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Re: SG-W:/ The Vision
You pose an interesting question.
I think downtown Ann Arbor could be a more culturally interesting and
economically vital place if additional housing - easily 500+ units - *in
the downtown core* was built in a way that didn't strain the
infrastructure of roads, parking, utilities and schools. This would be
complex, but it is quite plausible to me.
However, not every downtown development meets these standards. And some
developers have a curious habit of trying to stretch the definition of
"downtown infill" to include development in terrific natural settings well
beyond walking distance of downtown in order to try to sell their projects
as somehow "alleviating sprawl."
A current example is the proposal to build 191 condos on the Bluffs in a
forest overlooking the Huron River. This site is literally on the edge of
town - no closer to the heart of downtown than Burns Park. It would add
considerable traffic to one of the worst road spots (i.e., our
infrastructure) in the area, speeding the day when a multi-million dollar,
nature-destroying road project gets proposed. An infill project that
would lessen sprawl? No, a project that would fragment the potential
Huron River green belt, destroy wetlands and landmark trees, dump
contaminants in river, abuse the road infrastructure, and do nothing to
reduce building in the townships. It is the worst proposed project in
this town in several years, yet some claim it would "reduce sprawl." Only
in the mind of the developer's PR people.
Finally, I think many people would be more actively supportive of housing
projects in the downtown core if this had any possible real-world impact
on sprawl. But under current conditions, building downtown isn't going to
stop a single developer from building another subdivision in the
relatively unregulated townships. Someday, with real growth management
plans in place, this may be a realistic concept. Today it is only a
clever line of developer rhetoric. And last fall we saw what they thought
of the benefits of coordinated land use planning.
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