Miller thinks part of the problem was that the city has many priorities but looks at only one project at a time--with the result that "there is a tendency to want to fit all goals into one site." The "Connecting William Street" review will look at the Fifth Avenue sites, the Kline's lot, and two others nearby: the ground floor of the Fourth and William parking structure and the small parking lot next door to Palio restaurant. The hope, says Miller, is that "by looking at five sites together, we can find something that is more practical and achievable."
This being Ann Arbor, the process started by inviting public input. "Connecting William Street is an effort to capture the community's priorities and strategies for five city properties," says DDA executive director Susan Pollay. "This is a great time to be encouraging community feedback, as this section of William Street has many things taking place at this point."
"Now that we're coming out of the recession, people want to see progress," adds DDA board member Joan Lowenstein. "This is a pretty small area of the downtown that isn't overwhelming for people to consider."
In fact, it's smaller than the DDA wanted. After a year of negotiations, a joint city-DDA committee recommended a broader plan that covered more of downtown and twice as many sites. But when that proposal came before council last April, it was curtailed to the smaller area--over the objections of the councilmembers who'd negotiated the agreement, Christopher Taylor and Carsten Hohnke.