Give it a read and let us know what you think by commenting. If you don't have time to read it all, here's a brief overview:
The latest 60-page document - being revealed at a community open house Wednesday night - spells out a broad vision for future development in downtown Ann Arbor and details building preferences for various "character districts," including South University, State Street, Liberty/Division, East Huron, Midtown, Main Street, Kerrytown and First Street.
The design guidelines have been developed concurrently with new zoning districts in downtown Ann Arbor. The rezoning and design guidelines have been in the works since fall 2006, when the A2D2 initiative was launched by City Council to implement recommendations from the Calthorpe report, a study of downtown development by an independent consultant.
"This document is a tool for achieving a vision for downtown in which high-quality design is a cornerstone for other community planning objectives," it says.
In many cases, the guidelines state that established development patterns in many districts already provide a context that should be reinforced by new development.
But in some places, it says a stronger sense of continuity is needed.Â
"Downtown Ann Arbor will remain the heart of the community, becoming even more vibrant as a mix of uses and activities energize the area year-round," the guidelines read. "As the center of cultural and civic functions, as well as commercial activity, downtown will continue to have streets that are active, inviting walking and providing places for community interaction."Â
The guidelines emphasize that downtown will be a place for job creation, providing "major employment" for the city’s residents. Retail, dining and entertainment uses will continue to expand, as will professional services, according to the guidelines.
The guidelines also are intended to encourage high-quality designs that will enhance downtown livability.Â
"Cultural and civic facilities are designed to create places that celebrate the sense of community," the guidelines state. "These include plazas, courtyards and streetscapes that are symbolic of the quality and role of downtown. Religious places and other community-based organizations thrive as well and contribute to the diversity of design expressions. Well-designed parks, trails and greenways further enhance livability and are linked in a network of recreation and alternative transportation systems."Â
City officials say the Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines are only one part of a system of tools -Â which also includes zoning and historic design guidelines - that help shape downtown development. The vision set forth in the design guidelines is based on much community input, as well as a variety of policy documents and planning efforts, including the 1988 Downtown Plan, the 2006 Recommended Vision and Policy Framework and the 1992 Central Area Plan for Ann Arbor.Â
Design guidelines are listed in priority order within each section, with a large red star indicating the highest priorities.
Some starred priorities include: sidewalk-level pedestrian connections, links to open space, urban open spaces for pedestrians, pedestrian-friendly street edges and driveway locations, using landscaped areas to promote energy efficiency, configuring taller building elements to minimize impact on adjacent areas, dividing larger buildings into smaller modules, and designing buildings to maximize solar energy potential.Â
Within the South University district, the guidelines list a preference for a diversity of building heights. Along State Street, outdoor spaces and walkway designs should encourage pedestrian activity, such as having wider sidewalks, and courtyards and plazas that can accommodate outdoor furniture.
In the Liberty/Division district, the guidelines encourage sloping roofs that relate to residential structures in the area. In Kerrytown, buildings should maintain the two-story street wall and step down in scale next to older historic structures.Â
On First Street, developments along the railroad line should provide green edges, as well as green roofs and roof gardens.
The guidelines state that "excellence and creativity in design will be hallmarks" in the downtown.Â
"This is reflected in a higher density of building in some areas; other places step down in scale and promote positive open space to respect transitional edges and lower-scaled settings," the document reads. "These improvements are designed to be compatible with the historic context and contribute to the high energy level in the downtown."Â
The guidelines make it clear that Ann Arbor places high importance on having an active pedestrian-friendly environment with parks, plazas and open spaces.
"The urban design principles for downtown promote active, pedestrian-friendly streets and a sense of relatedness among properties," the document reads. "At the same time they also promote excellence in creative design, sustainable building strategies and economic development."Â
A community open house event is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Kerrytown Concert House to officially present the guidelines to the public. The Ann Arbor City Council has postponed the first reading of the A2D2 amendments until its meeting next Tuesday.Â