Ann Arbor voters pass controversial downtown park proposal

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Signs supporting and opposing Proposal A appear outside the polling place at Clague Middle School on Nov. 6, 2018 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR - It was the most contested proposal on the Ann Arbor ballot. Proposal A passed overnight with 53% of the vote. 

In total, 26,746 voters supported the proposal, while 23,618 were against.

If you live in Ann Arbor, the issue was unavoidable over the last few months. Signs popped up in people's yards, in front of downtown eateries and even on U-M's famed rock.

Social media was bombarded with campaigners for both sides, and posts often got heated between those who support development in the city and those who wish to preserve its current landscape.

Read: Breaking down Prop A: Most divisive proposal on Ann Arbor's November ballot

Over the past eight years, hundreds of residents have petitioned for an "urban park and civic center commons" on the downtown Library Lot. They received enough petition signatures to put the proposal to vote on the November ballot, and the Ann Arbor Central Park Ballot Committee was created.

The Ann Arbor Central Ballot Committee uses this image on its website of a rejected 2009 town square proposal by developer Dennis Dahlmann as a model for the type of urban park the group envisions at the Library Lot site (Illustration by JJR LLC)


The campaigns ramped up in September with the creation of the opposition group Voters for a Responsible Ann Arbor. It had the backing of numerous influencers in town, including Mayor Christopher Taylor. The Ann Arbor District Library's board unanimously opposed Prop A, as did the Washtenaw Housing Alliance.

The group threw various events to try and gain community support for a 17-story mixed used development to be built on the property.

The Ann Arbor City Council had already approved a $10 million deal with Chicago-based developer Core Spaces to develop the property, which would include apartments, a hotel, retail, office space and an outdoor public plaza. If the project were to move forward, City Council approved that $5 million from the deal would go toward the city's Affordable Housing Fund.

What happens now?

With newly-elected City Council members about to take office, and with the majority of Taylor's allies out, it is uncertain how they will vote when it comes to development of the site. 

Those opposing the central park plan argue that the project will be funded by taxpayer dollars that the city doesn't have.

In a letter to residents, Taylor wrote: 

"Do you have any idea how many millions of taxpayer dollars it will cost to build, program, and maintain an 'urban park and civic center commons'? I don't either, but I do know that we do not have millions of dollars reserved for this purpose, and I do know that an 'urban park and civic center commons' does not pay for itself and the current proposal has no budget, no plan, and no funding."

Core Spaces released the following statement Wednesday in response to the passing of the park proposal: 

"While we are disappointed with the outcome of the election, Core Spaces will continue as planned in our project development process per the terms of our contract with the city. We will have an updated timetable soon on specific next steps."

As the results were coming in early Wednesday morning, the Central Park Ballot Committee posted this on its Facebook page:

The committee has said since it is public land, it wants the community to decide the best use for it and plans to hold public meetings to reach a collective consensus.

No matter which direction the proposal takes, there is a long road ahead with planning and city approval.

But one thing is clear: Ann Arbor voters have spoken. 

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