Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

"Smart Growth Ann Arbor" calls for strong design guidelines

Posted by Murph on 3. September 2009

I received the following this afternoon from “”. SGA2 urges attendance at tonight’s community open house for the A2D2 design guidelines draft, 7-9pm at the Kerrytown Concert House (415 N. Fourth), as well as the Sept. 14 joint working session of Council, Planning Commission, and the DDA. The design guidelines draft is available from the City’s A2D2 webpages.

SGA2 pitches its take into this site’s ever popular discussion topic of downtown development and design – the message appears to be very open to new development, including large/tall development, “but again, only if there is at least some basic level of protection against future buildings that will hurt the downtown experience further,” and expresses alarm that the current draft would make design review voluntary for developers.

The complete message after the cut…

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Let's Talk Conference Center

Posted by Juliew on 30. August 2009

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about a conference center in downtown Ann Arbor. Although there are several places to have a meeting, there really isn’t much that really fits the conference center description, especially downtown.

In addition to published reports, rumors have swirled over the years that Bill Martin wants to build a conference center on the Brown Block, but nothing has come of that so far. More recently, there was a lot of interest over plans released for a local conference center.

As so often happens in Ann Arbor, reception to the idea of a conference center has been mixed, with people vehemently in the pro and con camps. I have heard people say they think it is the worst possible thing that could happen to downtown, while others say it is the best possible way to keep downtown viable. Reaction is so mixed that one wonders if some people are thinking of a large industrial convention center like Cobo Hall or DeVos Place while others are thinking of a smaller hotel and conference center like the Fort Shelby in Detroit or the beautiful St. Julien in Boulder (built over a 650-space public underground parking structure).

Of course, left out of much of the discussion is the plans of the University. Currently, the University has some conference space, but only 21 rooms . The other Big 10 schools have at least one hotel and conference center or several hotels within walking distance of campus. The University has lots of land and infrastructure on North Campus and married student housing is not doing well. Even if the U doesn’t want to build their own hotel, there are several hotel chains that might be willing to fund much of the building costs for an on-campus conference center. Needless to say, if they do build their own conference center, the City will not benefit anywhere nearly as much as if a conference center was built on city-owned land.

So what do you think? Does Ann Arbor need a conference center? Should it be downtown? Should the University build their own? If there is a conference center, what would you like to see be part of it? If you are opposed to it, why? If you are for it, why?

Comment [39]

Electricians Juice Up Ann Arbor . . . and Close Down Main Street

Posted by Nancy Shore on 4. August 2009

The Ann Arbor Chronicle recently reported on the 2,000 people that will be heading to Ann Arbor for the National Training Institute (NTI), put on by the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC).

According to the Chronicle, this event regularly brings in an estimated $5 million dollars to Ann Arbor.

As part of the NTI training this year, the Convention and Visitors Bureau will be closing down Main Street from William to Liberty/Washington for two block parties, one on August 5th and one on August 10th. No time is given for these parties.

Here’s some info on the Aug 5 block party from the Main Street Area Association’s Website:

Join the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau as they welcome the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to the streets of Ann Arbor. Main Street will be closed from William to Liberty. Live music, motorcycles, dining in the street and other festivities will abound. Come on down and join the party!

In light of the recent conversation about making Main Street an occasional pedestrian mall, it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Development in Ann Arbor: Finding Common Ground

Posted by Nancy Shore on 20. July 2009

Recent discussions of proposed developments, such as New North, City Place and the Moravian highlight a real division in our town.

On the one had there are those who say they are supportive of development and density, but argue that all of the proposed developments are “bad”. These folks seem to suggest that if the right type of development came along, they would certainly support it. But that hasn’t happened yet.

On the other hand are those who want density and development no matter the scale in order to attract the people who will keep Ann Arbor vital. These folks argue that all density is good density, regardless of some of the consequences.

So where’s the middle ground? If Ann Arbor is going to grow (which some would argue is inevitable while others would argue isn’t going to happen) how should it grow? What does good development look like?

Comment [50]

Shaman Drum to Close June 30

Posted by Juliew on 10. June 2009

Karl Pohrt announced today that Shaman Drum Bookshop will be closing June 30. The Great Lakes Literary Arts Center will continue.

The text of Pohrt’s message is below:

On the advice of my accountant and my business manager, I am closing Shaman Drum Bookshop June 30. Despite a first rate staff, a fiercely loyal core of customers, a very decent landlord and my own commitment to the community of arts and letters in Ann Arbor, it is clear to me that the bookshop is not a sustainable business.

In spite of the downturn in the economy, Ann Arbor continues to be an excellent book town. There are wonderful independent stores here (Crazy Wisdom, Nicolas’s Books), fine specialty book stores (Vault of Midnight, Aunt Agatha’s) and great used bookshops (Dawn Treader, West Side Books, Motte & Bailey). They need your support.

Over a year ago we began a process to become a non-profit center for the literary arts. I am decoupling Shaman Drum Bookshop from the Great Lakes Literary Arts Center, which should simplify and streamline our IRS application. I will pursue this new venture after we close the store.

Shaman Drum Bookshop has been here for 29 years. We had 28 good years. Thank you for your support. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a bookseller in Ann Arbor.

-Karl Pohrt

Comment [5]

Make Main Street a temporary pedestrian mall?

Posted by Matt Hampel on 2. June 2009

From the Ann Arbor News:

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje wants the city to study the possibility of closing Main Street on weekends in the downtown area during summer months, and not just for special events.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, Hieftje suggested that the city look into a pilot program for next summer under which Main Street would be closed from 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday evening to create a pedestrian mall atmosphere.

Comment [46]

2009 School Board Elections

Posted by Bruce Fields on 6. May 2009

Larry says

Can we have a new item to discuss yesterday’s election?

Larry’s wish is our command.

Comment [17]

City Seeks Input on Plastic Shopping Bags

Posted by Nancy Shore on 21. March 2009

To ban or not to ban, that is the question.

The City of Ann Arbor is seeking community input on a potential policy that would discourage the use of plastic shopping bags and encourage the use of reusable bags.

There are a couple of ways you can give feedback about this issue:

Ann Arbor Residents and Consumers: Take this 3 min online survey

Ann Arbor Businesses: Attend a focus group and/or take a survey

There will be focus groups for businesspeople at

  • Tuesday, March 31, 2009 8:30-9:30 a.m. at Zingerman’s Road House, 2501 Jackson Road (at the Maple intersection); or on

  • Thursday, April 2, 2009 8:30-9:30 a.m. at the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Office at 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301, in downtown Ann Arbor between E. Huron and E. Washington.

The survey for business owners, managers and employees can be found here.

The City also encourages citizens and businesspeople (and citizens who are businesspeople) to send general comments on implementing possible shopping bag restrictions and promoting reusable bags to Katie at 734.794.6000 extension 4-3728 and via

DDA Blocks Parking Information via Phone Service

Posted by Matt Hampel on 13. March 2009

Back in January, a group of local hackers built a service that allowed people to call in and check on parking structure spot availability in realtime (MLive article). It as powered by freely available data from the Downtown Development Authority website.

However, several days ago, the DDA shut off the application’s access to the site, because:

1) no permission from the DDA was granted before this project got underway,

2) this project hopes to sell this software to other communities and thereby make a profit and is using DDA-generated information to accomplish this,

3) the DDA has no control over what is done with this information yet this information is attributed to the DDA,

4) persons interested in finding out about parking structure vacancies must make a toll-call out of state.

The developers of the system have responded in this open letter.

The realtime parking data site is still available online for individuals — but the DDA has emphatically said, “no reuse.”

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If I could change one thing about the City of Ann Arbor it would be . . .

Posted by Nancy Shore on 4. March 2009

Two years ago around this time, Arbor Update reported on a City Council Meeting that presented information from the Citizen Survey.

This Citizen Survey got information from 3,000 City residents in January 2007. Apparently the results of the 2008 survey are going to be presented soon.

One of the most interesting parts of the survey is the open ended question component, which asked the question “If I could change one thing about the City of Ann Arbor it would be . . .”

Among the thousands of responses

If I could change one thing about the City of Ann Arbor it would be . . .

  • Public transportation. We need a frequent affordable rail service, from
    Dexter/Chelsea to Detroit to cut automobile traffic/pollution. I agree with the
    mayor on this one. Check out public transportation in Portland, Oregon &
  • Improve parking downtown. I wanted to go to Seyfrieds Jewelers but I know that parking would be questionable so I went to Lewis Jewelers. I have patronized Seyfrieds for years but I can’t trust the parking anymore. My son lived in the Maynard apartments and that is another difficult place to park. Someone stole my neighbor’s car Friday night-January 12, 2007.
  • Preventing the expansion of Ann Arbor city limits. The city works better if it is
    kept small & contained where land use is. Have green space surrounding the city, separating from the out-lying districts.
  • Better vision for downtown including use, transportation and building design to include height of building codes. Stop using water rates to fund programs such as trash bins and building programs. Add highly useable (i.e. irresistible) public transportation. Get the city out of the business of owning vacant property including the YMCA.

This is just the tip of the iceburg. Read all about it here

Comment [24]

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