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Posted on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Liberty Plaza landscaping gets $5K spruce-up to address visibility issues

By Kyle Feldscher


First Martin spent more than $5,000 to plant flowers and other plants at Liberty Plaza in downtown Ann Arbor. Workers finished up with their project Tuesday.

Kyle Feldscher |

After tearing out the yews that blocked visibility into downtown Ann Arbor's Liberty Plaza, First Martin officials are hoping the new flowers and plants will open up the bi-level park.

First Martin property manager John Teeter said the work done Monday and Tuesday would hopefully help cut into some of the alcohol use and trash issues at Liberty Plaza.

“We’re trying to brighten up the planting beds and increase visibility into the interior of the park,” Teeter said Tuesday afternoon. “Those beds had yews, evergreen plants that had been there for a long time. Those yews didn’t allow a lot of visibility into the park and were a collection point for liquor bottles and trash we didn’t want there.”


Liberty Plaza in September 2012.

Courtney Sacco |

The sunken plaza at the corner of East Liberty and South Division streets has long been a hotly debated place in Ann Arbor. Since it opened to the public in 1978, the two-tiered park has gone through many cycles of crime and peace.

It’s a gathering place for many people eat lunch and play cards or dominoes on summer days when the weather allows and usually hosts the Bank of Ann Arbor’s Sonic Lunch program on Thursday afternoons.

However, it also has a more unsavory crowd, and has gained a reputation as a hub of public drinking, drug dealing and usage and hostile vagrants. Last year, officials said preliminary redesigns of Liberty Plaza were being discussed in an effort to make the park a welcoming place for more Ann Arborites.

Teeter said the city of Ann Arbor worked with volunteers from Ann Arbor’s Blooms Day to tear out the yews and then First Martin planted shorter plants and flowers at its own expense. The work began on Monday and wrapped up Tuesday, as crews were moving mulch into the freshly planted beds.

The work cost the company more than $5,000 and did not cost the city any money, Teeter said.

“Hopefully, it brightens it up,” he said.

There have not been many issues at Liberty Plaza so far in 2013, according to police.

As of June 13, Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush said there were three calls for service to Liberty Plaza. In February, police assisted with a medical call, in March there was a report of a suspicious person and in April there was a vagrancy report.

In 2012, police increased foot patrols in Liberty Plaza and downtown Ann Arbor after identifying it as a place that needed more attention. At the time, Teeter told a bigger police presence “would resolve the issue” with crime at the park.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

If they cleared the underbrush from the electrical outlets, maybe the regulars can use their electric pipes now.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 12:13 a.m.

Awesome that First Martin has gone to the trouble and expense to effect some cosmetic and esthetic improvements at the park! I enjoy going to Bank of Ann Arbor's Sonic Lunch most weeks in the summers since it began, and used to walk up from Main St. when time allowed to have my lunch there. The park is a great example of one of the "little things" that make A2 a great town to be part of. First Martin deserves the kudos for their efforts at being an active part of the community. Whether one uses the park, like I do, or just admires it while driving by- both for the greenery and trees and for the ambiance in the winter with the trees all lit up, the fact that it is utilized as well as it is, and noticed as much as it is (for the praise as well as the gripes!) indicates JUST how MUCH a part of the overall community the park really is. I doubt there is a one of us who dreams of moving to a city that is only pavement, concrete, and buildings, eh? No, we strive for making our cities greener, fitting in parks where possible, and pay premiums to live anywhere closer to nature. I am one of those that agree that Liberty Plaza is a terrific example of urban park planning, and believe that A2 would benefit from more such parks... AND also am one of those that think more, and more consistent police patrols do the most for making the park safe and attractive for general useage by the public.

Jaime Magiera

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

Yet again, I see people mixing personal perception with security. Other than the occasional minor tussles or shouting matches between patrons, and a couple of instances of over-indulgance on intoxicants, there's not really much of a security problem at the park. If anyone claims otherwise, please provide statistics. How you might *feel* about people is not an indication of how people actually are. Quite frankly, I think it's important that people who might otherwise be abandoned as untouchables in our society have a place to congregate in the open. "They" are really part of "us".

Ypsi Russell

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

Well said.

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

Inspired by this support for the park, I am going to donate $5000 to erect a sign: "What happens in Liberty Plaza stays in Liberty Plaza"

Will Hathaway

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

Thank you First Martin Corporation for providing stewardship for this rare public open space. First Martin has worked to maintain both Liberty Plaza and Wheeler Park for many years. Having pleasant places for a variety of people to gather is a vital element of a successful downtown. We all owe a debt of gratitude to First Martin for the determined problem-solving and financial investment they've made in these two little parks.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

Are they putting in a kegerator?

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

A2 parks are strictly BYOK. What? You thought that shopping cart was full of clothes and empties?

Beth Hat

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

I have worked in the office building immediately adjacent to Liberty Plaza for 5 years. I have NEVER been threatened by anyone in the park, directly or indirectly. The park is for the people—all of us. Most Ann Arborites have a little money to go into one of the swanky bars nearby and buy a very nice drink but some don't. Some people live their lives much more publicly than others—many not by choice. But the park simply is for everyone and it's never felt other than a nice place to be with all kinds living happening there.


Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 8:28 p.m.

Just don't try to have a quiet dinner there later in the evening...

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

I eat lunch there regularly. Never an issue.

Dirty Mouth

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

Lipstick on a Pig.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

How about allowing food carts to make it more appealing to visit. That might create a busier atmosphere and also cut down on the less desireable activities that happen there.

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

Some food carts stink. I love good hotdogs but I do not want to continuously smell them when I visit a park. Same for popcorn. Etc.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

Half way through the year and police have received three calls to the plaza? Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Party's over.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

Either that or people think it's futile to call the police since they obviously know what's going on there.

Paula Gardner

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

Indeed! It's nice to be able to report this stage of transition for the park.

Lets Get Real

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

Thanks First Martin, for making an attempt and thanks to the police for the up tick in patrols. Pan handling and drug traffic are two of the problems discussed in the article. How quickly we forget the Occupy Movement that camped there for months in tents - which for the most part as attention waned - were empty, simply symbols of the discourse. A little vest pocket park can be both a curse and a blessing: at worst - a place where illegal and disgusting activity can take place; at best - a delightful haven in the otherwise concrete jungle of the city. I hope the landscape redesign can alleviate some of the negative activity by providing greater visibility to the space offering fewer places for the illegal and disgusting while bringing plantings and color to make the space more enjoyable for those who want to stop a sit for awhile - eat lunch, chat with a friend, read . . . . . . . . . When the park was first built and I worked downtown, I used to pick up my son from the Y day care and we'd walk over to Liberty Square to eat lunch. What ever happened to the cut little chipotti cart that used to sell sandwiches there? Sounds like an entrepreneurial opportunity for someone. Google employees can wander over for lunch and SPARK can help with the business planning & operation!


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

I hope they planted urine-tolerant plants and flowers.

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

Did you call the cops?

Dirty Mouth

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

And feces. Yes, I have witnessed folks doing number twos.

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

On any given night there are vast numbers of inebriated students stumbling around town with hidden containers of alcohol, or passed out on lawns. It is curious the distinction some make between them and those in this park. Does wearing $200 sneakers make it okay?

Dirty Mouth

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

Nicholas Urfe, call the cops??? They certainly wouldn't come for that!!!


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

I don't see anything indicating anyone's drawing a difference here. If this place was constantly full of rowdy drunk college students, I (and I would think most people) would be just as likely to avoid it and point out that it is not a pleasant place because of it. Who's saying it's different?


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

Actually, being able to afford the $200 sneakers makes the difference, because in their drunken state they're not going to be hitting me up or threatening me for cash to support their habit.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

What matters Nicholas is the life trajectories of these people. The students lives, in general, face rising prospects. They are here educating themselves in order to become productive members of society. Simultaneously, they are discovering themselves as adults and learning life lessons along the way. Anyways Nicholas, if you care this much you should open up your front lawn to these people as a place to sleep. Open your home to them so that they can shower. Let them use your home as a mailing address so that they can secure a job. Let them use your washing machine to clean their clothes. After all, the only difference we're talking about here is a $200 pair of sneakers -

peg dash fab

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.



Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

"Visibility issues", eh? Sure, that's the problem.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

to improve security at park, in addition to police foot patrols/bikes, put a camera in the sky and/or utilize a cam already in area - like at traffic light or at one of various commercial area buildings - Baru's 2 restaurants, Bar Louie , Google's bldg., etc. where there is a will - there is a way !

Paula Gardner

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

I was surprised to see the low number of police calls to the park - but wouldn't be surprised if that's due to regular patrols/community policing approaches being used to keep situations from reaching that point. I also appreciate the attention First Martin pays to this park. They have a stake in it, since the company has an office building next door. But the rest of Ann Arbor also is invested in how this space functions as a public gathering area.

Paula Gardner

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

I've seen this park cited as an example over and over again as officials consider future downtown development. So its track record could be at play when the city considers funding priorities. ( I also don't mind admitting: I've got a few potholes in the city that I'd like fixed, too!


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

"But the rest of Ann Arbor also is invested in how this space functions as a public gathering area." More "downtown centric" thinking. It may be important to you, but that does not mean that it is important to all Comrade Citizens. Given a choice between improving how the space functions as a public gathering area and filling potholes, I would vote to fill potholes.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

Is the amount of calls to the park a meaningless stat without knowing whether the usage of the park has gone up and down? Most of the issues in the park aren't things you would call the police over. They're nuisance things that would just make you avoid it. I'm curious when all these cycles of peace have been. It's been that way for at least 20 years.

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

"As of June 13, Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush said there were three calls for service to Liberty Plaza. In February, police assisted with a medical call, in March there was a report of a suspicious person and in April there was a vagrancy report." Wow, what a public safety nightmare. An epidemic. I'm surprised the park hasn't made national news.

Jaime Magiera

Thu, Jun 27, 2013 : 2:32 a.m.

Paula, can you cite the examples of the Public Safety nightmare? Feel free to go back the past 25 years.

Paula Gardner

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

The public safety 'nightmare' was last year, and in previous years. What was your perception of the park last summer?


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:52 p.m.

I certainly hope you're not suggesting that this has been blown out of proportion by people lacking in perspective and of a foul disposition with respect to anything that has the potential to vaguely inconvenience them on a superficial level. Because I refuse to believe that could possibly happen on this web site.

Hugh Giariola

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

How about some anti-panhandler spray? That place could use a heavy dose of bum-be-gone.

Stan Hyne

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

The city built a homeless collection site so....


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

Who is throwing the trash and liquor bottles into the shrubs? Go figure!


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 11:12 a.m.

I was excited when they mentioned that Liberty Plaza was being spruced up, then felt a sense of disappointment when I learned it was limited only to the landscaping.

Chip Reed

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 10:27 a.m.

Maybe some of those little spiky things that keep birds from roosting...