Ann Arbor City Council has passed a resolution asking the planning commission to move forward with some zoning changes on the edge of downtown.
Council unanimously passed the resolution Tuesday night after asking the planning commission to also make suggestions on possible zoning changes for other downtown areas.
Council member Sabra Briere says a lot of hard work remains on what core design guidelines should be considered for developers to be eligible to build larger projects.
Briere says the request for planning commission to review areas such as South University, Thayer, and Ann is in response to concerns raised by the community that the initial review was too limited. She says the consultant that worked on the project and the planning commission noted this desire by the community to expand the scope of the project, but the planning commission's final recommendation was limited to the original council request.
Ann Arbor City Council has approved the site plan and development agreement for an apartment building at 624 Church Street. The proposal is for a 14 story apartment building built partially over the Pizza House Restaurant. The plan calls for 232 bedrooms in 123 units.
The project has been given positive reviews from the city’s Design Review Board but parking issues led to a lengthy conversation at the council table. The concerns centered around having spaces reserved in the Forest Avenue parking structure for the next 15 years, and three five year extensions to have spaces somewhere in the city’s parking system.
Council members say the city’s payment in lieu of parking program needs to be reviewed, as well as the requirement for parking at downtown developments.
The developers of the project hope to begin work in the spring with a targeted occupancy date in August of 2015.
The University of Michigan's Black Student Union says it's unacceptable that it has not yet been contacted by the university regarding seven demands presented Monday by the Union and the group Being Black at U-of-M.
Geralyn Gaines is Secretary of the Black Student Union, which has threatened "physical actions" if its demands are not met in seven days. She says the actions will be non-violent, but declined to be more specific.
The demands made Monday include making affordable housing for low-income students available on the main campus, giving black students experiencing financial difficulty emergency scholarships, improving the university's multicultural center, and giving black students an equal chance to effect change.
The group’s full demand:
We demand that the university give us an equal opportunity to implement change, the change that complete restoration of the BSU purchasing power through an increased budget would obtain.
We demand available housing on central campus for those of lower socio-economic status at a rate that students can afford, to be a part of university life, and not just on the periphery.
We demand an opportunity to congregate and share our experiences in a new Trotter [Multicultural Center] located on central campus.
We demand an opportunity to be educated and to educate about America’s historical treatment and marginalization of colored groups through race and ethnicity requirements throughout all schools and colleges within the university.
We demand the equal opportunity to succeed with emergency scholarships for black students in need of financial support, without the mental anxiety of not being able to focus on and afford the university's academic life.
We demand increased exposure of all documents within the Bentley (Historical) Library. There should be transparency about the university and its past dealings with race relations.
We demand an increase in black representation on this campus equal to 10 percent.
University Provost Martha Pollack said Monday the school is focusing on three areas: Improving the Trotter Multicultural Center, improving the climate on campus, and increasing enrollment of under-represented minorities as allowed by law.
Gaines says the Provost's comments were "comforting," but fall short of what the Black Student Union expects from the university.
— Bob Eccles is a reporter and the host of 89.1 WEMU's All Things Considered. Contact him at 734.487.3363, email him email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @BobEcclesWEMU
Sunday, January 26 at 7 PM. A special fundraising screening with proceeds to benefit Food Gatherers and the Michigan Theater. Brothers and Ann Arbor natives Chris and Mike Farah shot Answer This! in Ann Arbor in 2009 and the film had its world premiere in 2010; this special screening will also include a Q&A about the Farahs’ new Discovery Channel TV project, currently filming in Detroit.
Ann Arbor Public Schools planned to borrow money up to three times during the school year to address cash flow issues caused by a smaller fund balance than in previous years. The district has now made it through two of the three months that were most likely to require borrowing without needing to seek outside cash.
Chief Financial Officer Nancy Hoover says the planned use of $1.7 million in fund balance this school year, means they may still need to borrow money in June.
Hoover adds, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District helped the district avoid the need to borrow money in December by making a bill for transportation services not due until this month. The city of Ann Arbor also helped the district avoid the need for borrowing in December by quickly remitting some of the taxes they collect for the district.
Hoover says the district's budget included spending $200,000 in interest payments which most of these have now been avoided.
A new Washtenaw County study says a local investment of $4.4 million in non-profit agencies has an economic impact of over $90 million. The non-profits provide assistance to the community well beyond the direct help individuals receive.
Director of the Office of Community and Economic Development, Mary Jo Callan says unfortunately non-profits as a sector are underfunded and it will take more than government action to solve the funding problems.
“This report provides a clear justification for the continued investment in our local nonprofit sector – in addition to providing critical services to vulnerable residents, these small businesses save taxpayers money by preventing the need for costlier government services and impact our local economy through their direct employment and purchasing power.” -Mary Jo Callan, Director of the Office of Community & Economic Development for Washtenaw County
Callan adds that benefits non-profits provide the community include bringing in 10 dollars of outside funding for every 1 dollar of local funds, stabilizing the local work force, jobs, and spending money at local businesses. She says this assistance is needed as the economic recovery continues to not reach lower income residents.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor Public Schools opening up 750 seats for school of choice students from other Washtenaw County school districts.
Up to 5% of Ann Arbor Public Schools students in the fall could be coming to the district from other school districts in Washtenaw County. The school board Wednesday night voted unanimously to open 750 school of choice seats for out of district students.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the jump in school of choice seats is one of several efforts to better fill the district's classrooms.
The district has increased the number of school of choice students attending in each of the last four years, but never has filled all of the available seats.
To help fill the spaces this year the district is planning a marketing campaign and district officials hope having spaces in all grades except the last two years of high school will help attract families with multiple children.
School of choice applications will be accepted March third through April first. From Friday through February 14th the district will accept applications for in-district school of choice for students who don't want to attend the school where they live.
WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on the Ann Arbor School Board approving the catalog for online classes available to district students through the Ann Arbor Virtual Academy, and opening one class to a limited number of students from other districts.
Ann Arbor Public Schools will offer over 225 online classes to middle school and high school students this semester.
The school board Wednesday night approved the district's virtual academy's catalog, and also approved opening ten seats in one algebra class to students from other districts.
School board member Christine Stead says new state laws regarding online learning are yet another unfunded mandate, but the district is working to make the best of the changes.
District officials are hoping to learn a lot from offering the single algebra class to students from other districts. They expect to have many more online classes available to students from other districts in the fall.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says with the uncertainties around new state laws about online classes every district in Michigan is facing similar challenges.
The deadline for registering for online classes this semester is January 22nd with classes starting one week later.
The Ann Arbor School Board is maintaining the same leadership positions as last year.
The board held its organizational meeting Wednesday night and President Deb Mexicotte was unanimously re-elected. Christine Stead will remain vice-president, Andy Thomas continues as secretary, and Glenn Nelson is still the treasurer.
Mexicotte says with the new superintendent in place and program changes to be considered the board wanted to maintain some stability in an area that's working well.
The board also made no changes to standing committee assignments. However the future of an ad-hoc committee investigating options around a possible recreation millage is up in the air after they present their report in two weeks.
The former chair of the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission is once more seeking a seat on City Council.
Julie Grand has announced she will run for the third ward seat Council member Christopher Taylor is opting not to try to keep as he instead runs for mayor. Grand says she learned some lessons from her narrow defeat to Council member Stephen Kunselman in last year's democratic primary. She says however her philosophy remains the same.
Grand says she is still running to try to make a direct impact on the quality of life in Ann Arbor. She says the city needs leaders who use data, best practices, and community engagement to make decisions on issues while also working on constituent services.
College educated millennials have changed the key to economic development by choosing the location they want to live and then finding a job rather than going where they find a job. That's the message the President of Michigan Future shared with Ann Arbor City Council Monday night at a work session on the community's economic health.
Lou Glazer says to attract a larger number of these talented young workers that will then attract businesses the city needs to focus on several issues. He says this includes high density downtown neighborhoods that are active 24 hours a day and are connected to more public transit options.
Glazer says the number of college educated 25 to 34 year olds has grown by 17 percent across the country since 2005, but has remained constant in Ann Arbor at 16-thousand. He says Ann Arbor's economic development efforts should match Chicago in being focused on attracting every graduate of all the Big Ten Universities.
He says state policies that have lowered taxes and focused on businesses have hurt efforts to improve the quality of place and fund education which are the keys to attracting young talented people.
A quintessential college town, Ann Arbor, and its South Main Street reflect a vibrant culture. The city offers something for visitors of all ages, from hands-on museums with interactive exhibits, to colorful bars and restaurants. Enjoy acoustic music at The Ark, a nonprofit venue that features performances from renowned folk performers. Choosing just one of South Main Street’s restaurants might seem like a herculean task, but a good option is The Ravens Club. The kitchen and bar offers seasonal farm-to-table cuisine and a cocktail menu with an impressive collection of whiskey.
Friendly neighbors, family-run businesses, and quaint restaurants serving comforting diner fare--these are the images conjured up by the phrase "Main Street USA." Even in this fast-paced era, many small towns have held onto their historic roots and preserved their central thoroughfares.
The DDA has now hired Carl Walker for preliminary design, schedule, budget and phasing plan for replacing the southwest tower of the Fourth and William Parking Structure.
DDA Executive Director, Susan Pollay says the goal will be to have a more efficient and attractive elevator and stairs tower. She says the challenge will be to ensure two elevators and stairs remain open throughout the construction project.
Pollay says the tower improvements are expected to be only the first upgrades to the structure. Others may include incubator space on the ground floor, adding electric vehicle charging stations, and a new facade for the structure.
Update 12:05 pm: 10 hours and counting. That's how long firefighters have been combating the downtown blaze at Happy's Pizza, starting shortly before 2 am this morning. The fire is still burning at this hour. As a result, Main Street from Packard to Hoover in Ann Arbor is closed due to the fire. The building is said to be a a total loss. So far, no injuries have been reported.
An eye witness view of the scene is available here: