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Ann Arbor's Cool Cities Task Force Blog: This Week's Meeting

March 17, 2004

This Week's Meeting

Thanks to everyone who attended the Town Hall Meeting this week!

I think I can say that the Task Force Members present were happily surprised with the size and diversity of the crowd we attracted - and I think that there were a lot of ideas and energy in the room. The meeting even attracted a couple surprise visitors, including the mayor John Hieftje, a member of the school board (whose name I forgot!) and local developer Peter Allen, who will be breaking ground on his Lower Town Project this summer.

At least a couple Ann Arbor bloggers posted about the meeting, click on the read more link to see excerpts from their posts.

Here's from Ann Arbor Is Overrated's post:

"The turnout at the Cool Cities meeting tonight (Tuesday night) was impressive, and many ideas were shared. With participants that fell well outside the 20-35-year-old demographic the governor is trying to attract, including a landlord and at least one couch-porch-ban supporter, it was a diverse crowd. But it wasn't hard to come away discouraged. Sometimes, agreeing on certain core ideas, without falling into monolithic groupthink, is necessary to make progress. Monolitihic groupthink was not a problem tonight. ...

The Cool Cities task force members are enthusiastic and hard-working, and they seem to have a real shot at making some good changes. But when one of the suggestions is harnessing the cool power of undergrads who were in their high school orchestras, you know it's going to be an uphill battle. .. "

Brandon Z had this to say:

"In my mind I had sort of envisioned all the musicians and artists and hipsters and poets getting together to take back the city from the yuppies and Bobos. Instead, it was a lot of planning geeks (I'm raising my hand) and techie types, with a hearty sprinkling of venture capitalists, developers, mayors, and well-meaning but clueless old farts who were completely missing the point and dominated our table's discussion with neb

There were definitely a lot of useful suggestions voiced, though, including my usual favorite grab-bag of density, mixture of uses, afforable housing, and the like. ...

On the whole, though, I left feeling a little disillusioned. I think what many of us think of as "cool" is not what this city has in mind or is destined for. I think a lot of Ann Arborites equate "cool" with "upscale" in their heads, and think that scented candle boutiques, Whole Foods, Cosi, Potbelly, Starbucks, art-on-a-stick, and other boring-ass yuppie mainstays are "cool." This is the same crap you can find in Bloomfield Hills or any yupscale burg. The places left in this town that are truly cool are those that are unique and full of character-- the Encores, Wazoos, Ambrosias, Rendez-vous, Fleetwoods, 8 Balls, and even some cleaner places like Leopold Brothers. Ann Arbor doesn't really want to even attract young people like me, with my pathetic History BA, or even artists and musicians (unless their presence is a means to attract those with real skills). They want the software designers and engineers-- those that they think will make them money. The city and most residents don't actually want Ann Arbor to be "cool"-- they want it to be swank and trendy. ... "

Richard Murphy posted this:

" ... If you read the accounts that Brandon or AAIO give, you may catch a somewhat negative mood about the whole thing. I'm interested to see what kind of impression Rob has of the outcome, but I was personally very happy to see so many people show up, and to see that a decent number of them were *not* older moneyed types. Brandon comments on small, independant, distinctive, and quite possibly grungy businesses being far more important for "coolness" than upscale chains were really quite well-received, I felt. Lots of people spoke well of density, and while AAIO might see the strategic reasoning behind specific suggestions as depressing, I'm glad to see that people are thinking strategically. I don't spend enough time around the Mayor to be able to read his facial expressions, but I think he probably saw some strong support for positions that don't normally reach him. Even if several of the people there were passionate in some fairly ridiculous directions, I think that there was enough energy in good directions to get attention. ... "

Posted by robg3 at March 17, 2004 11:01 PM