opinion: DDA using flawed data to rationalize outcome for Connecting William Street program
Very good article (“Eyeing the future: Ann Arbor developers and officials see potential with city properties downtown” 9/23). Sadly, it shows that for all of the talk of an open, public process, the Downtown Development Authority is, once again, engaged in using flawed data to rationalize a pre-determined outcome for its Connecting William Street program. Hurray to Ed and Peter for their outspokenness and common sense.
The DDA did a survey for CWS which had 2000 responses. Independently analyzing the data from that survey (in particular, the open-ended questions) showed the vast majority did not want the city to put short term financial gain ahead of the long-term, highest and best use of that land. It also showed a high percentage cited parks, water features, plazas, etc., when asked what they found attractive or memorable in urban areas, and, by implication, what they would like to see somewhere in our downtown.
Yet the DDA has ignored this data and plunged ahead, asking if people want the dense, denser, or densest scenarios, with only a postage stamp of public space on the library lot. The Parks Advisory Commission just resolved that more downtown green space be placed downtown.â€¨The Calthorpe Plan, sponsored by the DDA several years ago, after the most exhaustive public process in the city's history, identified the Library Lot, specifically, as a public gathering space/park/plaza.
Study after study shows that well-designed and properly-sited public spaces increase the value of the surrounding properties, encourages density around them, and encourages people to live and play nearby. Merely, selling off and building up every square-inch of public land with no thought to public amenities would be a tragic mistake.
The least the DDA could do would be to add another "scenario," asking if, and where, the public thought open public space should be placed. If the DDA continues to ignore the public outcry for a genuine public space in the center of town, they justly will be perceived as having held another sham process instead of what they claim truly is an open attempt to gain public input.