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Posted on Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Leah Gunn on the role of the Ann Arbor DDA: 'We've made it attractive to businesses to be downtown'

By Ryan J. Stanton


Leah Gunn, the newest chair of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, stands in front of the DDA's offices on Fifth Avenue. She was chosen by her peers on the board this past week to replace outgoing chair Bob Guenzel. The DDA's governing board is appointed by Mayor John Hieftje.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Leah Gunn assumed the role of chair of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority this past week, unanimously chosen by her peers on the DDA board for the job.

Gunn, who also is serving out her last term on the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, caught up with on Thursday to chat about her new role, the health of the downtown, the ongoing construction boom, and what she sees on the horizon. Many people still don't quite fully understand the DDA and what it does. How would you describe the role of the DDA in the downtown?

Gunn: The DDA's mission is to encourage private investment in the downtown and one of the ways we do that is to provide a good public parking experience for people. And also all of the other amenities that we have done over the years, which include all the streetscapes and the LED lighting and the go!pass and helping with city hall. The list goes on. What's your assessment of the current health of the downtown? I know we're seeing lots of development activity, but we've also seen some retail vacancies.

Gunn: Retail comes and goes. It's very tough to have retail downtown, but those who stay can flourish. And the health of downtown, I think in the past 20 years, has just been tremendous. It's grown a lot and the residential development downtown has helped that, but also the business development, because the people who work downtown are the customers of the retail. What's your take on all the high-rises we're seeing go up with the student housing boom? Is this a good thing or are we over-saturating the market?


Work continues on The Varsity, another student high-rise downtown.

Melanie Maxwell I

Gunn: Actually, the over-saturation is up to the people who are renting those out. So far we have not had any indication that they're over-saturated. If that happens, it happens, but they're taking the risk. They're making the buildings, and just because it's a high-rise targeted at students doesn't mean that students have to live there. You don't have to be a student to live there. I know there are people who want to see new housing downtown that's not just geared toward students. Ann Arbor City Apartments and 618 South Main might be the first two projects that could deliver in that regard. Is there room for more projects like those?

Gunn: Absolutely. And we have Connecting William Street, which is our economic developmental group that is looking at all those surface parking lots for development and I think they could be office, they could be residential, whatever the market will bear. What's the timeline for that initiative?

Gunn: It goes through until January and they're looking very carefully, and they're consulting a whole bunch of experts. They're having a tremendous number of public meetings to see what they think the community wants and also what is possible in the marketplace. The DDA is about to celebrate the opening of the new Library Lane parking structure. What do those 711 underground spaces mean for downtown?

Gunn: It means that businesses can move downtown knowing that there is parking available, and I think you've probably read our marketing plan for that particular structure where we are trying to persuade monthly permit parkers to leave the Maynard and Liberty Square structures and park there. We know, for instance, that Barracuda Networks is interested. They'll be parking there. So we've made it attractive to businesses to be downtown. What is the DDA up to right now? What are the major projects on its plate and what are your priorities as chair?

Gunn: First we're going to catch our breath, because we have spent a great deal of time and effort and money. We didn't just build a new parking structure. We also did the Fifth and Division streetscape improvements. We are working specifically in two areas now. One is Connecting William Street, which we've already talked about, and the other is our transit demand management program where we're going to try and attract people to be able to drive when they need to and to use alternative transportation if they can. You've noticed all the new bicycle racks in the streets. We are encouraging all kinds of alternative transportation to bring people downtown to shop, to eat in restaurants, to have a good time. Is there another defining project on the horizon for the DDA? Any talks of another parking structure? Anything like that?

Gunn: Not at this time. We have not made that decision. We'll be having a retreat in October where we'll look at our whole strategic plan and see what we can come up with. What else do you see on the horizon for downtown, whether it's the DDA doing it or just the natural course of events?

Gunn: I think one of the things that has happened recently is the formation of the Main Street BIZ, which is a property owners' contribution. And they are keeping up snow shoveling and flower planting and all that sort of stuff. The've been very successful. I think that's going to happen also in Kerrytown. I know Keith Orr is looking at that. And State Street, they pretty well do it already, but these Business Improvement Zones — which are separate from the DDA, because we can't do everything — I think that's a thing I'd like to see continue. So we already have a BIZ for Main Street and we're talking about doing one for Kerrytown and one for State Street now?

Gunn: And possibly South U, but these are all dependent on property owners being willing to pay an extra tax. One of the most recent developments downtown is the news that Barracuda Networks is expanding into the former Borders location. How significant is this?

Gunn: The most significant thing about Barracuda is they are hiring. They're basically hanging from the ceiling right now. They need space. And if you know Rich Sheridan and Menlo Innovations, they have moved into the old Tally Hall. They needed space. This is what is encouraging. These businesses need to hire more people and the people who work for them want to be downtown, and this to me is because we have made downtown attractive. We've worked very hard over the past 20 years to make downtown attractive to business people. And in my mind, particularly to young people. The DDA has steadily increased the rates to park downtown. Part of that has been to pay for some of these projects like the new parking structure. Will we see continued rate increases?

Gunn: With the increases, we have to look at our bottom line. We have to see how the new parking structure is used, what the debt service is on that, how it's going to work out. We have been able to maintain a healthy fund balance, which we didn't think we'd be able to do, but our fund balance is about $4 million, which keeps our auditors happy.


The DDA recently installed 18 electric vehicle charging stations throughout parking facilities downtown.

Ryan J. Stanton |

But in the future, we have to balance demand. If suddenly we find nobody wants to come downtown, we'll have to do something about it, but it's never been about rates. It's always been about 'I can't find a parking place,' and I think we've helped with that. And what's the latest on the expansion of meter enforcement hours into the evening? Right now enforcement ends at 6 o'clock.

Gunn: There hasn't been any further discussion lately. I suspect that the issue will be discussed at our October retreat. The DDA has become somewhat of a political football, especially during election season with City Council races. Somebody called the DDA a 'political punching bag' for a certain council member this past year. Why does controversy seem to surround the DDA?

Gunn: I think because people really don't understand what we do and where we get our revenue. Now we do get some revenue from tax-increment financing, and in 1982 the other jurisdictions — which included the Ann Arbor Public Schools, the community college, the library, the board of commissioners — all voted to create the DDA.

Since Proposition A, the DDA no longer receives any school property taxes, but the other governments have also benefited from us. Because unlike other DDAs, we only take the first amount of value. And over the years, the value of the DDA district has gone way up.

And actually those governments — which include the county, the city and the library — get about 65 percent of that increased value, and the rest comes to us. So we're not bleeding the city dry the way some other jurisdictions do because of that agreement. We've added value to the downtown and we've also rebated these taxes back. Where do you think downtown Ann Arbor would be right now if the DDA never existed?

Gunn: If the DDA never existed, you would have parking structures that probably have crumbled to dust already. And it could be that you could shoot a cannon down Main Street at 6 o'clock, and businesses would have moved out because it would have been an unattractive situation for people. You don't want to hire a software engineer and have them walk down crumbling streets or park in a structure where rocks will fall on the top of their car.

That's what we changed. When we originated, we built two parking structures: Liberty Square and Ann and Ashley. Then when we took over the parking management in 1992, that's when we started repairing and replacing the parking structures using parking revenue to do it. And then this has now culminated in the new underground parking structure. How do you view the relationship between the DDA and the city? There have been some tensions over the parking agreement and just how much the DDA transfers in parking revenue to augment the city's general fund.

Gunn: I think it's been settled. We have agreed to transfer a certain percentage of our parking revenue and that's in exchange for us having the meters. It took us a long time to get the meters, and it actually came when John Hieftje was elected. He said, 'Take the damn meters.' So we did. And I think we have progressed to a place where we are showing people it's expensive to park at a meter because it's the most convenient. The next most convenient is a surface lot, but that's not good use of downtown property. Come into a structure, you will pay less, and so that is what we call the transit demand management in terms of parking. We've seen significant investment downtown along Fifth Avenue in particular in the last few years, starting with the new city hall addition. We've repaved Fifth Avenue the full length from Huron to William and soon south. We've built a new parking structure. We're talking about development on top of that lot and across the street. Blake Transit Center is going to be demolished and reconstructed. There's talk of a new library. That's a lot.

Gunn: The DDA sees Fifth Avenue as what we call the 'civic corridor,' because the city hall is there and the other public buildings and infrastructure that you've talked about. But it wasn't just repaving Fifth Avenue, it was adding larger water mains. And underneath that parking structure are huge storm detention tanks. There are rules about stormwater detention. You have to have a place for water to go. That will support all this other development. So this is something the DDA has invested in, in order to encourage private development. I know you're involved with the library millage campaign. What's happening there and what can you say about the need for a new downtown library?

Gunn: This is very personal to me because I started out my career as a librarian and I love the public library and my husband and I were co-chairs of the last millage campaign. That building is a disgrace and people say, 'Oh, it's fine. We love it. We use it.' Well, it was poorly designed to start with, it just doesn't work anymore. And a library is more than a place to store books. It's programs. It's computers. It needs electrical upgrades. It needs everything.

And they've done a thorough analysis and they came to the conclusion that it was not worth it to try and renovate it. It would just be too messy. Too expensive. It's cheaper and much better to build a new modern library, so that's why I'm active on that campaign committee.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

Ms. Gunn sounds like several other local political hacks: they take credit for everything but the blame for nothing.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 2:55 a.m.

It seems that every time I wash my car it rains. So my fellow Ann Arborites you have me and the local car wash to thank for the rain. That is the logic of Ms. Gunn. The DDA has never had to show and prove a cause and effect relationship between their policies and downtown development. I guess all of the businesses and citizens that have opposed the DDA over the years are just misguided stupid persons that need to bow to the genius intellectual superiors at DDA. Such guidance cannot be trusted to the electorate.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Attention Leah Gunn & all other so called "I'm smarter than you crowd" Ann Arbor was doing just fine and was much less expensive before you showed up here and started running things. In fact I think things ran smoother, we had better services, (really BIZ groups if they want to fund it) and people were generally friendlier


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

Realistically, S Univ. is to be avoided. State St has turned boring: the Arcade is OK,but always was. Maynard St is nothing but a conduit to somewhere else-it used to be quite different. William St is a nice quiet walk with no bother, but not much else either. Liberty St has seen better times, there is quick turnover which psychologically is more negative than postive. Main St is about on the par with other reputable University town main walking/eating/shopping strips. Kerrytown is fine,but has been and would be without the DDA. The cottage industry of gown/town morphing is/has taken hold in Ann Arbor. Not all of this is good, and with scrutiny has questionable long term value. The accountability of the DDA comes into question.

Tom Wieder

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

Ann Arbor's downtown is amazingly vibrant and successful for a non-resort city of its size and exceeds many larger cities. Is that because of the actions of the DDA? Leah Gunn, and others with a connection to the DDA, just assume that it is responsible for most or all of the" good things" that have happened downtown. The DDA has existed for 30 years, and no comprehensive, objective analysis has ever been conducted to measure whether the DDA has made a difference, or, if so, how much and to whom? How many public dollars that could have gone to other city government priorities have gone to the DDA, and do the benefits to the general public - not just to downtown businesses - justify the expenditures? City Council never directly addresses this question, because the DDA has a pot of money that Council can't touch at budget time. As a result, the question never really gets asked - is spending more money on the downtown the best use of taxpayer dollars, and is it what residents want? Or should downtown priorities compete directly for resources with everything else, with decisions made by elected officials directly accountable to voters?


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

Agree 99% -- those questions should be asked -- but the answers can't be found by a "comprehensive, objective analysis" because the answers are subjective. A downtown business owner or resident has different answers and priorities than someone who lives on the outskirts of town. And that's the problem with DDAs - they take tax money that would otherwise be in the general fund and put it to a purpose that is not decided upon in the normal budgetary process -- in perpetuity.

Tom Whitaker

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

As a property owner on South Fifth Avenue, I'd like the DDA to explain what happened to the savings from the Fifth and Division Streetscape project when the bids came in $1 million below budget. The block of Fifth Ave., between William and Packard, is all residential except for Bethlehem Church, but was inexplicably cut from this traffic-calming project before bids (as well as work in the Kerrytown area). Now traffic is "calmed" north of William, but is let loose south of William on a drag race to Packard and beyond. Meanwhile, the new parking structure, "Library Lane," and the soon to be re-aligned Blake Transit Center will send more car and bus traffic down this way than ever before. Was the $1 million savings spent on the underground parking structure (they were bonded together) or is it still available to address the missing street trees, pedestrian amenities, and other features that would help restore and maintain the residential character of this neighborhood, adjacent to downtown, that the DDA's own master plan calls for protecting?


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

I am among the people who asked for this article in I am not a Michigan native, and had never heard of the DDA concept prior to living here. One of the key questions to be asked about a semi-public/governmental entity like the DDA is whether its purpose could be better served by the City itself, or alternately, by a group of volunteers. After reading this piece, I am convinced that either would be a more sensible approach. Ann Arbor does have an active, vibrant downtown. Whether the DDA can take credit for that is another matter altogether. Whether people who live outside of the core of the city-center feel that visiting downtown is an attractive or appealing thing to do is, I'd bet, up for debate. As to the revenue stream, let's review: the City abdicates parking revenue to the DDA who contracts a private, for-profit company to manage the system, while shouldering the infrastructure burden. This is a good deal for City taxpayers how? And the DDA runs in the red year-over-year? Where is the upside of having this organizational structure again?


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

DDAs are not unique to Michigan. The Ann Arbor DDA received the authority to manage parking after the city horribly mismanaged the structures. Now it's definitely an improvement. And parking is still cheap.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

I think building a park on the "library lot" sounds like a good idea....until you actually take a hard look at what it would end up being. I work right there and trust me...the LAST thing that area needs is another Liberty Square. We can't police the one we already what? build another one right next to it 5 times bigger?.... you be my guest and walk through THAT park at 1 am. The only way it could work is if they built a substantial police sub station right in the middle of it.

mike gatti

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

I agree. We have a wonderful open area over on campus and we have a lot of parks in this city, a lot of really nice parks. Downtown area is for buildings and foot traffic and wonderfulness of a different kind.

Jack Campbell

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

Thanks for putting in section 8 housing on main on the most used entrance to the city. I'm sure it will make a great welcome sight.

Lifelong A2

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

As usual, I'm amazed by these comments. They appear to be written by people from another State. Ann Arbor's downtown is thriving. The commercial vacancy rate is relatively low and improving. Existing restaurants (Blue Tractor, Cafe Habana) are expanding. New restaurants (the new Mexican place next to Mani) are opening. Large employers with high-paid employees (Barracuda) are expanding downtown. New buildings (the apartments at First & Washington, the new apartments on Washington) are being constructed to bring residents and increase the tax base. The area is bustling with people; just visit it any evening. Our downtown wins national awards. The idea that the downtown is stagnant or mis-managed is completely contradicted by the facts and is absurd.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Thanks goes to the university of Michigan for that (and the thousands of customers it provides as a captive audience), not the fact that downtown businesses got a tax capturing authority because they were scared of briarwood mall. I'm sure nobody would ever go to main street if it weren't for those way-finding signs, right?

mike gatti

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

DDA, BBC, B.B. King, Matt Busby, Dig it, Dig it, Dig it.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

Everybody's talking about the DDA, but nobody's doing anything about it. Did anyone know that MCL 125.1680 says that a DDA can be dissolved by its governing body (city council)? The city would then be responsible for all of the DDA's debt. Is that something we want?

Patricia Lesko

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

Bonsai the city is ALREADY responsible for all of the DDA's debt. The DDA cannot issue bonds. Second of all, should City Council members not agree that the DDA itself should be dissolved, Council could replace the entire board with people who are not political cronies of the Mayor. Lastly, the question of dissolving the DDA could be put on the ballot by a ballot proposal drive (collection of about 5,000 signatures from registered voters in Ann Arbor).


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

One wonders how much this person is getting paid by the tax payers? Washtenaw County Board of Supervisors and DDA salaries, pensions and medical benefits. I believe the DDA in particular is simply a political "slush fund". The only way to keep politicians honest is to keep benefits really low.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

The DDA has operated with a budget deficit since FY 2005/2006 and has been draining its reserve fund to maintain solvency. The recent additional obligation for servicing the $50 million library parking structure bond issue will mean continued deficit spending unless significant new TIF payments or marked increase in parking fee revenue can cover DDA expenditures. With these options being unlikely, the reserve fund may be exhausted within the next couple of years. When that happens the DDA will be dissolved and its financial obligations absorbed into the City's general budget. Ultimately, Ann Arbor tax payers may have a millage or income tax imposed on them in order the cover the DDA's imprudent debt obligations.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

I guess if you don't like the Ann Arbor DDA you should also dislike the mayor! "The DDA's governing board is appointed by Mayor John Hieftje."

Madeleine Borthwick

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

xmo, have you seen the billboard on Huron for bank of Ann Arbor that reads, "non-local banks think that Hieftje is a typo"? hmmmmm, maybe he is......

alan haber

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

the DDA is fixated on build, big and bigger. they like the mayor and his council allies refuse to consider the "attractive" virtues of a downtown park, open green space as beneficial to ann arbor residents. Their surveys and "Williams Street Connector" project have elicited overwhelming, and in the committee's words "surprising" desire for a downtown park, green, commons, open space. Sadly though, instead of listening to Ann Arbor resident's voices, they have developed 3 scenarios for development of downtown city owned. (people owned) properties. None of them consider an open space on the "Library Lot." They are all build on all: big bigger and biggest. Why didn't ask the key question: Where is Scenario Four? Why does the DDA not consider to concentrate building density on the "Y-Lot," the "Klein Lot," the "Palio Lot," etc, and leave the "Library Lot" to remain in public ownership, not sold, enclosed, privatized and taxed, but rather to be developed as a public amenity, open for everyone? That is scenario Four! A Green roof for the underground parking lot. Why do they not listen? Are they deaf? Will the new Chair person be more attentive to Ann Arbor residents, than was the DDA of the past? This Saturday, July 14, the DDA did agree to allow park advocates to have a "Block Party" on the pavement of the parking lot roof of the underground parking structure. All Ann Arbor area residents are invited to "IMAGINE A PARK." Bring a picnic, enjoy pot luck donations from area food servers, share ideas in the "imagination station" vision tent. Music starts at noon, (with Joe Reilly opening the show,) continuing with a great lineup until 5, and after 5 more music, and talk and vision until 11. (featuring Woodstock drummer Muruga Booker, musicians from the Water Hill front porch crowd coming downtown, historian of the "commons" Pete


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

I work in downtown A2 near Liberty & Maynard and I don't know what this lady is talking about. Dream world!


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

"The DDA's mission to provide a good public parking experience for people. " FAIL. Does ANYONE actually feel that the DDA has provided a good parking experience? Have they lowered rates? I parking easier or more available? FAIL

Linda Peck

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

I see some of the business development as greed. Greed to make a buck on a town that seems to have no end of money and desire for pleasure and entertainment. I would like some people to join the DDA who have a sense of space and wonder and peace and appreciation of greenness of nature, not so much greenness of money.

Tom Whitaker

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Public parks and spaces DO in fact spur economic development. Businesses want to locate near such amenities to make their offices attractive to new talent. This is why companies like Nike, Adidas, Google, Epic, etc., build their headquarters with incredible campus-like settings. No one wants to work in a cubicle all day and have no place to escape to for fresh air and space. Other cities recognize this fact and have seen tremendous results, like Savannah, GA, which just tore down an eyesore parking structure, replaced it with an underground one, and re-created a public square on top. Baton Rouge, LA, a college town, is also investing heavily in parks and public spaces as part of an effort to revitalize its downtown--and with great success. Detroit's own Campus Martius is another great example in a larger city. Has the DDA asked their "experts" to look at this potential opportunity objectively? From what I understand, one of their consultants is actually considered to be a specialist in the area of public spaces. A public space would be in keeping with the "civic corridor" theme of this part of downtown.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

As soon as another park or tree pays bills I will agree with you. Until then maybe you could see that business brings jobs and jbs bring more money and money pays bills.

Patricia Lesko

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

On Council Stephen Kunselman is one of the few members who has been vocal in his concerns about the "vision" of the DDA's appointed Board. It's precisely why DDA Board members Gunn and Lowenstein backed Ingrid Ault in her run against Kunselman in 2011. Kunselman has raised important questions about the DDA's budget, and fact that the DDA's "healthy" fund balance as Gunn purports, is headed toward the red precisely because of the group's "signature project." The DDA, legally, cannot have a fund balance that is in the red, however. The DDA is also skirting with the law in its efforts to lease a large percentage of the parking spaces in the new underground garage to the folks at Barracuda. There are federal rules that prevent more than 10% of the bond proceeds being used for private activity. The penalty is the loss of the build america bond federal credit, which goes to the city. Apparently the city did not know about these rules until CFO Tom Crawford got an email inquiry from a citizen, and a local lawyer sent them a letter with legal citations. The parking structure bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the city so any shortfall comes from the general fund that pays for police, fire and other citizen services.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Gee, I didn't think I'd be the minority.... I love our Downtown. I think the DDA has done a decent job. I go downtown as often as I can and I recommend stores and restaurants to my friends. Go me down...sigh....

Unusual Suspect

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

"I go downtown as often as I can and I recommend stores and restaurants to my friends." You and your friends must have hit the lotto or something.

Joan Lowenstein

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

To correct a misconception by a commenter who did not check facts, the DDA retreats are always held downtown and are simply extended meetings to discuss strategy. They are always public.

Madeleine Borthwick

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

why do they even make these retreats accessible to the public when we have absolutely no say in what ultimately happens?! these people do whatever THEY want and the h*** with us little people.

Unusual Suspect

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Wow, what arrogance. The commenter asked questions about the retreats. Perhaps you could answer those questions instead of attacking the commenter.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

Thanks for the info Joan "Don't Listen to the Sulkers" Lowenstein! Sadly the first google result for "Ann Arbor DDA retreat" is an article detailing your exploits in bashing the citizens of Ann Arbor. Maybe if you avoided that episode there would be relevant information as to the location of these retreats at the top of the results. Oh well!


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

Ms. Lowenstein, As someone who has read other comments by you in the past, and as someone who has some bit of customer service in his background, a bit of constructive advice. As one who works in the public service sector, how you communicate with your constituents usually (but not in AA) make or breaks a career. You would've come across much better if you had simply provided the facts. something like: "@ whojix, thank you for your great question! The DDA in fact does hold their retreats downtown as a "retreat" simply is an extended meeting to discuss strategy. They are always open to the public and we would love to meet you and discuss any further suggestions or comments. Best, Joan" Just a thought...


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

"This is very personal to me because I started out my career as a librarian and I love the public library and my husband and I were co-chairs of the last millage campaign. That building is a disgrace and people say, 'Oh, it's fine. We love it. We use it.' " Sorry, but the library is fine, I love it, and I use it. It is not a disgrace. If you try to spend $50 million to replace it, I'm going to vote you out of office. Oh yeah, I can't do that. Hire some cops on bikes, staff the fire stations, make me feel safe in my city. Then we can talk about a new library.

Peter Baker

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

The staff of the library is doing the best they can with the current library building, but it's far from fine. The downtown library is incredibly popular, and the building has reached capacity. Not to mention the infrastructure problems that you don't see as a casual visitor. It's a 60-year old building, and the functions of the library have expanded far beyond anything the builders could have conceptualized.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

They're having a retreat in October? Is downtown not attractive enough to have your strategy meeting there? How about some follow up, I'd like to know where the DDA is planning on vacationing with our money.

Nancy Shore

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

All of the DDA retreats happen downtown. I am sure this one will happen downtown as well. By retreat, they really just mean an extended meeting. They aren't going anywhere.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

Please engage brain before making assumptions based on your biases. Vacations? Please.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

Too bad it's not being made attractive for everyone else.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

The library lot is their "defining project"? Well then it defines them as people who apparently can't manage a project. Of course that question never came up. "So we've made it attractive to businesses to be downtown." They are sure getting their PR mileage out of the Barracuda move. And yes, throwing money and subsidies at people can be attractive.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 11:57 a.m.

Well, I have to admit I only read the first few paragraphs, and it was enough for me to realize that my thoughts about DDA are correct. We do not need them, they cannot stay within any type of budget, and I can't see anything positive that they have done for the downtown area. It is just another "political pot" to take the tax payer dollars. They need to close down and move on.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

DDA Members should be voted in by the public! Not appointed because they have autonomy do whatever they want with no say so from the public.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

While there were some pointed questions in this piece on the whole I find the usual dereliction of duty with follow up to the fluff answers. "Retail comes and goes. It's very tough to have retail downtown, but those who stay can flourish." for example No follow up regarding the many closings of long timers? Really? A little homework just on this site would've provided them. ACME for example.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

Just another career politician trying to keep her fingers in the public pie


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 11:07 a.m.

And, I know at least one business that completely agrees with the statement that the DDA has made it attractive for businesses to be downtown. While there are certainly some legitimate complaints about the DDA, I think, on balance, that they've helped more than they've hurt.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 6:56 p.m.

Republic Parking??


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

Wow - I guess that makes them a huge success then if ONE business likes them. Let me guess the name of the business - hmmm - well, I bet is isn't Herb David, Earthen Jar or Jerusalem Garden.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 10:46 a.m.

"we've made it attractive to businesses to be downtown.".......boy I know some businesses that would disagree with that statement.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 10:31 a.m.

Why do people not like the DDA? Well, for starters they are an unelected group that has the power to effectively tax via increased parking rates. They aren't making enough from the structures so they take over the meters and increase the rates to drive more business to the structures. Pretty soon they will increase the evening coverage from 6pm to 8 or 10pm. Yes, the structures were in bad shape before the DDA but I doubt we would have a barren wasteland downtown if the DDA never existed. And giving the DDA an unfettered fiat over rates is just a ludicrous abdication of responsibility by the City Council.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 10:29 a.m.

Every ship of fools needs a captain.....

Madeleine Borthwick

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:43 p.m.

Aaarrrgghhhh, right matey!


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.