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Posted on Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

Long-closed Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor reopens

By Pete Cunningham


Traffic was finally back to normal at the intersection of South Fifth Avenue and East Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor on Friday.

Steve Pepple |

Fifth Avenue, closed for nearly two years between Liberty and East William streets, opened in downtown Ann Arbor Friday morning to the delight and surprise of pedestrians and motorists.

With a functioning green light at the intersection for the first time since August 2010, many motorists still stopped as though the three-way way stop signs were still in place. Pedestrians seemed to be surprised and excited.

“It’s fantastic, that’s all I can say,” said John Ross as he stood outside on Liberty Street. “It’s been a real pain it seems they’ve torn this street up several times…it’s been delay after delay after delay…the street looks fantastic.” Ross works in a business at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Liberty Street.

The street was closed in 2010 for construction of the Downtown Development Authority's $50 million underground parking structure. The structure is also scheduled to open soon.

Hesh Breakstone, an Ann Arbor resident since 1982, said he’s been speaking regularly with the construction crew and they told him the street would be opening on Friday earlier in the week. Breakstone made sure to walk past and was pleased with what he saw.

“It’s great (not to walk around the construction),” Breakstone said. “Even though this took a very long time, I think they did a very nice job. It fits with Ann Arbor very well.”

Downtown Development Authority executive director Susan Pollay was on hand on Friday and pleased as well.

“This is a project that has had a lot of elements to it,” Pollay said. “It’s very exciting.”

"This is a project you can actually see the pieces coming together and it’s kind of exciting," Pollay said. "It’s actually functioning like every other intersection, which is exciting to see."

Workers at the Jerusalem Garden restaurant near the intersection were unified in their expression of relief that things were getting back to normal. They said it was almost shocking to actually see cars driving past the window.

No one was more relieved than Frank Zynda. Zynda works at Jerusalem Garden and also had to be evacuated from his home on Fifth Avenue because of a sink hole at one point during construction.

“It’s about time,” Zynda said. "I pulled in today and I saw all these higher ups were getting their picture taken and I thought that was hilarious. I said ‘are you kidding me? You’re a year and a half behind schedule and you’re getting your picture taken?’"

Contact Pete Cunningham at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

How about some info on the cost of parking in this debacle. What security is in place?


Fri, Aug 17, 2012 : 11:31 p.m.

There is no crime in Ann Arbor. And we've always been at war with Eurasia.

Stephen Landes

Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 3:29 a.m.

As I explained to the AATA senior management in person, the first thing to go on top of the new parking garage should be the new bus transit center -- what a concept to have all the transportation modes in one facility. Whatever they build on top of that would surely benefit by having a complete, coordinated, intermodal transit facility integrated into the structure. AATA's response was that they were too far along in their planning to adopt an otherwise really good idea -- and that was long before the plans were drawn up. They just couldn't (or wouldn't try) to figure out how to adjust the Federal funding from Blake on the West side of Fifth to Blake on the East side of Fifth.

Stuart Brown

Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 4:41 a.m.

I agree that the space should remain a public space.


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

I have to say that Ms. Pollay not addressing nor apologizing for the tremendous delays in the project made me feel that she doesn't get how the mistakes and mismanagement have infuriated citizens. Yes, the project is nearing completion, but it appears no lessons have been learned.


Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

City officials aren't going to admit any mistakes on anything. They are not accepting responsibility for any delays, etc, only passing the buck, "it's not our fault." Who is this Pollay? Is she an elected official? She needs to be fired for the incompetence on this entire mess with the underground parking garage.

Sandra Samons

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

This is good news, but why doesn't the article include any information about the opening of the underground parking garage?

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

Pull my finger.


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

Just to put things in perspective: - Ann Arbor, 2010 - government contract to union laborers: 24 plus months to build a small, three story garage at a cost of $50M (2010 dollars) - New York City, 1931 - private contract to non-union laborers: 15 months to build the world's tallest building at a cost of $500M (2010 dollars) Seems that things are moving in the wrong direction...


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

Ya, I could have used a little warning. I proceeded to cross what I thought was still a flashing red last night and almost got run over. They literally opened the street at 6 PM or something.


Fri, Aug 17, 2012 : 11:33 p.m.

It would be great if you were one of the folks who posted earlier that they learned how to cross street at ages 6, etc....


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

The intersection was open all day. Here's a hint, there is a signal light overhead that you should watch. Three different colors and all.

Oscar Lavista

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 11:58 a.m.

Looks like there are some spots in front of the library. I hope they're 10 minute free spots for returning books, etc. That'll be handy.

Silly Sally

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 11:14 a.m.

"It's about time," Zynda said. "I pulled in today and I saw all these higher ups were getting their picture taken and I thought that was hilarious. I said 'are you kidding me? You're a year and a half behind schedule and you're getting your picture taken?'" Some people have no shame, but they should, but these folks don't even know it.

Wolf's Bane

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

Close it again and let the healing start. Besides, I have no interest in viewing the destruction of the German Town neighborhood.


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

It's a street - what "healing" would that be? Don't worry, there are plenty of other old-but-not-really-historic houses you can still wring your hands about.

Frustrated in A2

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 6:56 a.m.

Oooooh happy day!!!

Silly Sally

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 11:12 a.m.

fa-roop fally

Stuart Brown

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 3:30 a.m.

Put a new downtown library on top of it!

Stuart Brown

Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 4:34 a.m.

The new library should have an amphitheater next to it suitable to host major events downtown. New libraries in the 21st century should serve as venues to host events both big and small that will allow the community to interact with one another. It is important to keep this space public and not become a corporate welfare give-away.


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

The current library is a wonderful building that I often frequent. There is no need to build anew or drastically renovate

Silly Sally

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 11:11 a.m.

and who will pay for it?


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 2:03 a.m.

Great, and I'm delighted that both Earthen Jar and Jerusalem Garden survived. As for the structure, it is what it is. Now all we need is an on-time Stadium bridge completion.


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 1:05 a.m.

Ms. Pollay, I have a thesaurus you may borrow.


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 1:35 a.m.



Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Just wait...both 4th And 5th will be closed when they build the new "transit center".


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.

I just went through there eastbound on liberty and it wasn't open. But I'm glad it is supposed to be maybe they were moving out equipment.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 10:50 p.m.

Maybe today was a "soft" opening. Just enough for the dignitary photo-ops.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

Great. Now the mayor/council can get on to finding which DDA members are accountable (sounds like another Mayor's Task Force) for this debacle and send them packing. That's what would happen in the private sector after such mismanagement. I won't be holding my breath.

Stan Hyne

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

DDA and the city are the same management, only distanced to avoid accountability.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 9:14 p.m.

Jerusalem Garden survived all this and I am happy for that. Those people work very hard and I hope all will show support .


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

Finally! Thank the Goddesses!


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

"It's about time," Zynda said. "I pulled in today and I saw all these higher ups were getting their picture taken and I thought that was hilarious. I said 'are you kidding me? You're a year and a half behind schedule and you're getting your picture taken?'" Best statement in the article.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

It's about time, to say the least. "'s been delay after delay after delay.." How about some explanation of all the delays.


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 2:23 a.m.

Must've been the weather...

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

JRW...I wouldn't hold my breath....


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

Ok, new drinking game for you college kids out there. Do a shot for every time Susan Pollay uses the word "exciting" in the video above.


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

Wouldn't that be promoting alcohol abuse? :-)


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Wow, look at all that added parking for the Dream Nite Club... oh, wait a minute... I still think they should have just dug the hole, filled it with water and stocked it with lake trout. Just kidding - I'm glad this project is finally nearing completion. I'll have to get over there, take some pics and send them to our Ann Arbor native daughter who lives in California.

Chelsea Larry

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

People at Jerusalem Garden, and others that work at and own those busineses that were affected all this time should get free parking in the new structure for the same time period "nearly two years", for their inconvenience.

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

Chelsea Larry, I could not agree with you more but I don't think it'll happen. for this to happen the mayor and City Coulcil would have to grow a heart....


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 6:11 p.m.

will there be motorcycle parking underground ?? There used to be free parking in the old lot when frequenting Jerusalem Garden ... guess I could just keep parking at the PO if not but I know I'll eventually get ticketed.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 10:14 a.m.

not sure why bikers shouldn't pay to park...


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

that's crazy, why would I want to "pay" for parking if I can park for free ?? might as well stop being so GREEN and drive like you and "everyone else" :)

peg dash fab

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 10:01 a.m.

or you could feed the meter like everyone else. just sayin'.

Linda Peck

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

TIme will tell . . . was it a good thing to do? A lot of money was spent on a gamble, but it may turn out to be fruitful, down the road as they say. I will reserve judgment for a couple of years or five.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

Now if they could just stop bagging every meter in the area.

Atticus F.

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

We should have a festival to celebrate... Heiftje, look into it.

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

Atticus.....celebrate what?! almost 2 years and God-only-knows how much money being spent on this mess? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE ORIGINAL PARKING LOT? oh, that's right, not enough money-making potential.....


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

At best, this project was marginally useful -- the existing parking structure one block away is almost never filled to capacity -- and it was accomplished at the cost of years of great inconvenience, directly or indirectly, to virtually every citizen who walks, drives, or rides a bus to, through or from downtown Ann Arbor. A huge white elephant, and in a better world it would, by itself, doom the further unfettered exercise of the dictatorial powers so unwisely extended to the DDA. Stay tuned for more, though, since the taxpayer-financed "convention center" initially intended to be built above the parking structure is unlikely to remain a dead issue. At least, not so long as the University strongly supports its construction with somebody else's money.

Stan Hyne

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

This is the only project I know of, where they built the foundation without knowing what the rest of the building was going to be.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

They did know - it was a hotel and conference center. Oops.

Jack Eaton

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

Now we should have an open and inclusive discussion about what to put on top of the underground parking lot:


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

How about another parking structure? ;P


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

Nothing anyone says on this forum or elsewhere will make any difference about what to put on top of the parking lot. There are structural issues and no one on this forum knows what kind of structure can be supported. I don't plan to use the underground parking. No security is in place.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

I would suggest a bronze monument similar to the flag raising on Iwo Jima with the city council erecting the " tongue depressor " now that would be art.....

Tex Treeder

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

"It's about time," Zynda said. Can't argue with that. I'm glad JG survived. I'll be stopping by there today for lunch just to make sure.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

And I'm glad Earthen Jar survived. I ate there every week to do my part ...