Conceptual plan emerges for greenway park at 721 N. Main in Ann Arbor
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A conceptual vision is emerging for how the city of Ann Arbor might transform a blighted property it owns at 721 N. Main into a greenway anchor park.
The city's North Main-Huron River Corridor Vision Task Force, which was formed by the Ann Arbor City Council back in May, has been meeting regularly for months and is getting ready to offer its recommendations for future reuse of the former city maintenance yard as public open space.
"It's been a lot of hard work," said Sumedh Bahl, the city's community services administrator, who is working with the task force on the project. "This thing has moved really fast."
At a community meeting this past week, the fruits of the task force's labor — including a detailed site plan — were presented to interested residents. The site plan shows a mix of trails and open space designed to link with the nearby Border-to-Border Trail and the future Allen Creek Greenway.
City of Ann Arbor
About half the 5.1-acre site is in a floodway. Two buildings on the flood-prone half of the site would be demolished to create a stormwater zone surrounded by lawn and prairie areas.
The city's large fleet services garage on the other half of the site would remain in place for the near term while the city explores the building's future re-use. A compressed natural gas fueling station near the back corner of the site along Summit would be removed.
The plans also show a spot where some kind of amenity could go. Suggested ideas include a dog park, community garden, a sustainability demonstration or some kind of performance stage venue or shared art space.
The bigger-picture plan shows the site, including a 22-space parking lot, integrated with the nearby Water Hill neighborhood via Summit Street and both Bluffs Park and Argo Park.
And if the Allen Creek Greenway is developed as planned, likely years into the future, there could be a green walking and biking pathway along the Ann Arbor Railroad right-of-way connecting the 721 N. Main site to two other greenway anchor parks at 415 W. Washington and First and William.
The city is considering applying for two grants to help fund the vision for 721 N. Main. Applications for grant funding through the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission's Connecting Communities program are due by the end of December, and applications for grant funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund are due in April.
Those funds would be in addition to Federal Emergency Management Agency grant funds city officials hope to use to pay for demolition of the two buildings in the floodway.
Bahl stressed the site plan is merely a concept and more work remains to determine if there's consensus. The task force will meet Wednesday and must submit its recommendations for 721 N. Main to the City Council by Dec. 31.
As for how to create a safe option for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross Main Street to get to Argo Park and the Border-To-Border Trail, Bahl said that needs to be explored further. The task force has until July 31 to deliver its broader recommendations for the corridor to the City Council.
City of Ann Arbor
"I think the one thing I'm happy about is the neighborhood seems pretty enthusiastic about the plans the way it's shaping up," Grand said. "The other piece that has made me personally more enthusiastic about the project is the potential for involvement with the Community Center."
Grand said it will be important to activate the site and have more eyes on it, and partnering with the Community Center will help with that. She said the Community Center, which has children at its summer camp all summer long, might be able to put in some garden spaces.
"I like that potential for partnership," she said. "They would just be so happy to have anything other than a parking lot adjacent to their property."
Grand said she's not sure how much the 721 N. Main vision might cost. She said the city could apply for as much as $300,000 from the Natural Resources Trust Fund, but that would require another $300,000 in matching funds, and a county parks grant could count toward that.
Jerry Hancock, Ann Arbor's stormwater and floodplain programs coordinator, said a $116,000 project to demolish the large vehicle storage and salt storage buildings on the site could happen in the spring, and the city's share of the cost is expected to be about $29,000.
He said FEMA has not issued the grant paperwork yet, so he didn't have a certain timeframe for the demolition, but he's hopeful it can happen sometime between April and June.