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Archives for January 12, 2016

Beer garden, soccer park projects among finalists for slice of $5M cash pot

A pop-up beer garden tour and a new park for soccer are among the ideas in the running for a slice of a $5 million cash pot for projects designed to make cities “more successful.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is running a three-year project giving out $15 million to winning ideas put forward by nonprofits, government bodies and urban planners from 26 cities where the Knight Brothers used to own newspapers – which includes St. Paul and Duluth.

More than 4,500 applications were submitted in the second year of the giveaway, with every one designed to either help their cities attract or keep its “best and brightest,” break down social and economic divides, or spur community engagement and involvement.

The foundation on Tuesday announced 158 finalists, with 10 of these from St. Paul, three from Duluth and one a joint venture between the two cities.

Here’s a look at St. Paul’s:

  • Taking Down Fences, Celebrating New Space Together: The Truth for Public Land wants to turn a vacant lot in the Central Corridor into a park for soccer and other pursuits.
  • More Than a Single Continent: An Intellectual Tour of Little Africa: African Economic Development Solutions wants to use food, music and discussions at restaurants to boost community engagement and break down barriers in the Little Africa neighborhood.
  • Bright Collective: This project would see the creation of a community “catalogue of experts” enabling residents to learn more about various subjects.
  • It’s Cool: St. Paul’s Planning and Economic Development department wants to install heaters and other equipment at public spaces to make it more comfortable for the community to share meals and mingle.
  • Front Lawn Placemaking: The Musicant Group wants money to help people transform the “empty expanses of grass” in their front yards to make them “vibrant places full of life.”
  • St. Paul veloCITY Academy: The City of St. Paul has partnered with GovLoop and Textizen to use text messaging and other communication to “inspire and equip emerging leaders.”
  • Civic Shed: St. Paul Riverfront Corp. wants to put together a set of landscaping tools and seating that can be used by community groups to improve their neighborhoods.
  • Welcome Neighbor: Provides new immigrants to the city with a resource packet with local information helping them acclimate to life in Minnesota.
  • Neighborhood Beer Garden Tour: The Planning and Economic Development Department has another idea, this one creating pop-up beer gardens in each of the city’s 17 neighborhoods, encouraging residents to visit different areas.
  • I’m Going to Vote Today! Distributing “I’m Going to Vote Today” stickers to encourage participation on voting day.

Here are the submissions from Duluth:

  • industrial PARK: The Design Duluth Collaborative and University of Minnesota wants to open up trails and open spaces along the St. Louis River, improving the waterfront and boosting the community of Irving.
  • Opening the Can of Worms: Creating better open public spaces in the Lincoln Park neighborhood to promote business and increase activity.
  • Wheels That Lived to Move: Providing artistic, refurbished road bikes at bus stops to generate music or heat through pedaling.

The joint submission that would benefit both cities is the Voting Simulator, seeing digital games created to encourage millennials and other people navigate the voting process.

The winning projects are likely to be announced in March.

Article source: http://bringmethenews.com/2016/01/12/beer-garden-soccer-park-projects-among-finalists-for-slice-of-5m-cash-pot/

Residents Give Wish List For When Englewood Gets Its Own Bloomingdale Trail

Englewood Line Nature Trail

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ENGLEWOOD — When Englewood gets its own version of the widely-popular 606/Bloomingdale Trail, residents want to see not just an elevated trail, but also an outdoor theater, community gardens and safer nearby intersections.

Those were some of the ideas that came out of a brainstorming session Monday night in Englewood, as planners gathered residents to talk about the impending trail, tentatively called “The Englewood Line.” 

Many shared their ideas, as well as concerns, at the first community participation event, led by Grow Greater Englewood. The proposed eco trail would be a 1.7-mile-long park and trail system on an unused rail line in Englewood.

The elevated railroad is between 58th and 59th streets, from Wallace to Hoyne. The nature trail would be similar to the 606 parks system, which includes the Bloomingdale Trail former rail line, on the North Side. Funding would be a mix of public and private dollars.

The trail in Englewood would reclaim an old rail line.

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The discussion took place at Feed, Clothe and Help the Needy, 1234 W. 59th Street. Attendees were asked to break into small groups and participate in three interactive sessions: the vision and design of the trail, job opportunities with Greencorps and a public safety survey as part of a Health Impact Assessment.

“It’s their project so at the end of the day, if it’s going to be used, then the community needs to do the designing,” said Scott Goldstein, principal of Teska Associates, an urban planning firm.

Teska is working with the community and local businesses to provide input into the design and implementation of a nature trail. The City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development is leading the trail conversion effort and has contracted Teska Associates to handle project management.

Goldstein called the ideas “terrific” and said that it’s important for the community to be apart of the process from the beginning.

The nature park is “desperately” needed, said Englewood resident Bernita Thomas. “It’ll be an enhancement for the community.”

She participated in all three interactive sessions and was vocal at each one.

“I want to bring something different,” she told the vision and design group.

Instead of the usual classes that are offered through the Chicago Park District, Thomas wants to see something “new and invigorating.”

The proposed eco trail would be a 1.7-mile-long park and trail system on an unused rail line in Englewood. 

Some of her ideas focus around people with disabilities. Thomas would like to see room for a pop-up shop so those with disabilities who make crafts can sell them.

With the Englewood Line Nature Trail will come jobs, which Robert Griffin is “happy” to hear. He said bringing jobs to the community will help decrease the violence.

Greencorps Chicago is a green-industry paid job training program. Trainees would receive both classroom and hands-on training in horticulture, tree care, ecological restoration and environmental health and safety. Eligibility requirements: at least 18, Chicago resident and pass ongoing drug screening.

Curtis McKinney is project coordinator over the job training program and said there are more jobs in this industry than potential applicants. Not enough people are going after these jobs, he said. Basic landscaping jobs can pay $10 an hour, but the specialized jobs can pay anywhere from $12-17 an hour, he said. If they get a job with the Forest Preserve, they can see an annual salary of at least $41,000.

McKinney said Greencorps is looking to diversify the green-industry. They encourage everyone to apply, even those with felonies.

“We will help people overcome those barriers,” he said.

This is some of the space that would get transformed into a nature trail. 

It was more than Englewood residents who joined in on the brainstorming session. Cynthia Hudson, community liaison for Active Transportation Alliance, made her concerns known.

“The big thing for me is access,” she told DNAinfo. “I want to make sure people feel safe and they have access. Some of these streets around the trail are dangerous.”

She said that a campaign last year listed the 63rd and Halsted intersection as one of the top 10 dangerous intersections in the city.

Hudson is planning to do a walkability assessment and is looking for people to join her. She doesn’t have a date set yet, but says people can contact her either by phone, 312-216-0464 or through email, cynthia@activetrans.org.

Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago) is also the executive director of Grow Greater Englewood. The goal of the meeting was to get feedback from the community, she said.

“This is kind of the kickoff because we want to keep them engaged over a period of time as we work to figure out what the trail would look like, what it would be like and who it would be for,” Harper said.

Her vision for the trail: “I would just like a nice haven, a quiet place to walk, maybe take your dog for a walk and to just enjoy nature and feel peace.”

She also envisions it being a safe gathering space for neighbors and a place for children to play and learn more about nature.

Englewood  “deserves” this trail, she said.

“This isn’t even a new idea,” said Harper. “This is something that was put on the books a long time ago and just kind of sat there. Grow Greater Englewood, with the help of the city, is helping to revive this for the sake of residents. We need stuff to happen and we need it to happen right now in our community.”

Goldstein from Teska said he would like to see construction begin as early as this summer.

For more information on Englewood Line, people can visit the website at www.Englewoodline.org.

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here:

Article source: https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160112/englewood/residents-give-wish-list-for-when-englewood-gets-its-own-bloomingdale-trail

St. Paul beer gardens, outdoor heaters and 8 other ideas vying for reality – TwinCities.com

The Knight Foundation has picked 10 St. Paul projects as finalists for a relatively new grant program known as the Knight Cities Challenge.

For the second year in a row, St. Paul received an inordinate amount of interest from judges: A total 158 finalists were picked out of 4,566 candidates from 26 cities nationwide. The finalists now compete for a portion, if any, of a $5 million grant pool.

The challenge asked applicants to come up with projects that focused on at least one of three issues: attracting and retaining talent to the city, boosting economic opportunity, and strengthening civic engagement.

Winners will be picked in late March or early April by a panel of 12 judges. Knight Foundation officials said there isn’t a finite number of winners, as it will depend on the amount awarded to each.

Last year — the year the challenge kicked off — there were 32 winners, including four in St. Paul.

When asked if any applications stood out in his mind, George Abbott, interim program director for St. Paul, pointed to a project called Bright Collective, submitted by resident Kris Huson. The project would attempt to catalog local experts on a variety of topics, whom residents could then look up and take advantage of.

“I like the idea of seeing beyond the surface of a community to find the underlying talent,” Abbott said. “I’m excited to see if they have the chops to pull it off.”

Other finalist projects include:

— A plan to transform a vacant lot along St. Paul’s Central Corridor into a park for soccer or other activities, submitted by resident Hilary Smith.

— A series of events featuring food, music and discussions at restaurants in St. Paul’s Little Africa neighborhood, in an effort to increase cultural understanding, submitted by resident Gene Gelgelu.

— A plan to install heaters “and other infrastructure to make the environment more comfortable for people to gather and share meals and conversation” in the fall and early spring, submitted by the city of St. Paul.

— A plan to offer “toolkits” to residents to turn their front lawns into more vibrant “community hubs,” submitted by resident Max Musicant.

— A plan to supply communal tools for altering public spaces, such as landscaping elements and seating, for use by local community groups, submitted by St. Paul Riverfront Corp.

— A plan to offer resource packets to new immigrants, offering information on events, services and stores that might help them acclimate to life in Minnesota, submitted by resident Tousue Vang.

— A plan to create “pop-up beer gardens” in each of St. Paul’s 17 neighborhoods, to encourage residents to visit different parts of the city, submitted by the city of St. Paul.

— A plan to distribute stickers that read “I’m Going to Vote Today” to eligible voters to wear on Election Day, in an attempt to increase voter turnout, submitted by resident Aaron Sackett.

— A plan to provide focused tutorials for “emerging leaders” in city government, to help them use online tools and text programs to better connect with local residents, submitted by the city of St. Paul.

Tad Vezner can be reached at 651-228-5461 or follow him on Twitter @SPnoir.

Article source: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_29373276/from-beer-gardens-shared-tools-st-paul-has

Tips for the armchair gardener

Winter doesn’t lend itself to spending many hours outdoors in the garden, so what better time is there to spend time perusing gardening catalogs and reading books about gardening than winter? Find yourself a comfy chair, maybe even one with a good view of the garden, and settle in for some reading

Gardening is full of practices ad and products that simply don’t work, and gardening blogger Linda Chalker-Scott debunks gardening myths with sound, scientific-based practices in How Plants Work. Using real-life situtations and a conversational style, Chalker-Scott makes the science of growing things simple for home gardeners. Readers of this book will be able to make more informed choices in gardening practices.

If the farm to table movement interests you, Dan Barber’s new book The Third Plate is worth checking out. Barber is an executive chef and a leader in the farm to table dining movement. Barber uses firsthand farming experience and lessons learned from the kitchen to gardening, farming and fishing practices around the world. He discusses how we eat and how that relates to our ecosystem.

Many gardeners are also writers, and writer Vita Sackville-West is well known for transforming Sissinghurst from a sad, old English estate to a flourishing garden. Using information from Sackville-West’s writings, author Sarah Raven tells the story of the garden in the book Sissinghurst. Detailed field notes and a complete plant index are also part of this book about one of the most well known gardens in the world.

Want to grow some fruit trees in your backyard? Check out Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy Harvest, Fruit Trees, a new Story Publishing book. Like all Story books, this one provides practical pruning and care techniques for productive fruit trees that are less than six feet tall. Get this book before you even get started because it also provides advice on choosing cultivars, too!

Backyard greenhouses seem to be quite popular with gardeners these days. Gardeners are using greenhouses for growing throughout the year and for seed and plant cultivation. Author Roger Marshall has a new book – The Greenhouse Gardener’s Manual – the provides the nuts and bolts for utilizing a home greenhouse. Although technical, this book will not overwhelm readers with too much technical information.

Author Craig LeHoullier has taken his love of the tomato to a whole new level with Epic Tomatoes. This new book covers the history of the fruit. (Did you know it was once considered poisonous?) LeHoullier, a former chemist, also dissects pH, soil, caging, spacing mulching, and everything else related to growing what he considers to be the garden’s best fruit. This book is detailed but interesting and well thought out for lovers of the tomato garden.

Article source: http://www.houstonherald.com/columns/guest_columns/tips-for-the-armchair-gardener/article_a915be62-b8a3-11e5-86b4-f311a05fa79a.html

Can a Professionally Designed Garden Add Value to Your Home?

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown – the landscape architect renowned for designing over 170 country house estates and gardens during the 18th century. His elegant style of undulating parkland and serpentine lakes can still be seen at dozens of locations, including Blenheim Palace and Stowe.

Capability Brown’s legacy lies at the heart of our passion for gardens. Outdoor spaces enrich our lives – whether it’s a family garden to engage children with the real world, a water garden to attract wildlife or a ‘garden room’ in which to escape, relax and entertain.

A well-designed garden with ‘wow factor’ can also add significant value to your property. According to Peter Rollings, CEO of London estate agents Marsh Parsons, “A town house in the capital with a good garden greatly adds value to that property – by as much as 20%. In exclusive places such as Notting Hill, strikingly similar properties can have an astounding 40% price discrepancy simply because one boasts an outdoor space.”

“Selling a house is all about standing out from the crowd,” says Rollings. “Designer gardens add something special that can’t be recreated elsewhere.”

2016-01-04-1451914779-6708860-KnightFrankcitygarden.jpg
This property sold by Knight Frank in central Oxford featured a tiny walled garden designed by Sarah Naybour to include a stunning parterre.

Garden designer Marcus Barnett has noticed that the demand for good garden design has increased substantially in recent years. “People have become much more aware of gardens and almost everyone now appreciates the difference between a ‘nice garden’ and a really beautiful one. They also understand that a great garden will increase the value of a property significantly.”

From uttering those fateful words “We really must do something about the garden,” to stepping outside into that ‘dream space’, a professional garden designer will work through several stages to ensure that the client’s brief and expectations are met. But what ‘designer’ garden features do house buyers look for?

“Low maintenance and quiet areas seem to be key words, together with architecturally designed water features,” suggests Damian Gray from Knight Frank. “Developers building one-off new country homes realise the importance of branding in the gardens as well as fixtures and fittings inside the house.”

“The key thing about a garden,” says Ed Sugden of Savills, “is that it should compliment the house and the landscape in terms of proportion and style. The balance is beauty against maintenance, and this is where a professional landscape gardener can advise on the best style of garden to suit the property and the lifestyle of its owners.”

2016-01-04-1451914872-9511020-SavillsDuntisbourne.jpg
Marketed by Savills, Duntisbourne House in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds was re-landscaped by Tom Stuart-Smith and features a terrace with panoramic views of the Frome Valley, a hornbeam topiary garden, yew-cloud hedge, prairie planting and an organic walled kitchen garden.

“Quite apart from the overall wow factor,” says Marcus Barnett, “a good garden design can do a lot to accentuate a house’s strengths and disguise its weaker points. First impressions are particularly important in determining the price people are prepared to pay for a house.”

William Gray is a professional garden designer, writer and photographer (www.williamgray-gardendesign.com)

Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/william-gray/professionally-designed-garden_b_8910642.html

4 Quick and Affordable Home Renovations

set of tools on wood table Source: iStock

You may love your home, but still want to change it. We all get bored or frustrated with our surroundings once in a while, and unfortunately it just isn’t practical to buy a new home every time you dislike something in your current space. If you are looking for a way to make your home more inviting, if you want to be more organized, or you simply crave a change, you can take on a quick renovation project without spending a lot of money.

Unless you have specific experience, you may want to hold off on redoing an entire bathroom or painting your house by yourself. If you make an error, you might end up having to pay a lot to fix it, and this type of project can be exhausting. However, there are many smaller renovations and won’t cost a lot that you can do yourself. Here are four ideas to start with.

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1. Rearrange your furniture

Sometimes you need to change your furniture around for practical reasons. There are seasons for specific furniture arrangements. If you have a glass table in your living room, but you have a baby who is now learning to walk, a glass table (especially with sharp edges) might not be ideal in the middle of a playroom. You also might not want your favorite couch to be in reach of the puppy you are training.

Keeping everything the same can get stifling, so even without a specific reason to change your furniture, doing so can be fun. Having your furniture arranged in a convenient manner, and also making sure that your furniture meets your needs, will help your home feel like home. According to Better Homes and Gardens, you need to consider size. If you have a small living room, make sure you leave space for a walkway, place your biggest furniture first, then create your core seating area, and follow with extra furniture.

2. Use paint

While painting your entire house might be impractical, you can certainly improve your home’s appeal (for yourself or for potential buyers if you are trying to sell) by using paint. If you have baseboards that are dirty or outdated, fresh paint can really help. Also, if you have a room with chipped paint or a color that you don’t like, it won’t take too much time or money to paint one room. A quick (but careful) paint job can be particularly helpful if the color is off or the paint is chipping in a room that you spend a lot of time in, such as your bedroom or living room.

Also consider painting an accent wall. Painting just one wall in a room can add personality to a room and also help brighen a space. You will want to be careful to choose the right wall, and the right color: usually accent walls have no windows or doors, are often painted around the focul point of the room (like a fireplace), and the accent wall will often be a deeper color than the other walls.

Article source: http://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/4-quick-and-affordable-home-renovations.html/?a=viewall

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A Serene Park with a Colorful Past

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One of the most tranquil places on the South Coast is the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge. The serenity of this park today holds little clue to this area’s colorful past.

In the mid-1800s, this low-lying area was known as the Estero (Lagoon) or the Salt Pond. Storms and high tides would inundate the site with ocean water. During the summer, when the brackish waters would recede, locals would congregate to gather salt from the lagoon bed.

The area was also a popular recreation spot. In 1873, John Bradley, a horse breeder and entrepreneur, bought the property with the intent of building a race track. The track would be the scene of events to which there would be an admission charge and also be thrown open for impromptu contests. Races were held as early as August 1873, but the ground still had numerous soft spots making for treacherous footing. An 1874 newspaper report related the excitements of bull-riding contests, while a fenced area was the scene of the old Californio sport of bull-and-bear fighting.

The grand opening of Ocean Beach Park Track took place on July 4, 1874. Some 1,000 people attended the festivities. The location was not ideal, for water continued to collect in low-lying areas making the track unusable for long periods of time. Bradley even considered turning the track over to farming in 1877, but heavy salt concentrations precluded agricultural use. The track remained open, through good times and bad, until 1886 when the Agricultural Park and Race Track was opened, in yet another swampy area, at the foot of Laguna Street.

The site had a number of owners until 1906. A group of oil developers was interested in the property but were prevented from moving forward when a group of 70 citizens paid $6,000 for the site with the idea of holding it until the city could purchase it. In 1909 a bond measure to buy the land failed by 37 votes, but the city managed to scrape together $7,400 to proceed with the transfer. The land was dubbed Citizen’s Park.

The park remained undeveloped as use proposals were bandied about. One of the most persistent ideas was to transform it into a harbor. One such plan called for a yacht harbor, “La Puerta al Mar,” submitted by a civil engineer who at the time was overseeing construction of streetcar lines in Santa Barbara. The city turned down the idea, primarily because roads would have to be rerouted to see the project through.

In 1917 a group of 500 schoolchildren presented the city with a petition to turn the park into a bird refuge. The city granted the request and there the refuge sat, a victim of sad neglect, for over 10 years.

This state of affairs was transformed in 1928. Anna Clark was the widow of William Clark, a former U.S. senator who had made his fortune in copper mining in Montana. She lived in the family’s bluff-top estate overlooking East Beach and thus knew firsthand of the sad state of the refuge. Working with her daughter, Huguette, the latter gave $50,000 to transform the refuge into a freshwater lake, with three man-made islands, landscaping, walkways, and bridle paths. The park was christened the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge, after Huguette’s deceased older sister. Today the Bird Refuge remains one of Santa Barbara’s gems.

Michael Redmon, director of research at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, will answer your questions about Santa Barbara’s history. Write him c/o The Santa Barbara Independent, 122 West Figueroa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.

Go here for more History 101 columns.

Article source: http://www.independent.com/news/2016/jan/11/serene-park-colorful-past/

Ann Arbor considering Chicago developer’s $10M offer for Library Lot

The Ann Arbor City Council is being asked to authorize the start of negotiations with a Chicago-based developer to sell the city-owned Library Lot for $10 million.

The city’s administration is recommending the city enter exclusive contract negotiations with Core Spaces, one of two finalists whose development proposals for the downtown site have been under consideration since last year.

The City Council is expected to vote Jan. 19 on a resolution affirming Core Spaces as the finalist with the best offer.

If that resolution is approved, the city’s administration intends to bring a sale agreement to council for approval in April.

“Core’s proposal is the highest return to the city,” Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer and interim city administrator, wrote in a memo to council.

“Core’s proposal provides a design that will enhance the skyline and downtown,” Crawford wrote. “Proceeding with Core’s proposal will still require that the design be reviewed through the city site plan review process, which includes Planning Commission and the Design Review Board and City Council. However, the current design satisfies general planning and building expectations.”

The Library Lot is the 0.8-acre parking lot above the city’s Library Lane underground parking garage, immediately north of the downtown library on Fifth Avenue and across from the Blake Transit Center. It will take eight votes from the City Council to decide to sell the property for development.

The two Chicago-based developers who have been competing for rights to develop the lot — Core Spaces and CA Ventures — submitted revised offers to the city late last year. Both have proposed hotel/apartment high-rises that reach the maximum 180-foot height limit for the D1-zoned property, though the $10 million Core Spaces is offering is more than the $5.1 million offered by CA Ventures.

Core Spaces actually proposed two versions of its project, including one that’s slightly smaller with 40 fewer apartments. If the city liked the smaller project better, Core Spaces offered to buy the land for $7 million instead of $10 million.

Crawford’s memo only references the $10 million, indicating the city would pocket the $10 million less normal fees and closing costs.

Half the net proceeds would go to the city’s affordable housing fund to further the city’s goals of expanding the supply of affordable housing in Ann Arbor.

Crawford said the Core Spaces project represents an $85 million-plus investment in the downtown, generating economic development and jobs and contributing to the vibrancy of downtown, with a civic plaza included in the plans.

After the new high-rise is built, Crawford said, the property could generate $2.35 million in annual property taxes. He said the city’s portion of the taxes could be up to $1 million annually, depending on whether the city’s cap on the Downtown Development Authority’s tax capture has been met at that time.

Core Spaces is counting on using 200 of the 700-plus parking spaces in the Library Lane underground garage below the development site.

The developer has offered to purchase the spaces from the city for an additional $5 million, though it also is willing to lease them at the market rate.

Core Spaces proposes a 352,496-square-foot building with 360 apartments, 131 hotel rooms, 3,353 square feet of retail/restaurant space, and 20,198 square feet of office space. Crawford’s memo states the ground-floor active uses, such as the retail/restaurant component, would enable a “robust integration” with the outdoor plaza space, thus allowing both to be successful.

In addition to hotel guests, Crawford said, the project would provide housing for hundreds of new downtown residents across the street from the Blake Transit Center, and within walking distance to jobs, services, and cultural amenities.

“Core’s proposal provides for an attractive and unique public space in downtown Ann Arbor as part of their development, with 12,000 square feet including public art, garden plaza elements, water features, flexible activity area, removable stage and attractive landscaping features,” Crawford’s memo states.

Crawford said the proposal balances the mixed uses with a density that supports activating the 12,000-square-foot public plaza space.

“The proposed density is only 520% FAR, which is less than the 700% FAR that could be achieved on this site by maximizing premiums,” Crawford’s memo states, referring to the allowable floor-area ratio under the D1 zoning.

Mayor Christopher Taylor said on Monday morning he looks forward to reviewing the proposal and considering whether it meets the community’s needs.

“A substantial and successful building and public open space on this location would give our mid-town area a real and sustainable boost,” he said. “If we do not activate the site with a building, any park we create there will, I believe, replicate the failures of Liberty Plaza on a much larger scale and in much closer proximity to the library.”

City Council Member Jack Eaton, D-4th Ward, has said he would prefer to see the entire site as a public square, but since there isn’t support for that on council, he proposed the resolution that stipulated 12,000 square feet of plaza space.

Ann Arbor resident Alan Haber and other supporters of the vision for a larger public space on the Library Lot — or what they call a community commons — are continuing to collect signatures in hopes of forcing a public vote.

Asked on Monday what would happen if that occurs, and whether the city would wait to see the outcome of the vote, Crawford said the city is continuing to implement the policy direction the City Council has provided over the past couple of years.

Haber said last week his group has collected more than 3,000 of the roughly 4,500 signatures needed to put the Library Lot on the May ballot.

The question put before voters would be whether to add a section to the city charter stating all city-owned land on the Library Lot block, which includes both the Library Lot and Liberty Plaza, must be retained in public ownership in perpetuity and developed as an urban central park and civic center commons.

“We want a park. We want a commons,” Haber said in November. “We want a community building with an auditorium, with a cafe, with a gallery, with a visitors center, with meeting rooms, with a museum of the city, with all the great ideas people have. And we want a carousel and a skating rink and a rose arbor, and all this.”

Crawford said Core Spaces has an experienced development team, capacity to perform the project it proposes, and a demonstrated ability to finance it.

“The Core team has substantial urban development experience and enthusiastic references from public officials,” Crawford wrote in his memo to council.

The city’s administration worked with real estate consultant CBRE to review the proposals for the Library Lot, deciding on Core Spaces.

If at any time the city determines the negotiations are ineffective, the city reserves the right to cease talks with Core Spaces.

Ryan Stanton covers the city beat for The Ann Arbor News. Reach him at ryanstanton@mlive.com.

Article source: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/01/ann_arbor_considering_chicago.html