM    #
  33. But Detroit-the-constellation-of-small-cities has certainly been more important than Ann Arbor economically for all of Ann Arbor’s history, and I don’t imagine Ann Arbor’s going to prosper in the future without that “Detroit”.

    Well, if you mean that the entire Detroit metro region is more important than Ann Arbor—obviously. But in terms of Ann Arbor’s dependency on the region, that’s not as clear. In a state with an unemployment rate much higher than the national average, Ann Arbor continues to have a rate better than average. Even the university relies less and less every year on state funding (as state funding stagnates while tuition rises and the endowment grows).
       —mw    Aug. 12 '05 - 08:29AM    #
  34. Murph, by ‘people turn us down everyday’, I’m talking about people/companies that either decide not to come or leave for a variety of reasons. Tom hit on a few related to venture capital, and I think that the same argument is true for the employees that work for and create these types of companies. ‘Why would I move to/stay in Ann Arbor to run a start up company when I could run one somewhere else and if it didn’t work out, I know I would be able to get another job with a different company. There is no arguing we have a huge amount of untapped talent that streams through this town, but look at a guy like Ray Schiavone, the CEO of Arbortext. He moved here 4-5 years ago to run that company and it recently sold. Are there other opportunities for a guy like that in Ann Arbor? Maybe, but I would bet he is getting a lot more phone calls from the coasts. Same thing happens when people consider relocating here for jobs at U of M or Pfizer, etc. “It’s a great job and we’d love Ann Arbor, but where is my husband/wife going to work (and if our jobs don’t work out, where are they going to work after that)?”

    I agree with David about Detroit. When I think about Detroit, I think about what Susan Pollay used to say when people would complain about a store closing downtown Ann Arbor—“If you want a store to stay, get out your wallet and spend money”. I think I’ve spent a grand total of a $100 within the city limits of Detroit in the four years I’ve lived in Ann Arbor. I’m not in a position to complain about the lack of an economic resurgence.

    Brandt
       —Brandt Coultas    Aug. 12 '05 - 09:52AM    #
  35. “Detroit is not really the dominant center of economic (or cultural) activity in the region”

    Detroit (and Hamtramck) is definitely the dominant center of cultural activity in the region, in my opinion. This is the place with the real music and art scenes, in addition to all the “high” cultural instituations like the DSO and DIA. Southfield ain’t gonna cut-it.

    Meanwhile, 2 more of my friends are moving to Ypsi… seems like almost everyone I know who isn’t a student (anymore) is moving to Ypsi, Detroit, or Hamtramck if they stay in Michigan (and most of these are the “creative” types who do music, theater, art, etc.)... the soul of this town feels like it is indeed dying, and I personally would probably give-up and join ‘em if I didn’t still have a year of my Master’s program left.
       —Brandon    Aug. 12 '05 - 11:29AM    #
  36. This has been an interesting thread in terms of touching on Green values. First community-based economics, then decenralization, and now personal responsibility.

    The “soul of this town” isn’t for someone else to create and maintain. We all contribute… or we don’t. If it were to die, it would be due to those who don’t, not due to those who stay and do.
       —Steve Bean    Aug. 13 '05 - 10:43AM    #
  37. Steve—exactly: the main point being that a good many of those leaving can’t afford the rents here anymore, and can’t afford to “stay and do”... nobody wanted to see Ann Arbor go the way it has gone.
       —Brandon    Aug. 13 '05 - 03:37PM    #
  38. Brandon,
    You are starting to sound like Todd L.
       —tom    Aug. 13 '05 - 07:02PM    #
  39. I’ve started two tech companies, worked as early hires on three others. In almost every case (and each of these companies have all been small) there has been a common theme that some part of the company lives here (development, operations, customer service, quality assurance) and the remainder of the company is elsewhere (sales, marketing, public relations).

    Ann Arbor is a pretty good place to be if you can bring a national or global network of co-workers with you and do your thing with a cell phone and wifi and an occasional trip to Metro to fly. Municipal wifi in any form, whether it be IC.net bringing in hot spots on Fourth Ave or A2 Freenet beaming in a signal to Sweetwaters, means that you can multiply the very low cost office space – all you need is to buy enough coffee to keep the proprietors happy. (A project next week is to get Paula’s Place online so that the Lower Burns Park area has open signal PLUS ice cream within walking distance.)

    Telecommuting can be a real drag, especially when you never see anyone in person. That’s one of the reasons I’m on Plazes, so I can easily discover which of the downtown or campus hot spots to walk to for a conversation. The first startup I did got off the ground because we all had a coffee shop to meet in to answer the question Can we really do this? And that business is still running today 14 years later. (fortunately I am not part of it any more)
       —Edward Vielmetti    Aug. 14 '05 - 12:56AM    #
  40. mw: “because it (ann arbor, ed.) was more ragged and less prosperous, it was a cheaper, easier place to live for grad students and other 20-somethings. Overall, I can’t pretend that the changes have been a bad thing (though I suppose no longer being a grad student has something to do with it)”.

    Well, that kinda my whole point. UMich keeps growing, and tuition keeps rising, and the quality of UMich grad departments has risen to such a level that their tuition has gone through the roof. Downtown has not responded to these changes, and as a result I liken the change in Ann Arbor to be actually quite similar to what has happened in Las Vegas: it’s now pretty much a corporate Disneyland for adults.

    Seediness has its place. Homogenization seeks to remove “blight” and replace it with wealth. If this is done at the proper pace, you can revitilize a town rather than change it into a resort town…which is what is happening here in Ann Arbor. If we had a developer or two at the last Calthorpe workshop, and you pointed at the buildings that were proposed for the downtown area and you asked them “how much will rent be for a residence or a business in those buildings”, I can assure you that everyone in the room would be horrified. “How much?”. “Holy *hit?!”.

    While I agree with Julie, Brandon, and Dave that we need to start building up in other areas of town, the central area is vital because of its proximity to the U. If we do not build there, and fast, then the local businesses will go the way of the dinosaur faster than you can say boo.

    Look at it this way: how many true Ann Arbor institutions are left in this town? I can name the closing of four, and only four, businesses that would make Ann Arbor look like every other town in America. Dominic’s, the Pig/8-ball, Washtenaw Dairy, and the Fleetwood. Imagine if these four places closed? Lame. I can think of two that won’t be open in five years.

    IMHO, Ann Arbor’s sense of place is hanging on by a thread.
       —todd    Aug. 14 '05 - 01:06PM    #
  41. The day The Blind Pig or Encore Records close is the day I give the heck up.
       —Brandon    Aug. 14 '05 - 01:43PM    #
  42. How about Drake’s, Schlenker’s hardware, Wooden Spoon Books, and Schoolkids’ Records? Those were very grievous losses, too.

    Wasn’t the Fleetwood’s site sold recently? No doubt there’s a site plan for something else there before the Planning Commission already. It will be gone by next summer.

    But I don’t think Ann Arbor’s sense of place, threadbare as it is, hangs on those specific four businesses.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 14 '05 - 05:44PM    #
  43. To some extent the sense of place will continue even with nothing but chain stores, it’s true, Larry. There’s still the U., and there would still be some architectural continuity. And maybe that’s the goal of certain subsets of our population—keep everything LOOKING exactly as it always has (with the exception of One North Main—tear that down), but replace all of the dowdy, frumpy, local retailers with upscale boutiques for dogs, and multiple Aveda’s, and restaurants where they know ahead of time what everything will taste like because they’ve been to the “one in Canton” or better yet, the “one in New York”. And why is it that someone who would spend $100 on a “unique” gift for Fluffy will then go around the corner and drink a factory smoothie at Smoothie King? Or are these different people? Are we being attacked from both sides, by both the Bobo’s and the Philistine’s simultaneously? Egad, we’re fucked.

    But as Brandon suggests, any given “grievous loss” could be the grievous loss that breaks the camel’s back for someone.

    And maybe we can’t build fast enough to accommodate the chains and the boutiques, and as we’ve discussed, those are the only businesses that can afford the rent in new buildings. But I did have a hopeful thought the other day. New buildings become old. And if we’re looking at a thirty year horizon, with one or two new buildings coming on line each year, then each year every other building becomes a year older and a little less desirable. What got me thinking about that is Frank’s restaurant on Maynard. Who would have thought, when that “sleek, modern highrise” would ever be affordable to a joint like Frank’s—and he’s been there forever. A couple of year’s ago the menswear store with the thousand dollar suits moved out from next door to Frank’s and went to Main Street, and now there’s a semi-grungy bike shop. Success! So who knows, in thirty years maybe there’ll be a beloved little stinky diner in the Ashley Mews building.

    Something else that’s been bugging me, concerning the Blind Pig/8-Ball. So most of us are in favor of development at the site of the First and Washington structure. And this development will likely include housing. And, to be honest, this housing is probably going to be expensive. So how long before the owners of these expensive new condo’s decide they don’t want a noisy club, with all the attendant mayhem, across the street from them and diminishing their “quality of life”? And actually it’s not just a single club, it’s the closest thing we have to a “club district”. So they team up with the OWS, which also gets some noise and parking overflow, and Margaret gets on board, and the next thing you know the 8-Ball is sacrificed in the name of the greenway. Has anyone else considered this?

    Oh, and regarding the Fleetwood. Any chance of moving it? You could tuck it under the south end of the Ann/Ashley structure, facing Ann. It would be safe and out of the rain, so they wouldn’t have to fix the roof. It would be sad to lose the old Fleetwood bathroom though.

    Sorry this was so disjointed. Monday morning download of weekend thoughts.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 15 '05 - 09:53AM    #
  44. PSD,

    “New buildings get old” is important. The problem we’re facing is so little new development happened downtown for so long that even old buildings are becoming pricey. So now we’re faced with a near-future of thousands moving in to the area, and we have to plan for that. So even the best case is problematic. More dense, pedestrian/transit-friendly development faster might very well, in the short term, help accelerate the things many of us want to avoid (pushing local businesses out, creation of only expensive housing/commercial space) ... but that’ll happen one way or the other, and in the long term, if we build it up, sooner or later buildings get old. And older buildings get cheaper. Which is better than having a lot of crap, auto-centric old building stock in 30 years (which is what we’ll get if you don’t allow for denser development).

    I’ve spent some time reflecting on gentrification. As one who has lived most of his life in the metro detroit region, I have a different take on gentrification than my acquaintances in “healthier” big cities. My big city friends always seem to be furious about gentrification in their neighborhoods (think Wicker Park, Chicago; Williamsburg, NYC, these days)—but also guilty because they’re the young creative types who moved there because it was cheap, but also made the neighborhood “safe” for the money that followed them, dropping Starbucks and overpriced condos on their heads, eventually displacing not only the earlier residents of the neighborhood, but even the youngcoolkids who “discovered” the place. The problem is, if gentrification never happens, you get Detroit. Sooner or later you need big bucks to fix or replace building stock, and this money has to come from somewhere. My hypothesis is that the urban gentrification problem in US is more socially disruptive because of the growing gap b/w the “rich” and the “poor.” In a society with a more egalitarian distribution of resources, neighborhoods might not go through such roller coaster rides. (Of course, if you go too far in that direction, we all might end up in Soviet-bloc cinder block crap boxes… :) ) I should blog this rant…
       —Scott Trudeau    Aug. 15 '05 - 10:40AM    #
  45. PSD –
    Oooh, moving the Fleetwood to the north side of Main St. Bold. Kind of a longer stumble from the Pig/8-Ball than it is now, but Kerrytown is currently the dead part of town in the evening. I very much doubt that the DDA would put the Fleetwood under Ann-Ashley, but if we know who is submitting site plans for the Fleetwood’s current site, we can contact them and negotiate for the Fleetwood’s survival, if at a different site. (Downtown Area Citizens’ Advisory Committee, City Hall, 4th floor, usually Tuesday evenings at 7:30pm will know when site plans are submitted, and will discuss; though, at the last CAC meeting I attended (June), they talked about how everything on that block has been bought up by the same developer, who won’t do anything until Hathaway’s Hideaway becomes available, which they seemed to think was “never”).

    First/Washington has generally been intended for less-pricey new residential, though without a lot of discussion (yet) as to how exactly to achieve that. “No on-site parking” was to be one part of that strategy; hopefully now that the Two-Site Plan will probably include parking at 1st/Wash, they’ll still manage to make it just public parking and not force people who live there to buy $30k parking spaces if they don’t want them. (Bundled parking = bad.) The 2SP will probably end up with 1st/Wash taller than the 3SP would have, individual units can be kept smaller and less glitzy to keep costs down, and the fact that the city owns the land means that some cost might be removed from the end product by accepting a lower purchase price for the land from the developer and/or using the inclusion of public parking as a way to pay for some of the general costs of a structure.

    Not that this means that the people living there will necessarily not mind having the Pig across the street (hopefully they’ll see it as an amenity and not a niusance), and I really don’t think, regardless, that the Pig or other features of the “club district” (and I hear vague rumors of D’Amatos being replaced with another “club district” night spot?) will be shut down – it’s significantly harder to shut down than to shoot down.
       —Murph.    Aug. 15 '05 - 11:28AM    #
  46. D’Amato’s shut down a couple of weeks ago. There is a sign in the window telling people to go to Rush Street instead. They intend to turn D’Amato’s into a live music club. Gracie’s will continue as it is.

    That location seems to be bad spot for restaurants, with D’Amato’s, Robbies, and others I can’t think of coming and going. The only thing that stayed any length of time was The Oyster Bar and Spaghetti Machine (and I am really dating myself mentioning that :))
       —tom    Aug. 15 '05 - 11:34AM    #
  47. Murph: “Not that this means that the people living there will necessarily not mind having the Pig across the street (hopefully they’ll see it as an amenity and not a niusance), and I really don’t think, regardless, that the Pig or other features of the “club district” (and I hear vague rumors of D’Amatos being replaced with another “club district” night spot?) will be shut down it’s significantly harder to shut down than to shoot down.”

    Well Murph, unfortunately, that’s not at all true. Both ourselves and the Arena have been the victim of noise complaints….the Arena from an upstairs neighbor. If the noise x feet from the property line gives x reading on a noise meter….you get a ticket. Period. You have to renew your cabaret (club) license every year, and all it takes is a “see, they keep getting tickets” from an angry neighbor, and they’ll pull the plug.

    For what it is worth, I think that it is much more likely that economic pressure will change the Pig and the 8 ball over. All it takes is one healthy offer for the building/block from a developer, and it’s bye-bye Pig.

    D’Amatos is changing to a music venue starting in the fall. This isn’t a rumor.

    PSD….I LOVE Frank’s. Such a great place.

    Scott T. “The problem we’re facing is so little new development happened downtown for so long that even old buildings are becoming pricey.” This is what I’ve been saying all along.

    I know I sound pessimistic, but I can’t conceive of a way for rents/taxes/millage/fees to go down in the downtown area. We had our chance to put in new buildings that had a much better chance of providing affordable options for businesses and residents about 20 years ago. We chose not to do it, and now it’s time to pay the piper.

    JulieW is right in that the chances for honest affordability and local business start-ups lay outside of the downtown area. Satellite downtowns are the way to go….but that doesn’t mean that we have to give up on downtown density.
       —todd    Aug. 15 '05 - 11:47AM    #
  48. re: Steve and Brandon on “stay and do”.

    I’m with Brandon – for somebody of our age/education bracket to “stay and do” in Ann Arbor, you have to really really love Ann Arbor. Staying involves making personal sacrifices – in order to stay here, one has to either pony up as if one is a late-30s “mature-incomed” professional, foregoing the financial opportunity to do other things, or else live in tight quarters, likely in a fairly decrepit structure, as if a student. Is it worth it? Well, that’s the classic question of, “Is Ann Arbor overrated?” Sure, it’s a nice place, but is it nice enough for what it takes to stay, or should I move away to Chicago, where I can pay less for a nicer, larger place a few blocks from an L-stop, where I don’t need to even consider owning a car, and then maybe move back when I’m in my late-30s and shopping for a good K12 district, and am willing to overlook that half the stuff I liked when I was here before is gone, because there’s still enough here that I like that, well, it’s a shame that other stuff didn’t survive, but hey, what can you do?
       —Murph.    Aug. 15 '05 - 11:50AM    #
  49. Satellite downtowns: yes! The density upzoning on South University is a good first step. Now, let’s look at much more intense and mixed-use development in the West Stadium business district. Good access to transit and basic amenities, and a lot of empty land sitting around in underused parking lots.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 15 '05 - 12:48PM    #
  50. Bummed to hear that D’amatos has closed, but not surprised. They were an awfully expensive restaurant with few other restaurants nearby. They also suffered in location; across the street is a massage place (daylight hours only), a vacant lot, and a parking lot. Walking down that street at night was always pretty dead. Only Miki’s, which seems to survive in a niche market, has lasted that type of isolation. Frankly D’amatos needed to be in Ashley Mews or somewhere else on Main Street, to reap the benefits of an ‘entertainment district’ crowd.
       —KGS    Aug. 15 '05 - 12:54PM    #
  51. I don’t know that Ashley Mews would be a good location. Anything south of William doesn’t seem to last long – except Leopold Bros (thank goodness!).
       —tom    Aug. 15 '05 - 01:12PM    #
  52. Oh,

    And on a slighty self-interested note:

    Would it help if we had Wi-Fi at our place? We’re looking into it, and I like opinions of those who are obviously on the net a lot.

    Grudgingly crawling out of the Cretaceous period,

    todd leopold

    p.s., tell me cretaceous isn’t the coolest word ever?
       —todd    Aug. 15 '05 - 02:05PM    #
  53. Todd,

    If you get wifi, I’m likely to spend a significant amount of my time left in this town at your place. :)
       —Scott T.    Aug. 15 '05 - 02:24PM    #
  54. Todd, wifi is a big draw among the grad students I know, as well as the biz guys who work at home for companies located elsewhere. (Like my spouse.) There are a bunch of middle age men who consult or work here in small offices, but look for places to hangout where they can have wifi and better surroundings.

    On another note, D’Amatos was a lousy restaurant, IMHO. It wasn’t really Italian, but some kind of weird mix of cuisine. What I really want is a place downtown where I can traditional bolognese sauce, bread, and salad. Besides Argierio’s.

    Finally, Ann Arbor is fabulous place to live for a young family. If you have kids, you don’t go out much, and if you do, you don’t want to go far from home. You also want a good school district. AA has all that, and if you can get used to being in the middle of the Midwest in a small city, then it’s great. Plus, your kids can go all over town alone and be fairly safe. Try that in Chicago.

    But, Ann Arbor is run by ostriches who think, a) it’s still 1972, or b) that AA is the most desirable place on earth so squeeze every dime out of every resident for parks, or c) the city has some magical quality that will keep it healthy no matter what stupidity goes on.

    None of this is true, I think.
       —JennyD    Aug. 15 '05 - 02:52PM    #
  55. As I recall, D’Amatos was the site of an earlier restaurant called “The Screaming Dog”.

    I have no idea what “The Screaming Dog” was like, but the owners were arrogant beyond belief. One of them snarled at a reporter that “Ann Arbor will just have to get used to” their kind of restaurant.

    Um, no. The place was out of business in no time.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 15 '05 - 03:04PM    #
  56. The Screaming Dog was an upscale Italian-ish place, owned by Amer (of Amer’s). As for his arrogance, it’s likely he was just coked out of his gourd when he said that.
       —js    Aug. 15 '05 - 03:08PM    #
  57. “But, Ann Arbor is run by ostriches who think, a) it’s still 1972, or b) that AA is the most desirable place on earth so squeeze every dime out of every resident for parks, or c) the city has some magical quality that will keep it healthy no matter what stupidity goes on.”

    This is the problem I have with the kind of A2 bashing that goes on here and at AAIO – it comes across as insular as the viewpoint of those that are bashed. Ann Arbor has plenty of problems and plenty of ways that it can improve itself. But the idea that the city survives in spite of itself or that it is run by a collection of clowns and yahoos displays, in my mind, a disconnect the reality of what passes for local government and local business in most Michigan communities. It’s great that the bar is set high in A2. But you’ll find very few communities that enjoy the level of community involvement (for better or worse, generally better as I see it) or attention to issues that in most places, never are even considered, much less discussed.

    Try finding or using alternative modes of transportation elsewhere in SE Michigan and see how far it gets you. It’s not perfect in Ann Arbor but I challenge you to show me more than a handful of places where it’s even comparable. Then come back and tell us how bad it is in Ann Arbor. Perspective people – learn it.
       —John Q    Aug. 15 '05 - 03:10PM    #
  58. John Q, if you’re looking for somebody to tell off for for not having any sense of perspective, you could do better than Jenny. Way to selectively quote her as an A2 basher and miss the entire paragraph previous:

    “Ann Arbor is fabulous place to live for a young family. If you have kids, you don’t go out much, and if you do, you don’t want to go far from home. You also want a good school district. AA has all that, and if you can get used to being in the middle of the Midwest in a small city, then it’s great.”

    I’d have expected you to be around long enough to pick up on the fact that Jenny is, indeed, one of those people with young kids who digs the school district, and not somebody who’s totally dismissive of everything positive about the town. (And do we have anybody here who is totally dismissive? Not to my knowledge…)

    And, really, is “It’s better than Warren” all you want out of where you live? And do you think that any of us would devote so much time to talking about Ann Arbor if it had no redeeming features? (or if it were interchangeable with Southfield or Sterling Heights?)
       —Murph.    Aug. 15 '05 - 04:15PM    #
  59. Gosh Murph. Thanks. You’re right. I really like Ann Arbor. (Except when I wish I didn’t live in a small city the Midwest.)

    I moved here in 1999 with a kindergartener and second-grader. My husband got a great job offer, and I realized that I couldn’t work 70 hours a week and still raise healthy kids. We left a NYC ‘burb where kids couldn’t walk anywhere. We drove, and drove. The schools were good, but not great, overrated in fact. Money was the most important value. Grades, even sports, weren’t as important as owning things. My neighbor bought her 10-year-old a Rolex. And then I knew I had to leave.

    My kids are thriving here. There is more authentic academic press in the public schools here than in many other places. And the public schools here are far and away better than in our fancy NYC ‘burb (where we were, like, the poorest people in town). There is more push to excel in sports, but in a good way. And there is much more access to sports, both kids and adults. There is much more to do that is accessible, etc.

    BUT…the folks who run the city of AA often do stupid things that sap some of the resources of the place. The economy all around us is dreadful, and so far we’re lucky. But we are not totally immune.

    The city needs folks with money to pay for things. But it needs to be economically and demographically (and intellectually and politically) diverse as well. And it really, really needs a thriving downtown that can grow as an urban center, and isn’t hemmed in by greenways and anti-parking people.

    The great joy of living here is that I can sit outside, have a coffee, and people-watch, like I used to do in my twenties in NYC…but I can still let my children ride their bikes to school and walk around the neighborhood and even in the city center without worrying.
       —JennyD    Aug. 15 '05 - 04:32PM    #
  60. Todd – wifi certainly wouldn’t hurt anything, so it’d be a much less potentially painful experiment than, say, going no-smoking. You’re probably asking too biased a sample to get a good answer, though.

    I remember once noticing that mondays at 7pm are pretty quiet at your place and thinking that Mondays should be made into Civics Night, with the city council meetings played on the big screen. If you had wireless, you could get people live-blogging council from your place – like those of us without TVs. (You know where really needs wireless? Council chambers.) This would bring us one step closer to the Council Singularity, where Council members are checking AU mid-discussion to see what people think of the current issue, and their blog-inspired changes of position blogged… (Okay, maybe not.)
       —Murph.    Aug. 15 '05 - 04:50PM    #
  61. On the whole, Ann Arbor has done better than most cities at keeping small, local businesses. Even now, as we all decry the change, there are still more local businesses downtown than chains. Unfortunately, we have structured our society so that franchises and big box stores are what people want. They want lots of choice and they want it to be cheap. They don’t want the Village Apothecary, they want Target. They don’t want White Market, they want Meijers. They don’t want Zanzibar, they want Buffalo Wild Wings. Bigger, bigger, more, more, more. Local stores have a hard time competing with this anywhere. It isn’t only Ann Arbor. The fact that local stores still thrive to any degree in Ann Arbor shows a lot about the city and the people who are here. Franks outlasted McDonalds and Burger King on Maynard—that in itself is a lot of what is good about Ann Arbor.

    I’m leery about saying locations are inherently bad for businesses. I remember when the third deli in a row opened in a tiny brick building on the corner of Kingsley and Detroit and everyone said “oh, this is just a bad location in a bad part of town.” Hmmm, Zingerman’s seems to have done OK. The problem with D’Amatos was that it stunk. The food was some of the worst I have ever had and the prices were high. I’m happy to see them go.

    I keep saying it: if you want more people living downtown, you are going to have to deal with more people living downtown and Todd is right, there will be noise and smell complaints and people complaining about drunk people and vomit on their doorsteps. The Pig is probably doomed. The Fleet was doomed (again) the minute the city/DDA started going on about “developing Ashley St. in order to revitalize downtown.” Todd, in fairness to your neighbors though, you did start concerts after midnight with residents living right behind you. That is expecting a lot from people. There is a reason Dominicks closes at 10:00. There are compromises necessary on all sides if you are going to have “mixed-use” neighborhoods.

    As for young people moving out of Ann Arbor in droves, I’m not sure it is happening. Of course many people move to the big cities when they graduate. I certainly did. Or they get a small place on the outside of town or in the next town over. I don’t think that is a bad thing. The 25-44 demographic is still Ann Arbor’s biggest (at 31%), with 16-24 second (29%). So someone is managing to make it here. Right now the “over 45” category is less than 25% of Ann Arbor’s population. So maybe we should concentrate more on that demographic than the 22 year olds. What is the ideal age range? Would it be better to have it more equally distributed?
       —Juliew    Aug. 15 '05 - 04:57PM    #
  62. Thanks for everyones’ comments and answers to my questions. The Fleetwood thing, though, is still nagging at me. A few year’s ago there was a discussion about building out (or in) those two lower floors at the south end of the Ann-Ashley structure. There was even talk of the Grizzly Peak people using the space to open a new restaurant (probably something like the one they’re now opening in the Meijer-Shairer (sp?) building. It seemed like a great idea—it’s pretty dead space now, and just parks a few cars. Imagine if the Fleetwood were tucked under there. Not as many square feet as filling it in entirely, but better than nothing. It could have a little outdoor seating area, bigger than it now has, and it would be out of the rain and sun, so it would be useful on a lot of the days you can’t sit outside anywhere else. The car exhaust would be nothing compared to the smoke coming out the door from inside. And yeah, it would be further from the Pig, but closer to my house!

    By the way, what’s Hathaway’s Hideaway?

    And Julie, you mentioned Zanzibar. They’re not closing are they? I really like Zanzibar, and I’ve been looking forward to an after work mojito pitstop within the next couple of days.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 15 '05 - 05:20PM    #
  63. Hathaway’s Hideaway must be seen to be believed. But it is open by invitation only.

    I for one am happy to hear that its site is not available for redevelopment.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 15 '05 - 05:28PM    #
  64. In my experience, the demographic that is least likely to stick around Ann Arbor is 18-35, without kids and not in school. I’m in my late 20s—I finished undergrad at Michigan about 4 years ago. It seems to me most of the people my age bracket (say 24-34) in this town are either grad students or have young families. Grad students tend to keep to their own cliques as do people with kids. I essentially reinvent my social circle every 18 months or so, since more than half my friends seem to leave town about every 18 months.

    I’m preparing to leave town (following my girlfriend to NYC), and this is definitely one of the contributing factors. Others include:

    * housing costs (we’re paying ~$900 month for a place we’re not entirely happy with, with limited alternatives in the same price range);

    * lack of job opportunities (I’m burnt out at my current job and my g/f has been seeking better employment for over 2 years; the opportunities just aren’t here);

    * transportation costs (one car for the two of us has proven necessary; we’d like to live w/o a car at all, but that’s tough to do around here);

    * the aforementioned difficulty of maintaining a social life in our age bracket

    Perhaps Ann Arbor will never be a place for someone like me (young creative/technical professionals) and we’ve held off abandoning it for too long. Maybe Ann Arbor doesn’t want to keep around people like us, and would prefer folks our ages be in school or get the hell out. But I think that unwise.
       —Scott Trudeau    Aug. 15 '05 - 05:28PM    #
  65. Last I heard, while the building that Zanzibar occupies has been purchased by the folks behind Corner House Lofts, the restaurant holds a long-term lease, so the developer is unlikely to do anything to the property for quite some time.

    More trivia about that corner of State & Washington. The two houses and shared parking lot on Washington behind Lane Hall (and Zanzibar and the Mich Theater—Twitch! to those in the know) have all been acquired by a single owner. It seems to me highly likely these properties will be bundled together and sold off to a developer. Imagine if the Corner House Lofts developer held those properties AND the Zanzibar building—that’d be a huge footprint for that corner! Wrap-around Lane Hall giant L-shaped building with State and Washington frontage… hmmm. (I wish AA had better satellite imagery on google maps :( )...
       —Scott Trudeau    Aug. 15 '05 - 05:34PM    #
  66. PSD, the guy who owns Buffalo Wild Wings has also bought the building that Zanzibar is in and says he thinks “it is underutilized space” or something like that. The owner of Zanzibar (who also owns Red Hawk) has a contract and so is there until that runs out, but …

    When One North Main/Ann Ashley was built, there were plans to make a large retail space on the parking lot in between the two but that never panned out. Since the Fleetwood has resurrected itself at least once already, it may be that it can survive again. It would have to be in the Fleet building though—the restaurant isn’t anything without the building.
       —Juliew    Aug. 15 '05 - 05:36PM    #
  67. Thanks Scott and Julie. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Zanzibar. Maybe they could build up to the back of the Zanzibar building and leave the two story front in place, also sparing the restaurant. It’s a pretty building.

    And yes, without the building, there isn’t a lot to the Fleetwood except the Hippie Hash, but you could make that anywhere. And as I suggested you’d lose a lot just by losing the precarious flight of stairs down to the most terrifying bathroom in town. The first time I used it I was hammered and couldn’t figure out how to get back out of it.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 15 '05 - 05:48PM    #
  68. Interesting Scott. My husband and I left Boston because he couldn’t get a good job and the company I worked for was “reinventing itself,” plus we wanted out of the big, expensive city. We moved back to Ann Arbor in our mid-20s and have been happy here ever since (and for the record, we don’t have kids and it is still a good place to live). I grew up in Ann Arbor and many of my friends who moved away to go to school and other parts of the country actually moved back here in their late 20s and early 30s. I also know a lot of people who came here for school and stayed. So I think there is a lot of movement during that age range in general, but there are people moving in as well as out. And personally, I don’t think people in their 20s and early 30s necessarily have a lock on creativity.

    PSD, I agree on the Fleet bathroom. I was little the first time I ever was in there and I remember worrying that I might get sucked down the big black drain in the floor. Much better to sneak in the back door of Conors if the urge hits in that part of town!
       —Juliew    Aug. 15 '05 - 05:54PM    #
  69. I agree with Murph and some other folks on the “how much do you love Ann Arbor point…”

    My boyfriend and I love so many things about Ann Arbor. We have a great community here, and frankly, my band, his art and design and his dance night couldn’t really be quite the same thing anywhere else if we picked up and moved…

    Ann Arbor folks have been really supportive and receptive to a lot of the things and projects we’ve undertaken over the past 4 yrs, especially…

    BUT the cost of living here is ridiculous in terms of housing. It’s hard for two creative professionals to work here AND afford to live here (and forget about buying something!). Having grown up in a small town (helloooo, Murph!), I don’t have much interest in commuting into town. We also could not transport sets, run back home before a show, etc. if we were farther out.

    With our occupations and the other activities we’re involved in, we are probably right within that key “young, cultural creatives” bracket.

    If we hadn’t found an AMAZING steal of a deal (on a rather falling-apart, but still charming) rental through fate/luck/friends several years ago, we’d probably either be in Ypsi, or have flown the coop already to Chicago (I already tried the Hamtramck thing for awhile).

    We love lots of folks in Ann Arbor, so we’ll probably stay, and just keep doing the things we love to do that we hope make Ann Arbor a better, more creative place…

    Still, for a city that touts the arts and culture angle so much, it would be encouraging to see at least more live music venues and affordable places for people who actually earn “creative industry” wages to live…

    Frankly, it might be a hard decision to stay in Ann Arbor once my MA is done, much as I may love it here… job opportunities (I’m in Arts Administration) may call elsewhere…
    Just my two cents…
    -Mariah

    And as for Leopold’s—1) WiFi would be great…
       —Mariah    Aug. 15 '05 - 07:15PM    #
  70. OK, honest question: what does affordable mean for people? How much per room? What sort of configuration (one bedroom, two, six)? How many square feet? House? What would people in the “creative industry” reasonably expect to pay? Since the average household income in Ann Arbor is quite high, percentage of average isn’t that helpful. So how much per month would keep people living in Ann Arbor rather than moving away?
       —Juliew    Aug. 15 '05 - 07:47PM    #
  71. Well, if North Sky is really going to start at $150k during the coming year, that’d be awfully tempting. (Assuming some sort of jobbage can be found nearby when I graduate.) I’d be interested in seeing what they mean by that, but, from what I know of construction costs, I don’t know if I expect more than 600sqft as part of duplex or multi-unit, which would be fine. Closer in would be worth more, old building would be fine (though worth less), enough space to comfortably take Cara’s sister with us from our current place would be good…Hard to describe “the” place/price even just for us, though, let alone for the class. We should set up a hot-or-not for bloggers to rate Ann Arbor real estate listings and find an aggregate price function…

    Rental – I wouldn’t grumble too much at about 80% of current prices. I’m optimistic what the next few years may bring, if Marc R’s experience holds.
       —Murph.    Aug. 15 '05 - 08:24PM    #
  72. And I’ll second Mariah’s comment on jobs (hi, Mariah!). If I want to get a job, and there aren’t any available (and just how many planners are employed in Ann Arbor?), there’s no “affordable” point. If I’m trying to set up my own business or consultancy, that eases the requirement of having people around who want to hire me. Availability of transit to places where there might be jobs is a benefit. I’d be happy to have a 30 or 40 minute commute by train or by express bus, but if I’m going to be working a regular job (rather than consulting gigs) that far from Ann Arbor in the current transportation environment, I don’t think I’ll be living here.
       —Murph.    Aug. 15 '05 - 08:29PM    #
  73. “Todd, in fairness to your neighbors though, you did start concerts after midnight with residents living right behind you. That is expecting a lot from people.”

    JulieW, I think you mistook my comments here. I said that we were the “victim of noise complaints”, but I didn’t say that we didn’t have it coming. We most assuredly did.

    We stopped concerts in an effort to be neighborly. It was too loud for many of the acts that we had. I admit that fully….. and I actually admitted it in print in an ad. that we placed in Current to explain why we had stopped holding concerts. Soundproofing our old building is simply impossible.

    We want to be good members of the community of Ann Arbor….but it’s a two way street. If you live downtown, you have to expect some differences from living in the suburbs. I’m not so sure that all downtown residents quite grasp this concept, though….and this is where I have a problem.
       —todd    Aug. 15 '05 - 08:39PM    #
  74. Maybe y’all are all just more up-to-date than me, but the last _I_ heard, the Fleetwood’s not going anywhere—the current owner was looking to structure the building sale so that the new owner would have to keep the diner. But maybe that’s old news now.

    I thought Hathaway’s Hideaway was what got closed and replaced with the Jamaican jerk-chicken place? (which, btw, isn’t great, but worth a shot or two.)

    I’m probably leaving town shortly—for Pittsburgh, where student rents are $3-400/month, average, and $200s are sometimes seen—but if I weren’t, Todd, I’d love to see wireless at LB. Especially since Rendez-vous seems to be the last coffeehouse in town with a smoking section, and their coffee and their wireless both suck.
       —[libcat], really disliking the strikeout thing.    Aug. 15 '05 - 09:15PM    #
  75. Julie,

    In our particular case, prices around here wouldn’t be too bad if the regional transit was better (and thus a car was less necessary) and if we didn’t have a dog. Landlords near downtown/campus don’t like renting to pet owners and few rentals anywhere near downtown/campus have yards (they’ve all been converted to parking; the car problem, again). This wouldn’t be a problem if there was a dog run or run(s) within walking distance of many neighborhoods, but this town also has a highly unusual resistance to dog parks, despite its seemingly insatiable appetite for more park land.

    So we’ve been living on the fringes of town to for ~900 sq ft that actually has a yard and allows dogs, and paying around $900/month for the privilege. We were able to make having one car work, but we were far enough out that we couldn’t eliminate that expense. So rent + auto costs put us easily into the $1200-1300/month range.

    My g/f spent over 2 years trying to find an entry-level non-profit job in animal policy or the arts—or even related jobs (e.g., working for a vet) and has been unable to find anything. Meanwhile, in NYC there are tons of entry- mid-level job postings in her interest areas, and a number of large organizations that she would love to work for.

    I’ve been looking around at the job market in the area, considering moving on to a more personally fulfilling job, and the market here is bleak. At the same time, I mentioned I might consider moving to the New York to acquaintances and friends in the city, and I have multiple people offering to set me up with well paying freelance/consulting gigs.

    We’ve been finding apartments in decent (if not great) neighborhoods, near quality dog runs (or off leash park areas) in Brooklyn and Queens that don’t cost much, if anything, more than our combined rent+transportation costs here. Sure, the apartments are smaller (we’d settle less space in town here if it came with a place to run our dog)—but I’ll take it if it comes with a 20 train ride to Manhattan…
       —Scott Trudeau    Aug. 15 '05 - 09:43PM    #
  76. libcat,

    You’re thinking of Wolverine Hideaway which, IIRC, was a little falafel stand where the Jerk Pit is now. Hathaway’s is up the block from the fleetwood. It’s an unmarked, two story brick building with a sweet ass solid wood door. It’s basically a big meeting room on the first floor and a bar-like meeting room upstairs. I can’t recall who owns it or what the story of the building is, but it does have Ann Arbor history. Every once in awhile an even that Al Haber has something to do with (e.g., Ann Arbor Social Forum) happens there—though that could just be a coincidence
       —Scott Trudeau    Aug. 15 '05 - 09:46PM    #
  77. Affordable—< 30% of income.

    In absolute terms, about 90 cents to a dollar a square foot a month (rent) or 125 dollars a foot (purchase) on existing construction within a half mile of a bus line (or potential bus line) for what Ann Arbor has to offer. Bigger cities with more amenities and more opportunity, of course, those numbers go up.
       —Dale    Aug. 16 '05 - 08:41AM    #
  78. Not a coincidence. Al knows the owners.

    As Murph mentioned, the rental market is softening in a big way around here. It won’t ever be on the level of Pittsburgh (libcat- $300/mo? Really? I had a couple good friends in Pitt once and I never saw anything like that when I considered moving there.) Can’t say anything for buyers, as I don’t expect that market to do anything but continue to rise for whatever fallacious reason current economic thinking continues to provide (who was it who once said: “Sound economic thinking usually means meeting the needs of the comfortably wealthy”?)

    And Todd, I think wifi is a great idea… even though I don’t have a laptop and won’t be affording one for years since… I own a house.

    Can’t say that I’ve had the same social experience that Scott has. There’s been plenty of turnover as people move in and out of the university sphere, but I’ve known almost as many people around here for many years; in some cases both decades of my residence. That being said, I’m certainly sorry to see Scott and Liz go, even if we aren’t regulars… ;)
       —Marc R.    Aug. 16 '05 - 08:57AM    #
  79. Julie: The reason that Dominick’s isn’t open past 10 isn’t because of noise complaints. It’s because at some point Rich, who owns the place, noticed that the vast majority of his profits came in before 10. The amount of money he made versus the amount he had to pay his staff to work later (including post-close cleaning time) simply wasn’t the margin that he wanted. And since he owns all of the real estate around there, he could comfortably just close when he wasn’t as profitable.
    They used to be open until two, and they used to be open year round. He made the same calculation for each change.
       —js    Aug. 16 '05 - 09:30AM    #
  80. marc, a couple friends of mine live in a house with another guy in Squirrel Hill for $880—$300 ea. for two of them, $280 for the other.

    There are certainly more expensive places available, and in the same section of town even, but most of my friends are doing about as well.

    If you think the student areas around UM look trashed Sat/Sun mornings, you should see South Oakland. If you googlemap “Bates and Zulema, 15213” and switch to the satellite view, you can probably see the garbage on the ground. (ok, not quite.) It’s a disgusting area, but because it’s all within 10—15 minutes of Pitt, it’s more expensive—up to $450/bedroom. . . .
       —[libcat]    Aug. 16 '05 - 10:45AM    #
  81. Sometimes it’s just little things like not having a dog park. I know many young people with dogs who live in apartments and they can’t let their dogs run off-leash anywhere in this town. I had people (nearby home owners) call animal control when I let my dogs play at Veterans Park in the middle of the winter with absolutely no people around. It was explained to me that the only place in Ann Arbor where your dogs can be off-leash is your own backyard. I assume that the mayor and all city council members are homeowners and they probably couldn’t care less about people who cannot afford to buy a house. All they care about is that idiotic Greenbelt and the Central Park to increase the value of their own properties. It is time that people who represent non-homeowners and lower income groups get elected and show those Old West Side types that they can’t rule this town any longer.
       —Kai    Aug. 16 '05 - 12:27PM    #
  82. Kai—Check my issues list from a few weeks back.

    Fifth Ward—Fall 2006?
       —Dale    Aug. 16 '05 - 01:05PM    #
  83. Unfortunately, nobody wants a Dog Park in their backyard, and in this climate, that’s as good as saying that a dog park will never be built. Plus no one in this town could agree on how to run it. See the dog park discussion at AAiO from several weeks ago.

    Examples of Dog Park Factionalism:

    “Some dogs are inherently evil, and will not be allowed in the park.”

    “How can you call Fritz evil, just because he’s a Lead-Nutted Pit Snauzer? I thought we fought Hitler and the Civil War to stamp out that sort of prejudice!”

    What I’d like to see is a law stating that any neighborhood group, anywhere in town, can prevent any sort of development, within or adjacent to itself, that it cares to, so long as the preserved land be used as a dog park. We’d never get a dog park, but it would silence the NIMBYs. And on the off chance that the dog park gets built? The next piece of land would be set aside for a skate park.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 16 '05 - 01:27PM    #
  84. Two more things:

    1) There needs to be a bus that runs frequently between Ann Arbor and Ypsi day and night, weekdays and weekends, for people who work in one town and live in the other or for people who don’t want to drive drunk. Both towns and the area in between would benefit from this.

    2) Snow removal in Ann Arbor is absolutely ridiculous. I bet one could win an election on this issue alone.
       —Kai    Aug. 16 '05 - 02:41PM    #
  85. some friends and i started a network security company here 5 years ago as a UM research spinout, with VC based in Boston. we’re committed to being a downtown A2 company, since it’s important to us culturally – we’re the entire 6th floor of the City Center building, and used to be the entire 3rd floor above the Starbucks on State and Liberty until we outgrew it. this is my second Ann Arbor-based network security startup, if you can believe that.

    i don’t know what it’s like for other local high-growth high-tech startups, but it’s been hard to hire here. with a few rare exceptions, i haven’t been able to bring many of my friends / colleagues here from the coasts (having already tapped most of my local friends), for all the reasons you’d expect – lack of other anchor companies, boring downtown / cultural life, the long winters, etc. we’ve even lost several local friends to Google, SF, Chicago, etc.

    we had the opportunity to set up in the Bay Area some time ago, but nixed it after my wife and i decided A2 was a pretty decent place to raise kids (having spent a lot of time in college raising hell with local Commie High punks, who all turned out great). of course, a lot of what i loved about A2 (street art, punk rock, skateboarding, etc.) dried up or was chased out of town. :-(

    now i don’t know about dog parks, but i do know that i am not raising my kid in a city without a skatepark – see a2skatepark.org
    for at least a few of my colleagues as well, i can’t even begin to talk about coming to work at Arbor if there isn’t anything to skate in town.

    see you at the shopping cart races tonight.
       —Dug Song    Aug. 16 '05 - 07:54PM    #
  86. Holy Crap I almost forgot about the races! I’m off! Thanks, Dug. Ann Arbor needs like 50 Dug Songs …
       —Scott Trudeau    Aug. 16 '05 - 11:50PM    #
  87. Dug, what do you think of mw’s Comment #39, (and Juliew’s comment to similar effect) that it’s more important, economically, for A2 to be attractive to 30-something to 40-somethings than to attract or retain younger people? Sounds like, for your little piece of the economy, you’re lamenting the loss of the younger folks a whole lot. Do you think that holds beyond your immediate field of security startups?

    Or, to try to find a broader context, do you think easier attraction / retention of youngsters would mean more UM-spinoffs? I know the one I worked for during and immediately post-undergrad suffered because everybody was “just passing through”, and coders only stayed on long enough after graduating to find a job (or a place to live) elsewhere, so turnover was quite high.
       —Murph.    Aug. 17 '05 - 09:12AM    #
  88. I’m curious too, what Dug thinks about retaining younger workers. Julie’s assertion, and personal experience, sounds reasonable, but you have to wonder about a plan that essentially says “OK, little birdies, you all fly away now. We know you’ll be back when you’re a bit more mature, and a little quieter.” I know it happens, but counting on it happening is in the neighborhood of risky that borders hubris. People get settled elsewhere and they stay. And given the general contempt for Ann Arbor that seems to be the norm among grad students, how many do you think will be itching to get back here, even if there’s a company (or the U.) that makes them an offer? Letting them go now, or essentially forcing them out, seems like a strategy that will decrease the likelihood that any will have fond enough memories to want to return.
       —Parking Structure Dude! (Parking Structures, Dude)    Aug. 17 '05 - 10:27AM    #
  89. Wait, wait, wait. I’m not saying that we should be getting rid of all 22-29 year olds by any means. What I am saying is that right now (well, OK, as of 2000), this is already Ann Arbor’s highest demographic population. (I’m looking at Census Data for this information.) 18.3% of the population was 20-24 years old and 18.3% of the population was 25-34 years old. The median age is 28.1 years old in Ann Arbor. So you can talk about how this population is leaving in droves and can’t afford to live here, but the numbers don’t support that. Ypsi has an even higher percentage of 20-24 year olds (25%) with a lower median age. While it may be a cool, funky town, it is also in serious trouble financially. So having a younger population might ensure cool but it does not necessarily ensure fiscal solvency. What is our goal here? Do we want to ensure that all graduates have the job of their dreams within 20 miles of Ann Arbor? I don’t think so. I think it would be good to have a climate where job startups and new ideas can be fostered, but Ann Arbor isn’t ever going to be New York or Chicago or LA. There won’t ever be 100 jobs waiting for every graduate. We need to be realistic here. I laugh at the “those greenway people suck, what we need is a dog park. Those dog park people suck, what we need is a skate park” comments. I mean come on, Hastings Nebraska has a nice skate park but people aren’t relocating there because of it. Same with dog parks and greenways around the country. These are only one part of what makes a city flourish and everyone wants something different.

    We do need to see why 25 year olds are leaving, but also why 35 year olds and 45 year olds and 55 year olds are leaving, and why start-up businesses and long-established businesses fail or leave. To focus on one age group to the exclusion of other factors seems unwise to me.
       —Juliew    Aug. 17 '05 - 11:28AM    #
  90. And don’t miss the point that the older demographic is desirable not because they are “quieter” and “more mature” but because they help pay the bills – they tend to be established in their jobs and can afford to pay for the housing and the taxes that help keep Ann Arbor competitive, even as it ages as a community.
       —John Q    Aug. 17 '05 - 11:43AM    #
  91. These oldsters do NOT pay the bills. Students and renters do as much OR MORE. My house (as Larry pointed out) now pays ~SIX TIMES the educational millage that it did when it was homesteaded. Additionally, the oldsters, whose households are decreasing in size, are not increasing density, which INCREASES property values (the difference between 6 units on a lot and a 1-unit SFR). However, the willingness (and need) of students and renters to live tenement-style (as Marc R. indicates) and the generally lower space demands for young people also INCREASES the density and value. Meaning more taxes. It is totally nonsense—and something I have been fighting in college towns for several years now—to launch that “we pay for the city” rhetoric. You don’t. You vote for the taxes and millages and students and renters pay for it in equal or greater proportion.
       —Dale    Aug. 17 '05 - 12:00PM    #
  92. OK, I’m not much of a math whiz, but if there are about 114,000 people in Ann Arbor, and roughly 36% of those people are between 20 and 34, then that works out to about 41,000 people in that age bracket. Curiously, that is only about 2000 more people than there are students at UM. Now obviously not all of them are listing Ann Arbor as home on their Census forms (although I did), and a handful of the students are under 20, but any way you look at it, it means that a significant number, if not the vast majority, of the people in that age range are students, and not young working people.
       —Parking Structure Dude! (Parking Structures, Dude)    Aug. 17 '05 - 12:11PM    #
  93. PSD has a point. Census numbers are pretty useless in figuring out how many 20-somethings who are employed full time and are NOT students live here, and how many own a house versus renting.

    Obviously we shouldn’t concentrate on one area to the complete exclusion of all others. But the simple fact is, Ann Arbor is becoming more and more unaffordable to the low income and the young, and that’s a serious problem that Council and others ignore.
       —KGS    Aug. 17 '05 - 12:28PM    #
  94. I’ll just co-opt Juliew’s point (and mw’s, that Ann Arbor itself cannot absorb any large portion of UM’s annual graduates) in order to reiterate my regionalist agenda: Ann Arbor doesn’t and can’t exist as an island, culturally, economically, or otherwise. (94, 23, and 14 at rush hours demonstrate this amply.)

    I don’t realistically think that finding job+job+housing in Ann Arbor once Cara and I graduate is going to happen, since A2 and its school district are where every other Master of Urban Planning and Master of School Counseling interested in Michigan have as their first choices, also, and that’s most likely the case across the board, regardless of what type of job or what level it’s at. Considering that any family unit will have a hard time finding all the jobs/housing they want in A2, what other choices will they find around A2 when they look? (The UM planning department, for example, almost lost our Chair last year when his wife was denied tenure in the Law School(?) and had to look for another position. Only a few options around Ann Arbor, and a lot of academic couples I know have noted that Ann Arbor doesn’t have nearly the number of combinations of jobs available that Boston or New York or Vancouver do.)

    We need to be concerned with the balances of housing cost:condition, community cool:schools, and across the board quality-of-life for all of Washtenaw and into the Detroit constellation of places for Ann Arbor’s long-term health. (It ain’t gonna die, by any means, but that doesn’t mean it’s only ever going to get better.) Of course, this does not mean, “Well, we don’t need a wide variety of housing in A2, because that’s what Ypsi is for, from a regional point of view.” Geographically concentrated poverty (and its co-causal partner, geographically concentrated wealth) exacerbate regional problems which means, yes, even the regional communities suffer.

    I don’t think that any form of Ann Arbor isolationism, whether it’s the “I’ve got mine, now let’s make the rest parks” no-growthers position or an idea that A2 can single-handedly host all of the “creatives” at all age levels simultaneously is going to make anything better in the long-run. What we need to do, from our position of relative strength in the region, is demonstrate what one city among dozens can do, and reach out to the others to help them achieve the same. Ann Arbor needs to help there be dozens places in southeast Michigan that college grads think of as good places to stay, and that experienced 40-somethings would consider decent places to relocate and put their kids in school.
       —Murph.    Aug. 17 '05 - 12:30PM    #
  95. Just a little stats policing:

    Dale – I had thought the schools millage difference was 6mil homestead / 24mil non-homestead or something closer to 4x? Or are you rolling your other bit (houses often sell for more as rentals than owns, and therefore have higher assessments) into the 6x?

    PSD – what number are you using for “number of students”? I had thought it was something in the range of 30k last I saw a number (which was a long time ago – or maybe that was number of employees?) The “handful of students under 20” is probably a “handful” of around 7k or 8k, and the total probably also includes a decent number of ABD grad students who live elsewhere or older grad students in the next age bracket (I know plenty of each within a very few departments). I think the general point is what KGS said – it’s a darn good question.
       —Murph.    Aug. 17 '05 - 12:49PM    #
  96. So, PSD and KGS, why don’t students count as people living and working in Ann Arbor? Most students I know do live and also work in Ann Arbor. And, if Dale is correct, also do a fair amount to support the city financially.

    Murph, you are right, regionalism is key. If Detroit was healthy, all of southeastern Michigan would be better off.
       —Juliew    Aug. 17 '05 - 01:19PM    #
  97. Sometimes it’s just little things like not having a dog park. I know many young people with dogs who live in apartments and they can’t let their dogs run off-leash anywhere in this town.

    We have a dog who runs off leash in town. Legally? Not exactly, but there are ways to do it without making people mad, causing problems or getting cited. I’m not going to say where exactly, but paths through the woods are better than open fields, and we have a lot of parks in town with lightly travelled paths.

    And if your dog is a water dog, there’s a bit of a gray area there, too. Is a swimming dog off-leash violating city ordinances? We assume not…
       —mw    Aug. 17 '05 - 01:28PM    #
  98. Additionally, the oldsters, whose households are decreasing in size, are not increasing density, which INCREASES property values (the difference between 6 units on a lot and a 1-unit SFR).

    Two different issues here. First of all, when households decrease in size, the property taxes remain the same, so the idea that empty nests somehow cost the city tax dollars is goofy.

    But the point isn’t that 30/40/50-somethings pay more property taxes than others but rather that demographic tends to contain the business owners. If they live here, they are more likely to want to keep shop in or near town. That is why I’d argue they’re important to the economic health of the city—not because of the property taxes they pay on their own homes.

    As for 6 units on a lot vs one SFR—are you arguing for the return of the ‘cash box’ (those crappy 1-lot apartment buildings that were built in the late 60’s before they were banned)?
       —mw    Aug. 17 '05 - 01:44PM    #
  99. “My house (as Larry pointed out) now pays ~SIX TIMES the educational millage that it did when it was homesteaded.”

    I don’t know how that could be – as someone else pointed out, everyone pays 6 mills to the state and non-homestead pay an additional 18 mills to the local school district.

    Without getting into all of the details of school aid funding, whether a property pays 18 mills or zero mills means nothing to the school district’s operating dollars. For every additional dollar the schools get in non-homestead funding, the amount that comes from the state is reduced by a dollar. The only number that really matters in school funding is the number of kids that are sent to school.

    As for density and property value, I haven’t seen any analysis that backs up your statements (or contradicts them). I would be intested to see if your conclusions are true or not.
       —John Q    Aug. 17 '05 - 01:53PM    #
  100. As Murph points out, my memory may have been faulty. So I’ve gone to the city’s Web page for data:

    2004 Homestead taxes and levies

    2004 Non-homestead taxes and levies

    In sum:

    Annually, a non-homestead property pays 27.5 mills for AAPS; a homesteaded property pays 15.1 for AAPS.

    Overall, a non-homesteaded property pays 59.7 mills a year. A homesteaded property pays 47.4. If anyone can dispute these numbers, please correct me. The city’s information is pretty clear.

    John—I am not talking about the total operating dollars of AAPS. I am talking about who is paying the dollars from Ann Arbor that go to AAPS. As the above indicates, renters are paying disproportionately. On density = value, I don’t have numbers handy, but I don’t think I need them to demonstrate the principle. A five-story building with 12 units is more valuable than an SFR of comparable location and condition because it can produce more revenue and, due to the material and expertise involved in its construction, it would cost more to replace, meaning greater value.
       —Dale    Aug. 17 '05 - 02:11PM    #
  101. The only number that really matters in school funding is the number of kids that are sent to school.

    Another, better way to look at it is that school property taxes aren’t really paid to the local district any more—they’re paid to the state, and the state re-distributes the money based on the number of students. That’s not the total picture, because Ann Arbor is allowed to levy an extra ‘hold harmless’ millage. But even there, the extra dollars are limited and aren’t increased by having more non-homestead tax payers.
       —mw    Aug. 17 '05 - 02:16PM    #
  102. As for 6 units on a lot vs one SFR—are you arguing for the return of the ‘cash box’ (those crappy 1-lot apartment buildings that were built in the late 60’s before they were banned)?

    If only MW, if only. Drive by 828 Greene street sometime and you will see that not only haven’t they been banned, they are alive, kicking, and demolishing affordable single family homes just like they did in the 60s. And yes, some people think they are a great idea.
       —Juliew    Aug. 17 '05 - 02:24PM    #
  103. I encourage you all to consider the cost of your cars (and dogs, for that matter) over the next five years in addition to (and in relation to) that of housing as we pass the world oil production peak. The sooner people recognize that they won’t be able to afford the use and maintenance of a car in the long run (and become a homeowner at the same time?), the sooner bus ridership will increase and the justification for expanding various transit systems will emerge.

    Gandhi’s admonition that “we must be the change we wish to see in the world” is about to become more relevant than ever.

    As for Detroit’s ill health, I wonder if that might save us (the region) in the long run relative to the situation we’d be in if it had 2 million residents and all the existing suburbs had their current populations (which seems likely, given that sprawl isn’t solely an exodus-from-Detroit phenomenon.) Given a choice between dealing with the need to expand transit and the need to reduce population, I’ll take the former.
       —Steve Bean    Aug. 17 '05 - 02:39PM    #
  104. “Two different issues here. First of all, when households decrease in size, the property taxes remain the same, so the idea that empty nests somehow cost the city tax dollars is goofy.”

    You miss the point. The dynamic of decreasing household size in an area of static housing stock means less density. If 40-somethings were moving into 600 sq ft condos and apartments like we youngsters, that would be great for the city’s bottom line, because that dense development would result in increased tax flow.

    “As for 6 units on a lot vs one SFR—are you arguing for the return of the ‘cash box’ (those crappy 1-lot apartment buildings that were built in the late 60’s before they were banned)?”

    HELL. YES. Because the apartment building you hate could also be a set of townhouses, or a small court of detached or attached houses. I am absolutely committed to enabling a wide variety of densities and of housing forms. If “those crappy apartment buildings” had been built in the 70s and 80s and 90s as well, Ann Arbor would be much more affordable today.

    Also, the complaint about the demolition of affordable downtown housing is lame. As I have discussed previously, we should be moving up to a dozen houses a year, PRESERVING and CREATING affordable housing in Ann Arbor. It is the rare, dilapidated, or poorly-sited house that cannot be relocated for less than 100,000, including the new lot and foundation. If you’ll walk down to the house on 1st Street jacked up on piers, the head contractor there might tell you what he told me—a lot of house moves can be done between 15 and 30 thousand dollars.
       —Dale    Aug. 17 '05 - 02:56PM    #
  105. “We have a dog who runs off leash in town. Legally? Not exactly, but there are ways to do it without making people mad, causing problems or getting cited.”

    So haven’t got a ticket, yet. Neither have we and we’ve run the dog off-leash illegally, as well. However, (1) this is something many other park users routinely complain about (justifiably, IMO) and (2) everyone has a different idea of what’s safe and reasonable when it comes to sharing space w/ dogs and (3) why should residents have to flout the law and risk $200+ tickets just enjoy safe and healthful recreation?
       —Scott Trudeau    Aug. 17 '05 - 03:07PM    #
  106. Also, the complaint about the demolition of affordable downtown housing is lame. As I have discussed previously, we should be moving up to a dozen houses a year, PRESERVING and CREATING affordable housing in Ann Arbor. It is the rare, dilapidated, or poorly-sited house that cannot be relocated for less than 100,000, including the new lot and foundation.

    OK Dale, there are two houses on Glen Street that need to be moved. They can’t find anyone to take them. Find the sites and the company will be happy to move them. We tried moving the houses that were demolished by 828 Greene. We had about two months to do it and NO ONE was interested. So you may think it is lame, but there are very few (if any) buyers for these houses. Also, 828 Greene Street DID remove lower-end housing ($450/room) and replace it with higher-end housing ($650/room). If there were a lot more of these kind of apartment buildings, the old west side would hardly exist and my neighborhood definitely wouldn’t exist and you can say it would make things more affordable, but that hasn’t proven at all true around me. Those apartment buildings now sit empty AND there are fewer houses available for young professionals. Now the co-ops and all the New Urbanist housing is sprawling on the outside of town because no one wants to live in crappy little neighborhoods full of apartment buildings.
       —Juliew    Aug. 17 '05 - 03:19PM    #
  107. Murph,

    Here you go: http://www.umich.edu/news/umfacts.html

    This isn’t the page where I originally found the student numbers, but that one won’t allow direct links. The other page also broke it down as about 24,000 undergrads and 15,000 grad students.

    And Juliew, please don’t be willfully opaque. Of course I believe that students are “people living and working in Ann Arbor”. They’re also something of a captive audiance with the U. working to retain them. The whole point of this discussion has been how to keep a significant number of them in the area, or even in the state, AFTER they graduate.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 17 '05 - 03:23PM    #
  108. “If “those crappy apartment buildings” had been built in the 70s and 80s and 90s as well, Ann Arbor would be much more affordable today.”

    And welcome to the slums of Ann Arbor – of all the things I hate about Ann Arbor, those nasty squat apartment blocks are the worst – architecturally ugly, crappy inside (and I lived in one for a while so I can vouch for that) and completely disrespectful of the surrounding context. They look like space aliens randomly bombed various neighborhoods with these ugly units. If that’s what you want to defend….
       —John Q    Aug. 17 '05 - 04:01PM    #
  109. “John—I am not talking about the total operating dollars of AAPS. I am talking about who is paying the dollars from Ann Arbor that go to AAPS. As the above indicates, renters are paying disproportionately.”

    Really? What’s the proportion of the City’s tax base that comes from apt. complexes? The only way to back up your claim is to show that apartments account for more of the tax base than single family homes.
       —John Q    Aug. 17 '05 - 04:03PM    #
  110. Not more than single family homes, John Q., just more per acre of land devoted to them.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 17 '05 - 04:04PM    #
  111. So haven’t got a ticket, yet. Neither have we and we’ve run the dog off-leash illegally, as well. However, (1) this is something many other park users routinely complain about (justifiably, IMO) and (2) everyone has a different idea of what’s safe and reasonable when it comes to sharing space w/ dogs and (3) why should residents have to flout the law and risk $200+ tickets just enjoy safe and healthful recreation?

    Well, the thing is that even IF there were a dog park somewhere in town, unless it happened to be close by (unlikely), we’d probably not use it because the idea of having to drive somewhere to walk the dog (and oneself) is demented IMHO. Other park users don’t complain about the off-leash running I do with the dog because they simply don’t run into us.
       —mw    Aug. 17 '05 - 04:10PM    #
  112. HELL. YES. Because the apartment building you hate could also be a set of townhouses, or a small court of detached or attached houses.

    No objection to that – for example, there is a small condo development on North 4th that integrates into the neighborhood very nicely. I can also think of a similar one on south 7th. But neither of these projects is of a size that will fit on a single lot. That’s not the same thing at all as ripping down a single-family home in the middle of a neighborhood and cramming a a 6-apartment cube into the space.
       —mw    Aug. 17 '05 - 04:17PM    #
  113. Um, a few points.

    (1) The Census counts people where they live, and it’s probably the most accurate count available of students, nonstudents, whatever.

    (2) Remember that not all enrolled UM students are unmarried 18-25 year olds living in campus neighborhoods in the city of Ann Arbor. Many students commute from other areas or don’t fit into stereotypical brackets.

    (3) I haven’t looked at the numbers lately, but I believe the notion that UM has 40,000 students depends on including UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn.

    (4) The basic school millage rate throughout the state is 6 mills for homestead and 24 mills for nonhomestead. (1 mill = $1 per $1000 of taxable value of real estate.) That means that renters pay 18 mills more than homeowners.

    It appears that some special hold-harmless rules applying to Ann Arbor have reduced that differential from 18 mills to 12.4 mills. That break is unusual and probably not permanent.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 17 '05 - 04:28PM    #
  114. “It appears that some special hold-harmless rules applying to Ann Arbor have reduced that differential from 18 mills to 12.4 mills. That break is unusual and probably not permanent.”

    Hold harmless was put in place for those districts that were collecting more than the state average before Prop A. This allows them to collect a local millage from homesteaders that boosts their total above the foundation amount from the state. There will be blood spilled from here to Lansing before these districts (almost all wealthy and suburban) will give up that money.
       —John Q    Aug. 17 '05 - 04:49PM    #
  115. Julie said: “Now the co-ops and all the New Urbanist housing is sprawling on the outside of town because no one wants to live in crappy little neighborhoods full of apartment buildings.”

    Huh? If nobody wants to live there, why can’t I afford to buy a house in your neighborhood but could potentially afford a low-end unit in the sprawling cohousing/new urbanist communities around town? An economist would say there is clearly more demand for the limited supply of homes in the “crappy little neighborhoods full of apartment buildings.”

    I will grant you, however, that the majority of the cash boxes around town are attrocious. That doesn’t mean similarly dense types of developments aren’t desirable, IMO.
       —Scott Trudeau    Aug. 17 '05 - 04:52PM    #
  116. See: http://www.mischoolfunding.org/Definitions.htm
       —John Q    Aug. 17 '05 - 04:52PM    #
  117. Larry,

    Check the numbers here: http://www.umich.edu/news/umfacts.html

    All campuses together is over 54,000. I didn’t think the U. was that large either.

    And new apartment buildings don’t HAVE to be ugly. Look at the one across Willard from East Quad. Frankly EVERYthing built during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s was fugly. Three very attractive new, large, buildings have just been built near campus on Washtenaw and they blend right in.
       —Parking Structure Dude! (Parking Structures, Dude)    Aug. 17 '05 - 05:04PM    #
  118. Scott, many of the rental houses as well as the apartment houses sit empty in my neighborhood. Even the ones that are relatively inexpensive like a 4-bedroom house currently for rent for $1400/month. The houses that don’t rent are taken as losses by their owners, which are usually bigger rental companies trying to flip properties. It is gradually changing because people have now paid too much for the houses to take the loss. Hopefully that means the prices will start to go back to something reasonable for homeowners to buy and live in. When the houses actually go up on the market for a reasonable price, homeowners shy away because they don’t like living next to “student apartments” or Avalon housing, or in a neighborhood with businesses like an auto repair store. It is convoluted and the market forces seem to be opposing each other, but that seems to be the way it works.
       —Juliew    Aug. 17 '05 - 05:11PM    #
  119. The deal with schools is this: Ann Arbor gets something around $6500 per student from the state. Where does the state get that money? Well, it takes 6 mills from every homesteaded property in the state, and more from non-homestead properties. The money is paid to municipalities, who send it to the state, and it gets redistributed and sent back to schools.

    In addition, Ann Arbor gets levy an extra few mills and spend it too, which brings the spending per pupil up to more than $8000. Again, the money is collected by the city, and it gets sent to the schools as an extra $1500 or so per kid.

    It is actually good for the schools to enroll more kids because it receives/gets to keep more money from the state. Thus the district wants more kids. It has no impact on property taxes. They are the same whether we have 10 kids in school or 10,000.

    I live in a neighborhood that has the most seniors in single family homes in the city. And they are moving out. Maybe not in droves, but clearly the elderly are leaving and being replaced by younger families. Is that good? Sure, because when houses sell, the assessment for taxes pops up to the SEV top value and the city collects more money.
       —JennyD    Aug. 17 '05 - 05:56PM    #
  120. As to the age structure of Ypsilanti versus Ann Arbor: don’t be too hasty to draw economic conclusions from that data.

    Just because of the configuration of city boundaries and campus housing, EMU students make up a bigger fraction of the city of Ypsilanti’s population than UM students to of the city of Ann Arbor’s population.

    You could radically change the proportion of 18-25 year olds in either city by making a few plausible changes to city/township boundary details. EMU is partly in Ypsilanti Township as it is, and some of UM is in Ann Arbor Township.

    Any community with a university, military base, or prison, naturally has an above-typical proportion of young adults in its population. The size of that bulge depends on the size of the institution. It’s hard to imagine any useful analysis of economics in such a place coming from age distribution numbers.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 18 '05 - 02:28AM    #
  121. JulieW writes:

    “So having a younger population might ensure cool but it does not necessarily ensure fiscal solvency. What is our goal here? Do we want to ensure that all graduates have the job of their dreams within 20 miles of Ann Arbor? I don’t think so. I think it would be good to have a climate where job startups and new ideas can be fostered, but Ann Arbor isn’t ever going to be New York or Chicago or LA.”

    i think the goal is simply to staunch the flow of technical talent leaving A2. there is a very real brain drain here – just look at the number of amazing folks UM turns out that go on to start successful companies anywhere else but Michigan.

    and while A2 won’t ever be NY, Chicago, or LA (thank god!), it has all the makings of an early Palo Alto – if only it could retain a critical mass of its younger innovators.

    “We do need to see why 25 year olds are leaving, but also why 35 year olds and 45 year olds and 55 year olds are leaving, and why start-up businesses and long-established businesses fail or leave.”

    sorry, older “established” (establishment? ;-) types just aren’t sacrificing their lives in droves to do startups. small business owners, corporate employees, and other professionals might represent the current financial backbone of the city, but they’re not what conferences like these are targeting as the future economic engine of the region.

    how realistic it is to think that A2 might one day become a successful high-tech incubator, i don’t know. there is some precedent, though – Cisco bought IEng locally for $25M back in ‘99 (less than Arbor’s total venture capitalization, and we’re profitable), Avail Networks got picked up a few years later, Cybernet almost sold NetMAX to Cobalt/Sun, etc. besides us, the U’s also spun out companies like NextHop, Interlink Networks, etc. and that’s just in our “little piece of the economy” – biotech and life sciences companies in A2 are probably facing worse challenges than we are in terms of brain drain.

    so while the numbers matter, keeping the right kind of people also matters – highly innovative, technical, creative types with cycles to burn on high-growth startups. i can pretty much guarantee you the next Google will not be started in A2 (even though it’s infinitely less soul-sucking than Mountain View), at least not without some skateparks and dog parks to make it more usefully interesting. ;-)
       —Dug Song    Aug. 18 '05 - 10:52AM    #
  122. 120 posts and we’re back to the conference.
    :)

    But seriously, this is a HUGE problem, not just for Ann Arbor but for Michigan generally. At least Ann Arbor has something going for it. For most Michigan cities, what do they have to offer that could possibly keep them here?

    We have to accept the reality that a certain amount of talent is always going to leave for a mulititude of reasons (no job opportunities, not from Michigan, want to leave Michigan, etc.) What I’m interested to know (and everyone from the Governor to the mail clerks in State Government) is what are the missing pieces we need to start and keep the start-ups here in Michigan?

    We can’t do much about the weather but I always here that venture capital is lacking. How important are “cool cities” to keeping employers and employees? And what are the natural “industries” of the future that take advantage of the pool of talent and resources that flow from the University? The Governor has talked about fuel cells and life science-based companies but are there other emerging or existing sectors that we’re just not seeing or capturing?
       —John Q    Aug. 18 '05 - 11:54AM    #
  123. John Q –
    Having never taken part in a start-up, I can’t offer any learning from that experience.

    I’ll offer up an opinion, though, that pouring a bunch of money into fuel cells would be foolish. So would pouring a bunch of money into biotech. So would pouring a bunch of money into any single domain – especially the ones that would seem to require reasonably large companies to manage them. (Nobody’s going to be working on either stem cells or fuel cells from their kitchen table, or probably even their garage.) What support we offer I think has to be open to new ideas (shock!), rather than trying to predetermine what direction innovation is going to go in. Whatever venture capital, incubator space, support networks we work towards need to provide some flexible, general opportunity for anybody who comes along with a good idea, even if (especially if) it’s something we hadn’t thought of.

    Don’t working about hunting out and capturing emerging sectors. If we have the right environment, they’ll emerge on their own.

    (Oh, and one of the Richard Florida specific findings is that weather itself is pretty low on the list of priorities for “the creative class”. Sure, they like the rock climbing and the surfing, but the sunbelt doesn’t have a lock on active outdoor activities. I mean, can Albuquerque really compete with Michigan in opportunities for sailing? And I believe ypsi-dixit and mw were the ones over on AAiO pointing out that one of Washtenaw’s high points is that you can go from the center of Ypsi or Ann Arbor to farmland and woodlots in fifteen minutes on a bike.)
       —Murph.    Aug. 18 '05 - 01:31PM    #
  124. i don’t think VC funding is really the issue. there are enough local VCs (hi Brian! :-) and forums to connect brains to money, and a good team can shop themselves around anywhere. the hard part is in actually staying here – a VC doesn’t just bring cash to the table, it’s also a network of business partners and execs, potential hires, board members, etc. – which is why we’re headquartered in Boston, even though we’re committed to keeping our engineering group in A2 for as long as we can.

    i think the “cool cities” initiative is interesting, and goes after the right problem. nobody works as hard as they do in a startup to live in a boring town. there are good local resources for companies just starting out (check out the Washtenaw Development Council for all the stats, demographics, and horn tootin’ you can stand), but the real challenge is in finding/keeping people interested in living/working here, when the opportunity cost is seemingly so high (better jobs/lives elsewhere)...
       —Dug Song    Aug. 19 '05 - 12:08AM    #
  125. I always thought “The Screaming Dog” sounded like the name of an Indonesian restaurant.
       —Anna    Aug. 19 '05 - 02:30PM    #
  126. Mandrake’s going away party – the social event of the Summer?

    http://drmandrake.blog-city.com/mandrakes_finally_leaving_ann_arbor.htm
       —John Q    Aug. 19 '05 - 04:35PM    #
  127. The social event of the summer? I got to Leopold’s at 10:45 and didn’t see anyone I recognized. I asked the staff whether Todd was around, and they said no. So I left.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 20 '05 - 11:17PM    #
  128. Did you guys notice that you got a plug in the Sunday News? Business columnist Mary Morgan wrote a thoughtful article about the impact 2005 conference and referenced this very thread for folks wanting to learn more about the topic.

    She also spoke with Brandt Coultas about the cost of attending the workshop, and he suggested that anyone who can’t afford the registration fee get in touch with him and perhaps something could be arranged. Maybe a Press Badge for an arborupdate.com contributer?

    I’d also like to credit Ms. Morgan for a highly entertaining intro. to the article which begins thus:

    “Ann Arbor isn’t known for looking beyond its borders – unless, of course, it’s looking to Paris or Katmandu.

    So it’s a risk – and a worthy one – that self-congratulatory navel gazing isn’t on the agenda at this year’s Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce annual conference, held Sept. 14. ”
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 23 '05 - 12:13PM    #
  129. That column is here: Leaders trying to see city in broader context , 21 August 2005.
       —Murph    Aug. 23 '05 - 12:55PM    #
  130. Whoops, sorry. I meant to post the link….
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 23 '05 - 02:34PM    #
  131. Fabricating a thread-hop to keep this one visible:

    At last night’s meet the candidates , Detroit was invoked a few times – by Colenback, referring to local sprawl as an out-migration from Detroit, and not from Ann Arbor, and by Audrey Jackson in the context of economic development.

    What do Ann Arbor’s leaders do to make Ypsi a desireable place for businesses to locate and people to live? Or isn’t that important? (Or isn’t that possible?) What about Dearborn, as the next step down an as-of-yet imaginary commuter rail line? If/since our quality of life here is affected by migration pressure from the east, then maintaining that quality depends on what happens east of us. What are we going to do about it?
       —Murph    Aug. 25 '05 - 01:06PM    #
  132. Does it matter where the sprawl comes from? Shouldn’t Ann Arbor try to absorb as much of the growth in the county just the same?

    “What do Ann Arbor’s leaders do to make Ypsi a desireable place for businesses to locate and people to live?”

    The City of Ypsilanti doesn’t want people to live there and no shop is good enough to inhabit their downtown. You could try to convince the planning department that cornerstores and dollar stores are good businesses. (btw, someone at the City of Ypsilanti recently sent a letter to the City of Hamtramck asking for advice about receivership.)

    What can you do about Detroit? Detroit needs jobs. Buy locally manufactured goods. Especially check labels on food like bread, tortillas, dairy products, lunchmeats, snack foods, condiments, and beverages.

    You could also come to our festivals. Hamtramck Days are next weekend!
       —Hillary    Aug. 28 '05 - 05:28PM    #
  133. I can’t remember where we were talking about rentals, etc. Maybe here. (I’ve been vacation, rafting a remote river in Utah!)

    But….my student colleagues tell me that the university is actively persuading grad student families to move out of North Campus housing and into other rentals, like condos, etc. Then undergrads are being pushed into North Campus. Which may relive the pressure on your basic, close-to-campus rental, which would then push down monthly rents.

    Perhaps.
       —JennyD    Aug. 29 '05 - 08:29PM    #
  134. The relocation of grad students out of family housing to make room for undergrads was a big issue last summer: See here
       —Scott Trudeau    Aug. 29 '05 - 10:38PM    #
  135. Ahhh. Since I don’t live in North Campus, this is news to me. But several of my colleagues say that this year it is really noticeable. In terms of the neighborhoods where they live. FEwer families moving in. One guy, a Mormon, said the North Campus family congregation has dropped by 1/3 over the last two years.

    The other thing that’s interesting about this is that Angell School, which takes kids from North Campus, was considered overcrowded several years ago. This move will solve that problem. But Northside School had room for more, and with the shift in North Campus, that school will have fewer students.
       —JennyD    Aug. 30 '05 - 07:36AM    #
  136. As one of the planners of the Impact2005 event, I’m encouraged by the discussion about the variety of issues related to our community and its viability. This type of discussion is exactly what we were hoping to create with the event.

    Some of you noted that the $75 price tag was a bit out of range of most folks that frequent this thread. I’d still like to see some of you attend, because I think you are some of the voices that need to be heard.

    I’d like to make the following offer to ten of you. Mention this entry and get in for $30. I’ll have my company cover the rest of the cost for each of you. (limited to the first ten that sign up).

    Hope to see you there!
       —Rich Sheridan    Sep. 5 '05 - 08:42PM    #
  137. I can afford the $75, and I wish I could be there with y’all.

    Unfortunately, I have another meeting scheduled for all of that same morning, for which I must be present, and it cannot be changed.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Sep. 5 '05 - 09:22PM    #
  138. I plan on attending – anybody want to carpool from A2? (as getting on AATA early enough to be there by 7:30 wouldn’t be fun)

    I live near Packard & Stadium and can either drive or ride.
       —Murph.    Sep. 6 '05 - 01:43PM    #
  139. (bounce) Anybody? Looks like I can’t drive after all, so Plan B involves slinging my bike on the front of the #5 at 6:55 am and then riding south from the Ypsi Transit Center.
       —Murph.    Sep. 13 '05 - 11:34AM    #