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Life at street level — 3 Comments

  1. Andrew from Open Produce here. I am a big fan of the University’s plans for Harper Court.

    One thing you don’t mention in you post is that the University wants to add an courtyard area to the highrise development that would open onto 52nd and Harper. This would provide a sitting area, as well as pedestrian-oriented access to some of the ground-level retail space.

    I think that bringing more people and commercial activity to 53rd street would actually create more of the community vibe you are talking about. While I agree that people tend not to congregate in the shadows of imposing highrises, they provide neighborhoods with the critical mass they need to support pedestrian-friendly community spaces.

    Without density, businesses must rely on cars to bring people in from afar. This creates massive parking lots, such as the one now at Harper Court and the one at Treasure Island, which are more destructive to the community spirit than any highrise I can think of.

  2. Hi, Andrew,
    I did mention that I didn’t know the specific plans, so I didn’t know about the courtyard. That is good. Harper Court had a courtyard, and you’ll notice it’s been dead for several years. Why? The owners and police drove everyone away. When I first moved here, it was someplace to go. Now, not so much.

    There have always beens tons of people with lots of activity on 53rd Street. What you may not know is how much the police, and the previous owners of Harper Court, did to discourage such activity. 53rd Street has a reputation as a scary place. I read so much negative about it that even I, who have been here 30 years (too long), wondered if it had become that unsafe. Thanks to all that fear mongering, activity died off considerably.

    I almost mentioned the two halves of the shopping center as examples of the good (courtyard) and bad (parking lot). But the interesting thing is many of those cars in the lot ARE local—numerous people drive a few blocks to Treasure Island. I’ve told people I walk four blocks to do my grocery shopping, and they can’t conceive it. So there will always be parking lots at shopping centers. Even city dwellers live in a culture of car worship. And I still see people trying to get a close spot in that tiny parking lot, like walking a half block will kill them.

    High-rises are dead zones. I went to a multi-story mall on the north side once for an appointment, and it was the deadest place I’ve ever seen. Unless you really wanted to go to one of their stores (and knew about it), you had no reason to go there or to go in. But go to Lincoln Park on any evening, and aside from open-windowed bars and restaurants, and outside seating, even the three-flats have people hanging out. It feels like a community in a way that Hyde Park never has.

    East Hyde Park has high-rises, and tons of density. What we don’t have are pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of shops, like Ann Arbor does. We have what I mentioned, which doesn’t make me walk around, and I am a walker. I love going to Ann Arbor. Never enough time there.

    I’d like to see more affordable housing. By “affordable,” I mean not for the married affluent. There is way too much new “luxury” housing. How about a high-rise that average people can afford? Not in my lifetime.

    By the way, your site was down last night . . . haven’t tried it today.

  3. I should also add high-rises downtown with courtyards/plazas attract lunchtime diners during warm weather, especially if they offer music. So the courtyard sounds good, only it would be better closer to 53rd, if I’m picturing this correctly.

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