Ann Arbor DDA launches $200K initiative to develop streetscape plan for entire downtown
The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority believes an enjoyable pedestrian experience is one of downtown's principal attractions and a necessary element in its social and economic life.
Building on that thinking, the DDA is launching an initiative to develop a Downtown Streetscape Framework Plan, taking a look at what works and what doesn't work on different streets.
"When we've done streetscape improvements in the past, we've looked at a single street or a few blocks of a street," said DDA Treasurer Roger Hewitt.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The DDA's governing board took action this week to establish a $200,000 project budget for the effort to develop the new streetscape plan over the next two fiscal years.
The money, which is coming from downtown property tax revenues that go to the DDA, is intended to pay for consultants, contingency costs and other related items.
The plan is expected to address "quality of place" in streetscape design, ongoing maintenance issues and matters relating to private development.
Essentially, Hewitt said, the streetscape plan will take a broader look at the downtown and identify what sort of look and feel is desirable on different streets.
Hewitt said that doesn't mean looking at what materials might be used or where every lamp post, sign or bench might go — but what sort of streets they should be.
"Should there be parking on those streets or not parking?" he said. "Should the sidewalks be wider or narrower? Where should loading zones go? Where should taxi stands go?"
He added, "So we would identify four or five perhaps different types of streets in the downtown, and identify which streets would be in which category."
The DDA has reinvested millions of dollars in downtown property tax revenues over the years in transforming downtown streetscapes, including new concrete and brick sidewalks, pedestrian-scale lights, benches, and dozens of new trees and sidewalk trash cans.
Streetscape improvements have been made on Liberty, Washington, Main, Fourth Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Division, State, Maynard, Church Forest, East University, and other streets.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Though there's been talk of another possible streetscape project on South University Avenue, Hewitt said that's not something the DDA is planning to plunge into right away.
Sandi Smith, who took over as chairwoman of the DDA board this week, said she hopes the larger streetscape planning doesn't keep the DDA from moving forward with streetscape improvements on South Main Street in conjunction with the 618 South Main development.
DDA board member John Splitt said it's his understanding the South Main streetscape work would be done next summer and it's unlikely anything is going to stand in the way of that.
A fair amount of the work on the streetscape plan would be done in-house by DDA and city staff, Hewitt said, though some money would go toward consulting fees.
"We'd certainly be working very closely with city staff, who are also I think very interested in this idea, as well as AATA and the University of Michigan," he said. "This will give us a blueprint, and probably some priorities, on where we should go with streetscapes in the future, and what the general guidelines of particular improvements on a particular street should look like."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 6:38 p.m.
So, how many Ann Arbor voter signatures are required to force City Council to put the "Dump DDA" proposal on the local ballot? Not Possible? Hmmm. All right then. How many Michigan voter signatures are required to force Lansing to put the "Dump Michigan DDA Authorities" proposal on the Michigan Ballot?
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 2:45 a.m.
Posters have mentioned that downtown AA should be a car-free zone so sitting on the sidewalk for eating and drinking would be much more enjoyable, without the car fumes from idling autos along Main Street, Liberty, Washington and State. This has been discussed in the past and the downtown businesses don't want it. They think it will cut down on foot traffic and lower sales. I think they are wrong, but they call the shots.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.
Posters might want the DDA to spend their taxes transforming downtown into a car-free zone. Just think. No more dirty autos. Only the pleasant clanking sound of a $billion boomerang mass transit system and hi-tech bicycle speedway. Or, posters could just plan ahead and encourage all residents to dump their DDA and then go out to buy new Teslas and other fume-free transports with the money saved.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 12:56 a.m.
In case anyone hasn't noticed, the DDA completed the lions share of its "D"evelopment years ago, and have moved on, past maintenance issues and right to the heart of the matter - using taxpayer dollars to prop up the businesses that are represented by the DDA Board members and their friends. OF COURSE Mr. Hewitt will find a way to get State St. narrowed so he can have more tables in front of his restaurant, etc. etc. I can only hope that a new balance of power on the City Council can slow down the flow of dollars to this 'Authority', while simultaneously reducing their taxable square footage gains, brought about by unchecked D1-D2 development. Enough is enough!
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.
Idiots. Here's a free plan for downtown Ann Arbor. Step 1. Dispose of the DDA as soon as possible. Consolidate their debts and income. Step 2. Dispose of the supporting City Council and Committee members.. Step 3. Recycle and reuse the existing structures. Ann Arbor was once an attractive town. Step 4. Tell the University of Michigan there is no more room for their expansion within the city. Step 5. Sue the University of Michigan for lost revenue and increased service costs. Step 6. If the UM doesn't comply, enact an employer tax on non-resident workers. Commuters. Step 7. Provide a tax rebate for resident property owners. Locally owned business'. Step 8. Prepare for a smaller/wealthier resident.U.S.A2 citizen population and fewer UM students. Step 9. Plan to be self-sufficient plus - not only globally-independent but talent-valued by others. Diverse and profitable from within. Or admire the DDA and praise the UM for all their brilliant future plans.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 9:12 p.m.
Brad states: "Another article that reads like a press release." Don Bee states: "Ryan has a clear bias and it shows in his articles." I couldn't agree more. I'm wondering if it would take either a seasoned reporter and/or one who's lived in this town for a long time to cover an issue with clarity and integrity...?
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 10:59 p.m.
I am not in favor of seeing the leaders of our city waste money like this. We all have to remember that most articles in AA.com are opinion pieces and not reporting or journalism. Good comments DonBee and cindy1.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 10:50 p.m.
I agree with cindy1 and DonBee. This is not unbiased journalism. It is opinion sharing with selective comment removal. Continuing to steer a discussion is not reporting. We will see more of these biased positions as an election approaches.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 8:52 p.m.
Ryan - It is very simple. It is not what you present, but what you don't present. Did you talk to anyone who was opposed? Did you ask anyone why this was a good use of the money? Did you compare it to what $200,000 could have done for neighborhood policing or other projects. Your articles and your comments after the article typically present one side of an issue in a positive light. There is little or no reporter's skepticism in what you write. Then you defend the DDA in your follow on post about it is only "17 percent". While you may not have written "I love this idea" in the article, you come across as very pro on most of the material you write. Two questions to ask yourself - 1) Have I found someone who disagrees with the idea and did I adequately present that side of things? 2) What could be different from the proposal - is that a good/bad thing? What are the facts around different? This article and the defense you make in the comments would have been a perfect editorial piece. But just because you present the "facts" from one side of the story and ignore the other does not make it unbiased.
Ryan J. Stanton
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.
Cindy, as usual your criticism of me is off base, but I'm not going to argue with you about your made-up assumptions about me. However, I would challenge you to point to a single sentence or paragraph in the story you think conveys opinion instead of simply stating facts.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 7:13 p.m.
To put it in context, the DDA skimmed $3.7 million dollars from other taxing authorities and directed that money for use solely in the downtown area. How fortunate that the taxing authorities are allowed to keep what you choose to call the "lion's share". Another article that reads like a press release.
Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.
Guys, don't blame the messenger. I'm glad that Ryan covers these issues and he does actually interview people and report their comments, which is helpful. Without his reporting, our understanding of what is going on in Ann Arbor government would be more limited.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 10:36 p.m.
DonBee is spot on!
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.
Brad - Get used to it, Ryan has a clear bias and it shows in his articles.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.
Sorry, that is a reply on the first thread by Goober.
Ryan J. Stanton
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.
There was some discussion earlier in this comment thread about the new outdoor seating at Red Hawk Grill and the potential for widening the sidewalk on State Street (by removing on-street parking) to allow more of this kind of activity. I went out and shot a photo that I just added to the story to help visualize this. Have a look. It's obvious there are challenges with fitting this kind of seating on State Street right now, especially when the deli just north of Red Hawk has its seating at the curb, but it's easy to see what might be possible and what might not work.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 8:20 p.m.
DonBee is spot on, but I doubt seriously the majority of AA voters really care. This apathy is the real issue here.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.
demistify - You don't understand, the goal is to make you either live downtown or never go downtown. That seems to be the long term goal of the City Council, the DDA and others. The exception seems to be sporting crowds, because they bring in lots of money in a short period of time, or something like the art festival - basically if you want to live near Ann Arbor - forget coming downtown please, but if you are from far away and have lots of disposable cash - come on down for a special event.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 6:37 p.m.
I notice how consistently proposals for improving the ambiance of Downtown involve the elimination of parking. That precludes the enjoyment of that ambiance by the major part of the population that resides in other parts of the city, many of whom are not young and healthy enough to walk or bike in. Without them, much of Downtown could not sustain itself.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.
Downtown Ann Arbor is at its best when streets are closed off and pedestrians move around freely without having to smell traffic fumes. My favorite time to be in downtown is during the art festival when I don't need to smell all the pollution from vehicles. What if during the whole summer we make dowtown a pedestrian-only zone?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.
Another waste of taxpayers $$ by the UN-ELECTED DDA. The city engineering department or other city employees should be able to draft some proposals for any improvements/changes. WHY hire costly outside "consulting firms" for this? The DDA answers to no one ... But they sure are good at spending OUR money to non-local vendors.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.
I can think of no enhancement development project that could be more enjoyable than getting the streets in at least average condition. AA streets are an embarrassment.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 5:08 p.m.
They should do away with cars entirely downtown, turn the entire downtown area into walking only. Walkable cities will be the cities of the future, we need to wean ourselves off of cars, and now sounds like an excellent time to start. Cars will not be around forever, and think of the pollution downtown we could eliminate. I don't know how anyone eats on a patio downtown, it always smells like a garage.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.
I don't go downtown because I can't park my "smelly" car and the "transit" stops running at 8pm. Tough to have a night on the town. I know it is inevitable that autos will be banned from downtown entirely, thankfully I'll be long gone by then.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.
Tall buildings do have a tendency to trap air movement and sewer smells. Kinda reminds me of my years in New York City.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.
What often keeps me away from downtown Ann Arbor is the traffic fumes. As Rich says the whole dowtown smells like a garage for much of the day. People should park on the edge of downtown (ot take transit) and then dowtown itself can be a walking zone.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.
From the above article: "We thought it would be appropriate to step back and look at the entire downtown — how the streets are used by both cars and pedestrians — and come up with a plan identifying what those streets should look like." I, for one, think the streets would "look" much better with fewer potholes. Also, Ann Arbor has many streets with lane markings specifically for "left turns", "straight", etc., only the lane markings are worn away and so faint that they are almost unreadable. I don't know how out-of-town drivers can possibly know which is the correct lane to be in. Fix those, DDA!
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.
Before starting yet another project (or giving more money to developers), why not put some money toward completing projects already started, like the Fifth and Division Improvement project? Two key blocks of this project were deleted prior to bidding as a budget cutting item (Kerrytown/Farmer's Market/Community High area and the 400-500 blocks of South Fifth Ave.). Even though the bids came in $1 million below budget, the money was never put back into the project. Instead, it appears the surplus was rolled into cost overruns on the underground parking structure. When will that construction project be audited by the City? Finish what you've started DDA!
Dr. I. Emsayin
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.
Sandi Smith will be the next mayor of Ann Arbor.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.
No Way - she might think so, but that is not happening. I can tell you many, many people that might be considered to be in 'power positions' in this town cannot stand that woman. I would be surprised if that idea ever got any traction.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.
This makes economic sense to me. Ann Arbor has a lot of potential for attracting more out-of-town business. A clean, "supervised," public restroom and wide walkways will help. Slow down and block off some of the traffic and the business will come.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.
Why should out of towners dictate how our town is configured and used? We pay the taxes.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.
Does this remind anyone of what is going on nationally? These unelected "alphabet" groups, EPA, DOJ, HHS, ICE, and many other unelected groups are doing Congress' job (ignoring the voters...not to mention the Constitution) just as the DDA and AATA, AADL, are ignoring the opinions of the voters of A2. "Nanny" is older and wiser knows what is best for you...just relax, pay your taxes...all will be well.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.
In the above William Street photo a larger Dreiseitl is obscured by shrubbery.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.
Isn't it wonderful that we have an unelected board doing what's best for us?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.
From the performance of the city, it might be a good idea to have someone else do it.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.
How about cleaning up Liberty Plaza so it's a safe, family oriented space. Install cameras and increase police patrols. FIX THE POTHOLES! Much better use of the $200k.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.
What facts can you cite to support your claim that Liberty Plaza is unsafe?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.
Liberty Plaza is unsafe... because... because... because people different than you? You want family oriented in Liberty Plaza? Bring your family and some games. Also, you could bring your family down to play chess with the folks who have matches almost daily at that front table near the steps. Liberty Plaza is an open, public park. If you want to shape the culture there, go there and participate.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.
$200k sitting around.......I have a suggestion. How about filling some of the 40,000 potholes around the city? We have yet to see one asphalt truck filling potholes around the city this spring or summer. Not one. Stop spending money on frivolous "streetscape" projects and FIX THE POTHOLES!
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.
When I am walking downtown I am trying to get someplace in a hurry so I don't have to pay a fortune in parking, not strolling down the street, looking at the trees and flowers. I think most Ann Arbor pedestrians are moving fast, kind of like the traffic. Spend the money on something that will benefit everyone.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.
I disagree. I think the downtown area should be a place where we aren't rushing so much. It would be nice if a couple blocks could be closed to street traffic altogether but I'm afraid everyone would complain about the lack of parking and *gasp* those panhandlers that everyone seems so worried about.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1 p.m.
Close them down. They are totally out of control and ridiculous.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.
Dear DDA, for $50 I will "take a broader look at the downtown and identify what sort of look and feel is desirable on different streets." I just saved you $199,950! Your welcome.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:52 p.m.
"A fair amount of the work on the streetscape plan would be done in-house by DDA and city staff, Hewitt said, though some money would go toward consulting fees." Sure would like to get specifics on this. I wonder if it would be useful to get a list of the consultants the DDA and city have used in the past 10 years, and see if there are any ties between those consultants and people on the DDA or in city management. I agree with other commenters about the trash, and alos there are a lo of those planters with cut-down tree stumps, weeds, and crumpling edges. How about just fix what's already there before trying to "reimagine" everything. Seriously, a lot of sidewalks and planters are in REALLY rough shape; cleaning those up would be the FIRST step to making a more enjoyable downtown experience.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 10:52 p.m.
And the sidewalks are FILTHY, especially those in front of the Main St restaurants. How about a steam sidewalk cleaning machine, like the ones they use on nice streets in big cities like Philadelphia or Chicago?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.
"The money [...] is intended to pay for consultants, contingency costs and other related items." Sounds pretty squishy, doesn't it? So our elected government appoints this shadow government who in turn hires consultants? That doesn't sound very efficient. Maybe we should get some people who actually know things on the city staff and cut out all those middlemen?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.
I think you need to rethink what "efficiency" means. The reason that the city would hire consultants rather than staff is that it makes no sense whatsoever to hire, as "permanent" staff, people whose expertise would be used only occasionally. Thats why we have consultants - they work a few months, or years here, then somewhere else - i.e. they move to where their skills are needed, when they are needed. By essentially hiring temporary workers, the city is able to access the skills and expertise of true specialists in a timely manner, and then end that relationship when the work is done. That is called "efficiency".
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.
DDA: reDundant unDisciplined Authority. They have spent too much time discussing fairies and fairy doors, because they really are living in a fantasy world now...
Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.
Downtown actually benefits from the fairy doors. The DDA should be thankful and keep their noses and fingers out of them, rather than try and capitalize on (spoil) them.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.
Is this part of their stated plan to remove the wonderful shade providing trees from our sidewalks?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.
@Goober: the money grows on trees which the DDA planted.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.
Where did the DDA get the money for the trees?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.
@Dave: Please don't suggest the DDA owns the trees in *our* town, paid for with *our* money.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.
The DDA paid to plant many of the trees on our sidewalks. That's one of the more common aspects of streetscaping.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.
They need so spend $200K to "plan" on how they'll spend the next million (or whatever)? That's my DDA! They're going for $650K worth of "streetscaping" in conjunction with 618 S. Main. Hopefully it will look nice so that people won't notice the new building that will be totally and completely out of scale for that area.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.
Excellent idea to plan before doing. A poor and wasteful idea to spend $200,000 to plan when lesser cost alternatives exist.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.
Why the instinctive hostility to the concept of planning before doing? Seems to me to be the common-sense thing to do.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.
If the DDA really and truly wanted to enhance the walkability of downtown then they would do something about all of the trash on the sidewalks. The city never cleans the sidewalks. They leave it up to the property owners who, more often than not, ignore this responsibility. How about a public restroom downtown? For $200,000 the city could build AND maintain a decent public restroom. This is just another developer driven project of the DDA.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 2 a.m.
There's a litter ordinance on the books about business owners' responsibility to clean sidewalks. I guess enforcement by the city is not a priority. But citizens and customers may help nudge some to change their practice of ignoring the dirty street outside by going in and letting the owner or manager know that they should clean up any mess. In many cities around the world, business owners start the day with a hose and broom to make sure the walkways in front of their establishments are clean. Maybe this is something the area business associations and the DDA could get behind.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:40 p.m.
@Philly: those businesses should be ticketed. I see my 80+ year old neighbors out shoveling. Business owners can do the same. Though some of those business owners do not live in the city, so they would need to hire someone or pay their staff to do it.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.
"Cleaning" their property also means removing snow and ice in the winter. Aside from the Main Street business (between William and Huron) who pay to have snow removed, there are some businesses that never clear the sidewalk in front of their space. This is both dangerous and inconsiderate of the community in which they do business.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.
I would like to see a couple of blocks of main street closed each summer to give the town a park like flavor. That would change the city!!!!!
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.
"How about a public restroom downtown?" Great idea...the homeless will love it!
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.
Property owners should clean up their property, and the sidewalk in front of their property. It is part of being a business owner, and part of the cost of operating a business. Those who do not comply with those laws should be ticketed and fined. It is not the role of the taxpayers of this town to clean businesses. Especially ofr business owners who do not even reside in a2.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.
The DDA has ignored and dismissed public input before - on greenspaces. They have shown they are not accountable to the opinion of taxpayers who live in a2. So why should this unelected body dictate these changes, with our money? They simply do not have the credibility or moral authority.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.
What evidence do you have that a _majority_ of the taxpayers are at odds with what the DDA does? No doubt a majority of aa.com commenters are, but we know what a highly unrepresentative group this is. You seem to have confidence that you can speak for "taxpayers", and I wonder what that confidence is grounded in.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.
This is just another thinly disguised attempt to sell off city property (parking lots) to the mayor's developer buddies.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.
The mayor and his minions fiddle while Oz crumbles and you can't even vote the DDA out...politics at its best....
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.
I hope the plan includes widened sidewalks on State Street between William and Liberty. I would love to see the businesses along that area continue the trend of outdoor seating. Good restaurants such as Red Hawk are doing what they can with what they have, but State Street could be so much nicer for pedestrians with a little more space.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 7:37 p.m.
Kyle Mattson - You may like the idea of brick for a sidewalk but talk to someone who is mobility challenged about the effect of walking on uneven surfaces. And then talk to someone who has to remove not only the snow from the surface, but the ice that builds up in the spaces. The smoother the surface, the more people who can safely use the sidewalk (within reason - laying down a nylon surface that is so smooth it becomes slick is not useful).
Ryan J. Stanton
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.
@Homeland Conspiracy Most of the people I know in Ann Arbor like being able to have a drink or a bite to eat at an outdoor/sidewalk patio downtown, and they like the liveliness it brings to downtown. I'm curious to hear more on why you would like to see that disappear?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.
Ryan, yeah, I know Roger. I wouldn't be surprised. It's logical for him and Amir next door to want expanded outdoor seating. Sitting in front of either business, one can see the potential. In this case, what benefits their businesses would definitely benefit the overall vibe of downtown. As the downtown population continues to grow, it would be good for the downtown area to expand its offerings for seating and general public interaction.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3 p.m.
Kyle, that is funny, because I was having a similar discussion about that time as well - sitting in front of Red Hawk. There are only around dozen spaces between the corner at Liberty and that that spot where the sidewalk widens just past the crosswalk to the Diag. I can't imagine that the small amount of money gained from those spaces throughout the day is so valuable that it would outweigh the advantages of increased space for pedestrians and outdoor seating ($1.50/hr * 10 hours * 12 spots = $180)
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.
Interesting Jamie, I was just talking about that same idea earlier this week with friends, more specifically that the handful of street parking spaces on the west side of State should be removed and replaced 1/2 with a widened sidewalk and 1/2 with a bike lane to keep them off that congested section of sidewalk between Liberty and William. One other idea a friend tossed out was making the sidewalk along both sides of that road in that section either brick or stamped concrete, but I'm assuming that would be quite costly.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.
I have an idea & it won't cost a thing. REMOVE all restaurants sidewalk seating. They are called SIDEWALKS for a reason. Give us back OUR sidewalks!!!
Ryan J. Stanton
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.
Roger Hewitt, the DDA board member quoted in this story, actually owns Red Hawk. I've seen the sidewalk seating you're talking about. Widening the sidewalks there is an interesting idea, and maybe that will get discussed as part of this plan.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 11:44 a.m.
Essentially, they are saying they have not done a good job coordinating streetscape in the past, and would like to spend $200k to fix that. It really comes across as very wasteful. Are you telling me that the reason people have not been coming to Ann Arbor is the sidewalks are not consistent? What are you going to do up at State by the Old Borders, where the sidewalk is so narrow that people barely have room to pan-handle? This really isn't driving home the need for a DDA.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.
About 10 years ago, they spent $4,000,000 of taxpayer money around this location (the old Borders to William St to THompson) and after they were done, it looked almost the same, except for a few planters and benches and f course the mayors bike racks. I would have thought that they would have put in European style pavers, but no, just new cement covered with old gum.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.
While the initiative is certainly based on nobel principles, the implementation would need to be more consistent than in years passed for these improvements to be effective. While new planters, plants, flowers, bushes, trees and tree grates are all very well, they seem to have been installed poorly in years past and fall into disrepair rather quickly. Therefore, establishing a $200,000 project budget for the next two years seems like a drop in the bucket and rather silly. Perhaps, a more comprehensive plan that factors in a maintenance schedule might be more effective in achieving the DDA's goals.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.
Adequate response, Ryan J. Stanton?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.
Not arguing with the rest of your comment Carolyn, but we are, in no conceivable way, approaching the density of a large city.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.
That is a very good point. Maintenance costs are a huge issue downtown and throughout the city. Looking at traffic patterns in order to enahnce pedestrian safety and usability is certainly warranted. Since we approaching the density of a large city, pedestrian scale urban design features are very important, e.g. well-delineated, properly signaled crosswalks and on-street bike lanes.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 11:17 a.m.
Why doesn't the DDA save $200k, and assign this responsibility to a city engineer to use some COMMON SENSE to get this done. Maybe that is an oxymoron in itself. At a minimum, the city engineering department ought to develop a proposal and present it to the board to see if it makes sense. If not, THEN hire someone who can improve upon it. This isn't brain surgery folks.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 6:26 p.m.
City council should be running the city. I agree with commenters over the past few months who are in favor of abolishing the DDA.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 11:07 a.m.
Wow! We have $200,000 laying around that we intend to spend on a project such as this? Our school system is suffering due to financial issues. Our level of safety is questionable, yet we decide to waste money on this project - a streetscape plan ? Totally, irresponsible, if you ask me. Go figure!
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 12:26 a.m.
Thank you for your insightful, and elegant response about the homeless in Ann Arbor. It is rare to hear this on this blog!
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 7:01 p.m.
"and I imagine there are a lot of property owners and business owners in the downtown who think it's good that 17% of their property taxes get pumped right back into the downtown that they have such a big stake in" You think?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.
I do realize that the DDA might not be directly skimming money from our schools, I do believe that when so many sectors of our community are in duress (ie - road maintenance, less than desirable levels of fire and police personnel, failing school system financials, etc.) our leaders should be exercising good, prudent judgement for all expenditures.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.
I'm sorry anyone feels threatened by another because they ask you for spare change (or in some cases, simply hold up a sign or sit on the street making jewelry or reading). However, I can assure you that the incidents of "assault by a beggar" in downtown Ann Arbor are statistically insignificant. In other words, it doesn't really happen. The fear people experience is based on a false perception, likely inspired by a fear of seeing poor people or people with bad addictions - because it shows us something about ourselves and our society we sometimes don't want to face. The fact is, the "beggars" downtown are the same group of 10 or so people who have been in that area for years. I could describe each of them to you and have talked with most of them. They are all just a part of Ann Arbor. Look them straight in the face and acknowledge their existence. If you decline to give them money after doing so, they will recognize you in the future, as opposed to just seeing a nameless passerby, and not ask you any more. It's a social interaction.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.
I am sure that Goober realizes that school funding, police & fire funding, and DDA money are all sitting in very different buckets. His point, for those of you who are a bit too literal, is that all of these buckets are filled directly from OUR pockets.
Ryan J. Stanton
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.
To put it into context, the DDA captured about 17% of the total taxes paid by downtown property owners in 2012. In other words, 17% of downtown tax revenues are being reinvested back into the downtown through the DDA instead of being split amongst the city, the county, AATA, WCC and the library. That means entities other than the DDA still are getting the lion's share (83%) of downtown tax revenues. The figures for 2012 show $10M in downtown tax revenues going to schools, $4.1M to the city, $1.4M to the county, $934K to WCC, $390K to the library, $1.4M to the LDFA, and $3.7M to the DDA. That said, it's perfectly reasonable to discuss/debate whether reinvesting 17% of downtown property tax revenues directly back into the downtown through the DDA is appropriate. I imagine there are a lot of people out in the neighborhoods who would prefer to see some of that money fixing their neighborhood streets, etc., and I imagine there are a lot of property owners and business owners in the downtown who think it's good that 17% of their property taxes get pumped right back into the downtown that they have such a big stake in.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.
Not from AAPS schools, but the DDA skims dollars from what would go to Washtenaw Community College. Exactly why an entity dealing with downtown Ann Arbor should be able to take a cut from their money is beyond me. Heck, they take a cut of AATA dollars which seems a little cannibalistic.
Ryan J. Stanton
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.
I hear what you're saying, but just so everyone knows — the DDA doesn't take money from our schools.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.
OK @Jaime - "Beggars" as in "Beggar's Banquet" ?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.
separate funding sources
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.
How is our level of safety questionable downtown? Please don't say panhandlers.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.
Goober it's streetscape or schools- the kids can learn by looking at inspiring scenes while panhandling in the streets- after all the school budget doesn't pay for the DDA.