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Posted on Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 5:42 a.m.

Ann Arbor's Main Street makes list of best streets in nation

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor's downtown Main Street has been recognized as one of the Top 10 streets in the nation.

The American Planning Association, which recognizes excellence in planning, announced today that Ann Arbor's main downtown thoroughfare made the list in its 2009 Great Places in America: Streets contest.


Ann Arbor's Main Street got a national nod.

File photo

"South Main Street is downtown Ann Arbor's center of activity and community gathering place," the association states on its Web site. "The continuous rhythm of detailed masonry building storefronts right at the sidewalk's edge contributes to an exciting pedestrian environment. The City of Ann Arbor's continuous efforts to preserve these buildings — most housing locally owned businesses — ensures that the street's unique appearance and character remain intact."

The American Planning Association has offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and Susan Pollay, director of Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority, relayed news of the honor at today's DDA meeting.

"I'm enormously proud - we all are," Pollay said. "Our Main Street is an absolute centerpiece of our community and to have it cited nationwide as one of the great streets is a source of enormous pride and something that we've all known about and now it's great that others are finding out about it as well."

City officials said Main Street was singled out for its forward-looking planning and development aimed at helping lower the city’s carbon footprint. Among other things, the city is increasing housing density, preserving historic buildings and increasing transportation choices along Main Street, city officials said.

Hieftje said the award is a culmination of extensive public involvement in developing city policies that help to preserve the historic fabric of Main Street. About 80 percent of the structures along the three blocks of South Main designated a 2009 Great Street are protected by the city-designated Main Street Historic District that was established in 1989.

South Main Street, which was part of Ann Arbor’s original city plat in 1824, has always been integral to the central business district, city officials said. In 1982, the community established tax increment financing through the DDA to fund streetscape and infrastructure improvements, including widening sidewalks, planting trees and installing pedestrian crossings.

Other streets that made the 2009 Great Streets list (in no particular order):

• Broadway Street, Skagway, Alaska.

• President Clinton Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas.

• Front Street, Bath, Maine.

• Front Street, Traverse City, Michigan.

• Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, New Jersey.

• Main Street, Greenville, South Carolina.

• Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg, Virginia.

• North Main Street, Wheeling, West Virginia.

• East Newberry Boulevard, Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sat, Oct 10, 2009 : 10:12 a.m.

"Among other things, the city is increasing housing density, preserving historic buildings and increasing transportation choices along Main Street, city officials said." No, they are NOT DOING these things. They are TALKING about doing these things... talk talk talk for about the last 20 years, and particularly in the last 10. In fact, they want to tear down historic houses and restrict historic districts. Imagine that there are several more "dense" buildings for residence and businesses downtown so the three block "historic" Main Street becomes even more of a museum piece set inside the overpopulated and crowded downtown. The new housing built downtown is ugly and out of place in relation to the rest of our small downtown. It is only partially occupied due to paradigm shifts in how and where people, particularly "young professionals" live and work. Better transit in downtown? The LINK is gone and the city and AATA continue to dither. They put more emphasis on parking structures that transit. If awards were given out for hype and cheap talk by cheerleaders and politicians, Ann Arbor would top the list.


Fri, Oct 9, 2009 : 10:29 p.m.

Main Street and downtown are great! So let's cram another 1000-2000 people in some ugly housing and a some high rises for businesses, then some more parking structures for their cars. Maybe a mezzanine on Main St or go underground like Atlanta! More fumes! More sidewalk seating! Bring in the conventioneers! Then downtown will be even greater because there will be more of it!


Fri, Oct 9, 2009 : 5:18 a.m.

Times have changed and cities do what they must to survive I guess. I grew up here, born in the 60's and I can remember a normal Main St. We had a Woolworths and Kiddie Land and pharmacies and clothiers and restaurants. Maybe one or two places would put a couple of tables on the sidewalk in the summer (usually dessert or coffee). To me it is ridiculous that you cannot make your way down the freaking sidewalk for the crowds crammed at tables happy inhaling exhaust from passing cars as they eat or wait forever to be seated. But, it's what pulls people in and keeps these businesses afloat. Who cares if these people don't live in A2? They spend money, right? I guess they could always go to Detroit or Lansing or Toledo to spend it.... If it helps A2, fine, but I miss normal. Maybe someday when our economy isn't tanking and people have jobs Oh, and I'll echo others who have commented. It's wonderful that Michigan made the list twice! Glad to be on it.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 9:06 p.m.

You have got to be kidding me. I have been all over this country of ours and have seen some beautiful and vibrant cities and small towns. One street of restaurants does not make it on my list. Bribing must be part of the practice, as there is no law against paying off the American Planning Association.

Mike S

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 6:01 p.m.

I'm with Top Cat on the auto/truck fumes during outdoor dining season... something about large, smelly pieces of metal rolling by does not relax me. It would be much improved if Main St. was the Main Greenway instead.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 2 p.m.

In my mind greatest thanks for this distinction goes to the University of Michigan. They put Ann Arbor on the map. Thank you, U of M!

ET Crowe

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 1 p.m.

Downtown Ann Arbor rocks--no doubt about it.

Marvin Face

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 10:29 a.m.

I moved to Ann Arbor (having never set foot in Michigan) right out of college and have lived here for 20 years. One of the many reasons I came, and stayed, is the Main St area. Have I been to many other places that are as vibrant or better? Sure. This is still great for AA and Michigan.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 9:55 a.m.

I'm puzzled by the people who complain that Main Street businesses are mostly restaurants, gift shops and bars.. Those of us who have lived in Ann Arbor for a long time can remember when Main Street had department stores and a drug store--but fewer people. If converting Main Street into a restaurant and entertainment district provides the financial means to restore and maintain the Victorian storefronts, great. If that atmosphere attracts out-of-towners to Main Street restaurants and other businesses, that's also great. The DDA and the city have redeveloped Main Street to make the best use of its unique assets. In other words, they've done their job well.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 9:28 a.m.

I think what pushed Ann Arbor onto the list was the fairy doors.


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 9:02 a.m.

EasyE, Tru2Blu76, David and Brian - I agree with you 100%. We have a great downtown and should be proud of it. I'm very thankful to be living in Ann Arbor. And people like Top Cat will continue to drag politics into this...

David Briegel

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 8:32 a.m.

Topcat and Mermaid should come down on Sat and Sun morning to see the fact that it is an ash tray and a urinal from those nice yuppies that descend from on high from West Bloomingham Pointe!


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 8:12 a.m.

I voted for Obama and I'm not grumpy. I guess I just don't fit into this town at all!

Dr. I. Emsayin

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 7:55 a.m.

I think Ann Arbor is the best city in Michigan, but I also liked downtown when there were fewer bar/restaurants that were a magnet for drunken 20 somethings and out of towners on a bar crawl. The summer festival is great because that is where community is happening. I agree that too many out of towners crowd the hometown folks out of parking and restaurants on weekends. My brother lived in Wheeling W.Va for years, and, I can tell you, being in a league with their Main St. is no compliment. The city is practically a ghost town except for their country music venue that brings in busloads of fans. Is that what we want for Ann Arbor?


Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 7:45 a.m.

Perhaps some of the whiners & complainers here should move to a town with boarded-up windows & graffiti covered walls in their downtown. Detroit is always looking for some new residents.

Brian Bundesen

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 7:26 a.m.

I echo the sentiments of EasyE, Tru2Blu76 and David. It's way too easy to be cynical and take pot shots these days. The 'Era of the Crank' is a great label. I'm thankful for all the hard work and commitments of those who make Ann Arbor a great place to live. We relocated here from Chicago 11 years ago, and have had several opportunities to move elsewhere. Ann Arbor is a great town and a great place to raise a family. The recognition of Main Street is well deserved and ought to be celebrated, not ridiculed.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 7:23 a.m.

I think we should tear down Main Street and make it a green belt. Perhaps we could put a dome over it and have a tropical theme with Monkeys and such.

David Martel

Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 6:03 a.m.

EasyE and Tru2Blu76 - thank you. I don't understand the negativity of the others. Congrats Ann Arbor. I love our downtown and our Main Street.


Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 10:29 p.m.

i'm amazed by some of these commentor's ability to complain. an objective and complimentary assessment gives michigan two of the best streets, one of which is located in ann arbor! yet for some people the unique committment to downtown atmosphere is worthy of comparisons to malls. Friday nights during summers in ann arbor provide some of the best outdoor ambiance i've ever experienced. it is too bad some people's bitterness makes them incapable of appreciating it.


Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 7:54 p.m.

a community gathering place?yea 75 % of those people sitting outside at those eateries are out of towners.Is that community?I stay away from main street


Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 5:58 p.m.

Would be a WHOLE lot better if they closed the street between Huron and William, or just Liberty and William even!


Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 5:19 p.m.

"The continuous rhythm of detailed masonry building storefronts right at the sidewalk's edge contributes to an exciting pedestrian environment. The City of Ann Arbor's continuous efforts to preserve these buildings most housing locally owned businesses ensures that the street's unique appearance and character remain intact." Are you listening Planning Commission and City Council? Our historic buildings, homes and neighborhoods are community assets that bring people to this City. Don't let out-of-town developers destroy our neighborhoods in the name of density that there is no market for. No PUDs in neighborhoods!!!!

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 5:14 p.m.

Well... it's a banner week for Hieftje and his cronies. I hear that tomorrow, Washtenaw County will be congratulated for making Criminal Monthly's top ten list of Best Places to Get Caught Breaking and Entering.


Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 4:59 p.m.

Does surprise me Main street was chosen. It has old fashion small town atmosphire, but is very cosmopoliton fabfan

Mike Hulsebus

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 4:30 p.m.

I like Ann Arbor, but this was pretty surprising. I mean: the whole nation?


Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 3:25 p.m.

Connor O'Neil's pales in comaprison for people watching to WalMart


Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 3:19 p.m.

Its a bunch of restaurants and boutique shops. I could open a shopping mall with the same rubbish.


Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 3:15 p.m.

If the other streets on that list are anything like our Main Street, I'll go out of my way to avoid them, too.


Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 3:13 p.m.

I see that Traverse City also made the list, and that a park in Charlevoix made their list of best public spaces. Hooray for Michigan!

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 : 3:03 p.m.

must be those "art" bicycle posts...