- A Green place in the heart of Downtown
- A front porch for the Library
- A front yard for downtown residents
- A resting place for shoppers and visitors
- A destination place to Discover Downtown
This is the place for Ann Arbor’s Central Park because it is at our community core: close to the Downtown Library and the Kempf House Museum, close to the Federal Building, City Hall and the Courts, close to our vibrant retail and restaurant districts. The transit center and the underground parking carry visitors in all directions to and from the heart of Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor’s Central Park can be a green connection between town and gown, Main Street and the UM Central Campus. Ann Arbor’s Central Park can be a landing or an oasis, a place of imagination or meditation.
- Maximize people space, subordinate automobile space.
- Take advantage of the grade difference between Division and Fifth.
- Create a second level “balcony” above and covering the road in and out of the parking.
- Create a variety of different kinds of spaces so many things can happen.
- Connect with Liberty Plaza, the Transit Authority, the Library and adjacent buildings and businesses.
Any of the particulars can change as part of a community process
This is a practical, do-able, beautiful possibility, in the best interest of Ann Arbor, in the long run, and now.
Could a new building and a public park coexist on the Library Lot? Here are concept drawings that imagine the possibilities…
In this first pair of conceptual illustrations (below), we are invited to imagine one way in which the Library Lot might have both a park and large (13 story), new building sharing the site. The building could house multiple types of tenants: office, residential, retail….
The second pair of conceptual illustrations (below) shows another version of a shared use. The scale of the building is smaller (seven floors), but adequate to create a significant, active population residing and/or working within the immediate area of the Library Green.
How does the Central Park vision fit with the current Downtown Plan?
The May 2009 Ann Arbor Downtown Plan (pdf) recognizes the special “civic center” character of the area bounded by the Federal Building and the Public Library. The Downtown Plan speaks to the need for parks:
While downtown’s streets and sidewalks are the foundation of its open space system, other types of public spaces — including parks, plazas, arcades, and atriums — expand the variety of the pedestrian experience which downtown offers. These public spaces play an important role in structuring the “image of the city” by creating focal points — or landmarks — which punctuate the urban fabric and provide relief to the hard surfaces of the built environment. They also create opportunities for social interaction; if they are located and designed to attract use, they can add substantially to the vitality of downtown’s street life. These spaces are most meaningful when they reinforce locations of special visual significance (such as downtown entry points and civic buildings) and functional importance (such as major “crossroads” of pedestrian movement).
The map (Figure 4) from the Downtown Plan shows the near total absence of public parks from the downtown area. By stretching the definition to include the Farmer’s Market as a “park,” this map underscores the severity of the problem. Click on the image to see a larger version of the map.
In a May 2008 interview, downtown resident and former Dean of the University of Michigan’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Doug Kelbaugh described what is missing from downtown Ann Arbor:
It doesn’t have a public space well defined by buildings to form an urban living room for the community. We have a vibrant sidewalk life but need a sunny civic plaza with busy uses in the surrounding buildings, with extemporaneous and programmed activities. A place to stage a speech, start or end a parade, hold a demonstration or civic ceremony. For a downtown of our size and quality, it’s remarkable we don’t have such an outdoor living room.