After a week of soliciting community feedback through a pop-up DecaDome in Ann Arbor’s Library Lot, the Center of the City Task Force met at Larcom City Hall on Wednesday to discuss residents’ ideas. The task force, formed after voters approved to amend the City Charter, has been working to decide how to make use of the Fifth Avenue site.
According to Meghan Mussolff, committee chair of the Center of the City task force, the committee has been meeting for about four months and is halfway through its allotted time to formulate a decision on the space. Mussolff took time during the meeting to thank the group for their effort to gather community feedback thus far.
“I think we’ve done a tremendous amount of work and good work to come together and really move the conversation forward,” Mussolff said. “We now have the luxury of having a lot of feedback.”
Heather Seyfarth, project manager of the task force and an Ann Arbor city manager, reported an online survey posted on Nov. 12 received 247 responses within 24 hours. The survey will be open until Dec. 6. The group is now transitioning toward compiling this data to formulate an understanding on how Ann Arbor residents want the space to be utilized.
The main obstacle facing the task force is efficiently reviewing the feedback. Task force member Norman Tyler suggested delegating blocks of survey responses to be reviewed by each member. Tyler deemed it unnecessary for each person to read every response and explained a common consensus among members that time was becoming a looming constraint.
Vocal critics of this comment included task force member Alan Haber and Ann Arbor resident Odile Hugonot-Haber. Though most members expressed awareness minority voices were missing in the group, Haber said Ann Arbor residents were generally not aware of the city’s activity around the “Center of City” and the task force should focus on informing residents about their activity. He and member John Haines were assigned to a subcommittee tasked with producing an informative pamphlet to be sent as target mail to the community.
“Of the people we talked to at the DecaDome, very few of them knew what was going on,” Haber said. “I did not get a sense that Ann Arbor people know what’s happening. This returns to my sense that we should be sending out some sort of invitation or report to the whole community. And basically, we’re dealing not with a base that has thought about this at all.”
During the Center of the City Task Force’s next two meetings, selected residents in Ann Arbor will be invited to share their input on the project. Invited speakers will include business owners, a representative from the police department and other voices the group felt had not yet been represented.
Feeling community backing for a new park was not being acknowledged enough, Hugonot-Haber spoke to the task force about the advantages this addition to Ann Arbor would bring. Citing benefits such as common space interaction and cultural enrichment,
“In the city itself, the people are a tremendous resource,” Hugonot-Haber said. “They have many ideas and solutions to problems, and we should capitalize more on the resource we have within our city.”
Hugonot-Haber, who disagreed with task force member and LSA senior Hannah Boettcher’s dissent of a formal partnership with the Ann Arbor Library Green Conservancy, urged the task force to favor partnership with the group in its future activity with decision-making.
“I can understand you guys don’t want to do things together, but at least it should be, when you talk about them it should be a little more respectful,” Hugonot-Haber said. “If not, I think you’re doing a good job, and I hope you get very excited because it’s a very cutting edge work that you are doing, and I think it will make a big difference.”