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Posted on Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

Proponents of library lot green space hold block party

By Lisa Carolin

Previous story: Unclear if Library Lane underground parking garage will open in time for Art Fair

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."

Read more information on the Library Green Conservancy.



Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

Agree with many others - until you figure out how to make the park attractive and safe (keep the beggers, homeless etc out) forget it. In fact close/sell Liberty Street park as well, maybe the city could get some tax revenue out of that space - certainly no-one who is paying taxes is getting any use out of it today.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

West Park could fulfill this gap but it is very underutilized. Walking through the park last night at 8pm there was only one other person utilizing the space. Whats wrong with West Park?


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:02 a.m.

I really feel that a park is not the answer for the area above the new underground parking garage. I feel it will become just like the Liberty Square Park, filled with vagrants and beggars. This area is not heavily traveled by foot traffic and I feel it will not be used for all these things that these people are imagining from the Library Green Conservancy group. Their examples of central parks being successful in very large cities are not fair comparison to putting a park in Ann Arbor. We do not have the population to support a central park, especially when people are quickly put off by beggars. I feel another apartment building with first floor retail is the way to go to expand this part of the city and make the most of the parking garage. If you want to see a city park in dire need it is Veterans Park, this city park is pathetic with its dirt parking lots and no picnic facilities. We need to take care of the parks that already exist in the city before we build another.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 1:43 a.m.

I agree with Arboriginal, move the library over and put the park on actual ground. This would allow for real trees and eliminate worries of an ice rink melting and flooding a building below.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2 a.m.

Thanks Gill! I didn't even think about real trees. It would also allow for the park to have some sunken features.

Madeleine Borthwick

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

a park is the only thing that can redeem this Basement Boondoggle.not exactly to the point, but I have to wonder if anyone in the DDA is reading these comments? Ms. Pollay, are you listening? hmmmmmmm?


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

A park is a great idea, but what about building a new library over the structure and putting the park on the corner of 5th & William?


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

It is time to modernize our library experience. We need a larger and more appropriate lecture/presentation room. Media consumption is changing and it is time for our downtown library to be the multimedia center that is overdue for our progressive city.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

Why should we bring down 1 building and rebuild it again?

Matt Whale

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

One more vote for having a park above the parking lot.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

Big thanks to Roos Roast, Jerusalem Garden, Panera, Earthen Jar, Seva, and Afternoon Delight for being so generous with food donations for this event. All are Ann Arbor treasures.

Linda Peck

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

I support this concept and envision it being created. It would be a boon for the city. I would like also to see two or three police officers downtown on foot and bicycles, one in the central park and underground parking area, one on Main Street, and another one on the State Street area. Thank you.

Will Warner

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

I'd like to see a band shell and outdoor stage atop the parking garage.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

A band shell, a skating rink, a wading pool and GREEN SPACE for people who want a little relief from concrete while they are downtown shopping, working, or doing errands.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 9:49 a.m.

I can just see it now with its beautiful gardens filled with drunken homeless, drug dealers and addicts. Maybe we can get it to be even more beautiful and useful as liberty plaza which is only feet away. Fingers crossed on the park idea.

Michael Christie

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:58 a.m.

I agree with ya nowayjose. I call the police at least 5-10 a month on the issues at liberty plaza and this park idea sounds good, but it will just be filled with even more of the like of liberty plaza. At least the city put some bike cops on patrol through there.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:19 a.m.

Take a walk through liberty plaza and tell 70 feet is going to make any differance from what that park has to offer

Madeleine Borthwick

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

my-my-my, so cynical.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:54 a.m.

I'm a bit confused about the vents from the parking structure. Would these vents raise carbon monoxide and other toxic gas levels in the proposed park?


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:39 a.m.

I have to admit I was skeptical, but after making the trip there today it really seems to fit well! The park would have amazing views of sunsets (not many of those left) but is also positioned in a nice central area as the location is boardered nicely by the surrounding buildings. The plans for the skate rink/wading pool would be a gem for the city...check it out! I'm now sold...


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:26 a.m.

Let's have some of the Mayor's Green Belt come downtown!


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:39 a.m.

Yea, good idea!