Sunday, April 30, 2017

May 1st Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Preview

The best way to watch a City Council Meeting at home.

Tomorrow night's Ann Arbor City Council meeting is unlikely to be as exciting as the April 17th meeting, when the Library Lot contract was approved. Still, there are 7 public hearings so it could be an interesting night. There are two public hearings on site plans for new buildings. PH-2 is on the The Collegian North site at 1107 South University. The proposed plans put the Collegian North at 150' tall with 12 stories (see elevation below). PH-3 is on approving the site plan for 315-317 South Main. The plans call for a 6 story mixed use building on Main between Liberty and William.

On the connect agenda for tomorrows meeting there are several street closures, including for the Ann Arbor Book Festival (June 17th) and the Angell Elementary Ice Cream Social (June 9th). CA-6 is interesting. It's a resolution to establish "Establish the Inglis House Historic District Study Committee and to Require all Applications for Permits within the Proposed Inglis House Historic District to be Referred to the Historic District Commission for Review." By way of background, at their April 20th meeting, the U of M Regents voted to sell the 80 year old estate which overlooks the Arboretum. The estate has been used as a guest house for VIPs visiting the U of M, but it needs about $5 million to bring it up to modern disability standards. Interestingly, the Inglis Estate was in the short-lived "Individual Historic Properties Historic District." That district existed from 1988 until 2001 when the Michigan Court of Appeals declared the district invalid. It will be interesting to see how the city is able to handle the historic designation this time.

The Front Elevation for the Collegian North

Friday, April 28, 2017

Totally Awesome Fest XIII starts today

Totally Awesome Fest XIII, the region's premier music festival, kicks off today. This festival this year festival has shows this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with an additional show August 12th. There will be over 50 bands as well as an inter-species basketball game, poetry and pancakes. The whole thing kicks off at 5 at the VG Kids screen printing shop, 884 Railroad St in Ypsilanti. All of shows are free and open to all ages and species.

Click through for the entire lineup:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

YCS and AAPS have millage vote Tuesday

On Tuesday, May 2nd voters in the Ypsilanti Community Schools district, as well as voters in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district will both have a chance to vote on school funding millages. The YCS vote is to renew a 18 mil property tax levy on non-homestead properties. It would raise approximately $9 million per year for the district's general fund. AAPS is asking voters to approve a 2.5 mil sinking fund millage. The 10-year tax would generate approximately $20 million per year for construction or repair of school facilities.

Both of these elections are important. So if you're in the YCS district or the AAPS district, make a plan now for voting on Tuesday.

Everything you always wanted to know about the Embassy Hotel, but were afraid to ask

Gentle readers, it's time for another episode of Ann Arbor Stories. The Embassy Hotel, that gem of a building wrapped in aluminium siding, is the subject of today's show. If you have ever wondered about this unique hotel's history, you won't want to miss this episode.

Another interesting fact, if you look through the AADL's Old News Archive, you will see the Embassy Hotel has caught fire several times.


Hotel Embassy or Embassy Hotel?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Native American history tour tomorrow in Ypsilanti

Local historian, Matt Siegfried, is leading a walking historical tour focusing on the Huron River's Native American communities. Matt is incredibly knowledgeable about local history. But where he really stands out, is his ability to bring past landscapes to life. If you're interested in learning more about the people who called the Huron River Watershed home before European colonization, you won't want to miss this tour.

The tour kicks off tomorrow in Ypsilanti's Riverside Park at 11 am and goes until 12:30.


Celebrate International Women's Day with a working women walking tour of Ypsi this Saturday

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

DECONSCIOUSNESS art installation on North Campus opens today

DECONSCIOUSNESS: Three Levels of Consciousness is a final project from the students in the Experiments in Architecture, Installation, and Painting course. In response to "the inherent elitism in art exhibitions, installations, and even institutions" the class decided to create their final project in the Architecture Building's shared work space. The installation consists of three zones that allow visitors to "examine the role of the 'CONSCIOUS', 'SUBCONSCIOUS', [and]'SUPERCONSCIOUS'." You can check out some of the pictures of DECONSCIOUSNESS below. It looks pretty cool. Though what really sold me on the installation was this line in an email I got from, D Wang Zhao, one of the students who helped to create the space: "It is wonderful, engaging, and weird. An exhibition that I think fits into Damn Arbor's content." So if you want to check out a weirdly engaging art experience, you should stop by DECONSCIOUSNESS.

DECONSCIOUSNESS opens with a reception tonight from 5 pm to 9 pm. The installation is in the Work Commons of the Art and Architecture Building and runs through the 23rd of April.

All photos courtesy of D Wang Zhao

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ann Arbor City Council votes to approve Core Solutions Proposal for Library Lot

A rendering of Core Space's proposed building by Myefski Architects

By a vote of 8-3, the Ann Arbor City Council agreed to sell the development rights above the Library Lot to Chicago-based Core Solutions for $10 million. The vote came after a long discussion among the council members. CM Lumm (Ward 2), CM Eaton (Ward 4), and CM Kailasapathy (Ward 1) voted against the resolution; the remainder of the council, and Mayor Taylor, voted in support of the sale.

Core Spaces’ proposal is to build a 17 story building above the Library Lane structure. They will also get a long term lease on 361 parking spaces, for which they will pay 120% of market value. The site plans are not finalized, but they include hotel rooms and market rate rentals as well as workforce housing. $5 million form the sale will go to the city's Affordable Housing Fund.

This will not be the last you hear about the Library Lot. Core Spaces’ final plans will need to pass through the Planning Commission and then they will come back to Ann Arbor City Council for final approval. During the discussion about the proposal, some councilmembers mentioned a 3 year time frame for the completion of the project. So, if all goes according to plan, we may have a new building on the Library Lot sometime in 2020.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Library Lot sale on Ann Arbor city council agenda

The Library Lot, December 2010

DS-3 on tomorrow night's Ann Arbor city council agenda is a sale of the development rights for the land above the Library Lot. The resolution would approve a contract to sell the development rights to a Chicago-based firm, Core Spaces, for $10 million. Core spaces is proposing to build a 17 story building, which would make it the third tallest building in Ann Arbor*. Other highlights include 10% designated workforce housing and a 12,000 sq ft public plaza. Another part of the proposed contract is the long-term lease of about 300 parking spaces in the Library Lot by Core Spaces for a term of up to 50 years.

There is some controversy about the potential sale focused around three points. First, the long-term lease of the Library Lot spaces to the developer. Second, There is a group of citizens who would prefer the space above the Library Lot to be used as a public park. Third, there is some debate about whether selling the development rights would violate the terms the Build America Bonds used to finance the project. The city's legal counsel says the sale would not violate the terms of the bond, you can read more about it on the Daily.

Gentle readers, what do you think? Do you support the sale of the development rights to Core Spaces? What would you like to see happen to the Library Lot? Personally, I support development on the site. Given the Library Lot was engineered to support a tall structure, it would be a waste of the infrastructure the city built to not build something large on top of the site. I am sympathetic to the desire for more green space in downtown Arbor, but I don't think the on top of a parking structure is the right place to do that. As I said, gentle reader, I'm interested in hearing what you think.

From the Library Lot Archives:

December 9, 2010: Deconstructing the Library Lot
January 25, 2011: Conference Center or Central Park
March 24, 2011: Breaking News: Cthulhu stirs beneath the Library Lot
April 13, 2011: Who cares about the sinkhole?
July 10, 2012: What to do with the Library Lot?

* This is based on floor count and does not include Burton Memorial Tower (212 ft). Tower Plaza, Ann Arbor's tallest building is 26 stories tall (267 ft). University Towers (205 ft) has 19 stories. Source.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Book launch party tomorrow at Ypsi's Dereamland Theater

Gentle readers, I have a confession: I have a low tolerance for horror. I think it's because of my overactive imagination. This fact lead to an interesting conversation with Ypsilanti based horror author, Ken MacGregor. For people with a low horror threshold, which is worse watching horror movies, or reading horror fiction? On one hand, with horror fiction, you can control the pace, and skip over some of the scariest parts. On the other hand, when you are reading something terrifying, you can't just close your eyes during the worst parts. Horror fiction forces you to create images of terrible things in your mind.

I was chatting with Ken because he is having a launch party for his second collection of short stories, Sex, Gore and Millipedes, tomorrow at the Dreamland Theater in downtown Ypsilanti. The book, published by Detroit based Dragon's Roost Press, is definitely NSFW. I can't even show you the full cover, gentle reader, but I can give you a peak at part of it.

Ken's book launch is tomorrow from 5-9 pm. Because of the content of the book, the party is for adults only. Though, I don't think they will be checking IDs at the door. If you're interested in horror or local authors you should totally check it out. Ken is a fascinating guy to talk with and he can answer all your questions about horror fiction.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

GG Allin on Ann Arbor Stories

Kevin Michael "GG" Allin's booking photo from the September 14th, 1989 Ann Arbor News.

GG Allin was a pretty extreme punk rocker known for, among other things, defecating on stage during most of his shows. After an unscheduled show at East Quad's Halfway Inn, Allin assaulted an Ann Arbor woman, and then left to continue his tour with his band, the Toilet Rockets. A local judge issued a warrant charging Allin with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. Allin was eventually apprehended by the US Secret Service in Illinois. He was brought back to Ann Arbor and plead to felonious assault. Allin served 15 months in Michigan State Prison. If you want to hear more, you're going to have to check out today's Ann Arbor Stories. But be warned, this episode has a hard R rating.

Monday, April 10, 2017

State of Opportunity wrap-up tomorrow at Corner Brewery

I have really enjoyed Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity reporting project. I think it has done a great job shedding light on the complex issues surrounding poverty in the state. The reporting project is wrapping up and as a capstone event tomorrow night at Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery Corner Brewery. Sarah Hulett will be hosting a special Issues & Ale event: Moving the Needle on Poverty – A State of Opportunity Re-cap. While I'm sad that State of Opportunity is ending, I am grateful for the reporting that the project has produced and I am excited to see what projects are in the future for Michigan Radio.

Issues & Ale: Moving the Needle on Poverty – A State of Opportunity Re-cap is Tuesday, April 11, 6:30-8:00 PM at Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery. Admission is free.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Light flooding along the Huron in Ypsilanti

The Huron River was creeping out of its bank this afternoon in Riverside Park in Ypsilanti. This is the highest I've seen it since EJ and I moved to Ypsi in 2013. How are things looking upstream in Ann Arbor? The Huron is forecast to crest at 15.4', which is a foot lower than it was during the Great Flood of 2011.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ypsilanti's First Friday season kicks off this Friday

This Friday, April 7th, is the first First Friday of the 2017 season. If you've never been to a First Friday before, you will want to check it out. Nearly 30 restaurants and shops in Depot Town and Downtown Ypsi will be hosting art galleries and/or live music. It'll be a really great time.