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Downtown Library Space Focus Group, Sunday April 22

22. April 2007 • Juliew
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The Ann Arbor District Library Board is doing a space needs and facility study of the Downtown Library. The work began March 1 and has included several focus group sessions with the public and staff. The study will be completed by June 1, 2007, and is the beginning of what is likely to be a year long process to determine the future size, scope of services, and location of the Downtown Library.

A final focus group session is scheduled for Sunday, April 22, from 2:00-3:30 PM in the Multi-Purpose Room in the Downtown Library. The public is invited and encouraged to attend this event. This is the chance to tell the Library Board what works for you and what could be better at the Downtown Library.

  1. Regarding the proposed library expansion.

    And sorry about linking to the “print me” page. I couldn’t get a direct link to work.

    Does “parking for 450 customer vehicles” mean that the library study has concluded that they need 450 parking spots dedicated to the library? 450 all at once? Twenty-four hours a day? Because I’m hoping that what it really means is that they project a need for 45 spots that they expect to turn over ten times during the course of a day, or better yet ten spots that they expect to turn over 45 times.

       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 25 '07 - 07:08PM    #
  2. Here’s the web site for the completed report:

    I have not tried to access it yet, as it was just given to me, so I hope it works.

       —Leah Gunn    Jul. 25 '07 - 08:27PM    #
  3. In the document that Leah Gunn provided, I couldn’t find any specific analysis for 450 spaces beyond this:

    “ ... the accepted formula for public libraries of one parking space for every 300 square feet of building space.”

    If there were a bus station a bit closer to the downtown AADL, you might be able to make the case that this one-size-fits-all formula could be adjusted slightly downward. But Blake Transit Center is all the way on the other side of the street, and it’s not even directly across the street, it’s somewhat diagonal.

       —HD    Jul. 25 '07 - 09:11PM    #
  4. I found the same formula, which works out to 400 spaces for a 120,000 square foot building. Which may well be accurate for the library’s new branches out in the sprawl but would be insanely wasteful overkill downtown.

    Further along in the document they mention a 400 car structure to be built under the library (option three) but at least it suggests it would also be used by other “downtown visitors”. In option four there’s no mention of whether the 400 underground spaces would be available to the public.

    More thoughts:

    1. Options 3 and 4 propose a 5-story skyscraper. But wouldn’t that…

    (a) obscure sunlight, reducing natural light and radiant heating,
    (b) increase demands on the presently inadequate infrastructure supplying electric power and water,
    (c) strain an already inadequate sanitary sewer system,
    (d) overwhelm both historic buildings and sites of historic significance,
    (e) create wind tunnels when streets are “canyonized” by high-rise development,
    (f) add to traffic congestion and the worsening of air quality through increases in vehicle use by inhabitants of taller structures,
    (g) increase traffic congestion adding to the hazards confronting pedestrians, cyclists and the disabled when attempting to use crowded streets

    2. And what’s up with the “Pedestrian Corridor” running right through the middle of seven blocks, including through (under? over?) two giant parking structures and in the back door and out the front of Real Seafood? WTF? That’s one of the amenities that option three will provide? In Ann Arbor or in Fantasy Land?

    Last time I checked there were perfectly adequate pedestrian corridors running down either side of both Liberty and William. And anyway, who are these people who can’t walk a block to the library from the parking structure on 5th (or kitty-corner across the street from Blake) but will travel seven blocks on foot and via rappelling rope over land, houses and tall buildings?

       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 25 '07 - 10:36PM    #
  5. “But Blake Transit Center is all the way on the other side of the street, and it’s not even directly across the street, it’s somewhat diagonal.”

    For clarity’s sake, this was meant tongue-in-cheek.

    I do think there’s something to the bus-book connection. People who like books like buses, too. Last Saturday as an experiment to see if I could take an immediately sequenced 12A-12B combination out and back on Liberty to Arbor Farms and still have time to buy groceries (answer: yes), there was a guy with the new Harry Potter book outbound and a woman with the new Harry Potter book inbound.

    “who are these people who … will travel seven blocks on foot and via rappelling rope over land, houses and tall buildings?”


       —HD    Jul. 25 '07 - 11:46PM    #
  6. Whoa, whoa! They’re using the “accepted formula” for public library parking spaces?! (Pause to frantically read through the report…)

    Attention David Cahill: fire your Arizona and Ohio consultants. Either they’ve never bothered to visit the site, or they can’t read – and either would be a bad sign for a library architect.

    If one looks at the Institute of Traffic Engineers publication, Parking Generation, frequently (mis)used to set parking requirements in local zoning ordinances, one will find in the preface a note that the numbers presented were collected in “suburban locations” where there’s no transit or other options for accessing the site. Standards based on these numbers, therefore, come from worst-case scenarios, where every patron is driving.

    The downtown branch of the AADL, on the other hand, is probably the absolute best-case scenario for carfree patron access, at least within Ann Arbor, yet David’s consultants are recommending that he spend $19 million on a parking structure as if this site were in the middle of a field somewhere. There’s a reason that the zoning ordinance exempts downtown sites from the parking requirements, after all – it recognizes that downtown sites are accessible by other modes, as well as that public parking facilities are available.

    (Fortunately, we know that David is a savvy real estate developer, having gone through this process before, and no doubt will realize on his own that nowhere near 400 parking spaces are needed by the library. (Unless he’s planning on using them as a revenue stream.))

       —Murph.    Jul. 26 '07 - 02:18AM    #
  7. I read the report, and like Murph, I find myself very skeptical.

    These days, library projects are typically based on a radical refocusing away from books and paper. Sure, libraries have other roles now, but only the tiniest fraction of historical documents are online yet. This hard-eyed rejection of storing any paper is leading to irrevocable losses of material.

    In Lansing, despite promises similar to those made in this report, the space for local history materials was sharply curtailed. During the time the library was closed for renovation, a tremendous quantity of irreplaceable historical materials were (very quietly) given away or discarded. No effort was made to image them before throwing them in the dumpster. It was a catastrophic loss for local history research in that area.

    I hear similar stories from San Francisco, but I don’t know the details.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 26 '07 - 02:54AM    #
  8. just to clarify, Option 3 assumes that the Library and the City can make some kind of deal, and construct a parking structure open to all downtown users.

    Option 4 assumes that no deal happens, that the City-owned lot stays as is, and that the Library will build and operate an underground parking structure for library users. I suppose this might be open to the public, also, but that would be up to the Library.

    These options are all very preliminary. The Library Board may choose one, play mix-and-match, come up with something totally different, or do nothing at all.

    Please keep discussing this stuff.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 26 '07 - 03:15AM    #
  9. FWIW, a quick search on Google using “public library” and “parking standards” turns up numbers of 200 – 500 sq. ft. per parking spot from library projects across the county. I agree that this is one of those locations that can benefit from the alternatives to people driving their car. But the 300 sq. ft. number doesn’t seem to be the high end for library projects.

       —John Q.    Jul. 26 '07 - 03:59AM    #
  10. John, note that the standards are “parking spaces per x square feet”, so 300 is close to the “high” end of your sample (200), rather than the low (500), when the high-low is determined by number of parking spaces required by a certain size library. (Generally speaking, one space per 250-300 square feet is about the number used for strip mall retail and restaurant…)

    David, has the library done any sort of survey of patrons at the downtown branch to determine how many of them are arriving by car vs. bus/bike/walking? I would strongly advise collecting some data in that direction before shelling out for 400 underground parking spaces – while I can easily believe that the library might benefit from some additional parking on site, I very much think the numbers you’re working with are too high, especially in the version that includes only the library and not replacing/rolling up the public lot next door.

    Take some surveys of patrons during the schoolday, evenings, weekends, during special events, etc, and figure out what share of your patrons are really coming by car, and how many cars that is. (Your patrons per car number is likely to be much much higher than for, say, an office.) This needn’t be a long survey – two or three questions could do you pretty well.

       —Murph    Jul. 26 '07 - 05:52PM    #
  11. Doh!That slipped right past me. In this case, bigger is better.

    As far as the need, isn’t one of the arguments been that people won’t come downtown because of “the lack of parking”? I’ve never bought that myself and I’m not sure underground parking meets the need of people with that perception (and I think we’ve been around that topic in the past) but I would surmise that some will say that a survey of current users misses the needs of potential users.

       —John Q.    Jul. 26 '07 - 07:57PM    #
  12. Wow, Murph — after the way the amber freezers went after the DDA on parking in the Three Site Plan, you’re showing remarkable restraint.

       —Dale    Jul. 26 '07 - 09:59PM    #
  13. Silly Dale! We don’t need more parking for other people; we just need more parking for us. Other people need less parking. The same principal applies in the cases of resident only parking districts. Other people, be they out of towners, out of neighborhooders, non-members or non patrons of whatever little group we identify with, should be shooed away like the nuisances they are.

    My pet conspiracy theory is that the expense of the 400 “required” parking spots will eventually be used to justify another threat to shutter the downtown branch while they try to extort the deed to the next door lot from the city so that they can restrict it to library patrons only—settling for, sigh, fewer spaces than they really need, but willing to compromise.

    And regarding an AADL parking survey, I thought I remembered filling something out a while back. A quick search turned up this DDA survey. The survey has been taken down, but if it’s the one I recall it was a little irritating because of the assumption that every visit to downtown Ann Arbor would include a car. But then again it was a parking survey, afterall, and not a skateboard survey.

       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 27 '07 - 01:21AM    #
  14. > potential users

    Hmm. Potential users are always hard to survey, because you don’t know who they are, let alone how to survey them.

    In this case, maybe a good heuristic would be to survey people at the other branches about the downtown branch. (As in, are there people who live/work closer to the downtown branch but go to the other branch preferentially? Is it because of the perception of parking downtown, or because of other amenities found at the branch?)

    Dale: “kum ba ya”.

       —Murph.    Jul. 27 '07 - 01:48AM    #
  15. I can’t believe those consultants recommended 450 spaces for that library. With the parking structure a block away, the bus station across the street, and the open lot next door? what a waste of money.

    Advice to the library board: fire the consultants and hire someone local. At least then you’ll have a good chance of having someone who has been to the site!! 450 spaces is way too many to have dedicated to just the library and I will actively campaign against the library building any spaces like that. It is a waste of taxpayer money. Let the DDA building the parking decks; the library should stay out of it.

       —KGS    Jul. 27 '07 - 02:11AM    #
  16. There is an active thread on the AADL web site regarding this proposal.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jul. 27 '07 - 07:14AM    #
  17. “I will actively campaign against the library building any spaces like that. It is a waste of taxpayer money. Let the DDA building the parking decks; the library should stay out of it.”

    Who’s to say that the DDA won’t build and operate the parking? Just because the library raised the issue doesn’t mean that the library will be the one that spends the money to do that. I’m wondering if the library is bringing the issue forward now to provide them maximum flexibility in terms of asking to use the adjacent city lot. If they can show they’ve planned to provide parking even if they don’t need it, it could make the issue of building on the city’s lot less controversial.

    I’m not sure if that amount of parking is needed or not in the grand scheme of downtown. I don’t see how it’s needed for the library. But after reviewing the plans last night, it doesn’t appear that parking is driving the design of the site or the building. If the library was spending building money on this amount of parking, I would agree with you. But if they’re just showing how parking can be incorporated into the site and how much it would cost, I’m not going to criticize them for tackling the issue up front.

       —John Q.    Jul. 27 '07 - 05:26PM    #
  18. Any thoughts on the proposals beyond the parking issue?

       —porcellino    Jul. 27 '07 - 06:21PM    #
  19. The parking issue didn’t really bother me …

    I found myself a bit skeptical of the library’s goal of a 400-seat auditorium (which, incidentally, may explain the 400-seat parking requirement …) I realize that the library’s downstairs meeting room has always been a great convenience for the community, but should the library really take the lead in providing conference services for downtown? Let local business, local government and the university fund that …

    After thinking about my priorities a bit,I would like to see the planning process prioritize 1) safety\ 2) collection quality (both breadth and depth, all types of resources) and 3) accessibility (in every sense, including ADA compliance, website, and parking). The reason for putting accessibility behind collection quality is that, simply put, accessibility doesn’t matter if the library becomes no longer worth accessing (which can happen with only a few years of declining collection investment).

    I want to see the library focus on its core function as a knowledge repository.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Jul. 27 '07 - 09:13PM    #
  20. “I realize that the library’s downstairs meeting room has always been a great convenience for the community, but should the library really take the lead in providing conference services for downtown?”

    You might want to ask the Library if they need that size space. I would bet that they have had programs that require or would benefit from that number of spaces.

       —John Q.    Jul. 27 '07 - 09:16PM    #
  21. I would agree that they have had programs that would benefit from that number of spaces — I am sure Harry Potter events, a few summer movies, etc. — not to mention the occasional NIMBYfest — but the question is priority.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want to see a beautiful new library building, and don’t mind if it has a great conference space, but if push comes to shove, it’s more important to have a great collection of, well, books (and, grudgingly, other media) than it is to provide conference services.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Jul. 27 '07 - 09:28PM    #
  22. According to a friend, some woman who wrote a knitting book had such an overflow crowd they had to pipe the talk upstairs. I’d suspect that many of the events overfill the current room.

    I am much more suspicious of the parking than the auditorium. However, I know Josie Parker and some of the folks on the board somewhat and don’t suspect them of being underhanded and so I have hopes of this turning out well.

       —Chris    Jul. 27 '07 - 10:18PM    #
  23. I believe you about the knitting lady. But if you accept the premise of a 400-seat auditorium, then don’t you have to accept at least, say, a 300-seat parking lot?

    I trust the library, too, and want to see them get a great facility. I am just saying that we don’t want to spend so much on a facility that we don’t have money to keep the collections up to date.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Jul. 27 '07 - 10:54PM    #
  24. Fred,

    It appears that your mixing two different concerns into one. The first is a desire to have enough space for the kind of book collection that you think the library should have. That’s a question of how the building is designed.

    How much is spent on the facility shouldn’t have any bearing on the cost of maintaining or growing the collection long-term. Purchasing books is an operational cost and whether there’s enough money to do that is part of the operating budget of the library. Typically, building budgets focus mainly on the construction aspects of the building, not the operational costs although I’m sure some libraries build in some costs like technology and new books into their building budget so they don’t open with bare shelves and empty computer labs. But even if the library focus exclusively on the building in the building project, that doesn’t mean there won’t be money every year for purchasing items for the collection.

       —John Q.    Jul. 30 '07 - 06:04PM    #
  25. John,

    I understand the distinction you’re suggesting between building costs and operational costs, but isn’t the money all coming from the same, finite resource (millages)? I am saying that I don’t want the political will for an edifice to be so strong that it drains the political will for collections.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Jul. 30 '07 - 06:40PM    #
  26. Here is more information from the Library’s consultant about parking:


    In order to be successful a public library building must have adequate parking. This is especially true in a nation where the rubber tire vehicle is the transportation mode of choice for the vast majority of the adult (and teenage) population.

    The consultants use the following parking guidelines for library buildings of varying size:

    Building…..........................................................Number of

    43,500 SF One space for every 300 SF of building 145
    48,500 SF One space for every 300 SF of building 160
    59,250 SF One space for every 300 SF of building 200
    79,000 SF One space for every 350 SF of building 225
    150,000 SF One space for every 500 SF of building 300

    The parking guidelines are for surface parking. The recommended space per vehicle – for site sizing purposes – is 350 SF per vehicle. This includes the parking stall, entrances and exits, turning spaces, and reasonable landscaping and lighting.

    Depending upon the location of a central/main library facility a parking structure may be required. A parking structure would not alter the number of needed spaces. It would, of course, have an impact on project construction costs.

    In the case of the Downtown Ann Arbor Library, based on the consistent and repeated comments made by community focus group participants and Library staff as they related customer remarks concerning the Library’s lack of parking, the consultants are recommending a significant number of underground parking spaces, based on one space for every 300 SF of building for a building of at least 120,000 SF. Just as in successful retail operations it is all about “location, location, location” with public libraries it is about location and “parking, parking, parking”! Regardless of the availability of other parking decks and lots in the vicinity, library customers want and expect to be able to park next to, underneath or directly in front of the library.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 30 '07 - 07:41PM    #
  27. Fred,

    I would guess for a project that large, AADL would request a separate millage to pay for bonds for a building. Perhaps not. I don’t think they have for the branches. But this project is on another level as far as costs go. If they building project was paid for from the same millage as operations, you would have a legitimate concern. But if the library requests a separate millage, they would have the ability to pay for both without one affecting the other.

       —John Q.    Jul. 30 '07 - 07:42PM    #
  28. “Regardless of the availability of other parking decks and lots in the vicinity, library customers want and expect to be able to park next to, underneath or directly in front of the library.”

    OK, I take back my willingness to give the consultants a pass on this issue. It’s clear that someone thinks they are building a library in a greenfield, not downtown.

    Hey Dave, how about designing the library so people can drive right into it? That way they won’t even have to get out of the car. We wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone with actually exiting their car, would we?

       —John Q.    Jul. 30 '07 - 07:47PM    #
  29. I’m confused. Can someone clarify?

    So, the way I understand it, it’s OK to build a ton of parking next to the library, but not OK elsewhere downtown.


       —Cooler Heads    Jul. 30 '07 - 08:41PM    #
  30. I’m with John Q. The library can probably minimize the cost of parking by instead providing a drive-thru window for book pickup. Browse the catalog and order at the first window, pick-up at the second. (Though, if the library did have a 400-car parking lot, it could dispense with the auditorium, and just have the parking double as a drive-in movie/presentation venue.)

    More seriously – I’d prioritize collections (and individual/small group study space) over events space, but (a) I’m only one (mostly former) patron, and (b) I don’t have a good feel for what a particular mix feels like, so I don’t feel like I have a good ability to critique those particulars.

    Thanks for the add’l info on parking, David. It’s interesting to see that they’re recommending 1 space / 300sf when their table of standards would put this library between 1 / 350sf and 1 / 500sf.

    with public libraries it is about location and “parking, parking, parking”!

    See, I just don’t agree. I think it’s all about “access, access, access.” Access = pedestrian access + bus access + school bus access + bike access + car access (parking) + people who are already parked downtown for another errand access + ... Yes, many library patrons will definitely arrive by car. But many will not. (And many will come by car, but with their parents.) AADL’s main branch is in a great location, with lots of access options; unlike, say, YDL’s “main” library, which is car-only.

       —Murph    Jul. 30 '07 - 11:17PM    #
  31. I would bet that many of the same people who expect to be able to park as close as possible to the front door are also the same people who won’t park in a structure, whether it’s under, next to or a block from the library.

       —John Q.    Jul. 31 '07 - 12:09AM    #
  32. A number of libraries have designed drive through book drops.

    Here’s one from Minneapolis:

    A drive-through book drop has been installed in the P-1 parking level. The parking garage is open 24 hours a day. When you enter the garage, take a ticket, loop all the way around the P1 parking level, and you will see a steel book return box. Return your books, return to the exit gate, deposit their ticket and you can exit. This is free of charge as long as you exit the garage within 15 minutes of entering.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jul. 31 '07 - 09:14AM    #
  33. Strongly agree with Murph about access being the key issue. I’m only one library user too, but my sense is that the downtown branch is used a lot by people who are downtown for other reasons—that is, it’s integrated into working days, going to and from the university area from the west side neighborhoods, bus users, people shopping/eating anywhere from Main St. to Kerrytown, and even people going to shows. Even when people plan specifically around a library event—a kids’ program or something—they are quite likely to combine it with other downtown “stuff,” from the farmers’ market to mailing stuff at the PO. There are also the kids hanging there after school for later buses or pick-up, and a fair number of bikers, given the use the racks there seem to get and that one often sees people dropping books by bike at the side slot—in short, a lot more non-drivers than at any of the branches. But even allowing that many users are probably driving and parking somewhere, it’s not necessarily right by the library—-and those who are may well be parking by the library because it’s a surface lot and they really hate structures (which may be perceived especially negatively by people with small kids, fairly or not). I’m just not convinced that any rule-of-thumb guidelines about building space/parking space in libraries in general are applicable here, unless they are specifically about urban libraries. Even tho A2 is many orders of magnitude smaller than the cities where I know the central downtown libraries, like Seattle or Portland, and I think often trying to make those comparisons leads to utter silliness (New York has a subway! Why doesn’t Ann Arbor have a subway?! If we only had a better city council we would!), I’d like to hear some specific expertise about downtown libraries that are highly integrated into working/shopping/living areas.

       —Aki    Jul. 31 '07 - 12:00PM    #
  34. The DDA operates the lot that is located next to the library. Any user of that lot has a ten minute grace period to drop off a book or pick up or drop off people. In addition there is a five minute parking spot on E. William St. for book drop off. I would encourage people to use the grace period rather than stopping on S. Fifth Ave., which is very dangerous. Simply enter and take a ticket, and when you exit, you will not be charged.

       —Leah Gunn    Jul. 31 '07 - 03:00PM    #
  35. Ed,

    Most new libraries and many older ones have drive-up book returns. Some even allow you to pick up requested books from the equivalent of a bank teller window. I think that the point that we were trying to make is that the design of the library or at least of the parking seems to be designed entirely to meet the needs of people driving cars. So why not take it to its ridiculous end and save people from getting out of their cars at all. I don’t have a problem with the book drop and pick-up idea. It’s the influence of car drivers on the downtown library design that seems out of whack.

       —John Q.    Jul. 31 '07 - 07:21PM    #
  36. John Q — we’re still talking slightly at cross purposes. I understand that the library could ask for a separate millage for building and that we (citizens) could approve both millages — my point is that overreaching on a structure millage could make it more difficult to get enough $ for operations millages.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Jul. 31 '07 - 11:42PM    #
  37. Frankly, I do not care whether the library has 300 spaces or 500 spaces and whether they’re above-ground or underground. As far as I’m concerned, it’s strictly an operational issue and I am completely happy to delegate it to the Library Board.

    Although 200 parking spaces plus or minus underground may seem like a big deal in the context of Ann Arbor’s fiercely contested planning wars, I see a bigger perspective, namely that any public library, including ours, is an incredibly cost-effective use of urban and environmental resources. We could over-build every public library parking libary lot in the United States and we would not significantly affect local, regional, or global sustainability.

    In fact, we’d probably be moving the needle towards sustainability, since libraries create informed and active citizens.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 1 '07 - 12:08AM    #
  38. Fred,

    Understood. But from what I recall, AADL has a pretty healthy operating millage. Do they even levy the entire amount? The fact that they’ve built/building 3 branches without asking for more money attests to that.

       —John Q.    Aug. 1 '07 - 12:32AM    #
  39. So I finally read through the whole report and I have some comments.

    The biggest question: is this a suburban or urban library? There seems to be no acknowledgement of the urban space in which it sits. They want lots of parking and car-focused amenities, but complain that there is not a “pedestrian node” from State to Main. Most of the great libraries around the country are urban and have no parking. I agree with Aki’s comment: “I’d like to hear some specific expertise about downtown libraries that are highly integrated into working/shopping/living areas.” Urban Libraries are not suburban libraries. 450 parking spots is great if it is in a partnership with the DDA to provide some parking that is needed downtown. That number seems vastly overblown if it is for Library-use only. Remember, everyone who fills out a survey at the downtown Library has already found a parking spot nearby or got there in some other way. If they are at the branch libraries, they may say they don’t go to the downtown Library because of parking, but would they anyway? The downtown Library isn’t supposed to compete with the branches. Is the parking a red herring? Is it the expected thing to complain about? How hard is it really to park to go to the Library? Everyone I know likes to park in the Library lot when they go downtown because it is a good location and they can always find a spot. Why does that experience contrast so much with Library patrons? How many people in the Library lot currently are even going to the Library? The report said people not only want easy access to parking, but they want it to be free. Well, this is an urban library. If everything downtown was surrounded with free surface parking, it would be the mall.

    What is it with the ridiculous pedestrian node idea? There are two perfectly good walking corridors with full sidewalks on Liberty and William. The pedestrian nodes already exist. If this building made a statement and actually came up to the sidewalk, people might actual walk to it from Liberty or William. And what about connecting on a North/South axis to the new City Hall? These plans have just more of the same suburban-style setbacks that currently exist.

    Green space. Why is a downtown Library building and emphasizing green space? Setting the Library back off of Fifth with the green space in front will only further enforce the idea that there is nothing there but a parking lot and green space. Especially in a climate where many months out of the year, no one will use it. Idea 1: Why not use Liberty Plaza as the Library “green space”? In a city/library partnership, rebuild Liberty Plaza so it is a raised grassy “natural amphitheatre” so kids can play and sit on hill and bands and theatre groups can play there with an audience. Let the Library program the space. The new Chelsea Library constructed this exact thing. Liberty Plaza is not a successful urban green space now, lets do something interesting with it. Idea 2: Why do all the parking underground? Why not have the parking structure above-ground with a walkable green roof that is accessible via elevator and pedestrian bridge from the Library. This would prevent some of the loitering problems of a surface park and keep the kids from playing/running in to traffic, plus be less expensive than all underground parking. Also put a green roof on top of the Library and have a nifty covered pedestrian bridge (a Kid-i-trail) from one green space (the Library) to the other (the Parking Structure). Open green space in front of the Library is going to have the same loitering problems that the Library has now. If you really want to minimize that, don’t have the green space on the ground level of Fifth and William or you will have exactly the same situation you have now.

    I like the idea of an exterior book drop and passenger drop off that are not a lane on Fifth Ave. A lot of people don’t know about the grace period in the lot and it can be inconvenient. Clearly there are car drivers who use AADL for many reasons. However, the idea of adding a large number of curb cuts to what is essentially a pedestrian district is very disturbing to me. Plan four would require six additional curb cuts* on the current site. I think that is ridiculous.

    What about the cafe. This building is next to restaurants. I see need for perhaps very light refreshments for people who don’t want to go outside with kids during the winter, but it is in a downtown space with cafes and restaurants all around. Seva, Jerusalem Gardens, Earthen Jar, Afternoon Delight, and Primo coffee are less than a five minute walk away. Another 20 restaurants are less than ten minutes away. How about setting up a drop-off area at the Library with tables so local restaurants could deliver if people needed more than snacks or so that people could bring their own picnic lunch. The Library cafe could provide basic drinks, chips, yogurt, fruit, and veggies, but a full cafe doesn’t take advantage of their urban location and is not good for local restaurants.

    Why is the new building so small relatively? Only adding 10,000 square feet in a proposal that could potentially cost $63 million seems unwise. All space requirements for a library could change in next twenty years (as they have in the last twenty years). There is a need to build in flexibility, not just specific spaces with specific uses. I’m not sure I see that in this plan.

    Oh, and a note to Providence Associates: “Pros” and “Cons” should not be spelled with apostrophes!

       —Juliew    Aug. 1 '07 - 04:16AM    #
  40. You rock, Julie. That’s all I have to say.

       —todd    Aug. 1 '07 - 04:27AM    #
  41. I’ll second the praise for Juliew. Not only did you ask many good questions but I think your idea of the green roof as an amenity and a public space is superb. To AADL’s credit, they’ve made a real effort to push the green building concept in the new branches. Creating a green roof downtown that is also accessible to the public would tie right into that effort. As you correctly noted, it would also help address the loitering and security problems that they already have to deal with and that would come with the proposed green space.

    It’s a much better and elegant idea than the clunky “greenspace” present in 3 of the 4 plans. I had the same reaction when I saw the plans – “Why?” I personally think that the concept is either a sop to someone on the board who wants a grend entrance or what someone thinks will sell in town. Let’s face it, there are people who see “greenspace” and think all is well without considering the quality or context of what is proposed. The park concept in Option 3 is more ambitious but as Juliew notes, is it really needed?

    Ironically, while they talk about the park being a node on a pedestrian corridor (another bad concept in my view), it’s separated from the library by a traffic lane that would likely get a lot of pass-through traffic. All of the designs seem intent on replicating a suburban library drop-off, not something that makes sense for a downtown location.

    One thing to keep in mind is that some of the push for “amenities” like on-site parking and a cafe are probably coming from internal users (staff and administration). From what I’ve heard, staff parking space is a premium and a cafe can be used to justify limiting lunch and break times by keeping people on site. Library cafes are a big trend but as Juliew noted, is a full-blown cafe really necessary?

       —John Q.    Aug. 1 '07 - 07:24AM    #
  42. I liked Julie’s post too.

    I think it’s unfortunate, though, that so many of us (myself included) have reacted to this by reading through the report and questioning the need for particular amenities we don’t like (parking, conference services, six curbsite cuts, onsite cafe). Maybe we should be reading this and asking whether there are enough amenities.

    I especially liked the comment questioning whether 120,000 square feet is really enough for the next 20 years. Will there be enough room for the Holodeck? ;-)

       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 1 '07 - 07:19PM    #
  43. I was also working my way towards suggesting rooftop greenspace – perhaps a patio/garden area atop a lower part of the building, accessible from the taller part. I wasn’t thinking in terms of security/loitering, though that’s a point, but in terms of functional pleasantness. A greenspace on the corner is going to have traffic whooshing by on Fifth – at least until the DDA’s proposal to add on-street parking gives a bit of a buffer – and the bus station across the street. Make it an accessible rooftop garden, though, where you’re sitting three or four stories above the street, and you have a lot more distance between you and the noise/fumes of the arterial street. (Putting it on the south half of the building, towards William, would provide maximum natural light, while also buffering the space further from Fifth and the surface lot.) A rooftop garden would also save land costs (or land opportunity costs) compared to a surface-level plaza.

    An additional benefit using a rooftop garden as greenspace is that, if it’s only accessible from inside the library, people can wander out with books or magazines and have a sit without having to worry about checking the materials out.

       —Murph    Aug. 1 '07 - 09:49PM    #
  44. Comparative downtown urban library parking:

    Seattle, WA: 143 spaces, 360000 sq ft
    Minneapolis, MN: 275 spaces, 353000 sq ft

    Darien, CT is raising $24M to build a new library; is their blog to cover the construction now underway.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Aug. 2 '07 - 12:15PM    #
  45. Going back to the question of “abundance” — I spent the weekend in Charlevoix (pop 2,994) which has a beautiful 24,000 sq foot library created from a converted elementary school at a cost of $8M. It shows what can be done with an abundance of space … they have both a huge “clickfree” reading room (20 × 30, wood paneling, club atmosphere) AND a loaner laptop with WiFi for parents supervising kids in the children’s section.

    It’s too bad Google is taking Tally Hall, that might have been an interesting alternative for the AADL.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 7 '07 - 05:57PM    #
  46. Ed — good data. but are Seattle and Minnesota really comparables…. can you find some urban libraries that are in cities a bit closer in size to AA?

       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 7 '07 - 06:05PM    #
  47. These are all good thoughts. I received a bunch of info on parking recently. Sabra and I are in San Jose, though, decompressing from the campaign, and the data is on my home computer.

    We’ll be back on August 20. I’ll post it then.

       —David Cahill    Aug. 12 '07 - 04:33AM    #
  48. it looks like today’s merit network outages have taken the AADL offline at least in part – also can’t reach the AATA’s sites. (and can’t submit this microcorrespondent’s report to the arbor update submit address which is

       —Edward Vielmetti    Aug. 17 '07 - 01:15AM    #
  49. Thanks for the info Ed! Interesting to know that it is a Merit problem. Most of the U was just barely connected to the outside world today.

       —Juliew    Aug. 17 '07 - 04:43AM    #
  50. The Library Board had a retreat about our space needs on August 17, and we discussed what we will be doing at our regular Board meeting on August 20. Since the retreat took more than four hours, this is just a summary.

    The Providence Associates study shows that we don’t need much, if any, additional space in the Downtown Library if we continue with the present functions that the Library performs – its present mission, if you will. I was surprised that a big increase in circulation does not imply a big increase in space needs. See Appendix B of the study.

    However, the focus groups Providence Associates held showed that the public wants us to “expand our mission.” The desires of the public include a large auditorium, more meeting spaces, multiple meeting rooms, and improved teen space. The complete list is on pages 3 and 4 of tab 2 of the report.

    So what, if anything, should we do?

    There is the “no-build option.” We could continue as we are into the future and keep our current levels of service. Yes, the present building needs serious work on several of its major systems (HVAC and plumbing especially). We think that performing this heavy maintenance will cost about two million dollars over the next five years. We can pay for this from our present millage.

    The Board decided that the public expects more. We did not particularly care for any of the four options for expansion which Providence proposed. Their flaws are obvious, as people have pointed out above.

    Therefore, we decided to step back and take a look at how a greatly expanded or new Downtown Library might help trigger some significant redevelopment in that part of downtown. We were helped significantly in our brainstorming at the retreat by Doug Kelbaugh, Dean of the U-M College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Kelbaugh said that Main Street and State Street are big successes. However, between these two streets Liberty is the chief connector, and generally the connection is pretty thin. Trustee Ed Surovell pointed out that the area near the Library is pretty much a disaster, with only a handful of viable businesses. Parking structures and lots, the federal building, and a bus station are not attractive neighbors.

    Kelbaugh said that the Library sits on what he called a “superblock,” bounded by Liberty, Division, William, and Fifth Avenue. This is the largest block downtown. It is so big that it frustrates pedestrian and car travel.

    Kelbaugh suggested that a new street be created in this superblock, running from east to west, tentatively dubbed Library Lane. It would be a regular through street, open to the public, with parallel parking. If we keep the Downtown Library where it is, then a major renovation could “front” on the south side of Library Lane. Or, if we decide to construct a totally new building, it could possibly be built north of Library Lane.

    If this project is done right, it could include some residential and commercial building on Library Lane. Plus, it could inspire other projects nearby.

    “What about parking?” I hear you cry. The most recent study says that there is a deficit of 1,000 downtown parking spaces. The Board decided not to try to provide whatever additional parking might be needed for this project, at least not at this stage of the planning process. The reason for not including parking is because of the extremely long time it will take to design and build this project.

    At least ten years will pass before a new Downtown Library becomes a reality. By that time, the Board felt, the City will have done something meaningful about parking. Since the Library Lot will disappear and be transformed into a street and new construction, we will of course need the approval of the DDA and the City itself.

    “What about cost?” This project will be immensely expensive. There is no way the Library can pay for it out of its present millage. We will have to borrow funds by issuing bonds, and the public will have to approve another millage to pay off the bonds. Also, we hope that other public entities will be willing to help with the funding.

    “What about height?” Kelbaugh is recommending three stories for the new/renovated building.

    Our approach to the public will be straightforward: We can continue as we are. But if you want us to do more, you will need to approve the extra taxes to pay for it.

    Josie Parker, our library director, will be meeting with other groups soon to sound them out.

    What do people think about this idea? Comments and suggestions are welcome.

       —David Cahill    Aug. 27 '07 - 11:37PM    #
  51. This sounds like a great idea. I think it was very wise to retreat from the four choices that were offered.

    Personally, I don’t want to see all the meeting rooms added, but if that’s what “the public wants”, ok. We can always convert them to holodecks.

    My only nonnegotiable demand is that there should be a Mailboxes Etc. on the commercial side of Library Lane so my mailing address can be 2 Library Lane. I do love the library!

       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 28 '07 - 12:00AM    #
  52. “Library Lane” sounds interesting!

    It does seem to me when I’ve been involved with groups looking for a meeting place downtown that it can be difficult unless you have a university contact willing to deal with a certain amount of bureaucracy.

    (Actually, the most annoying has been finding juggling space; anyone know of downtown locations with free (or nearly free) meeting space and very high ceilings? Currently we make do with atria in various university buildings. We had a nice deal at the Community High gym for a while, but that fell through….)

       —Bruce Fields    Aug. 28 '07 - 12:31AM    #
  53. “This is the largest block downtown. It is so big that it frustrates pedestrian and car travel.”

    How so? Where are you going that you can’t get to because of a lack of a street through the block? A street through here doesn’t connect to any other streets in adjoining blocks so it’s not like traffic is being moved from one location to another more efficiently.

       —John Q.    Aug. 28 '07 - 12:47AM    #
  54. “It does seem to me when I’ve been involved with groups looking for a meeting place downtown that it can be difficult…”

    I suggest that the board try to find a way to get more specific (and concrete) data from groups wanting meeting space. Hundreds of people might know of such groups, but they may boil down to a small number due to crossover, and then only a few of those may currently be looking for space. Scheduling would also impact the ultimate supply necessary to meet the demand.

    “The desires of the public include a large auditorium, more meeting spaces, multiple meeting rooms, and improved teen space.”

    Here again I’d want detailed specs. Keep in mind that “desires” are often closer to what we can imagine than to what we would currently use. Maybe put out a request for requests (RFR?) and ask all of us helpful people to spread the word to groups that we think might really want some space. Then only count and make a projection for the future based on actual requests received.

    I like the idea for the lane. It actually already exists, it’s just surrounded by parking spaces and doesn’t include sidewalks.

    “The Board decided that the public expects more.”

    I think you meant something slightly different, David. :-) Thanks to you and the other board members for your time and thoughtfulness.

    Finally, here’s a personal anectode that might reflect some trends: I used to sometimes park in the “library lot” and come in and browse for an hour or more—books, CDs, videos. Now I search online and often put items on hold. When I do come to the library I’m much more likely to ride my bike or walk, I’m usually there for 15 minutes or less, and I often return materials to the drop boxes on the south side of the building. Over the course of these past few years my personal ‘circulation’ has increased, but my ‘footprint’ at the library has decreased.

       —Steve Bean    Aug. 28 '07 - 01:18AM    #
  55. Steve — that’s very true. I’ve seen the same pattern.

    Considering that this is by definition a long-term planning exercise, I think the library is being a bit short-sighted in focusing on its current services as a measure of space needs. In the last 20 years the library has had to add space for VHS, CD, DVD, and PC workstations. Who’s to say there won’t be another new medium coming along that will also require lots of space?

       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 28 '07 - 05:51PM    #
  56. “Kelbaugh suggested that a new street be created in this superblock”

    Not surprising. This guy wants new streets everywhere. I suggest that everyone involved look a little further beyond Mr. Kelbaugh’s recommendations. He is not the defacto expert.

    I agree with John Q. on this one. No “street” is needed here.

       —Robert Moses    Aug. 28 '07 - 09:29PM    #
  57. I think the point is to increase the available space for storefronts (or whatever) rather than to provide another way to get from point A to point B.

       —Bruce Fields    Aug. 28 '07 - 09:40PM    #
  58. I can see that but I’m not sold on the benefits of that. Seems like a case of adding more pavement to allow cars to do drop-offs while forcing pedestrians to play dodge-em.

    If the idea is to look at the superblock as a whole and how it can be layed out to function as a whole, has there been any thought about turning the center into a mini-park, allowing Liberty Plaza to be developed and allowing the library and any future development on the city lot to have some orientation to the park? Moving it into an internal location would allow it to be an amenity to all of the uses that sit on that block (unlike the peripheral locations that exist today or have been proposed that only benefit the adjoining properties), move it away from the noise and impact of traffic idling on the main streets and you could be connected to the exterior with either open or covered pedestrian corridors, depending on how densely you wanted the periphery to be developed. You would still need the service drives to some extent but you could work around those.

       —John Q.    Aug. 28 '07 - 10:10PM    #
  59. People are correct when they say that with the increasing use of the Internet some folks may not be using the building as much as they have in the past.

    The Library keeps a lot of statistics on itself. One of the most helpful figures is the “door count,” which is an electronic tally of the number of the number of people who enter the Downtown Library. Here are the yearly door counts I was able to dredge out of my file.

    Fiscal Year
    (July – June). . . . . . . .Door Count

    2002-2003. . . . . . . . .473,588
    2003-2004. . . . . . . . .510,995
    2004-2005. . . . . . . . .559,577
    2005-2006. . . . . . . . .583,479
    2006-2007. . . . . . . . .579,394

    So after several recent years of steady growth in door count, this figure dropped slightly during the fiscal year just ended.

    Here are the figures for items (books and all kinds of other media) circulated out of the Downtown Library. These annual totals do not include phone or online renewals. We started separating these out in FY 2004-2005, so comparable data from prior years are not available.

    Fiscal Year
    (July – June). . . . . . . . .Items

    2004-2005. . . . . . . .987,292
    2005-2006. . . . . . . .885,497
    2006-2007. . . . . . . .985,131

    These statistics are holding reasonably steady.

    With regard to the need for additional meeting spaces, I expect we will do an actual survey of the public, rather than rely on what the focus groups told us. It could easily be that the need is not as great as we have been told. We certainly do not want to overbuild.

    It is true that some new kinds of media may require a lot of new space in the next 20 years, and we can’t foretell the future. One of the drawbacks of the present building is that much of the space isn’t flexible. We can’t remove or add walls. Users of our new branches, on the other hand, get the benefits of flexible space.

    With regard to Library Lane, one of the serious drawbacks of the present building is that there is an irresistible urge to drop people off on Fifth Avenue. We have been lucky not that nobody has been seriously injured or killed. Having a narrow, low-traffic street running between Division and Fifth would mean that we could have a safe drop-off for the new/renovated building.

    I would like to hear more about the comment of “Robert Moses” that Doug Kelbaugh wants streets everywhere. I am sure that there are various schools of thought about streets among urban planners. Is Kelbaugh widely known as a pro-street person? Are there local urban planners who hold different views?

       —David Cahill    Aug. 29 '07 - 11:01PM    #
  60. Good to see you operating in your wheelhouse, Dave.


       —todd    Aug. 29 '07 - 11:07PM    #
  61. Yes. Mr. Kelbaugh is widely known as a “streets” person. There are other planners with other views with much more real-world planning experience rather than academic idealism. Not to say he should be completely discounted. Just make sure you get a balanced view before settling on any one idea.

       —Robert Moses    Aug. 29 '07 - 11:56PM    #
  62. “Having a narrow, low-traffic street running between Division and Fifth would mean that we could have a safe drop-off for the new/renovated building.”

    The problem is that you’ll need to accomodate drop-off and pick-up traffic for the library and drop-off traffic for the book drops. Those two activities will want to happen in the same place at the saem time. Where does handicap parking fit in? Do the disabled get to trek across Library Lane?

       —John Q.    Aug. 30 '07 - 02:32AM    #
  63. It would be more accurate to describe Kelbaugh as being in favor of smaller blocks and a mix of transportation modes, which may be facilitated by cutting superblocks streets and lanes, sidewalks, etc.

       —Dale    Aug. 30 '07 - 02:55AM    #
  64. Having the bus station near the library is an asset, not a liability. How else are you going to get to the library, or stop at the library on your way downtown to work?

    As for Kelbaugh’s views on Liberty St, I don’t know what he’s talking about – that’s as vital a street as any in Ann Arbor.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Aug. 30 '07 - 10:06AM    #
  65. I wouldn’t say that Kelbaugh is a “streets person” so much as a “connectivity person”. This was a fringe view in around, oh, 1960, when Jane Jacobs was railing against superhighways and urban renewal, but I think it’s a pretty common view now: shorter blocks, more frequent intersections, provide better access to destinations for people (not necessarily cars). Consider that, right now, there already is a “library lane”; it’s just that it’s purely car-oriented, with no sidewalk, etc. Turning that into a more “complete street” would increase its utility for users other than parkers. (e.g. walkers, drop-offers, etc.)

       —Murph.    Aug. 30 '07 - 03:34PM    #
  66. I have come up with some rough measurements of the land that would be available for this project, assuming that the City was willing to join in. I used the City’s zoning map and a ruler. Primitive tools, I admit. So these figures are unofficial and approximate.

    The entire “superblock” measures 608 ft north-south by 496 ft east-west.

    The public land available for the project can be thought of as three rectangles:

    The Library Lot “itself”, which measures 200 ft N-S x 264 ft E-W = 52,800 sf.

    The Library Lot “extension,” which runs from the SE corner of the Library Lot “itself” to Division, measuring 64 ft N-S x 232 ft E-W = 18,848 sf.

    The Library property, which measures 188 ft N-S x 264 ft E-W = 49,632 sf.

    Library Lane would be a continuation of the Library Lot extension to Fifth Avenue. Assuming its width stays the same at 64 ft, it would cut off the bottom 64 ft of the Library Lot itself. Therefore, the Library Lot itself land would be only 200 – 64 = 136 ft N-S instead of 200 ft N-S. So if we were to build a totally new Library on the Library Lot itself, the available land would be less than the existing Library property: 35,904 sf compared to 52,800 sf. I’m not sure doing this would be a great idea.

    Another way of thinking of this land is as a big rectangle combining the Library Lot itself and the Library property, with the Library Lot extension sticking out to the east. This big rectangle would measure 388 ft N-S x 264 ft E-W = 102,432 sf. This area provides plenty of space to build an expanded Downtown Library. The Library Lot extension (Library Lane) could be a cul-de-sac leading to a pedestrian/book drop off area. Or I suppose it could “tunnel” through the new Library to Fifth Avenue, improving pedestrian access through the superblock. But doing this would limit the flexibility of space inside the new building.

    I hope this makes sense. It’s simpler on the map. 8-)

    Oh – it should be obvious that I’m just speaking for myself here, not for the Library Board as a whole. “Not responsible.”

       —David Cahill    Aug. 30 '07 - 07:12PM    #
  67. Dave,

    You were close. This would be better:

    The Library Lot is 198 × 264, the Library Lot Extension is 66 × 231 and the Library parcel is 198 × 264.

    The map also includes tools for measuring distances and calculating area.

       —John Q.    Aug. 30 '07 - 07:30PM    #
  68. As you can tell, the Library Lot and the Library parcel itself are both the same size. So unless Library Lane falls equally across both properties, one of them is going to end up smaller than the other. But the actual lane doesn’t need to be 66’ wide. Even a two way street with curb and gutters and 8’ sidewalks could be accomodated in 40’. Adding parallel parking would push that out another 7 – 8’ per side depending on how things are configured.

       —John Q.    Aug. 30 '07 - 07:40PM    #
  69. Dave,

    If the library is talking about breaking up the superblock, perhaps everyone needs to be looking at the picture a little more broadly. As I suggested earlier, moving Liberty Plaza within the block should be up for discussion. There’s also a fair amount of underutilized property (surface parking) within the superblock. You might have more room to work with if you start talking with the neighboring properties about parking needs, etc. As I see it, the Kempf house is the one fixed object. Everything else should be up for discussion.

       —John Q.    Aug. 30 '07 - 07:45PM    #
  70. Thanks, John! I almost changed the 64 ft to 66 ft, since 66 ft is one chain. However, I decided not to assume chain measure. The scale of the map I used was 1 mm = 4 ft, so I’m glad I came as close as I did.

       —David Cahill    Aug. 30 '07 - 09:49PM    #
  71. This just in.

    Here is a resolution that the DDA Board will consider at its September 5 meeting, proposed by the DDA’s Partnerships Committee:


    Whereas, The Ann Arbor District Library recently received a Twenty Year Feasibility Study of the Downtown Library which has been discussed in depth by the AADL Board;

    Whereas, The AADL Library Director recently reported on the strategic plan being formulated by the AADL Board, that would recommit the Library to its downtown location, and demolish and replace the older portion of the downtown Library with an expanded building which would house more and larger meetings space and other beneficial public amenities, and have resolved to distribute an RFQ in the next few weeks to locate a design team to oversee this plan;

    Whereas, This plan would also provide for valuable partnership opportunities between the AADL, the DDA, and the City;

    Whereas, The AADL is an important anchor in downtown, with more than a million public visits annually;

    RESOLVED, The DDA extends its great thanks to the Ann Arbor District Library for its commitment to downtown and its many contributions to our community.

    RESOLVED, The DDA also extends its strong support for the strategic plan taking shape that will lead to a new downtown Library, and looks forward to partnering with the AADL to help make this new building a reality.

    RESOLVED, The DDA will begin a more thorough analysis of the City’s South Fifth Avenue parking lot to determine ways it can support the Library’s vision, including an underground parking structure, a new mid-block street connecting Division and Fifth to facilitate access to the new Library building, as well as the potential for attractive public open space activated by retail and other commercial uses.

       —David Cahill    Aug. 30 '07 - 10:46PM    #
  72. Here is today’s Ann Arbor News article on this fast-moving topic.

       —David Cahill    Aug. 31 '07 - 07:42PM    #
  73. I just posted this as a comment there …

    It’s a shame that this discussion is getting off on the wrong foot. Let’s reframe it:

    1) Ann Arbor’s outstanding library is globally recognized as a leader not just among middle-sized city libraries but among all libraries worldwide (try googling on and see what other librarians have to say about it).

    2) The library is a key enabler for Ann Arbor’s outstanding small business environment and its outstanding quality of life. (How many readers of this note have checked out a book, DVD, or CD in the last year?)

    3) A good downtown library is essential for just about everyone’s vision of downtown. Imagine downtown with a dilapidated library: a vast swathe of it would become a debilitated urban core.

    4) although the existing library looks nice in terms of carpeting and so on, it is old where it counts — in the HVAC and other infrastructure — and it was created by three awkward expansions beginning fifty years ago.

    5) The opportunity to build a new library is the opportunity to make an intelligent investment that insures one of Ann Arbor’s key strengths for the next thirty or forty years.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 31 '07 - 08:13PM    #
  74. At its September 5 meeting, the DDA Board unanimously approved the resolution in support of a new Downthown Library. According to Board member Dave DeVarti, the Board took this action “enthusiastically.”

    DeVarti told me that the Board said it wants to work with the Library, and that the Library is important to the City. The likely design would have the renovation to the Library, replacing the oldest parts of the present Library, face north. People on the DDA who are most in favor of the proposed new City Hall complex on the Larcom site liked the fact that the Library would be facing north, while the new City Hall complex would be facing south.

    The next step is for the Library’s consultant (not yet hired) to get in touch with the DDA.

    The DDA’s firm support of this project is terrific!

       —David Cahill    Sep. 7 '07 - 09:35PM    #
  75. So the library would face away from Fifth and William, where it has frontage? Awesome!

       —Dale    Sep. 7 '07 - 10:08PM    #
  76. My take on library plans so far: I like Fred’s comment. I agree there should be a new building of some sort—I would argue for preserving the older portion, but the interior has been changed so much there really isn’t much left of the original design. I’ve always liked the idea of the second-floor balcony/atrium, though right now it is mostly functionless and unnoticeable.

    I’m not completely sold on “Library Lane”—an interesting idea, but presumably it would be a two-way street? Is there really room for it? I’m going to argue once again that there should be surface parking in some form or another somewhere on that block. I’m probably on the losing side of this, however. Maybe if it was de-emphasized as “downtown parking” somehow? Just a thought.

    I agree that Liberty Plaza should be a part of any renovation plan. However, I also disagree that the lot in general is a “barrier” or obstacle to traffic, either pedestrian or wheeled. The real problem with that area is the alternating massive-buildings along William and Liberty, in particular the federal building and the USPS parking lot. Coming up from main, the federal building takes up an entire block of street—this is kind of ok, and that is a semi-public area (the post office gets frequent usage, and there are protests etc. at that corner), and the next block is businesses, but there’s nowhere for downtown to go southward—it hits the parking lots and the library immediately, and then becomes residential. The same is true along Fourth—with the sole exception of Studio 4. Even if you built ground-level businesses on the YMCA parcel, I would worry about their success. I’m not saying there’s a solution for this, but I am saying that you can’t just blame the library for it.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure that the Kempf house is the only non-negotiable building in the area—there is a nice apartment house right next door to it, and the two other houses across from the lot entrance have recently been restored. I would also argue that those houses help mirror the ones across the street (which have always been nice additions to downtown), making the street residential. I’m not saying this is a perfect state of affairs, but I don’t think we should ignore what’s already there.

    As an example of a good library for a town of similar size, how about the Urbana Free Library? It’s pretty nice, and more-or-less recently renovated (and in fact is only one of two serving Champaign-Urbana)

    They even have a small coffee bar there (though I agree with Julie that this is maybe not a necessity for the AADL). And the Champaign library is itself expanding:

    Don’t ask me how they’re funding it, but they must be doing something right. (And fwiw, I’m almost certain that the dropoff in the Downtown Branch traffic that Cahill reports is due to the construction of the new branches.)

       —Young Urban Amateur    Sep. 10 '07 - 03:42AM    #
  77. Here is a resolution that will probably come before City Council tomorrow evening. Another scoop for Arbor Update!


    WHEREAS, the Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown (“A2D2”) Parking Strategies Task Force Report demonstrated the immediate need to increase public parking in the Ann Arbor downtown area; and

    WHEREAS, the Mayor and City Council adopted Resolution R-260-6-07 on June
    18, 2007, to approve the recommendations for Parking Policies and Actions developed by the A2D2 Steering Committee, and directed staff to provide a schedule for implementation of the recommended actions including creating additional public parking; and

    WHEREAS, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (“DDA”), in a memorandum dated May 30, 2007, provided to the City Council an alternatives analysis of four sites for possible construction of additional public parking, including the City-owned parking lot on South Fifth Avenue between Liberty Street and William Street (“South Fifth Avenue parking lot”); and

    WHEREAS, the A2D2 Parking Strategies Task Force Report included the following statement in recognition of the value of constructing underground parking on the South Fifth Avenue parking lot: “The City and the DDA should coordinate with the District Library’s current expansion feasibility study. This may present a unique opportunity for joint development of the surface lot adjacent to the site…. A library extension would present a favorable use combination with a structured/ below-grade shared parking facility. The site location is also favorable for meeting existing and future demand in the district, being within close proximity to two heavily used structures – Maynard and 4th & William”; and

    WHEREAS, the City Council recently approved an addition to the City-owned public parking system at the City-owned parking garage at the corner of Fourth Street and William Street, and recently approved the sale of the City-owned parking lot at the corner of First Street and Washington Street for new development including new public parking spaces; and

    WHEREAS, the City Council’s top priority for further additions to the City-owned public parking system is to increase the supply of public parking in the midtown area, and this problem must be addressed before other expansions to the public parking system are undertaken; and

    WHEREAS, certain due diligence is required to insure the provision of appropriate and sufficient parking for dedicated users and the general public, in support of future economic development in the midtown area;

    THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Mayor and City Council request that the DDA, in consultation with the Director of the Ann Arbor District Library, issue a specific written recommendation to the City Council for the construction of an underground parking garage on the South Fifth Avenue parking lot, including the following components:

    • A minimum of 500 underground parking spaces, at least 150 of which shall be reserved for public hourly parking and not available for monthly permits;
    • The possible construction of a new east-west street, including on-street meter parking, running between Fifth Avenue and Division Street, along the south property line of the Fifth Avenue parking lot;
    • The underground parking garage shall be designed to support above ground, in the short-term, surface public parking, and in the long-term, development which could include, but is not limited to, a residential, retail, and/or office building(s) and a public plaza along either Fifth Street or the newly constructed street;
    • A proposed timeline for completing the new underground parking garage on or before June 30, 2010;
    • Specific cost estimates, including costs for land acquisition (if any); and
    • Any noteworthy strategic issues requiring City Council consideration;

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the DDA’s written recommendation shall be delivered to the City Council, if possible, on or before January 11, 2008.

    Submitted by:
    Date: November 5, 2007

       —David Cahill    Nov. 5 '07 - 05:30AM    #