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 In October 2003 the City formed the Downtown Residential Task Force. In May 2005 the Task Force issued its to City Council and recommended that the City modify the zoning code. Calthorpe Associates was hired by the City to work with the community to develop a vision for the downtown, as well as recommendations to realize this vision.In December 2005, after six months’ work, including three public workshops which drew more than 600 people; a series of stakeholder meetings and public hearings with residents, housing advocates, planners, and real estate brokers; and an analysis of downtown economic drivers to understand current and future demand, Calthorpe Associates completed its work with a 76-page final report.   The report provides a recommended vision and policy framework for downtown Ann Arbor.  On December 5, 2005, City Council accepted the report and directed staff to identify a strategy for implementing the recommendations.

The Calthorpe recommendations include the following:

"Policy: Encourage the creation of new public spaces within the Downtown and rehabilitation of existing spaces:

Pursue and design a Town Square or central civic area that incorporates an outdoor meeting place, an art center, underground parking, an indoor facility, and mixed-use buildings."*

*Recommended Vision and Policy Framework for Downtown Ann Arbor, Downtown Development Strategies Project Prepared for the City of Ann Arbor by Calthorpe and Associates and Strategic Economics, February 17, 2006 p. 44

Variations on this recommendation are made over and over in the report, sometimes with the inclusion of housing--at least four or five times.

Calthorpe  also stresses repeatedly the importance of:  "making the downtown pedestrian scale," "pedestrian friendly amenities,"  "placing the pedestrian first," "enhancing the pedestrian environment," "pedestrian linkages," etc etc. over a dozen times.

Open space and publicly accessible open space, and giving incentives for open space is mentioned over 20 times.

The words "Conference center" are not mentioned at all. Zero.   "Hotel" is mentioned once, in the context of another city.

Calthorpe also discusses "Edge treatments;" the areas surrounding parks and open spaces:

"Edge treatments will vary depending upon the surrounding context, but new residential and commercial development along the edge of open space will provide the much-needed eyes-on-the-open-space, and adjacent development will benefit from increased social interactions and property values."
p. 44

This also supports the proposition that active public spaces will promote development along their edges that will both make the parks safer as well as encouraging development and improving property values (and hence tax revenue).

Somehow much of the Calthorpe consensus seems to have gotten lost in the frenzy to promote the conference-center hotel ideal.  Now is our moment to remind the city leaders that Calthorpe was the product of numerous charettes, surveys, and meetings in which over 600 people participated--not just "the usual suspects," as some assert.

The full Calthorpe report can be downloaded from the City's Downtown Development Strategies Project page