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Posted on Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Group using YouTube video to make case for central park in downtown Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton

Supporters of the vision for a central park in Ann Arbor are circulating a 10-minute promotional video stating their case for more green space downtown.

Ann Arbor resident Will Hathaway, one of the leaders of the Library Green group, uploaded the video to YouTube to make the argument that city officials have two choices for the city-owned site atop a new underground parking structure downtown: a park or a parking lot.

The video expands on arguments Hathaway made during a presentation before the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority last month.

The idea of a central park hasn't gained traction with city officials who want to see vertical development on the site. However, Mayor John Hieftje has said he wants to see at least some open space on the Library Lot — it's just a matter of how much.

The Library Green group is hosting a downtown block party at the site of the new parking structure on Fifth Avenue from noon to 5 p.m. July 14.

Fliers circulated by group member Alan Haber indicate the event will honor the 25th anniversary of Jerusalem Garden and the 50th anniversary of the Herb David Guitar Studio.

Both companies sued the city over the parking structure project a few years ago, claiming it hurt their business. The lawsuit was later settled out of court.

The flier for the July 14 event invites the entire community to come "imagine a park" and be "green for a day."

The Library Green group holds planning meetings at 310 S. Ashley St. on Sunday afternoons from 1:30-3:30 p.m. For more information, call 734-649-3207 or 734-761-7967.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

This is a great idea, the immediate downtown has no green space or grassy areas...its all brick and concrete!


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Cities with successful downtown parks have excellent police presence. Ann Arbor eliminated the downtown foot patrols and there isn't enough police to cover the city as it is. The park sounds nice but I am afraid it will turn into a hangout for homeless people and drug dealers. You can look at liberty plaza for an example. Another point I'd like to make is that the Diag is not exclusive to students and that is a fairly large green space in downtown Ann Arbor (with sufficient policing).


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

I agree with having a larger park downtown, but feel that putting it on top of a four story parking structure is the worst possible location. Put the park on the ground, where the trees can grow unrestricted, and not on top of concrete in planter boxes. I've never seen a big healthy tree in a planter box with no access to the soil below.


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

Petoskey has a lovely downtown park that hosts concerts and movie nights.


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

Can't we just do that in West Park which is like four blocks from Main St?


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

It's a whole lot easier to plan a park before the city was built up. Although a large park would be nice, I doubt with the loss of property tax dollars that such a project would be feasible.


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 4:03 a.m.

See the city of Clayton in Missouri, near St. Louis. They have a downtown city park AND pool - outdoor. It's used by workers in downtown for noon swims, and for after-work/before happy hour. Adds to the atmosphere of a very successful downtown, not significantly different from A2. The college that is near downtown Clayton is Washington Univeristy. We have UM. A pool and park would we the way to go?


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

No, we want to be like Boulder or maybe New York city. Clayton, MO? Not so much. Why all the hoopla about it being downtown? There are over 2,000 acres of parkland in Ann Arbor and not all that many people living downtown.

Alan Caldwell

Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 12:13 a.m.

Great video. To decide to build a park in this location seems so good and so obvious! We do not need another parking lot -- that will be there for years and years. The city is waiting for what? There will always be the naysayers that have all sorts of reasons not to do this. Just like the Field of Dreams -- if this park gets build, the people will come. Ann Arbor will be better for it. (thank you Library Green group)


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

How can, as one of your benefits of the park, say "new construction" when that is what you're advocating against now?

Will Hathaway

Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 4:21 a.m.

The new construction we describe in the slide show could be part of the economic development that occurs in proximity to the park. Like parks in other cities, a public plaza on the Library Lot could encourage investment in and redevelopment of surrounding properties. That's part of the "place making" effect.

Bob Loblaw

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 10:09 p.m.

Successful parks within cities rely on a special connection with adjacent businesses. As Jane Jacobs and other city planning/design theorists have discussed, it is the foot traffic of surrounding streets that make city parks both safe and vibrant. Right now, William Street and S. 5th Avenue do not provide the right density and foot traffic to support constant use of a Library Green. The idea is solid, but the time is not right.


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.

Maybe "if they build it, they will come." Plymouth is less built-up around their downtown park, and it's a gem :-)

sojourner truth

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

We have spent several weeks in Europe, and I am always struck by their city squares that are in the middle of the towns . They are multi-use with commercial space, restaurants, fountains and planters and green space. On a second or third level above the square, there are some apartments or more commercial spaces. These areas are always vibrant and the first place a visitor goes. Perhaps the Library Llot doesn't have enough room for all that, but why can't we ask the University School of Architecture and Urban Studies to draw up plans for something like this mixed use space. It would generate income, but also be a meeting and recreation space.

Linda Peck

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Lovely ideas, Sojourner Truth


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

Hi Ann Arbor. com -- I wanted to email this story to myself but the email pop up is blocked by the video. Any way you can fix it? Thanks!!


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

Ha -- you found me out, Kyle -- I am using Chrome! I'll try in Firefox. Thanks!!

Kyle Mattson

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 9:33 p.m.

Looks like it may be a browser issue as we can only replicate the issue in Chrome. We'll look into it though. Thanks for passing that along and have a great weekend!

Ted Annis

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Two studies that show a net tax benefit to a City of downtown open space have been forwarded to me. This benefit is described as the "Proximity Principle." These studies essentially tabulated the increased tax Revenue from from the increased value of properties enjoying proximity to open space and subtract the "lost Revenue" of the buildings not built on the open space. Turns out that there is frequently a net tax Revenue gain to the City with downtown open space (e.g., a park). My hunch is that the DDA Board and its ED have not heard of the Proximity Principle. In fariness, I just found out about it and I have been an advocate of parks and downtown open space for some time.


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

Ted -- yes! Frequently I see real estate ads that trumpet "near Gallup Park" or "walking distance to the Arb". This would definitely be a bonus to homeowners nearby. I think of those poor folks in 422 Lofts who've put up with dust and noise for two years now -- this would probably be a very welcome perk for them!


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

I can't stop thinking about Liberty Plaza Park... it was also a great idea, but now it's not a very inviting place. And it's located just around the corner from this newly proposed city park. I'd rather Liberty Plaza park be fixed up before we start spending money on another one.

Linda Peck

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 11:48 p.m.

When you actually consider what Liberty Plaza is, it is almost all concrete MjC. There is very little green about it. And it is a miniscule park.

Lynn Glazewski

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

A park is a nice idea in theory, but please don't compare Ann Arbor to cities like Boston, New York, or Chicago with EFFECTIVE public transportation. People don't drive to parks in NY or Boston, they take the train and pop out within a short walking distance to the park. No one will take the AA Transit to downtown if they own a car - I tried to take a bus to work at UMHS, and on a weekday, it only stops at my stop every half an hour, and the last one leaves the hospital at 6:14P, so if I get caught working late, I am out of luck. To be a true gathering place, the buses would have tro run shuttles every weekend, as they do during the Art Fair, from free surface lots like Fuller Mitchell to get people to the park. No one is going to come spend an inexpensive afternoon at the park if they have to pay $4 to park underneath it.....just sayin....


Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : midnight

Hmm. There's that white elephant of a brand new parking space underneath this potential park. Those who don't live on a bus line can drive and park right by the activities or horror - park 2 blocks south/west and part in the Fourth/William structure.


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

I agree with tmil -- AATA is not perfect, but because it has an extensive, pretty reliable network and schedule, I was able to live car-free in A2 for 9 years (now I live in Chelsea and take the A2 Express bus into work at U-M -- also a great option).


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

AA Transit may not be perfect by any means and cannot be compared to the cities you listed, but it is better than probably any other city in Michigan. You comment about not taking the bus downtown if they have a car is not true. I used to take the bus to work everyday at UMHS and I had a car. Yes the bus only came by my house every 30 minutes, but I just had to plan accordingly. I no longer have a car, but I still take the bus to work or I ride my bike downtown.


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

I don't think people would come to the park JUST to come to the park, unless there was a special event going on. They may be going out to dinner and want a place to chat under the moonlight afterwards. Or wait for kids renewing library books, meet a friend coming in on the bus, study, etc. It would be such a bonus for A2 :-)


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

Green space downtown does not generate tax revenue. It would also be a possible location for CTN II. Would the AA tax payers and voters like this? Probably not.

Linda Peck

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

This is a wonderful concept and one that I prefer for this space. We need a place to refresh in the midst of fairly intense concrete in our town. Think of the boon to the Air Fair crowd if they had a place to just SIT DOWN for heaven sake. On the grass would be good!! This would make the fair, for one, more palatable. Better for business when we can stay a little longer to shop and have lunch, given a little green break.


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

Linda -- Yes! I've thought the same thing, especially during Art Fair -- a nice place to just sit down and rest, read, or meet a friend. This part of downtown really does not have anyplace "un-concrete", away from traffic, to sit down. Sometimes you just need to get off the sidewalk and away from cars whizzing by.

Will Hathaway

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

The official name for our non-profit organization is the Library Green Conservancy. Our next meeting is actually at 2:00 p.m. this Sunday, July 8. The location is 310 South Ashley Street. We hope that folks will join us for a fun, family-oriented event on top of the new Library Lot (aka "Library Lane") parking structure. In addition to "visioning" activities, we'll have live music under a shade canopy. We also plan to have a "misting" station to help people stay cool. Bring a picnic and add your ideas for how a public open space could exist above the underground "car park."


Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

I haven't so far heard a single idea for that above-ground space that is better than a park.