Ann Arbor Lessons

As we contemplate the changes that East Campus will bring to College Park, it is worth learning from other college towns. Insights into a Lively Downtown may provide both ideas for remaking the existing downtown and the correct scale for East Campus. This runs 20 minutes and sometimes states the obvious…on the way to explaining why downtowns tick.

Thanks to Kirk Westphal, University of Michigan urban planning 2006 graduate, for posting this. Westphal’s description–
What makes a downtown district appealing? Why do people go out of their way to walk down one side of the street and not the other? Using the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan as a case study, this exploration of successful downtown streets weaves together pedestrian interviews with footage of streetscapes and sidewalk behavior to show what healthy blocks have in common.


Filed under Community, Design, Downtown, Local Economy, Planning, Retail

2 responses to “Ann Arbor Lessons

  1. Retta


    If you haven’t watched this video yet (and the lack of comments here suggests that not everybody has), I heartily recommend it–scroll to the top of this page and click on it right now!

    Not only is the video chock full of simple ideas for improving our own community, but it’s also FUN to watch. This isn’t some dry research paper–it could be on TV.

    Afterwards, I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have about how we can implement some of the video’s ideas here in our own community.

  2. MbS

    Among the rumor-teasers in the Cafritz-proposed parcel is the idea of long-term (years?), subsidized leases for independent or start-up businesses.

    Would East Campus consider this? How many units? Square footage?

    Who wants a mid-rise town center plaza chock full of chains? The best college towns “incubated unintentionally” for years, so the mix is local plus national, funky plus predictable, artisan plus manufactured, etc. Ah yes, don’t forget the eats: Fast food plus some slow, regional food should be part of the mix, too. How will this work?

    Can the beleaguered but nicely upstart college radio station find a place here? What about boutique thrift store or resale clothing? Remember Planet X? What about the Thai restaurant/morning doughnut place across from College Perk? Can we avoid Starbucks and get a local roaster in? What about a chocolate vendor like Berkeley’s famed CocoLa. I don’t think a Marxist Neo-revo bookstore will fly in CP, but how about the proposed eco-renovation of the 70s dorm-apartments in the space now?

    What practical rent schemes will draw/incubate at least a few non-chains? One consideration here for smaller “storefront” businesses selling wares is that they need cheap, relatively close warehouse space for the option of internet sales, let alone storage. Memories of Finland moved from R. 1 as web-sales provided a sustainable base.

    The cute and funky shops in Takoma Park also use warehouse space to survive, particularly the House of Musical Traditions.

    Ah, yes. Franchises DO NOT COUNT as small, independent businesses in my book.

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