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Posted on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

Ann Arbor city officials should be more careful when examining options for developing, upgrading city

By Guest Column

It is distressing and frankly depressing to learn that the Water Treatment Plant is falling apart and will soon have to be replaced or substantially repaired. It would seem this is news to our mayor and all those expensive engineers and experts at City Hall. Following some unknown "study" we may get a plan and costs sometime down the road.

And this follows bridges falling down, again seemingly without anyone at City Hall knowing it was going to happen and no money at City Hall to replace it, and the mayor and his cronies at the DDA spending tons of tax money to build a huge underground parking structure next to the Library which, according to them, will support a 14 story hotel and conference center atop a postage stamp sized lot. Oh, did I mention their ‘deal’ never came to pass and the taxpayer is left with the bill….again.


One consideration for the surface Library Lot that has been proposed has been a public park — what do you think?

Ryan J. Stanton |

Some of us will remember the fiasco of the city getting involved with the old YMCA building and operations, where the city ended up paying a ton of money to house a bunch of nice folks who were being nicely housed by the Y, well-run and needed. We lost a ton of taxpayer money in the process.

There are others I could mention, like a City Hall and Justice Center with no parking to speak of, but the point is simple. Our infrastructure is falling apart. These are the worst roads we have ever had, and I’ve lived here more 50 years and this mayor and his cronies are chasing rainbows, “Pretty City Awards” and a downtown more like Canyon City than “Tree Town, U.S.A.”

The Williams Street project is simply the mayor and the DDA’s thinly disguised plan the sell off all five of the cities remaining downtown parking lots for commercial development of unknown nature and description…presumably more “Canyon Cities” like the State Street campus area. The more the mayor can stuff in the better. That’s the mayor’s motto at City Hall and the DDA these days.

The plan is being touted by the mayor and the DDA as a development of Williams Street. It’s not Williams Street at all. It’s Main and Fourth and Fifth and Ashley…it’s all of downtown…no surface parking…period. Sold to the highest bidder.

Think about it. Where will you park?

Will there be any green space left? Certainly no room for a park.

Time for a change, folks. Wake up, Ann Arbor.

Donald H. Kenney is a resident of Ann Arbor.



Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:41 a.m.

How about a new water treatment plant on the library lot just for buildings in the DDA?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

I'm a bit confused. Not enough parking but complaining about building more parking. Not enough funding for infrastucture but complaining about new tax base? And what green space is there now??

Ryan Munson

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:46 a.m.

Even though the picture and question is from a previous article, I do not think the space atop the underground parking structure should be turned into a park. Do I think there are other areas near or in downtown that could be transformed into an urban park? Absolutely.

Scott Reed

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:42 a.m.

This is a rambling, whiny, poorly-written statement. The WORST thing for a vibrant downtown is to have an excess of sprawling surface parking lots. They severely detract from the density and walkability of the downtown, and they are extremely ugly. Also, I think the mayor is doing a fine job, but inevitably there are cranks who will always find something to complain about.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

Well, I definitely think putting a park on the Library Lot is a bad idea for similar reasons (panhandling, we already have lots of green space around the city, etc). But I can get behind funding a new water treatment plant. As the columnist implied, infrastructure here in MI is sub-standard, and one of my biggest gripe is the (lack!) of road maintenance. Let's not let the water treatment plant fall into the "temporary patch" category!


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 10:38 p.m.

Wake up, indeed. You've known Ann Arbor for 50 years, Mr. Kenney. Your opinion is valid and poignant. Thank you. Infrastructure here is fully funded, but funds often go unspent. While leaders spend valuable time and money on train stations and art projects, roads fall apart, new and old neighborhoods flood, and new zoning incentivizes destruction of treasured neighborhoods. Collected revenue (taxes and fees) has been climbing. Pensions and healthcare are unfunded. Police and fire departments are cut to skeleton level, no longer meeting safety standards. Fire stations are closed. Municipal service quality of life may seem great to city hall insiders. It's not so great outside of city hall. Ann Arbor has great potential. Too bad goals for keeping Ann Arbor a great city are dropped in the reach for the folly brass ring.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 10:10 p.m.

How do you complain about the parking structure and lack of parking in the same article?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

I think he is talking about folks being forced to use parking structures when they drive downtown rather than surface parking. This is a vald complaint. Surely one can see that not all wish to or are able to walk or rides bikes to downtown and thus may need to park a car. The other point of the article is that a large amount of money was spent on the underground parking structure so that something very heavy could be built on top of it. Perhaps the money required to make the structure viable for a building on top of it could have been better spent on the updating the water treatment plant. I don't have a problem with the author making both points in one letter because the two subjects are related.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

"One consideration for the surface Library Lot that has been proposed has been a public park — what do you think?" I think this is a bad idea unless the city takes a very aggressive stand against the homeless and panhandlers that are increasingly present in the downtown area, inside and outside the library across the street from the Library Lot, and in Liberty Plaza. Does the city really want another Liberty Plaza built across from the library? Good luck with that idea.

Jamie Pitts

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

There is not an endless supply of homeless people here. In fact, this group of people is only a very small fraction of Ann Arbor's population. If you create a big enough park with amenities that appeal to different groups then one particular group will not dominate it. You avoid Liberty Plaza by not building a place designed like Liberty Plaza.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

This is hardly a reasoned opinion piece - it seems more like an excuse to whine. Yes, we need to carefully plan our development, and mistakes with zoning have been made. But I fully support the up - not out concept. And those needs for infrastructure investments are well-known - I don't think they come as a surprise to anyone. Some funds have been saved up in special reserves to deal with them, and additional grant funding like in the case of the stadium bridge will be sought. Do these things take a little longer, like the stadium bridge, to minimize costs to the city by applying for federal funds - yes. Is it worth it? I think so.

Sam S Smith

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

I think this is more than opinion Kafkaland and it is not whining.

Mary Sell

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

Why not try riding your bike, riding the bus or walking to downtown? Even when we lived 4 miles outside of the city center, we found biking and busing to be a great way to get into town. Plus, free parking! :) Now that we live about a mile out, we walk into town all the time and really never hassle with driving the car in. I totally agree that we should assess carefully where we (as a community) would like our taxes to go, so many thanks to the guest columnist for bringing up this extremely salient topic. That being said, building parking infrastructure is expensive, so instead of lamenting about the lack of available parking, perhaps we should be open to locals utilizing alternatives to free up space from those traveling in from a bit further out, and in need of a vehicle.