The Center of the City Task Force met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss its upcoming open house, online engagement and possible installation of the DecaDome. The Task Force gathered at Larcom City Hall for its seventh meeting, a 10-person municipal committee created after local voters approved Proposal A to designate the library lot between Fifth Avenue and Division Street for plans to become a park and civic center commons.
After public comments, group member Norm Tyler presented the work of the Neighbors subgroup, which has evaluated comments from community sources by meetings, letters and email. One recommendation included having business owners and residents learn about the history of the block and evaluate favorable urban spaces, based on prepared photos, to envision possibilities for the library block. They evaluated the efficacy of this exercise in preparation for the open house.
“What we do is we have a meeting, and we show the history of the library block first, and then we have them do an interactive exercise,” Tyler said. “And then, we find that people are ready to talk. If you just went into a meeting and you said, ‘Tell us what you think about the library block,’ they probably wouldn’t be good reference points, but by taking the time, they gradually open up, and we get a lot of comments.”
John Haines, another member of the subgroup, reflected on the addition of an activity survey as well as the urban spaces survey to have community members consider the activities they’d like to have in the community space.
“The goal for us is to really generate discussion,” Haines said. “And while we did get some discussion after the urban spaces exercise, we thought maybe by describing activities people might be able to think a little bit more about what they might want to talk about.”
Next, the task force discussed the upcoming open house at the Ann Arbor District Library scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m.
The open house will host four stations: a welcome station, a definition station, an audience station and an experience station. Each station has an activity to stimulate conversation on defining the space of the library lot, considering who will use the space and how it will be used.
After discussion, Task Force Chair Meghan Musolff expressed an optimistic outlook on the upcoming event. The event will have coffee, cookies and other snacks.
“I’m feeling good about what our strategy is for this event, and we’ll see what we learn and move on from there,” Musolff said. “And as a reminder, we have another one in January, so I’m hoping, somewhere along the way, we’ll have a little bit of time to debrief to think about what we learned from this one and what our strategy might be for the next.”
The committee also talked about online public engagement to allow those who can’t make it to the event to participate, as well as discussion on the pop-up “idea pod.” The idea pod, a structure known as a DecaDome, is planned to be open in the library lot from Nov. 3 to 10 to allow community members to ask questions and share ideas. The task force is currently finalizing logistics.
This idea was initially proposed by committee member Alan Haber. The committee considered alleged pushback from community members on the idea of the DecaDome because of its cost but concluded to review its efficacy after the planned week-long trial period. Committee member Ann Dilcher said she was looking forward to the activity.
“In my mind, I think it’s an activity to do, and that it is something that can come back to if we find it to be very useful. Or something else can take its place,” Dilcher said.