Ann Arbor

I wasn't that impressed with Ann Arbor

I was fortunate enough to be a scholarship participant on the Inter-City Visits to Madison and Ann Arbor. I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences, but I found that I am unable to stop comparing the Madison experience to the Ann Arbor experience.

This exercise, of course, is completely unfair. Mainly because, in my opinion, Madison wins. In everything. Hands down. Period. Ann Arbor doesn't stand a chance.

Madison has an abundance of natural beauty. It had a really great downtown that seemed accessable to both students and other people. It has the Overture Center, which always takes my breath away, and Madision is a hotbed for creativity and technology. It is so much what I want for Chapel Hill.

But Ann Arbor is different (duh). I didn't see anything particularly beautiful or extrodinary about it. Ann Arbor seems much more into function, rather than form. It ain't Madison, but it has its good parts.

Ann Arbor has fantastic elected leadership. Their mayor is dynamic and charismatic, and he seems to be the agent for getting a lot of really great stuff done in Ann Arbor. He has spearheaded Ann Arbor's environmental movement.

He has

Ann Arbor slide show

Ann Arbor: Missed Connections

During our tours and discussion of Ann Arbor, which were expertly organized by the staff of our Chamber of Commerce, I kept feeling like I wanted to get another two or three sides to the story.  We heard from some business, nonprofit, and government leaders - ones that were recommended to us by the Ann Arbor Chamber. All of the panelists were knowledgeable and informative.

But missing were voices of residents, students and faculty, community advocates, downtown boosters, bloggers and that much-vaunted "creative class."  Interestingly, I returned home to get several messages by e-mail and twitter from some of the very folks who felt left out of our visit! The Ann Arbor Chronicle, a new local news website not unlike the Carrboro Citizen, wrote about our visit. And Ann Arbor consultant Bill Tozier tweeted about it and shared some local frustrations on his blog:

Ann Arbor is not Chapel Hill (duh)

I took some photos today but they are truly horrible. Wlil post later. Some of my biggest impressions so far:

  1. The empty Pfizer campus, and the Chamber director talking about nearby businesses that are about to go under from losing the business from 2,000 employees & 1,000 contractors that used to work there. Are you listening Carolina North folks?
  2. There are lots of tall buildings (5 - 10 - 15 feet stories) and most of them look really nice and seem to work well. Some of them don't though. I talked with some folks tonight about how Chapel Hill lacks the regulatory tools to analyze tall buildings. How do we know how tall is "too tall", what are factors that make it work or make it fail? One local suggested that I meet a woman from their downtown commission, but I'm really more interested in the perspective of a City Council or Planning Board type.

Inter-city prep

Last week I was at Mayor Chilton's office in Carrboro talking about how to make the most of the Inter-City Visit to Ann Arbor (which my fingers keep misspelling "Ann Arrboro"). He suggested checking out some local blogs and we started Googling away. I only found one (Arbor Update) that seemed like OP, but there are definitely some interesting sites, although several haven't been updated since this summer.



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