Proponents of library lot green space hold block party
Members of the Library Green Conservancy want people to come out to the new underground parking structure next to the Ann Arbor Public Library this afternoon and "Imagine a Park."
That's what they're calling the block party to promote the idea of creating a downtown park on the Library Lane parking structure.
The city of Ann Arbor is considering putting more parking spaces on top of the 711-space underground lot, which was just completed, but the Library Green Conservancy, a nonprofit with more than 80 community members, wanted people to come out Saturday to participate in a collective vision of a new public park at the South Fifth Avenue location and enjoy food, music, and an Imagination Station for children.
"Anyone who cares about what happens on the library lot is welcome to join the celebration today and add their ideas to the collective vision for public space there," said Will Hathaway, a spokesman for the Conservancy.
"This as a park makes downtown more accessible," said Alan Haber, an Ann Arbor resident and one of the originators of the idea for creating green space downtown. "A park here is a front porch for the library, a front yard for people who live downtown, and a comfortable, free place for visitors to come and relax."
Supporters are referring to it as "Ann Arbor's Central Park" and offering ideas including making it a venue for celebrations and various types of festivals as well as a site for sculptures, food carts, movies, musicians and chess tables.
That's what prompted Haskell Rothstein to come to the block party.
"I want to promote chess in the park," he said while embroiled in a chess match. "I've seen it in Europe. It brings people to a downtown."
Sarah Nassiri, who has a degree in urban planning, likes the idea of green space in the city.
"A park helps clean the air and cools the temperature," she said. "It's good all around."
Her friend, Ashley Wiseman, came to the block party to learn more.
"I would like a place to just be able to read a book or bring a picnic basket downtown," said Wiseman.
Nikki Klein brought her three children to the block party. "We're all for an urban park," said Klein. "This is the only town my children know, and I want them to feel like downtown is more welcoming."
The site is owned by the city of Ann Arbor and is located immediately north of the library between Liberty and William, on the east side of Fifth Avenue.
Some city officials, like Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, who serves on the DDA's governing board, says the Library Green group's proposal is not possible on that block due to a lack of density.
Mayor John Hieftje says there is already a lot of green space in downtown Ann Arbor, and that whatever is built on the Library Lot will include some green space.
"We recognize that it is a relatively small space, especially with the way that it is now limited by the construction of the new parking structure and street," said Hathaway. "Ideally a park should connect with Liberty Plaza and other access points on the block to maximize pedestrian traffic, similar to the way that the University of Michigan's central Diag area has people flowing across it from all directions."
Hathaway says that there is some difference of opinion within his group about mixed-development of the site, but that they all agree there should be a genuine public process for eliciting input from the community about what features the park should have. Among them, his mother Mary Hathawy.
"A park here would become part of our identity," said Mary Hathaway. "it would be a gathering place for cultural events. There could be a wading pool in the summer and a skating park in the winter."