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.
It has been a full agenda, beginning with a visit to Detroit for lunch at Hopcat, a curator-led tour of The Architectural Imagination exhibit at MOCAD, and an introduction to the ArcPrep program for high school students. After a respite back in Ann Arbor, several of us were honored to judge student projects on display at the architecture school. Now it’s time for our full day at the school…details to be shared later.
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.”
Norm wants to share his excitement about his new book. For years he has had had a special interest in the history of transportation, both because he likes the study of history in general and because for many years he taught a Transportation Planning course at Eastern Michigan University. The new book currently has a working title of Crossing the Continent: Pioneers of Transcontinental Travel. This story is told through the perspectives of individuals significant in each era of transportation development. Some of the protaganists of this drama are familiar, but in unfamiliar roles—George Washington as a young surveyor trekking to new western territories. Some were entrepreneurs who were ruthless in their quest—Thomas Durant, as master schemer and scammer in charge of building the Union Pacific Railroad. Others were larger-than-life figures now largely forgotten—Carl G. Fisher, an eccentric businessman who instigated and prodded construction of the country’s first coast-to-coast highway as a way to sell more of his automobile headlamps. Other biographical sketches reveal inconceivable feats—Annie Kopchovsky, who in 1894 left her husband and two children for fifteen months to successfully ride a bicycle not only across the country, but around the world. The stories of these individuals and others are marvelous, intriguing, and sometimes unbelievable. A reflection on these individuals and their roles in “Crossing the Continent” provides the focus for this history of American daring and determination during the historical, and historic, evolution of systems of transportation.
Norm is now looking for an agent and a publisher. Stay tuned and you will be the first to know when the manuscript has become a published book.
We are also excited to have been asked by the publisher of our book, Historic Preservation, to update it for a 3rd edition. Written by Norm and Ilene and Ted Ligibel, it remains one of the bestselling books on the topic. For this edition, Ilene has agreed to lead the editorial effort.