Ann Arbor Housing Commission

The Ann Arbor Downtown Authority has approved a $600,000 grant to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission (AAHC) to be used to redevelop Baker Commons and Miller Manor. The funds come from the DDA Housing Fund which provides grants in support of encouraging a diversity of housing downtown.


Miller Manor

Miller Manor 727 Miller Ave. (Ryan J. Stanton)

Baker Commons is located within the DDA boundaries, and Miller Manor is just outside of downtown. We believe it is important to include Miller Manor, since these residents are also frequent users of downtown. Reinvestment in these buildings will strengthen downtown by ensuring they do not become blighted buildings and ensuring the residents can continue to be a part of downtown life.


Baker Commons

Baker Commons 106 Packard St. (Ryan J. Stanton)


The redevelopment of these properties is part of a $25 million comprehensive plan to improve AAHC properties and make them financially stable by switching from public housing to project-based voucher rent subsidies and private investor funding for the rehabilitation. Executive Director, Jennifer Hall, indicated that this new funding model is critical for the preservation of these units as affordable housing and the DDA is a tremendous partner.


This grant accompanies a March 2013 grant made to the AAHC for the same purpose.


getDowntown Funding

The Ann Arbor DDA board recently passed a resolution funding the go!Pass, supplemental transit service, and the getDowntown Program for 2014/2015.

We believe these programs are crucial in allowing more residents and employees to get to and from downtown Ann Arbor more easily while reducing pressure on the parking system. The DDA recognizes that alternative transportation options help to attract a talented workforce, create a high quality of life and benefit the environment.

Since it began in 2001, the number of downtown employers and employees participating in the go!Pass program has grown every year. The getDowntown program provides programs, services, outreach and marketing to encourage downtown employers and employees to use transportation alternatives.

The go!Pass program provides a transit incentive for employees that increases bus use and frees up parking spaces for other users. Cost increases in FY 2015 are due to estimated 5% increase in ridership over FY 2014. More and more employees are recognizing the value the go!Pass provides.

NightRide is also expected to see increased usage and expanded services. This service provides a discount to employees with a go!Pass who take the bus to work and need a ride home after the buses stop running.

The DDA will also continue to support enhanced service to Route #4 and #5. These routes that run along Washtenaw and Packard have the highest downtown employee ridership and provide an important link to the Ypsilanti talent pool.

The ExpressRide go!Pass discount also encourages downtown employees to use transit rather than drive alone to work and provide non-stop service from Canton and Chelsea daily.

Ann Arbor Bike Share

Downtown Ann Arbor is getting a new bike share program this June! ArborBike, run by the Clean Energy Coalition in Ann Arbor, will have 14 bike stations located all over downtown and on the University of Michigan’s North and South campuses.

Locations, Courtesy of the CEC

The program is primarily used for short trips (under 30 minutes) to run errands or get to work and meetings quickly. Bike share is also ideal for trips where you may want to take a bike somewhere, but don’t plan to get home via bicycle.


Bike shares help:

  • Reduce traffic and parking congestion
  • Improve access to downtown and campus destinations
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improve air quality
  • Increase transit use and multi-modal trips
  • Improve public health through activity
  • Foster downtown vibrancy and a sense of place
  • Increase visibility of nearby businesses
  • Provide engaging transportation for visitors

Station, Courtesy of the CEC

An annual membership to the program is $65 a year, $20 a week, or $6 per day. However, if your organization makes a commitment to purchasing 15 or more annual memberships for its employees, an annual membership will cost $50 ($45 for non-profits). Your bike share membership also keeps track of your progress: miles you travel, calories you burn, and greenhouse gases you keep out of the air.

Bicycle, Courtesy of the CEC

If you have more questions about the new program, or would like to receive updates, you can email, or visit their website.

Global Trends for Downtowns

Downtown consultants, Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA), paired with the University of Colorado Denver College of Architecture and Planning to assemble its 2014 Top Ten Global Trends report. This is an update to their 2011 report, and it identifies the converging market forces that can lead to downtown regeneration, prosperity, and positive change in cities of all sizes. It’s very helpful to be aware of these trends so we can work to enable Ann Arbor to take advantage of the changes that are coming.

For instance, the report notes that Millennials are predicted to be 50% of the workforce by 2020.  This is already driving a lot of changes, as are the increasing numbers of Baby Boomers who are retiring and downsizing to smaller residences. Both groups are increasingly interested in living in or within walking distance to downtown, which will encourage even more downtown residential construction.  The PUMA report notes that a diversity in housing pricing is tied to community economic success. The DDA realized this years ago, and has established a housing fund with which to encourage housing pricing diversity. For example, most recently the DDA provided a grant to guarantee that 4 units at the new 1st & Washington apartment building will remain affordable to people earning at or below 60% AMI (average median income), approximately $35,000 annual income.


The report also notes that bike share has become the fastest growing form of transportation in the history of the planet, as 500+ cities now have bike share.  In keeping with this trend, a bike share program in downtown Ann Arbor will begin this spring. Federal and state dollars are increasingly constrained, which means that local units of government will need to work together on issues such as transportation through regional initiatives.


Entrepreneurship will continue to be a key to job growth in the U.S. in coming years, meaning agencies like SPARK will continue to be very important because they provide services for startups and small businesses including technical assistance and incubator space.


Furthermore, adaptive reuse of buildings is predicted to become more affordable comparative to new construction as the global demand for concrete and steel grows. Several of downtown’s older buildings have found new uses, including the construction at the former Montgomery Ward building on S. Fourth Avenue transforming the building into residential units.


This is just a sampling of the trends and related strategies suggested within this very interesting report, which can be found here on the PUMA site.

Blake Transit Center Opening

Courtesy of


The Ride, otherwise known as the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) will open the new Blake Transit Center to customers in downtown Ann Arbor this Monday, March 17th.


This will be a “soft” opening, since inclement winter weather has prevented the AAATA from finishing the bus lane between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.  In the interim, The Ride’s temporary bus stops on the west side of S. Fourth Avenue will remain in service until later this spring.   AAATA patrons can check for bus stop updates, answers to frequently asked questions, and news and information as it becomes available.


The Blake Transit Center was designed to achieve LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council due to its many sustainable and energy-saving design elements.  According to the Blake Transit Center website, “The structure’s environmentally friendly features will include a snowmelt system that will reduce use of salt.  Also, roof storm water runoff will be collected for ‘gray water’ use, such as flushing toilets.”


The new building has a bright, sunny lobby that will include customer service personnel and self-serve ticket kiosks, ample seating, and attractive patron restrooms. Additionally, the getDowntown Program will move from their current office on E. Washington Street into offices on the second floor of the new BTC.  The getDowntown program provides commuting programs and services to employees and employers in downtown Ann Arbor and is a partnership of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, AAATA, and the City of Ann Arbor.


The Blake Transit Center project has been under construction for a little over a year, and we are excited to see this beautiful building nearing completion!

FarmLogs Start-Up in Ann Arbor

FarmLogs team

FarmLogs is an Ann Arbor-based tech start-up that was founded in the Saginaw area in late 2011. CEO Jesse Vollmar went through the Y Combinator program in Silicon Valley and ultimately decided to bring his business back to Michigan. He chose Ann Arbor because for him it was a good compromise between the start-up mecca of Silicon Valley and his home in the Saginaw area of Michigan.

For FarmLogs employees, proximity to downtown amenities such as restaurants, coffee shops and activities was important, as well as the ability to walk and bike to and from work. Vollmar explains that the company needs to be able to attract talent and compete with similar start-ups in San Francisco, and being located in the downtown, as well as near the university helps them compete. FarmLogs participates in the Go!Pass program offered by getDowntown to get employees to and from work. They are currently looking to expand from their current office on 201 E. Liberty to a larger office in downtown in order to accommodate the 20 employees they plan to have in Ann Arbor by the end of the year.

FarmLogs iPhone Screen
FarmLogs is an application that allows farmers to track the rainfall, soil conditions, past crop rotations, and current market rates for crops among other things. The application uses data from the government as well as data that are now made available by modern farming equipment. The typical farm that uses this technology is anywhere between 500 and 10,000 acres and farms primarily row crops, such as corn, wheat, and soybeans. They are in the early stages as a start-up, but have high hopes for what 2014 has in store for the company. The application was originally web-based and has recently branched out into a mobile app for Android and iPhone users.

Spring Break in Ann Arbor

Sticking around Ann Arbor for Spring Break? We have compiled a list of activities and events going on at the beginning of March in downtown Ann Arbor!

Welcome to Ann Arbor

The entire month of March is youth art month!

March 2nd – Ann Arbor Downtown Library – Podcasting Demonstration: At this month’s Comic Artists Forum at the Downtown Library on Sunday, March 2 at 1 pm, local author/illustrator Jerzy Drozd will show adults and teens how to reach new audiences through podcasting.

March 2nd (and 9th) – UMMA Engage with Art 

March 2nd – UMMA Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art

March 6th – Ann Arbor Downtown Library – New Workshop for Writers: A new monthly writing and publishing workshop begins at the Downtown Library on Thursday March 6 at 7 pm with a session on the process of revising your work.

March 7th -Vintage Hollywood V at the Michigan Theater

March 9thShamrocks & Shenanigans 5k 

March 9th – AACB: The Madness of March 

UofM Museum of Natural History & Planetarium 
Washtenaw County Historical Socierty Museum

The Ark
Kerrytown Concert House
State Theater

Ann Arbor Farmers & Artisan Market- 315 Detroit St. from 7am to 3pm on Wednesday and Saturday
Or maybe just find all the Urban Fairy Doors!

Thank You Republic Parking!

Republic Parking removes snow from parking structuresThe DDA partners with Republic Parking for the day-to-day management of the parking system in downtown Ann Arbor. This winter we have seen a lot of snow and frigid weather. Republic Parking has worked hard to keep all 14 parking lots and structures accessible and safe for our patrons.

Beyond monitoring meters and collecting payments from patrons, Republic Parking has hauled away 319 loads of snow from structures and parking lots in their 10,000 pound capacity dump trailer and 7225 cubic yards in dump trucks and semi trailers! They have been relocating the snow to Vets Park. In the case of heavy snowfall, prompt removal of the snow is important to avoid overloading the weight capacity of the parking structure.

Republic Parking has also been coordinating with City of Ann Arbor staff to remove snow from city sidewalks adjacent to meters in downtown, allowing the city to expand their snow removal work to other areas of the city.

Republic Parking removes snow from parking structures

DDA Board Spotlight: Joan Lowenstein

Ann Arbor is a truly wonderful place, made better by the people who give generously of their time and talent in support of the community. Joan Lowenstein is one of those remarkable Ann Arborites. Joan has served on the Ann Arbor DDA board since 2007 where she has been a passionate downtown champion and tireless volunteer. Here’s a little bit about Joan in her own words….


DDA Board Member Joan Lowenstein

When I was living in Miami, in an apartment that overlooked a drawbridge, cruise ships, and islands once decorated by the artist Christo, I vowed that I would never move north of North Carolina. That was 28 years ago. My husband and I looked at Ann Arbor when he was offered a job at the UM medical center and we fell in love (with Ann Arbor, that is – we were already in love with each other). I have always worked downtown, either at law firms or at the University. We first lived in Ann Arbor Township, but quickly decided we wanted to be able to walk everywhere, so we moved into the Angell School area and our two boys went to school there. My husband walks, rides his bike or takes the bus to the Kellogg Eye Center and I prefer to ride my bike when weather permits. Most of our activities are downtown, especially at the Michigan Theater! In the summer, we ride our bikes downtown to grab a bite to eat, then weave our way back through the Diag and various neighborhoods, enjoying the many bike lanes and late sunlight. As a DDA board member, I proudly give tours of the Library Lane parking garage and its wonders never cease to amaze. It’s almost in the same category as a drawbridge.

Joan blogs at

DDA Board Spotlight: Al McWilliams

We are beginning a series of short biographies about the Ann Arbor DDA Board members to help convey a bit about the people who volunteer their time & talent in support of our fabulous downtown. 

Our first interview is with Al McWilliams, one of the newest members of the DDA.  Al owns Quack!Media in downtown Ann Arbor.

 DDA Board Member Al McWilliams

Have you spent your entire life in Ann Arbor?

I grew up in the North ‘burbs (and Mexico). Though I visited Ann Arbor a lot in high school, I didn’t land here until 2000 as a Junior in college. I transferred to EMU from SMU in Dallas because Dallas is a terrible place. Also, I really wanted to live in Ann Arbor. I’ve also spent fair amounts of time living in Florida, California, Georgia and Spain, the last being every bit as great as you think.


What’s so special about Ann Arbor?
Ann Arbor offers an urban lifestyle without being surrounded by 100 miles of suburbs. That’s why I came here, and that’s why I’m still here. It’s really that simple. I like walking or taking the bus to work. I like crowded streets and culture past 8pm. I like the Symphony Orchestra and UMS and punk shows at the Pig and I can walk to all of them. I like that on a day that is 5 degrees, Main Street is busy with business people at lunch time, and revelers at midnight. I like that two miles to the west of that commotion there’s a working farm, on a dirt road, with cows.


Why is downtown a good place to create/grow a business?
My staff likes that stuff, too.

Do you live in or near downtown? How do you get to downtown?
I live in the 4th ward. On a nice day I’ll do the 30-minute walk, but I usually take the 3 minute bus ride.


Downtown keeps evolving, but its essence remains unchanged. What cool thing about downtown has stayed the same over time? What cool thing about downtown is different than it used to be?
People don’t think about it that often, but even 14 years ago when I moved here the Main Street area was very, very different. The Liberty St. corridor hadn’t really connected fully, Main St. was about half as dense with businesses as it is now and west of Main there were only a few active buildings. Now, the block between Main & Ashley is full on every street, day and night. When we moved into our offices on Main, they had been vacant since the early 1970s. Now, it’s four small businesses with 10-20 employees each. The aggregate effect of that growth is visible when you walk down the street. It happened gradually so it’s hard to notice, but step back and really think about what things were like, even just 10 years ago, and there’s been enormous progress.


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