I wasn't that impressed with Ann Arbor

I was fortunate enough to be a scholarship participant on the Inter-City Visits to Madison and Ann Arbor. I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences, but I found that I am unable to stop comparing the Madison experience to the Ann Arbor experience.

This exercise, of course, is completely unfair. Mainly because, in my opinion, Madison wins. In everything. Hands down. Period. Ann Arbor doesn't stand a chance.

Madison has an abundance of natural beauty. It had a really great downtown that seemed accessable to both students and other people. It has the Overture Center, which always takes my breath away, and Madision is a hotbed for creativity and technology. It is so much what I want for Chapel Hill.

But Ann Arbor is different (duh). I didn't see anything particularly beautiful or extrodinary about it. Ann Arbor seems much more into function, rather than form. It ain't Madison, but it has its good parts.

Ann Arbor has fantastic elected leadership. Their mayor is dynamic and charismatic, and he seems to be the agent for getting a lot of really great stuff done in Ann Arbor. He has spearheaded Ann Arbor's environmental movement.

He has

TryTransit Week

I always seem to forget about this until the last minute. Monday is Car Free Day, and I hope you will try some transit all week long. I've been guilty of flying all over this week, but next week I will be happily working from home every day.  Maybe I'll take the bus downtown for lunch.

Try Transit Week is sponsored by Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA), Cary Transit (C-Tran), Capital Area Transit (CAT), Chapel Hill Transit, UNC Chapel Hill, NCSU Wolfline and Triangle Transit. The goal of the campaign is to encourage Triange commuters to try the bus! Taking transit instead of driving alone helps save our environment, save money on expensive gas and save our sanity by reducing stressful traffic.

- http://www.new.facebook.com/event.php?eid=35356768593

Specific local events from Chapel Hill Transit:

  • Monday, 9/22: National Car Free Day
    Leave your car at home and ride the bus

  • Wednesday, 9/24: Stuff the Bus
    NC-54 East Park and Ride (located off Friday Center Drive and NC 54)
    6:00-10:00 a.m.
    Chick-fil-A at University Mall (location TBD)
    Donate 3 canned goods and receive a FREE Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.
    More details coming soon!

  • Friday, September 26: Employee Appreciation Day
    Say thank you to your favorite driver



Monday, September 22, 2008 - 4:00am to Friday, September 26, 2008 - 1:00pm

Ann Arbor: Missed Connections

During our tours and discussion of Ann Arbor, which were expertly organized by the staff of our Chamber of Commerce, I kept feeling like I wanted to get another two or three sides to the story.  We heard from some business, nonprofit, and government leaders - ones that were recommended to us by the Ann Arbor Chamber. All of the panelists were knowledgeable and informative.

But missing were voices of residents, students and faculty, community advocates, downtown boosters, bloggers and that much-vaunted "creative class."  Interestingly, I returned home to get several messages by e-mail and twitter from some of the very folks who felt left out of our visit! The Ann Arbor Chronicle, a new local news website not unlike the Carrboro Citizen, wrote about our visit. And Ann Arbor consultant Bill Tozier tweeted about it and shared some local frustrations on his blog:

New Horace Williams Airport: A Third Way

[Long-time lurker, first time poster]

Two paths diverged in the woods and I took the third.

It occurrs to me that there might be another way to meet (or even exceed) AHEC's needs while also preserving land and avoiding a protracted debate and a souring of town-gown relations.

So far the paths being argued are:  1) Build a new airport in the county or 2) Base all operations from RDU.  I believe there is a third path that hasn't been considered.

In short, build a heliport.  Let that sink in for a minute and then read on for more...

We all know helicopters don't need much space to operate, so this is an easy one.  In fact, it could even be sited on the existing Horace Williams airport while still allowing for plenty of space for the new campus.

Drastic reduction in trip time for AHEC physicians.  Not only could AHEC potentially keep helicopter or tilt-rotor aircraft at UNC Hospitals, but it could deliver passengers directly to many of the hospitals they service throughout North Carolina instead of landing at their regional or local airports and then driving to their ultimate destination.

Ann Arbor is not Chapel Hill (duh)

I took some photos today but they are truly horrible. Wlil post later. Some of my biggest impressions so far:

  1. The empty Pfizer campus, and the Chamber director talking about nearby businesses that are about to go under from losing the business from 2,000 employees & 1,000 contractors that used to work there. Are you listening Carolina North folks?
  2. There are lots of tall buildings (5 - 10 - 15 feet stories) and most of them look really nice and seem to work well. Some of them don't though. I talked with some folks tonight about how Chapel Hill lacks the regulatory tools to analyze tall buildings. How do we know how tall is "too tall", what are factors that make it work or make it fail? One local suggested that I meet a woman from their downtown commission, but I'm really more interested in the perspective of a City Council or Planning Board type.



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