Landscape Architects Meet With Community Students to Discuss Redevelopment

SmithGroupJJR landscape engineer Oliver Kiley consults with students at the meeting. They discussed traffic, stores, and student safety.

SmithGroupJJR landscape engineer Oliver Kiley consults with students at the meeting. They discussed traffic, stores, and student safety.

Vivid and bright markers quickly filled blank maps of Kerrytown as students, teachers and Ann Arbor community members were asked what they would change regarding Kerrytown streets, stores and even sidewalks. Around the room were landscape architects from SmithGroupJJR, who supervised and listened to the individuals. The meeting was held for the architects to talk to the students about their biggest concerns about the area. They were hired by the city of Ann Arbor to redo all the sidewalks and streetscapes, and they needed the opinions of the biggest users of Detroit St. and Fifth St.: Community students.

“The city is going to be reconstructing the street and redoing all the streetscapes and the sidewalks, and so we want to reach out to the people who are the biggest users of the street and the area where these projects are happening,” said Oliver Kiley, one of the landscape architects from SmithGroupJJR. Kiley works predominantly with the city on street design projects by designing sidewalks and public spaces like Kerrytown.

Kiley started the discussion by presenting a slideshow detailing what they wanted to hear from the students. The architects wanted the groups to answer questions such as “How do you currently use the street?” and “How do you think the street should be improved?”

The groups were then given about twenty minutes to discuss problems and suggestions for improvement. They were given large maps of Kerrytown to take notes and show the architects what needed fixing. “I’d love to see planters, those big concrete planters that have flowers in them.” said Olivia Wiley, a substitute teacher at Community. In Chicago they have lots of flowers, and that would be really beautiful,  along with the benches and stuff.”

After the drawings and discussions ended, the groups showed the rest of the classroom what they talked about. Concerns included the danger of crossing the street from Community to the Kerrytown Market and Shops, the lack of places to go when a student brings a cold lunch and an absence of a drop-off zone for the beginning of the school day.

Students are not the only ones excited for the redevelopment. Community FOS teacher Liz Stern says that there have not been any major changes in the area since she started working in the 1990’s.

“I think it’s pretty much been just kind of like this,” Stern said. “I’m really positive about [the changes]. I think it’s a great idea and I’m thrilled that they are asking the stakeholders, and they consider us as stakeholders. They have an interest in us!”

This meeting was a prime example that showed how much of an impact Community students can have with real-life issues. Frequenters of Kerrytown can expect to see some changes to the Community area soon!