The property in downtown Ann Arbor, which has long been designated as future green house, is being given a new layer of asphalt

ANN ARBOR, MI – An on-site parking lot in downtown Ann Arbor, long thought to be the future anchor park for the Treeline Urban Trail – formerly known as Allen Creek Greenway – has undergone an overhaul in the past two weeks.

Construction crews dug up the almost one block long property along the east side of First Street between William and Liberty and laid a completely new asphalt surface.

The city council passed a resolution in 2009 to clean up decades of underground pollution and keep the site open for the greenway, but that plan has yet to be put into practice.

The city’s Treeline Master Plan, approved by the city council in 2017, still sees “opportunities for future land development and / or open space creation” on the sprawling property at First and William and another nearby property at 415 W. Washington St.

But no such open space facilities will be added to the First and William property at this point, confirmed Maura Thomson, interim director of the Downtown Development Authority. It’s just a renewal and re-marking of the parking lot, she said.

Councilor Ali Ramlawi, D-5th Ward, lamented the fact that the entire site is covered with asphalt again, with no open spaces or green spaces.

“It was definitely a missed opportunity to advance some of our environmental goals,” he said.

Councilor Erica Briggs, D-5th Ward, said she needs to review the Treeline Master Plan, but key elements of it should be prioritized as the site redevelops.

“First Street and William Street have limited development potential as they are mostly within the floodway, but could become an important starting point with other open space facilities on site,” the master plan says.

While some supporters of the Greenway Initiative have been hoping for an anchor park at First and William for over 15 years, this is not currently the focus, said Nan Plummer, executive director of the nonprofit Treeline Conservancy.

As for First and William’s re-paving, Plummer said she didn’t see it as a missed opportunity to add green space or open space elements for the tree line.

“As I understand it, this was just an adjustment to the existing cycle path,” she said, referring to the new First Street cycle path which is a component of the larger Treeline plan. “And while they were there, they fixed the sidewalk.”

The reserve is working with the city on plans to implement other parts of the tree line. There are only a handful of segments so far, but in the years to come, the nearly three-mile walk for pedestrians and cyclists from the Argo Pond area along the Huron River via North Main Street through the west side of Downtown, past the sports campus from the University of Michigan and out to South State Street.

The focus currently is on the northern segment on North Main Street, Plummer said, adding that she expects the preferred plan for this part to be unveiled to the public in the coming weeks after many months of study in collaboration with the city and a design becomes a consultant.

The reserve has also partnered with the DDA in installing a temporary pilot trail segment with tree line signage through property 415 W. Washington St., Plummer said, noting that it has been in place since earlier this year.


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