A visit to the Chaloner Building in Adrian, Michigan gave Norm and I a chance to engage professionally with Mayor Jim Berryman, local historian ScottWestfall, and other local development team members about the potential and opportunities for rehabilitation of this building. Adrian’s streetscape is incredibly intact and holds great architectural interest for its diversity of styles. Flanking buildings from the same time period add to the challenges of isolating an initial project with room to grow.
One of many buildings opened for tours this week, I chose this one, because I’m always up for a behind-the-scenes tour of raw power. We wore earplugs and safety glasses, and were told not to take photos. In a small group of seven, we were guided through the plant observing the noisy turbines and firing chambers and the eerily quiet command center. Three people monitor all of the controls for the entire system around the clock, and react quickly to power surges and outages. In the next couple of years, major upgrades are planned to simplify this process and allow a smoother response to interruptions of power.
The University is finding many ways to celebrate its Bicentennial and it seems only natural to enjoy as many of these as I can. While I’ve been fortunate to have explored many campus buildings in the course of my career, the Power Plant is one I’d never been inside, even though I’ve walked by many times. Asking if the central-campus location has proved to be an asset or a liability, our guide explained that the site was chosen in 1914 for its low elevation – steam rises, and condensate falls back to the plant. This is still true, of course, so the answer is a resounding “yes.”
For many years the city of Ann Arbor has been discussing proposals for a new development on a key site in the downtown next to the city’s library. The current proposal is for a massive mixed-use structure with a plaza in front. Ilene and I wrote a letter to City Council expressing our concerns with the current design. We have attached the letter here as a pdf.
Ray Detter has been a community activist in Ann Arbor for decades. As our next door neighbor, we have worked with Ray on many of his projects. This fall we joined a small group of “conspirators” to plan a surprise recognition dinner for Ray. Over one hundred people came to an elegant dinner, with a few speeches by his old friends.
One outcome of that effort was that we raised funds to support the Ray Detter Community Service Award, to be given to a student(s) in an Ann Arbor high school who have been involved with a history project in the community. Ilene and Norm now head this Award Committee, which is enabled to give up to $1,000 each year.
During the winter Norm likes to spend time in his basement “man cave” working on his model railroad. Technically it is a 2-rail, o-scale layout–the size of a Lionel, but a more realistic two rails. The engines are running and he is adding models to complete a townscape. It is certainly a multi-year project, but is a nice warm room to escape to on cold evenings.
This year the Michigan Association of Planning’s annual conference included a popular session on visionary city planning. The panelists were all Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners (there are only 8 or 9 in the state with this distinction). Norm, being a Fellow, served as moderator for the event. He presented ideas on how city planners could better promote master plans to city agencies, community leaders, and the public, He used as an historic example the unique and successful 1909 Plan for Chicago, a grand master plan by Daniel Burnham, who once said, “Make no small plans. They have no power to stir men’s souls.”
In May, Norm will join three planner/Fellows from other parts of the country to present a similar topic at the national conference of the American Planning Association in New York City. Their session is titled, “The Role of the 21st Century Planner.”