Outdoor skating rink proposal for Library Lot stalls as Ann Arbor DDA asks for more details
Progress on a proposed outdoor skating rink that would use a portion of the Library Lot in downtown Ann Arbor has stalled after officials have called for more concrete details before considering funding approval.
Community activist Alan Haber, working with the grass-roots group Library Green Conservancy, announced his vision for the surface of the Library Lane Underground Parking Garage in February.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com file photo
“It’s about a public purpose - the skating rink seems like a good idea. There’s a need for a central civic space,” Haber said.
Haber has asked the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority for a $25,000 grant and the use of about 15 parking spaces on top of the Library Lane parking lot. The grant would be used to match pledges Haber has already raised to create a synthetic ice rink.
In an effort to gain the approval of the DDA, Haber has visited the DDA’s partnerships committee twice.
“We are proceeding through the labyrinth of committees and subcommittees and councils and authorities,” Haber said. “We’ve been to the DDA because we were looking for a partnership for financing.”
Sandi Smith, board member of the DDA and on the DDA’s partnerships committee, said the parking spaces Haber and his group are asking for are also governed by a parking agreement with the city of Ann Arbor.
The DDA is concerned about the time frame of Haber’s idea and the lack of concrete details in Haber’s proposal when he was asking for funding - specifically regarding security, staffing, skate rentals and insurance, Smith said.
“We’ve asked for more data; more clarification,” Smith said.
The synthetic ice surface made of plastic pieces that interlock like a puzzle don’t seem as though they’d be alluring to ice skaters, Smith said.
“Everything we’ve found is that it’s a horrible experience,” Smith said.
Smith said Haber has been invited to return to a DDA meeting, but the DDA has requested Haber first schedule a pre-meeting to make sure his proposal is together.
“He’s not yet called for that pre-meeting,” Smith said.
Haber said he’s pursing the creation of a business entity to manage the contract with the city for the parking spaces, and has altered his timeline for beginning his public use project in the Library Lane lot in the fall as the weather begins to cool down.
Skate rental would not be a part of the initial operation, but could be added later, Haber said. Many conversations have been had about adequately staffing the operation, Haber said.
“These due-diligence questions are appropriate in spirit they feel like various ways to say ‘no’ without saying ‘no,’” Haber said. “The DDA is looking to an Ann Arbor future with people that don’t yet live here, and we’re looking for an Ann Arbor future from people that do live here.”
The surface of the Library Lane underground parking garage could soon be targeted for re-purposing in another manner as well.
“There are several council people working on a resolution to re-purpose some portion of the surface of the Library Lane lot to public land, non-parking,” Haber said.