Planning for Green Space in Ann Arbor – No Walk in the Park
Parks are such an important part of the Ann Arbor landscape that every five years, the city’s master plan for the parks is reviewed and updated. In preparation for an October meeting of the park advisory commission, planner Amy Kuras is holding focus groups, surveying residents, and holding public meetings about the Parks and Recreation Open Space (PROS) plan before it is voted on by the parks advisory commission and city council and submitted for state approval. The meetings have been lively so far, and certainly illustrate that planning for green space in Ann Arbor is no walk in the park.
The process, however, shows a lot about how issues that concern citizens and the future development of the city are handled in Ann Arbor. Ms. Kuras asks substantive questions and wants thoughtful responses from the public. Clearly, the goal is to have an Ann Arbor that includes planned green space, with amenities that are kid friendly, attractive, and useful to all. After all, many people may move to Ann Arbor to attend or work at the University of Michigan or local companies; they stay because they get hooked on all Ann Arbor has to offer.
With several issues under debate, one of the most crucial is whether there should be more open space in downtown that is designated as parkland.
Downtown Ann Arbor is currently an entertainment destination, the scene to many festivals and events and home to many great restaurants, galleries, and retail outlets. Should large areas also be devoted to parks? Should random vacant lots be turned into “pocket parks”? Given the price of downtown land, should building a park always prevail versus commercially developing the land?
Currently, a debate is underway about how to develop the surface of an underground parking structure under construction for the library. There could be a plaza there, as well as on 415 acres at W. Washington. The former YMCA is now a surface parking lot on land worth millions; continuing to use the land this way or turning it into a park would sacrifice exciting downtown development. Is this a good use of these areas?
Who would use a downtown park? Residents who live outside of downtown might be more likely to take their kids to a more local park – though some have said they want a park downtown. Even if people did use the park, the usage would be daytime only – a concern in a hip downtown area. Some small parks in the city are barely used now.
Advocates of green space in urban areas cite the European example of pedestrian parks and pedestrian malls as a model for Ann Arbor and suggest this would work in downtown. In Europe, more people live downtown than do here. Those who do might want to take a run in the park, but having large areas of green space would make it inconvenient to walk to new restaurants and services. Downtown merchants do not like having streets closed as pedestrian malls. This is currently done for Ann Arbor festivals, but merchants regard them as dead space, not conducive to creating a lively vibrant area.
One current planning commissioner Tony Derezinski even quipped that since graveyards currently provide green space, residents might “bring a basket to the casket.” This illustrates that there is in fact, green space developed for other uses that still contribute to the overall look and feel of the city. Even open land at the university might be considered part of overall open space.
The full article at AnnArbor.com presents the interesting debate on downtown land use. At this point, it is likely that a targeted plan for downtown green space will emerge that will consider programming, parks, public art, and the like.
In the meantime, another meeting to discuss broader park zoning issues will take place Tuesday, June 29 at 7 p.m. at Cobblestone Farm Barn, 2781 Packard Road. The current 232-page PROS plan (a 10MB .pdf file) can be downloaded from the city’s website.
Ann Arbor is clearly a city where your voice will influence the future of the city. Be part of the debate! Martin Bouma – your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert – can find you Ann Arbor real estate in the heart of all. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. Interested in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood? Call the Bouma Group today! And don’t forget to check out our Condo Hotline – we’ve got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market.
Posted Sunday, June 27, 2010 by Martin Bouma
Eat Your Way Around the World in Ann Arbor
In a city like Ann Arbor, with restaurants to satisfy any palate, it is easy to fall into the pattern of frequenting a few favorites while ignoring the rest. Willing to move from your culinary comfort zone? This week, June 20-25, the Main Street Area Association is holding its semi-annual restaurant week, enticing you to sample international cuisine from 33 local restaurants. For a flat rate of $25 for dinner and $12 for lunch, you can literally eat your way around the world this week. The flat rate excludes beverages, tax, and tip, of course; you can order off the menus at any restaurant as well. Some places are offering 2 for 1 deals.
Hard to decide where to start? The 33 participating restaurants include all of the 2010 Taste of Ann Arbor Award winners, so you might want to start by sampling these winners:
BEST OF SHOW
: The Black Pearl for their incredible fish tacos...
: Once again, The Black Pearl for the fish tacos...
Real Seafood Company for their shrimp and scallop skewer lightly dressed with pineapple and apricot salsa...
Conor O'Neill's Traditional Irish Pub for their homemade rich and delicious bread pudding...
WEMU TASTER'S CHOICE:
Cafe Felix for their melt-in-your mouth mini crab cakes...
If you're in the mood for a burger, you can enjoy a good one at the Blue Tractor, but remember, Restaurant Week is about diversity. You can enjoy a stay-cation and feel like you have traveled the world.
- The Earle - award-winning French and Italian country cuisine.
- Mahek Indian Cuisine - well seasoned vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian delights. Want to compare this food to other Indian restaurants? Try Shalimar, specializing in North Indian, Tandoori, and Mughlai dishes, or Mercy's, which offers Burmese fare.
- Melange - Eurasian eclectic cuisine served in a casually sophisticated atmosphere that makes it one of the Top Bars in the country in 2008, according to the Editors of Nightclub & Bar Magazine.
- The Prickly Pear - southwest and Mexican delights, including their sought-after scallops and buffalo enchiladas. Bandito's California Style and Sabor Latino offer popular Mexican cuisine too.
- Café Habana - award-winning Cuban food. No joke, this restaurant has been winning awards and winning customers since it opened in 2007.
- The Chop House - if elegant American cuisine is what you seek, the Chop House excels.
- Logan - also features New American cuisine influenced by French. Latin American, European, and Asian cultures and wxquitely executed by Chef Thad Gillies. One of my favoirtes, Logan has a SoHo feel to it.
- Looking for a new hangout? The Arbor Brewing Company or Vinology welcome you with locally brewed beer or a wide selection of wine - and invite you to come back frequently.
The choices abound, with Greek, Italian, Ethiopian, Japanese, Thai, and more rounding out the June 2010 Restaurant Week list. There are many more great restaurants in the city, such as another favorite of mine, the elegant and sophisticated West End Grill, but Restaurant Week will introduce you to a few of them - and perhaps re-introduce you to exciting downtown Ann Arbor.
Do you want to move to a city where there is always a lot happening? Martin Bouma - your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert - can meet virtually all of yourAnn Arbor real estate needs. Located just a couple blocks from where Restaurant Week is happening, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor and show you the finest in downtown - or suburban - living. Whether you're buying or selling a home, Interested in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood, call the Bouma Group today! And don't forget to check out our Condo Hotline - we've got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market .
Posted Tuesday, June 22, 2010 by Martin Bouma
Ann Arbor Struts Its Cultural Stuff
Summer is the time when Ann Arbor really struts its stuff. Beginning with the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, June 18 - July 11, downtown Ann Arbor is particularly welcoming to visitors as the area plays host to over 100 events. This festival centers on music, while the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, which start next month, shift the emphasis to art.
Originally a showcase for classical music and theater, the Summer Festival now features a mix of all styles, from jazz to disco, rock to ethnic genres, plus other family entertainment. Held in the area between Thayer, North University, and Fletcher streets, the festival includes an exciting mix of music, movies, dance, food, and hands-on activities for all. There will be paid-admission indoor performances at Power Center and Hill Auditorium and free outdoor concerts on Ingalls Mall. .
This year is the 27th year for the festival which strives "to present a world-class celebration of arts and entertainment that enriches the cultural, economic, and social vitality of the region." To this end, the festival appeals to the diverse population of the city and even has theme nights to stress different cultures. "The Ann Arbor Summer Festival offers an energetic mix of regional, national, and international artists of all disciplines," according to Executive Director of the Festival Robb Woulfe. He encourages visitors to "Catch a great band, a movie al fresco, dancing in the street, skateboarders flying through the air, fringe performances, fantastic indoor concerts, and a variety of family attractions."
To experience the flavor of the Ann Arbor cultural scene, plan on being a frequent attendee at the Summer Festival going on now through July 11. Like the area so much you want to settle here? Martin Bouma - your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert - can meet virtually all of your Ann Arbor real estate needs. Whether you're buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. Interested in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood? Call the Bouma Group today! And don't forget to check out our Condo Hotline - we've got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market.
P.S. - Events for this weekend represent the full schedule of events:
June 18 -- First Friday (Opening Night)
5 p.m. Kidzone
5 p.m. Body Masterpiece Extreme Face Painters
5 p.m. Tokyo Sexwhale
7 p.m. Mucca Pazza
8:45 p.m. My Dear Disco
10:30 p.m. After Dark with DJ Body Rock
June 19 - Salsa Saturday
5 p.m. Kidzone
5 p.m. Body Masterpiece Extreme Face Painters
5 p.m. ReTreat featuring: Rope Yoga (mind/body sessions on the lawn)
5 p.m. Grassrootz Teen Stage featuring Community High School
6:30 p.m. Saoco
8 p.m. "Come Together," 50 years of The Beatles
8:30 p.m. Orquesta Sensacional
10:30 p.m. After Dark with DJ Nick Ayers
4 p.m. Acoustic Café Live
5 p.m. Kidzone
5 p.m. Body Masterpiece Extreme Face Painters
5 p.m. Tsars
6:30 p.m. Jill Jack Band
8:00 p.m. JJ Grey & Mofro
10 p.m. "Star Trek"
Posted Friday, June 18, 2010 by Martin Bouma
Ashley Terrace Offers the Best in Downtown Ann Arbor Living
Located in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor at the corner of West Huron and North Ashley, the Ashley Terrace condominiums are 10 stories of luxury and convenience, rising above 10,000 square feet of retail space and 16,500 square feet of office space. The condos are the perfect type of Ann Arbor real estate for the young professional who wants to live and work in a vibrant urban center near 30 cosmopolitan restaurants, shopping, farmer’s markets, culture, and the University of Michigan. Currently, The Bouma Group is listing several units that illustrate the variety of price points and floor plans available – but the flavor of the neighborhood is available to all.
After awakening to a beautiful downtown view, you can enjoy your morning coffee at Vinology or Café Felix on S. Main. To set the tone for the day, you might work out at the nearby YMCA, find your inner peace at the Ann Arbor School of Yoga, or enjoy a massage at The Relax Station down the block. If work is your next stop, public transit is very accessible if your job is beyond a comfortable walking distance.
Maybe it’s your day to food shop. Just a few blocks away, in Kerrytown, you can pick up your staples at the People’s Food Co-Op or visit the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market in the next block. After picking up some specialty meats at Sparrow’s Meat Market, you might decide to treat yourself to a sandwich at Zingerman’s Deli. While you‘re there, you can order a Reuben Sandwich Kit as a gift for your sister in Chicago to prove to her that Ann Arbor really does do corned beef better.
At dinnertime, a short walk will take you on a journey far beyond Ann Arbor in your choice of cuisine. The Heidleberg Restaurant on N. Main offers German and American specialties, while The Palio specializes in roadside Italian. Craving Indian, Mediterranean, or Japanese? Walk a block or two from home and it’s on the table. Can’t decide? The Zanzibar on S. State Street offers it all in international or good old American cuisine. Don’t feel like cooking in your gourmet kitchen or going out? Ann Arbor takeout abounds.
Man (or woman) does not live by bread alone, so when it is culture you seek, the Performance Network Theater across the street offers live Broadway hits. Looking for a piece of art as the focal point of your living room? There are four galleries within walking distance, including the Ann Arbor Arts Center where you can view and purchase local art - or make some of your own.
At day’s end, if you want to chill, you can enjoy a locally brewed beer at the Arbor Brewing Company or take in some varied music at Live at PJ’s or Goodnight Gracie.
The Ashley Terrace Condominiums offers the bounty of downtown living to its residents. In time, services will be even more convenient as the onsite retail and office space is filled. If this sounds like your kind of place, Martin Bouma – your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert – can show you units that are currently for sale and meet virtually all of your Ann Arbor real estate needs Whether you’re buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. Interested in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood? Call the Bouma Group today! And don’t forget to check out our Condo Hotline – we’ve got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market.
Posted Wednesday, June 16, 2010 by Martin Bouma
Green Building for Cool Cities Tour Coming to Ann Arbor This Weekend
The "Green Buildings for Cool Cities" tour, sponsored by The Sierra Club and The U.S. Green Building Council, will unveil exciting housing possibililities in Ann Arbor this Saturday and Sunday, June 12 & 13. As the world becomes increasingly environmentally conscientious, you may be thinking of buying a new green home – or finding a home to make it more green – right here in Ann Arbor or the surrounding area. Offering guided tours each day from 9am-3pm (with self-guided tours until 5pm each day), this tour is an opportunity to learn about energy efficient, sustainable home building methods directly from the builders and architects who made them that way. You'll experience the inner workings of homes that work hard to keep their owners, communities, and the earth safe and healthy.
Ann Arbor has been resolutely becoming greener, making it attractive to homeowners concerned with protecting the environment. In 1990, during his first year in office, Mayor John Hieftje signed the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement; he issued the Mayor's Green Challenge, and he founded the Annual Mayor's Green Fair on Main Street (see below). The eight homes showcased on the tour – found at locations throughout the city – all share commonalities which support these initiatives. Ranging from a ranch-style to a 4,000 square foot home designed to showcase green building (with annual heating and cooling costs of only $1,200!) to a home styled to look like a 1920s era Craftsman, the tour promises something for everyone.
Ann Arbor has more LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum level homes per capita than any other metropolitan area in the United States, according to Michael Klement, an Ann Arbor architect and tour planner. LEED is the national standard for measuring green building. The tour homes all feature shared elements such as geothermal heating and cooling systems and dual flush toilets. The homes all focus on efficient use of space, maximum use of natural daylight, respect for flora and fauna when selecting a site, and efficient use of space.
Locally, the Green Building Tour is sponsored by the Ann Arbor Ecology Center and is being held in conjunction with the Mayor’s Green Fair this evening on South Main Street downtown. Come out and discover creative and beautiful ways to go green. If you want the inside scoop on green features in Ann Arbor homes, Martin Bouma – your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert – is your man. He can meet virtually all of your Ann Arbor real estate needs. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. Interested in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood? Call the Bouma Group today! And don’t forget to check out our Condo Hotline – we’ve got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market.
Posted Friday, June 11, 2010 by Martin Bouma
Ann Arbor Real Estate Market Update, June 2010
The one really interesting trend that we are noticing in the Ann Arbor real estate market is that the housing inventory is actually decreasing as we head into late Spring and Summer. This is normally a time when inventory should be increasing. There has been an overall drop in inventory of 8% from last month. In the beginning of May there were 841 homes listed for sale in Ann Arbor. In the beginning of June, there were 774 homes listed for sale. A contributing factor to the decrease in inventory is that many home owners owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth, forcing them to stay put for now.
The decrease in inventory isn’t spread evenly throughout the market. Every price range under $600,000 has seen a decrease in inventory, ranging from a decrease of 20% in the $100,000 – $200,000 price range, to a decrease of 6% in the $400,000 – $500,000 price range. Once you get above $600,000, inventory has increased over last month. In the $800,000 – $1,000,000 price range there has been a 20% increase in inventory, and only 1 home went under contract in the past 30 days.
Up to $400,000 there is less than an 8 months supply of housing which is a good sign – basically a balanced market. Above $400,000, the months supply is over 8 months and begins to climb which each price bracket increasing to 41.3 months when you get over $1,000,000.
What does this all mean? Based on basic supply and demand, this tells us that there is continuing downward pressure on pricing once you get over $400,000. Under $400,000 the combination of decreasing inventory, and decreasing months supply of housing to under 8 months, all points to stabilization and maybe even slight upwards pressure on pricing. Over $400,000, the increasing inventory and the months supply of housing being over 8 months is putting upwards pressure on pricing.
So is the market getting better? It all depends on what price niche you’re in. Under $400,000 look for the market improving slightly. Over $400,000 the trends point to a decreasing market. In the real 3state market, if there is less than a 5 months supply of homes on the market, you are in a seller’s market. A 5-7 month supply of homes is a balanced market. Anything over 7 months is a buyer’s market. As you’ll notice from the stats below, prices appear to have stabilized under 400K, however, there is still downward pressure on prices once you get above 400K.
It all depends on what price niche you’re in. Under $400,000 look for the market improving slightly. Over $400,000 the trends point to a decreasing market. In the real 3state market, if there is less than a 5 months supply of homes on the market, you are in a seller’s market. A 5-7 month supply of homes is a balanced market. Anything over 7 months is a buyer’s market. As you’ll notice from the stats below, prices appear to have stabilized under 400K, however, there is still downward pressure on prices once you get above 400K.
ZIP Codes: 48103, 48104, 48105, 48108
Approximate Location Boundaries: Ann Arbor School District
Location Characteristics: Ann Arbor has many distinct neighborhoods that offer a variety of home buying opportunities. The area is a cultural Mecca with many performance centers and theaters, live music, dance groups, libraries, museums, parks, & farmer’s markets. It is considered the education capital of the Midwest because it is home to the University of Michigan, one of the country’s top universities. The Ann Arbor area offers one of the most varied menus of restaurants in the state with Main Street as one of Michigan’s best places to eat, people watch and shop. In July, Ann Arbor is host to the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, which is among the nation’s top street festivals and takes up nearly all of the downtown area. Artists and shoppers travel from all over the country to attend this yearly event. Ann Arbor is a great place to live!
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About Martin Bouma:
Martin Bouma is the dynamic team leader of the Ann Arbor Real Estate Team, The Bouma Group of Keller Williams Realty. Implementing a barrage of technology tools makes Martin stand out in a sea of real estate professionals. Martin and his team use these online and offline tools for one purpose alone – so Washtenaw County home buyers and sellers succeed! He provides superior work ethic and solid dedication to his clients and what separates him from the amateurs is his thorough knowledge of the market, pricing and negotiating skills, and strong team who ensures ultimate success is achieved for their buyers and sellers.
Posted Wednesday, June 09, 2010 by Martin Bouma
Ann Arbor Area Military Contractors are Thriving
By increasing their own flexibility and, in at least one case, taking greater advantage of existing relationships with the University of Michigan's artificial intelligence laboratory, Ann Arbor military contractors are creatively flourishing. As these companies thrive, the prospect of increased job opportunities in the area means great things for the Ann Arbor real estate market.
Building on Ann Arbor's 1999 designation as an "IT Zone," SoarTech Industries, has shifted its focus from futuristic research to research aimed at delivering more immediate technology for the military. SoarTech is gaining recognition for its development of digitally simulated aircraft control systems. The company was one of only 11 out of 471 contenders to win the U.S. Department of Defense's Army Achievement Award, which honors Small Business Innovation Research projects. SoarTech hopes to attract partners - such as major military contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing - to help them gain a government deal allowing their aircraft control system to be designed for commercial use.
In a similar show of flexibility, Saline-based Sun Engineering, about 75% of whose business has been designing and coordinating manufacturing projects for military contractors since 1996, now wants to start manufacturing goods itself. That's the reason for the company's recent purchase of the long-dormant R&B building for $1.3 million. Sun Engineering plans to start manufacturing missile defense support equipment shortly, and hopes to grow from 15 employees to 27 by the end of the year. This is terrific news for Saline!
When companies like these expand their horizons in the Ann Arbor area, they hire more workers, which increases the demand for Ann Arbor real estate. The influx of new workers also keeps the city vibrant.
Maybe you're planing to relocate to Ann Arbor in connection with one of these or another military contractors, or perhaps you're already in the city but would like to be closer to this exciting action. Martin Bouma - your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert - can meet virtually all of your Ann Arbor real estate needs. Whether you're buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. Interested in Washtenaw County, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood? Call the Bouma Group today! And don't forget to check out our Condo Hotline - we've got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market.
Posted Friday, June 04, 2010 by Martin Bouma
Ann Arbor is Revitalizing South State Street Business Corridor
The State Street area has, for over 150 years, offered a rich array of goods, services and Ann Arbor real estate situated near the main campus of the University of Michigan. From the annual State Street Art Fair in July to a quick sandwich at Potbelly to the perfect condo to call "home," State Street provides virtually everything today's savvy urban dweller needs and wants.
Although the economy has taken a toll on businesses across the nation and in Ann Arbor, confidence is growing as the South State Street business corridor begins to revitalize. Pittsfield Township officials are actively and aggressively seeking to grow the job market and overcome numerous vacancies, restoring the fiscal health of the area. According to Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal, area officials are "getting out there and outlining the benefits to businesses of locating" in the community.
According to Paula Gardner of AnnArbor.com, "Pittsfield Township shares the region's largest office market with Ann Arbor" where "5.7 million square feet of offices and high-tech ‘flex' space clusters around South State Street." And while many buildings are vacant at the moment, the township's bid for a Costco and the selection of the area by Systems in Motion (an information technology services company) to locate 1,100 jobs offer new hope for the area.
If you're a committed city dweller who enjoys the fast pace of life in the heart of things, you'll want to seriously consider the Briarcrest Condominiums, located between South Main and South State Streets. Nicely situated and offering plenty of privacy, Briarcrest Condos come with spacious floor plans, fireplaces, and proximity to both Ward Park and Briarwood Mall.
For information about Briarcrest - or any other condominium in Ann Arbor, call Martin Bouma, your Ann Arbor real estate expert, today. Check out our Condo Hotline to get a handle on the Ann Arbor condo market. The Bouma Group can find the perfect real estate for you in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. Let the top Ann Arbor real estate team move you into the heart of the city; call them now at 734-761-3060.
Posted Tuesday, June 01, 2010 by Martin Bouma