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Posted on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar owners say they're unhappy with lack of assistance from city, DDA

By Ryan J. Stanton

The owners of two downtown restaurants — Earthen Jar and Jerusalem Garden — appeared before the Ann Arbor City Council Monday night to air concerns over the massive underground parking garage being constructed next to them on Fifth Avenue.

Both said business is hurting because of the project, especially with Fifth Avenue closed, and they think they deserve some form of compensation from the city or the Downtown Development Authority. The DDA is funding the $50 million garage, which will be owned by the city, and the project is expected to continue into next spring.

"Our sales have gone 50 percent down," said Pushpinder Sethi, owner of Earthen Jar, a vegetarian Indian food establishment at 311 S. Fifth Ave. He said he'd welcome a tax abatement or any other form of compensation deemed appropriate to offset the losses.


Ali Ramlawi, owner of Jerusalem Garden, speaks before the Ann Arbor City Council earlier this year. He came back again Monday night with more concerns about the underground parking garage project and the impact to his business.

File photo |

"I'm losing six grand every month right now," he said. "And that is very hard for us to survive in this situation."

Ali Ramlawi, owner of Jerusalem Garden, 307 S. Fifth Ave., told council members he asked the DDA for help last year — including help with taxes and maybe putting some money in a fund to do marketing for area businesses — but his requests were denied.

He said he was told it was an ordinary improvement project and that his business, like other businesses, would just have to weather the storm.

"I would like to argue that this is not an ordinary project," Ramlawi said. "This is an extraordinary project. The road's been closed now for one year."

DDA officials held a groundbreaking event that ceremonially kicked off the 700-space project in September 2009, though it was some months later before major work was under way. Fifth Avenue closed to traffic in front of Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar in September 2010.

Noting that the project isn't expected to be finished for at least another six months, likely continuing into the spring, Ramlawi said he'd challenge any city official to come up with another construction project that has lasted two and a half years.

"One thing I want to rest assure is we're not going to go out of business," Ramlawi said. "But that is not because of the support from the DDA. It's because of the University of Michigan and the dedicated following of the folks of Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas."

DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay could not be reached for comment.

Mayor John Hieftje, who serves on the DDA board and appoints its members, said he's sympathetic to the situation Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar find themselves in and he's going to see if there's possibly more the city can do to help out. He agreed there at least could be better signage to point passersby to both restaurants, but he said tax abatements would be unusual and he's not sure it even would be legal.

He noted Fifth Avenue is expected to reopen by Dec. 31.

Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, said the council should take seriously the concerns raised by Earthen Jar and Jerusalem Garden, which are in his ward.

"Here we're in a situation where we're doing some damage to long-standing businesses," he said, encouraging the owners to follow up and contact council members after the meeting.

"These gentlemen have been putting up with something for quite a long time, including if you remember the collapses and the cave-ins and the sinkholes that have taken place," he added, calling that "pretty dramatic" for a business to go through so much.

Anglin said he's hopeful something practical can be done along Fifth Avenue, "so when you go down there you don't think you're going to a big construction site."

Ramlawi used part of his public commentary time to talk about the role of the DDA as it relates to the city and its future. He noted the City Council recently gave the DDA unilateral authority to set parking meter enforcement hours and parking rates, while also allowing the DDA more influence on the development of downtown city-owned properties.

"I think now is the time to take a step back and take a minute and pause right now before we go ahead and continue to give the DDA even more power," he said. "I think these things should be reserved for City Council — our elected officials."

Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, also chimed in during Monday's meeting to say it's taken some time but he finally has his hands on DDA financial reports going back several years and he's alarmed at what the numbers show.

He said the reports show the DDA ran a deficit of about $138,000 for fiscal year 2007-08, followed by a deficit of nearly $2 million in 2008-09, and another deficit of $3.8 million in 2009-10. DDA officials have acknowledged they're purposely running deficit budgets due to costs related to the underground parking structure and other capital projects.

Kunselman noted fiscal year 2010-11 just ended June 30 and the DDA is estimating it ended the year with another $3.9 million in deficit spending. He said it's anticipated by the end of fiscal year 2011-12 the DDA will have about $2.9 million left in its fund balance.

"I just think these are very telling numbers — four years, possibly five years, of deficit spending by the DDA is fiscally irresponsible in my opinion," Kunselman said.

Hieftje fired back at Kunselman, defending the DDA.

"If you felt that way, you probably shouldn't have voted to approve their budget," Hieftje said, noting the deficits were planned and included in the budget. "The DDA has been planning on some very large expenditures related to projects and I think that's what you're seeing reflected in their numbers, and they are maintaining a positive fund balance."

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 e-mail newsletters.



Mon, Jul 25, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.

DDA loaned money to the city? or was it the other way around? I can't remember, but it seems the whole bunch can't run the city. Time to clean house, residents.


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 9:52 a.m.

I think Governor Snyder needs to send in a financial manager.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

Bad enough to have construction out front, but what's with the work on Fifth between Liberty and Washington? Seems like poor timing to have the city shut down even more nearby parking.

mike gatti

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 9:08 a.m.

Bottom line is the area just looks like awful . It has looked like awful for a while. We love J Garden and Earthen Jar and continue to go there but if you are not a long time customer or if you are a new customer you may not go down that dirty fenced in path toward the big hole at what looks like the end of the World and go have a sandwich when there are other places. That being said, what else could they do to make the area look less bad? It is tough. I myself will go think of these places more often when going out for lunch or dinner.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:48 a.m.

Just sue the city for lost revenue and tie them up in court for years. When you win, at least I'll know my tax dollars went for a good cause.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:47 a.m.

Where is the nearest parking to Jerusalem Garden? I haven't been there since the library parking lot was closed.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 10:31 p.m.

The commenter who said it used to be hard to find a seat at Jerusalem Garden nailed it. It used to be the like that inside Earthen Jar. Not anymore. It really is hard to get to these places with the covered meters, rubbish, and... I find it pretty unappetizing to be eating dinner in the window seat while the construction site's portable potty is drained *right* out front. Heck, I'm guessing the smell is even worse for diners in the front yard of J Garden!


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 9:52 p.m.

It's immediately apparent that both restaurants are hurt far worse than the other businesses around the construction site to anyone who visits. Something should have been done to help offset a longtime ago.

Hot Sam

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

Let me preface by saying that Jerusalem Garden is one our favorite places in town... I almost feel guilty, but I find being able to pull in to the construction site there and pick up our carry out to be really convenient.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

Sounds like a poor attempt to shakedown the tax payers yet again. Why doe's everyone have such a sense of privilege.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

It should be known that these and other businesses had a lawsuit pending with Judge Archie Brown and voluntarily dismissed it without getting paid a penny - only promises by the city. I believe the dismissal was "without prejudice" so it could be re-filed. This was the lawsuit that played a central role in "E-Mailgate". They should and can seek redress through the circuit court for monetary damages and in fact should have followed through earlier. And BTW - I am a big fan of both the Earthen Jar and Jerusalem Gardens restaurant.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

The two resturants have been around quite a while. I think they should not be paying any taxes during the construction period. They are not getting the service they pay for - simply the visibility and access of the open street. Anyone stuck with that level of construction should not be made to suffer to the point of going out of business.

Joan Lowenstein

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

The city approved construction of the parking garage because of the overwhelming need -- as expressed by downtown businesses over the last couple of decades -- for more parking in the heart of downtown. When new businesses seek to locate downtown, their first questions involve availability of parking. All the businesses in the downtown will benefit from more than 650 new parking spaces. The DDA has provided Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar with more than $2000 worth of free parking stickers for their customers, has erected signs pointing to the restaurants, and has cleared snow around them, all at the DDA's expense. The construction managers meet with them frequently and both the DDA and the construction crew have patronized the restaurants, including large catering orders. Although the construction of the garage has been delayed, as construction always is, the opening of Fifth Avenue is a priority and it will be open by or before the end of the year. The DDA does not and cannot operate on deficit spending. Mr. Kunselman simply does not understand municipal finance. The DDA is empowered to use tax increment financing to improve the downtown infrastructure, so its funds are committed to debt service on bonds issued by the city. If you have a mortgage, it doesn't mean that you have a budget deficit. It means that you are taking on debt and have a plan to pay it off. DDA financial reports are available to anyone who knows how to use a computer at


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

Ms. Lowenstein, have you actually met with the business owners to confirm Ms. Pollay's laundry list of clearly ineffective assistance? If you had you might discover there is, as is usually the case, more context under which these "gestures" were extended. I am also curious how it is that DDA has this $2,000 figure at it's finger tips when much more crucial accounting/reporting seems to be a core defficiency of the organization. The DDA could go away tomorrow and some other quasi-municipal agency would step forward and take on it's role...if JG and EJ disappear you lose businesses that have literally branded Ann Arbor as one of the best places in the U.S. to live.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 12:36 a.m.

If the DDA is using tax increment financing, wouldn't it be taxpayer money, not DDA money, that has paid for these relatively small gestures of support towards these restuarants nearly barracaded from doing business by the extended construction zone? Are you saying that the DDA has done the most it can do for Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar? $2000 in parking doesn't help them when there are no spots available around the area of the restaurant, which has been a key to their business. The Parking stamp is for structures only and customers familiar with the restaurant used to use the old library lot or meters around. That is no longer an option. The foot paths to the restaurant are partially blocked. What about this: Is there space in the brand new city hall building where you could allow these restaurants to have a cart around the lunch hour? Give customers who want to pick up lunch there a free card to park at one of the meters around city hall?


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 10:42 p.m.

There are balances--650 new parking places for customers of Thongs & Bongs at the cost of possibly driving long established places out of business. The DDA should have thought ahead of the consequences of their actions, knowing full well how long it would take. Do something to really help these people--just because they are not corporate types does not mean they are not worthy of DDA doing the right thing. We (the people of Ann Arbor) need new leadership at DDA! Do the right thing or step aside.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

Mis- managed construction is always delayed...You owe these guys some tax abatements...or no taxes till the mess is done and cleaned up.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

".....Mr Kunselman simply does not understand municipal finance." Are you only saying that, Joan, because you are endorsing his opponent, Miss Ault?


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

If you like their food and you are eating out in the area, give them some business. If you've never tried their food, you should, it's excellent and affordable.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

I am so impressed with the overwhelming support this online community has for JG and EJ...they are truly two unique restaurants that provide the very brand that is Ann Arbor. I truly hope Susan Pollay has the guts to read this article and the comments in their entirety and then step to do the right thing... The DDA is clearly a grossly mismanaged organization as evidenced by the numerous safety violations that have occurred with this single project. In the private sector, Ms. Pollay would've been held accountable and likely would have lost her job a long time ago. The council needs to side with their citizens and hold her accountable. Some of the suggestions made on here are simple and impactful. Yes, DDA should be having lunch as these restaurants...but given the dynamic that Ms. Pollay has established with each owner, she's likely avoiding them at all cost...shameful. Fire her.

Atticus F.

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 5:49 p.m.

The sign should read "Your parking dollars being squandered".


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

"...Mayor John Hieftje, who serves on the DDA board and appoints its members, ..." Hmmm, no conflict of interest there, huh?

Tex Treeder

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

I've often wondered about that. Doesn't he serve on some Huron River watershed committee as well? I applaud his commitment, but I have to wonder about conflicting agendas.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

When the W. Stadium Blvd road project was under way, those businesses suffered real bad. At least the city had some sort of plan to help most of those businesses with access to their stores. Doesn't seem to be the case here, especially due to the scope of the project. This is not fair to those businesses who have paid taxes and contributed to the community.

John A2

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

It just may be that these DDA's want these businesses to leave!


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 4:05 p.m.

The city has done nothing to help these two longtime, indigenous businesses and shame on the DDA and Hieftje. I make a strong effort to patronize both of these businesses for the duration of the project. However, the construction company and the city's insistence on bagging on the parking meters on Division, as well as many other neighboring streets, has made parking within walking distance difficult, and at the busy lunch hour, when I have to hustle to make it downtown to patronize these businesses, impossible. Stop bagging the meters of the adjoining streets!


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

I can't blame the restaurant owners a bit. Having been a retail store owner in this area affected by a major construction project, I've seen how much business can drop. It's a real hardship for these people. They deserve an abatement and/or some other form of compensation. As for this entire overly expensive construction project, I think the city could have done without it. But, that's another topic.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

Correct me if I am wrong, isn't the city paying the UofM 1 million plus (abatement) when the over pass on stadium is replaced? How is the replacement of the overpass going to hurt UofM? As far as I can tell they are even timing the construction so as not to interfere with the football season. It is funny that they can not come up with some money to help out Jerusalem Garden.

Tom Teague

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

I would agree with Bill Wilson that the Great Recession is also affecting the business at EJ and JG, but I come back to this: The City and the DDA are compounding the misery with a long and disruptive construction project. Some sort of help would be appropriate. Jerusalem Garden has wonderful food (great falafel) and a friendly staff. Like a previous commenter, I put my money where my mouth is and continue to patronize them; but, frankly, it's not easy getting there right now. Why couldn't the DDA (or the City) provide some marketing funds, better signs, and parking cost offsets to help these businesses? It's not providing funds for the restaurants' bottom line, just leveling up the north end of that playing field.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

Jerusalem Garden could create a new sandwich to offset business loss from the construction. The DDA Rollup: A pita rollup filled with one lettuce leaf sold at three times the price of a regular sandwich on the menu. If you want something more than lettuce, pay extra for each item. Maybe it can coordinate it with an Undo The DDA t-shirt. Another t-shirt "I drove through the A2 Construction Zoo to support local business and all I got was this $20 parking ticket"


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

Are they still also talking about adding a conference center above the parking structure, extending the construction another couple years and taking away business due to a proposed restaurant within the center? I'm just asking, I haven't heard anything about it for a while. In any case, I've been going to the Jar as much as possible but it's just empty some days. Besides the traffic, there's often construction noise and leaking pipes in front of the restaurant. Oh, and the sinkholes, no big deal. It's great if the project eventually brings them more business, but what if they don't survive that long?


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

I agree with the restauranteurs. I don't think the DDA has done nearly enough to help them maintain operations through this exceptional "improvement". Going to JG and Earthen Jar is like going through a construction zone, as the project uses teh street in front of the restaurants to stage construction and store supplies; that could have been done elsewhere. I've made a special point of eating at both places more than usual to support them lately, when I eat downtown. JG happens to serve Ann Arbor's best coffee (Roos Roast), and Earthen Jar's fare is exceptionally good.

Bill Wilson

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

---you are way off target calling Jerusalem Garden a niche restuarant. --- Let me clarify: it's their cuisine that's niche.

Some Guy in 734

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 11:14 a.m.



Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

I should have said Middle Eastern Cuisine, not Mediterranean, but it's not niche. The fantastic yogurt sauce on the Chicken Shwarma and other sandwiches is similar to Greek yogurt sauce.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Perhaps you are just in denial that, like Italians and Mexicans and others before them, people of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Southeast Asian descent are now so much an integral part of the community that they have become part of the fabric of the broader Ann Arbor community such that their food is no longer "niche cuisine" just as Italian food or Mexican food is not "niche cuisine".


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

@Bill --Mediterranean food is not a niche cuisine. They have had a large following of customers for many years but it's understandable you might think that if you are not familiar with the restaurant and the area.

Peter Baker

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

A previously wildly successful niche.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

Can the DDA and City work out a deal to offer customers parking validation when patronizing businesses impacted by the construction? Validate one hour of parking at an E-park meter or structure or surface lot, if you buy something at any business in the radius of the Construction Zoo. Win-win solution. The sign at the corner of Huron and Fifth says "Businesses Open During Construction" and another smaller sign at Fifth and Liberty says the same. The signs should be asking residents to patronize these businesses all around the area, but it is such a hassle to drive or walk around there, on Division, on Fifth, on Liberty and Washington, it is difficult to do. If the DDA and Mayor say this will be all the better for the city in a year, what are they doing NOW to help? Traffic could be re-routed more efficiently. Better signs could be put up. Incentives to customers. Why isn't the DDA coming up with ideas?

Kristi Shaffer

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

Ali Ramlawi is right. This is an extraordinary project. I love Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar and I've gone to Jerusalem Garden with my kids several times while this project has been going on, but there have also been times that the construction was just too much of a nuisance to circumvent with 3 young kids. JG and Earthen Jar are 2 unique restaurants with fantastic food so I'm very glad to hear that at least JG won't be going out of business. It is a shame that these local businesses are suffering as they are and that should be recognized by the city.

Ron Granger

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

It seems as though the city bends over backwards trying to accomodate large corporate developers whose sole interest is in making a quick buck. Meanwhile, local owner run businesses, who have served the community with great food for years, are allowed to wither in the shadow of those large developments.. And for what? A giant corporate project that is intended to support a giant building downtown. The city council should find a way to help these businesses. As for the DDA, it seems to be run very poorly. Certainly well below "acceptable".

Tex Treeder

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

I went out of my way to go to the Northside Grill when the Broadway Bridge was being rebuilt a couple of years ago. Apparently enough people did that and they survived. I put my money where my mouth is and I go to JG regularly. The long term survival of local businesses depends on local support. But this situation is even worse than the bridge construction. As a taxpayer, I would be willing to consider some abatement for Jerusalem Garden or Earthen Jar.

Tom Teague

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

That's probably why Tex said in his comment, "But this situation is even worse than the bridge construction."

Matt Cooper

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 5:33 p.m.

You're comparing apples to oranges. There were many, many different routes to get to the Northside Grille. There is only one way to get to JG. And that one way has been made nearly impassable by the construction.

John A2

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 12:41 p.m.

This is a major concern, and needs to be addressed. I'm 45 and went to Community High. My friends and I used to go to JG for lunch, so it's been there a long time and a favorite for lots of us A2's. It would be a real shame on the city to just drive them out of business. We all should go and at least patronize the restaurants, and give them our support. The food at JG is some of the very best Middle Eastern food I have had and I am middle eastern. I went to school with some of the owners too, so they are us, and we need to be there for them in this time of need. Try their BabaGanuosh or how ever you spell it, its great and real healthy too. I will be going there now more often now that I know this.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 12:31 p.m.

Of course these businesses should be granted tax abatements for the duration of the construction. Simple.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

The businesses and residents nearby were misled from the beginning; the DDA originally said this project would be finished in time for Art Fair 2011. I think it's telling that the due date section of their large banner at the project has had the date actually physically cut out.

Bill Wilson

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

It seems to me that a large parking structure will ultimately draw large numbers of people to the area. If we give these business owners tax breaks during the construction, does anyone really believe that these same owners would agree to higher taxes once the construction is complete, and more people are drawn to the area?

Some Guy in 734

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 11:07 a.m.

"Indian vegetarian? C'Mon! This, and the other restaurant, are niche type restaurants, at best." Comments don't get headlines, but if they did, I'd suggest "Area commentator destroys own credibility in fourteen words." True, I got out of Ann Arbor, but I still work there. This Eberwhite-slash-Burns Park neighborhoods-raised expat considers Jerusalem Garden to be one of my hometown's finest venerable institutions. You don't get much more Ann Arbor than that, even if your surname is Rumsey or Allen. I tend to think of the Earthen Jar as a sort of a Jagdish-come-lately, but that myopia is purely mine--having been there for easily a dozen years, they're not far behind. Seriously, I think it might do you a world of good to come down there for a nice steaming plate of chana masala or mjaddara. That right there on your fork? That's no niche--that's Ann Arbor. Speaking of niches, the USDA cited a survey in 2004 estimating India's vegetarians at about 40%. If my early morning calculations are right, that population would fill Ann Arbor. 4,000 times.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 10:22 p.m.

These restaraunts are definitely a unique destination for Ann Arborites AND out-of-towners. I know someone who visits Ann Arbor from New York City (mecca of veg and Indian options) specifically for Earthen Jar. Also, when I was at Earthen Jar last week, I overheard a patron say she had driven hours for one of the restaurant's famous desserts. It is that memorable. It would be a terrible loss to our landscape if these A2 institutions go under.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 9:24 p.m.

You imply that by offering abatements that somehow is an admission of liability for losses. However, the city would be immune from any such suit as it should be. However, the question that a government--which serves all its citizens including the businesses that make a city vibrant and which also serve the rest of us--should be more cognizant of the hardships a project like this will entail. Yes, if these businesses survive, they will benefit from having parking. But, if they don't survive, none of us benefit. Not the city, not the DDA, and certainly not the people who have enjoyed these--until now--successful businesses--for years and years. This is what the city is obliged to do by any law or any ordinance. It is a question of what the city OUGHT to do in recognition of loyal businesses that have endured and remained. What the city ought to do is more than shrug its collective shoulders and say we're sorry but too bad. This isn't just a question of these two businesses and it isn't just a question of abatements. Perhaps the city can suspend tax collections for a period of time to ease the operating costs during this tough time. Perhaps they could provide a payment plan that extends the time to pay the taxes as is commonly done with seniors on fixed income. In other words, this is time when a caring and involved government seeks to serve its citizens by being creative and making an extra effort to ease the situation when there are extraordinary circumstances, delays and other problems that are threatening the very existence of otherwise viable businesses. And, frankly, to assume these businesses aren't viable is speculation only because they were very popular prior to all the construction and prospered for years. Remember, too, these businesses are part of the DDA. Their taxes get incrementally captured to fund the DDA. It would seem there is some room there for creative thinking by DDA and the City.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

Bill: In reference to any tax abatements you said "Before we grant anything, we need to look at their books." I'm wondering why you don't make such statements in reference also to the effect of the economy on these businesses? You seem to be insistant that the economy is anywhere from "partly" to "mostly" responsibile for these two businesses financial difficulties rather than the construction right in front of their doors that has torn up the street, littered the sidewalk and generally made it a very difficult proposition to stop in to their places of businesses. Upon what do you base that opinion if you haven't looked at their books? You can't have it both ways. Please. Stop assuming it's the economy if you don't know the facts.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

Bill If more people are drawn to the area, then hopefully more people are SPENDING ENOUGH so that increased taxes would only be a fraction of the increase in INCOME to the businesses, right? But the bigger question is WHY are people drawn to the area? Just because there is parking doesn't mean that people will come downtown. There has to be something to DRAW them downtown, and in Ann Arbor, it's the UNIQUE businesses that give our town diversity and culture--making it more interesting to visit than other towns nearby who might have a more bland offering. The Ann Arbor community does a great job of supporting the small, unique businesses because they VALUE the many and varied offerings. That these businesses have survived thus far just goes to show you that Ann Arborites will GO OUT OF THEIR WAY to support the businesses that give our town its colorful personality. If only the DDA and City Council would do the same....

Ron Granger

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

@Bill Wilson: "Looking at the types of food they serve puts me in mind of the old Seinfeld episode where Jerry advises the owner of the restaurant across the street to chage from a deli to Pakastani... and the results are obvious: business falls off. Indian vegetarian? C'Mon! This, and the other restaurant, are niche type restaurants, at best." -- I had given you the benefit of the doubt that you knew the downtown area and the businesses in question. You then imply the business isn't viable because it is "indian vegetarian". Really? Sorry it isn't mcdonalds, or burger king. Those are the "niche" places that failed in downtown. Let us know when you have visited the area.

John A2

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Well go and try it then tell us about your experience.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

@Bill - you are way off target calling Jerusalem Garden a niche restuarant. It has been around for years and always packed. Other restaurants around the area have been impacted but are hanging on at a reduced level. Walk down there right now. Start at the corner of Huron and Fifth. Fifth is closed today at the Corner of Washington for art fair making it even worse than the new sub par normal on Fifth. The light at the corner of Washington and Fifth is shut off and flashing, bus traffic is slowing down the intersection. The underground structure may or may not help businesses. Too soon to tell. Right now the DDA and City could be giving more incentives to customers to keep these businesses alive.

Bill Wilson

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

Tom & John, Interesting thing here: I think we're "all" correct. I'm sure the construction is hurting them. I'm also sure, that the economy is partly responsible... and we could probably replace "partly" with "mostly." Looking at the types of food they serve puts me in mind of the old Seinfeld episode where Jerry advises the owner of the restaurant across the street to chage from a deli to Pakastani... and the results are obvious: business falls off. Indian vegetarian? C'Mon! This, and the other restaurant, are niche type restaurants, at best. Before we grant anything, we need to look at their books. Prediction: Dollars to doughnuts, neither business will have any part of that.

John A2

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Bill I hear what your telling us, but I have lived here all my life and JG has always had a strong fan based business. The food is as healthy as it gets and affordable. I know without any doubt that JG never had a problem with sales, in fact I had offered to buy a franchise and was turned down. The owner took over after their father couldn't do it anymore. They are great people to know and I have never had a bad experience there. This is my testimony, and I'm sure many other A2 residents agree. I hope this answers your for-surety of why they are hurting.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

All you have to do is walk to this location and see the condition of the street in front of these businesses to understand that this construction has clearly had a huge impact on them. It's not simply a matter of the street being closed. The entire area in front of the restaurants has been filled with equipment, porta-potties, stored materials, dust and dirt. Sometimes the restaurants are hard to even see through all the stuff. In addition to the structure itself, they've also had do endure weeks of related water, sewer and electrical construction that has torn up the street in front of them. Signs posted originally on the site indicated the structure would be completed this month, but that was pushed back to February 2012 (and the July date was cut out of the signs). That was before the earth retention issues that caused additional delays. This is an extraordinary problem for these downtown businesses--it's not like the street was getting repaved or something...

Bill Wilson

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

Ron Granger wrote: You are confusing the purpose of the parking structure. It serves the businesses downtown. The businesses do not exist to serve the parking structure.----- You're wrong on both counts: The structure will exist to serve citizens, with a place to park, and added revenues from taxes. The businesses exist to serve their owners. Now answer the questions: how do we know their businesses are down because of the structure? If they never come back financially, do we then pay them the owner's perceived value? You see, using your analogy, we may have to, as the lawyer's these businesses hire will insist that by granting an abatement, the city has admitted that they are the cause of the loss. And, they'll be right.

John A2

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

I know A2 and these restaurants are favored, I have saw restaurants come and go, and it's was always hard to find a seat at JG. I'm not a vegetarian, but I have heard great reviews of EJ too. The parking is hard to find in that area so now it's even harder to get too. I say keep our very valued restaurants going. Give them what they need to survive.

Ron Granger

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 1:17 p.m.

You are confusing the purpose of the parking structure. It serves the businesses downtown. The businesses do not exist to serve the parking structure. People don't come downtown and pay to visit parking structures. They are not destinations. Each of those restaurants is a destination.

Bill Wilson

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 12:54 p.m.

John, Restaurant's go under even in a strong economy. We are nearly in a depression. How do we know that it's the structure? What if the business never recovers? Are we then on the hook for the owner's perceived value of his restaurants? Sorry, this just open's too many doors of culpability.

John A2

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

That don't hold water here. If they go out of business then they will not be paying taxes at all.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : noon

There is a lot more the city can do to help these businesses on the corner of 5th and Liberty. It is an insult to all local businesses that amidst this construction all around 5th and Liberty that more isn't in place to direct traffic, put up signage you can actually see and support the area. If the DDA was serious about helping these businesses, they'd have lunch there once a week, ride their bikes to the places and buy extra to bring some lunch back to friends and family. The signs they put up alerting us that the restaurants are still open are half hearted. By the time cars have waited a very long time to crawl left or right around all the construction on 5th, no one is looking up with their binoculars to see the sign that say the restaurants are open, if you dare to walk into the construction zone. Pedestrians have to be careful crossing with all the traffic congestion and the city has not stepped up to do more during this extended construction in the whole area. Squares is in that area and all the businesses around there are impacted. The DDA should survey businesses all around to ask about the impact and what can be done for the next year to help.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 11:42 a.m.

I just love the PRO-BUSINESS city council in Ann Arbor! Owners and patrons of the Earthen Jar and Jerusalem Garden, you voted for these types of people and now they are treating you like a dog or worst! Don't vote for people from this party any more! August 2nd is coming soon! The City Council can hide behind the DDA by granting them more power so if this happens again they can blame the DDA while looking like an innocent bystander. "City Council recently gave the DDA unilateral authority to set parking meter enforcement hours and parking rates, while also allowing the DDA more influence on the development of downtown city-owned properties." ""I think these things should be reserved for City Council — our elected officials.""


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

Agreed 100%, XMO. Everybody must go out and vote on August 2nd.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 11:06 a.m.

A couple of comments. Hieftje says he's not even sure if any tax rebates are legal. Why isn't he sure? This is not a new situation and the businesses have asked for them before. Why didn't he and the city treasurer explore if there can be options like abatements, payment plans or other alternatives from day one. It can be a means by which businesses can be given a break during major, long-term construction projects like this one. Even if they are not offered initially, if a project undergoes major delays or creates special problems as this one has, then knowing what options the city has would be worthwhile. Why Hieftje is punting here displays a lack of concern on his part of the city's businesses. It would be ironic tragedy if the legacy from this and other large projects are closed businesses requiring less parking, fewer reasons to go downtown. Second, Hieftje sits on the DDA ex officio I believe. So, he needs to be accountable for deficit spending by the DDA. It's disconcerting that Kunselman, a councilman, had a hard time getting financial reports for a public entity. I also find it an anachronism that the DDA is "purposely" running spending deficits since 2007 while maintaining a positive fund balance. How are these deficits being funded and how will associated debt obligations be retired. It's beyond the scope of this article, but the fact that some on the council aren't aware and comfortable with answers they have sought is telling. This needs more investigation. It is often said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. If complete DDA financial reports are hard to come by, then it's not passing the first sniff test. As for Kunselman's vote, he should have perhaps voted against something he wasn't sure about, but that doesn't mean he no longer can inquire. Hiftje's apparentl reasoning is that once you vote, you must forever stop thinking... That's also failing a sniff test.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 9:09 p.m.

Vivenne, &quot;ex officio&quot; means by virtue of his office as mayor. In other words, anyone who is Mayor of Ann Arbor, automatically holds a seat on the DDA and that person doesn't require council approval or any review to be seated. It's not necessarily a lesser seat--in fact often it's a full seat with full voting powers. See: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I hope that better explains the term.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

Hieftje is not ex officio on the DDA board. He has a vote.