Preserving Ann Arbor

On Monday, June 1st, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission will once again recognize those businesses and property owners that have restored and preserved their historic properties.  

This annual recognition of  our heritage deserves more attention.  (The link will take you to the handout for the awards.)

When modern architects and urban planners talk about developing walkable, human-scaled, mixed-use communities, they are describing our community in its 19th Century form – a form that, at the time, was standard.

That form was changed to accommodate the auto (more than any other 20th Century change, the prevalence of the auto requires large areas to store autos when not in use and extends the distance people will travel in order to shop or work or play).

I live in an old house, with its many charms and problems.  I might want some 21st Century frills now and then, but this house works well for us – it’s not too large, and not too small (like the house of the Three Bears, it is Just Right).  I live in a neighborhood with a pretty good walk score (46), a better transit score (53) and an excellent bike score (81).  It’s about 20 minutes by foot to Central Campus, Medical Campus and downtown, and only a 10 minute walk to the parks along the river.  And if I lived on the other side of the river, I know the walk score would be much higher.

This is the type of neighborhood modern urban planners encourage – and we already have it, as well as the fairly densely constructed residential pattern.  In Ann Arbor, my neighborhood is not that unusual.

A recent series of comments – that I’ve made and that others have made – reminds me that, if we want Ann Arbor to be home for an eclectic, interesting population of all ages and inclinations, we have to ensure that the housing fits all our needs, across the spectrum of economics and life.

That’s what ensures the quality of life we all seek.

And of course, for someone like me, a recognition of where we came from is vital as we talk about where we are headed.





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