Ann Arbor

The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue July 31, 2012

Cleaning up a pollution puzzle in Ann Arbor (PHOTOS)

Kevin Lund of MDEQ shows a sample of oil and water he collected when he dug a hole in the bank of the Huron River. The analysis they did on the samples they collected showed that the contamination was coming from the old MichCon manufactured gas plant.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

The city of Ann Arbor recently spent more than one million dollars rebuilding an old mill race along the Huron River. The Argo Cascades is a series of little waterfalls and pools where kayakers and people floating in inner tubes come to cool off.

But downstream from the Cascades on the other side of the river, there’s a problem.

There's been pollution lurking underground for some time from an old industrial plant, and two years ago regulators found that some of the pollution was making its way into the Huron River.

The days before natural gas

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Election 2012
11:08 am
Wed July 18, 2012

Ann Arbor residents will decide on new library building this November

The Ann Arbor District Library wants a new building downtown.
AADL Facebook

Ann Arbor residents can add a new tax levy to the growing list of issues on the November ballot.

The local library board wants $65 million for a new downtown building.

After 60 years, the Ann Arbor library's main branch has done its job, according to the board. 

But now they say they're running out of space, so they want to tear down and rebuild on the same site.

The plan would mean a 30-year tax hike. It would add roughly $54 dollars to the annual tax bill of anyone with a home worth $200,000.

If residents vote no, it would be the first time in 20 years the town's rejected a tax increase for the library.

Arts & Culture
2:46 pm
Fri July 6, 2012

Ann Arborites say 'hello to the future' in new time capsule

The Library Lane parking structure time capsule.
Jada Hahlbrock Ann Arbor DDA

The Downtown Development Authority is getting ready to open the new Library Lane parking structure on Ann Arbor's South Fifth Ave. In the process, the group hopes to preserve a snapshot of the city's zeitgeist sealed beneath the structure's Division St. staircase.

DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay estimates that the time capsule will be reopened 100 to 200 years from now. She sees the project as a way in which all Ann Arborites can participate in the parking project.

"It's a chance to say 'hello' to people in the future," she said.

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Transportation
11:18 am
Fri July 6, 2012

Acid spill snarls traffic on M-14

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Authorities say a truck hauling acid rolled over in the Ann Arbor area, prompting a response by hazardous materials crews and closing a highway.

The driver was taken to a hospital following the Friday morning crash with shoulder and ankle injuries. No other injuries were reported.

The crash on westbound M-14 closed the highway in both directions as hazardous material crews worked to clean up the spill, prompting traffic backups.

4:45 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Hundreds of tech jobs coming to Ann Arbor, ex-Borders space to be filled

Lead in text: 
A sign of the times: remnants of Ann Arbor's iconic, now bankrupt, book seller - the Borders flagship store - will now be occupied by a network security and data protection company - Barracuda Networks. The company says it plans to create 184 "high tech and engineering jobs" over the next three years in downtown Ann Arbor. What's Ann Arbor's magic sauce? Parking spaces, smart people, and a desirable place to live.
The Campbell, Calif.-based security firm, which employs about 180 workers at its operation at 201 Depot St. in Ann Arbor, signed a lease this month for 45,000 square feet of office space once occupied by bookstore chain Borders.
Arts & Culture
2:39 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Care for a little art with that lunch?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. band.

Several weeks ago, The World did a story about dance clubs popping-up in Europe for one hour, during lunchtime. (Basically people can swing by an alcohol-free, make-shift dance club at noon. Organizers even provide free lunches!)

While we don’t quite have anything like this in Michigan, we do have events where people can enjoy free music and get their dance on—if they want to.

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Business
8:39 am
Thu June 14, 2012

New campaign asks Ann Arbor visitors to stop giving money to panhandlers

beta-gibbs.pcsb.org

New posters in downtown Ann Arbor businesses will ask visitors to stop giving money to panhandlers.  The effort by the mayor's office and businesses asks people to give money to local resources for the homeless instead. 

The posters say panhandlers often use the money to buy drugs and alcohol.  This concerns some local homeless residents.  They say this isn't always the case.  

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Commentary
10:00 am
Fri June 8, 2012

Commentary: Happy Warrior

How many people do you know who really love politics? I don’t necessarily mean those politically active or intense about the issues. I know lots of people like that, conservative and liberal. But I don’t sense that many of them are having a good time.

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Camp Take Notice
11:22 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Alternative housing for residents of tent city

Tent city in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 Residents of a tent city near Ann Arbor could soon have more permanent housing arrangements.

The state's affordable housing agency is working to find places to live for the roughly five dozen people who live at "Camp Take Notice."

Sally Harrison is with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). She says this effort is part of a broader initiative to end homelessness in Michigan by 2017.

"For some people who can get into apartments and housing immediately, we will do that immediately, because we have rental assistance available," says Harrison.

She says that for those campers who need more assistance to get housed, they will be relocated to hotels and shelter beds.

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Arts & Culture
5:00 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Ann Arbor goes mainstream, debuts "Cinetopia International Film Festival"

The Michigan Theater
user andypiper Flickr

Ann Arbor will be hosting its first-ever Cinetopia International Film Festival this week.

Russ Collins, executive director of the Michigan Theater, says festival organizers expect about 5,000 attendees this weekend.

Over the four-day festival, 35 mainstream films will be screened primarily in the Michigan and State Theaters.

Collins notes that this festival is different from the longstanding Ann Arbor Film Festival because that event's focus is on experimental films.

"The Cinetopia International Film Festival is a festival that celebrates the feature length, story-based films that you're going to see at festivals like Toronto and Sundance," Collins says.

The festival opens Thursday night with a party and screening of Tod Louiso's "Hello I Must Be Going" and continues with Sundance-acclaimed films like "I Am Not a Hipster."

"It seems like our ambient interest in cinema and the ability of our town to host festivals and special events would make Ann Arbor an exceptionally good place to do a film festival of a large scale," says Collins,

There are high hopes for this pilot event. Festival organizers plan to expand the event into an 11-day festival for Ann Arbor and Detroit.

- Julia Alix Smith-Eppsteiner, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Arts & Culture
6:02 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Water Hill 2012: Creating a new spring music tradition in Ann Arbor (Video)

The Appleseed Collective performs during the Water Hill Music Festical in Ann Arbor
Meg Cramer Michigan Radio

This past Sunday marked the second successful Water Hill Music Festival.

Named after the west-side Ann Arbor neighborhood that hosts it, the festival features local musicians playing on porches while visitors wander and listen.

While some acts were invited by friends who lent their stoops for the afternoon, many live in the neighborhood and simply took the opportunity to show off their musical talents to the community.

Take a look at the video below to hear from a few of the bands and see the crowds of kids, parents and dogs enjoying music and sunshine.

Auto/Economy
1:01 am
Thu April 26, 2012

Most Michigan cities see declining home foreclosure filings

(file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Most Michigan cities saw their home foreclosure rates tumble during the first quarter of the year. One analyst says that might signal a trend for the rest of 2012. 

Home foreclosure filings dropped between 20% and 30% in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids during the first three months of the year. That's compared to the first quarter of 2011, according to Realty Trac. 

Lansing was the only Michigan city on Realty Trac’s list to see an increase in home foreclosure filings between January and March. Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.

He says Lansing’s foreclosure rate increase was tied to a big increase in final bank repossessions. "It seems like it’s more of a clearing out of the foreclosure pipeline rather than a lot a new foreclosures coming online and starting the process," says Bloomquist. 

Bloomquist expects other Michigan housing markets will see spikes in foreclosure filings as the year goes on, but he predicts the general trend will be fewer foreclosures in Michigan.

Environment
5:00 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Ann Arbor pollution cleanup plan, public meeting tonight

DTE Energy owns the site where an old manufactured gas plant once operated in Ann Arbor. The site is polluted by by-products from producing coal gas.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Tonight at Cobblestone Farm in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public meeting to discuss a plan to clean up toxic pollution along the banks of the Huron River.

The soil near the Huron River just downriver of Argo Dam has been contaminated with substances leftover from an old manufactured gas plant that operated from around the 1900s to the 1940s.

Manufactured gas plants converted coal to gas for street lamps, cooking, and heating prior to the widespread use of natural gas.

But back in those days, converting coal to gas left behind some nasty pollution. And the tarry, oily-like pollution can bubble up decades later - as it has in Ann Arbor.

The site in Ann Arbor is owned by the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company (MichCon), a subsidiary of DTE Energy.

You can get an idea of where the pollution is on the site by clicking through the images above.

In a pollution response plan filed on behalf of MichCon, several pollutants were noted.

  • Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) (associated with petroleum releases);
  • Total polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (associated with MGP tar and/or petroleum releases);
  • Metals (arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, selenium, silver, thallium, and vanadium) (some of these metals (e.g., arsenic) may be from natural background);
  • Ammonia; and
  • Available cyanide.

Here's more on tonight's public meeting from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality:

MichCon property owners are proposing to remove sediment, near shore soil, and some contaminated upland soil from the Huron River and its south bank at the MichCon plant site near Broadway Street. This plan requires a construction permit from DEQ.  

The public meeting and hearing will be held at Cobblestone Farm, located at 2781 Packard Road in Ann Arbor. Doors will open in the big barn on the second floor at 6 p.m. for informal discussion with DEQ staff, followed by a public meeting at 7 p.m., and a formal hearing to gather public comment around 8 p.m.  

As part of the permit review process, the DEQ also is accepting written public comment on the plan through April 30, 2012.

DTE Energy is planning several methods to control the pollution on the site, including removing polluted sediment, and capping and collecting other sources of pollution.

AnnArbor.com's Ryan Stanton reports Ann Arbor city officials are anxious to see it cleaned up:

Ann Arbor officials expect the cleanup to take place starting this summer. DTE has vowed to pay for whitewater improvements along the river as part of the project.

Matt Naud, the city's environmental coordinator, expects the cleanup project will go before the Ann Arbor Planning Commission for site plan approval because it will disturb natural features, but he doesn't expect that to be a significant issue.

"We're just glad this significant level of cleanup is happening," Naud said. "It's a big project. They're going to be moving a lot of soil."

Sports Commentary
7:00 am
Fri April 6, 2012

Saying goodbye to a tradition, Ann Arbor's Parthenon Restaurant closes

The beloved gyro sandwich.
George Ruiz Flickr

Ann Arbor’s Parthenon Restaurant closed last week after almost 40 years at the corner of Main and Liberty. 

For me, it marked more than the passing of a favorite spot, but the end of a time-honored ritual for the guys. 

We filed in, and walked to our favorite table in the back.

A little warmer, and we’d sit outside, but it was still March, so whatya gonna do?

The owners and waiters nodded. They’ve seen us more than a hundred times.

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Generation Y
9:30 am
Wed April 4, 2012

Happy at home: Generation Y looks for success on its own terms

Sanford Bledsoe and Anna Foster at the (espresso) bar in Ann Arbor, the cafe they co-own
Jonathan Alexander Facebook

Members of Generation Y---those Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s who are currently in college or cutting their teeth in the working world---have received their share of scrutiny in recent years. But where their parents might be discussed in terms of day-glo paint and ideological revolution, Gen Y-ers tends to garner attention for their inseparable relationship with technology and their bad timing, starting their adult lives in America's worst economic climate since the Great Depression.

Going Nowhere?

Last month, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece co-written by economist Todd Buchholz and his daughter Victoria, a student at Cambridge University. It bore the headline “The Go-Nowhere Generation” and in it the Buchholzs argued that unlike previous generations, Generation Y has "become risk-averse and sedentary," unwilling to leave home in search of "sunnier economic climes."

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Auto/Economy
5:52 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

New AirRide bus travels between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro

Congressman John Dingell (fifth from right) poses with those behind the AirRide public-private partnership

There’s a new public transit option for those who want to travel between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport.

It's called AirRide, and it hits the road Monday.

The AirRide bus is not your average mass transit ride. For starters, there’s wi-fi, outlets for your laptop, and a bathroom. Apparently the seats are comfortable, too. So comfy that Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's David Nacht describes them as "more comfortable than three out of the four chairs" in his living room.

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Arts/Culture
1:33 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Artpod: Ann Arbor Film Festival turns 50

Opening night marquee at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor
Photo courtesy of Abby Rose Photo

Happy 50th, Ann Arbor Film Festival!

On today's Artpod, we hear from the festival's director, Donald Harrison. We also catch up with two longtime fans of the festival - one: an audience member, the other: a filmmaker - to hear some of their favorite film fest memories.

Festival-goer: "Every year I find at least two or three films that are just amazing."

John Johnson has been going to the Ann Arbor Film Festival since the late 1960s, and considers himself a big fan of the event.

He's such a big fan that when a film he likes doesn't win an award at the festival, he sends the filmmaker a "a few dollars myself and tell them what a great film it was."  He says he's probably done that about four times, three of which have resulted in a letter back from the filmmaker and a DVD copy of the film.

One of his favorite memories was when he saw Claude LeLouch's "Rendezvous" at the 1976 film festival. He says the film "totally blew my mind," left him with goose bumps.

Johnson says every year he finds "at least two or three films that are just amazing, from my point of view." He says it's worth sitting in the theatre for hours to get to the films "that are just amazing that you would have nowhere else to see."

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Arts/Culture
4:52 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Ann Arbor Film Fest fans celebrate 50 years of experimental film

The Ann Arbor Film Festival celebrates 50 years of experimental, independent film
user mconnors morgueFile

The experimental Ann Arbor Film Festival kicks off its 50th season Tuesday, March 27.

More than 5,000 films have been screened at the festival over the past five decades. The festival has gone through its ups and downs during that time, too, including cuts to state funding and a high-profile censorship controversy several years ago.

Donald Harrison, the festival’s executive director, says more than 230 films will be shown this time around, many by obscure filmmakers.

"We really encourage people just to have that open mind, that sense of discovery," says Harrison. "We guarantee that people will see things that really affect them in a rewarding way, and of course they’ll see things that maybe they don’t care as much about, but that’s probably someone else’s favorite film in the festival."

We caught up with two longtime fans of the festival - an audience member, and a filmmaker – to hear some of their favorite film fest memories.

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Weather
7:01 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Severe weather rips through parts of southeast Michigan

Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

DEXTER, Mich. (AP) — A Washtenaw County official says his office is responding to reports of "lots of damage" after reports of at least one tornado striking the ground.

County director of Emergency Management Marc Breckenridge says he could not confirm any reports of injuries or deaths from the twister Thursday afternoon. He could not provide details of the damage. No injuries or deaths have been reported.

National Weather Service spotters are reporting a tornado touchdown in the Dexter and Pinckney area of Washtenaw County. Weather Service Observation Program Leader Debra Elliott says radar also "is highly suggesting" a touchdown.

Annarbor.com posted a video of the possible twister near Dexter.

Rain, hail and high winds have been moving across parts of southeastern Michigan late Thursday afternoon.

Auto/Economy
12:20 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Ann Arbor-based Tecumseh Products could make cuts after 2011 losses

The Ann Arbor based company Tecumseh Products, which makes compressors for refrigerators and air conditioners, experienced a tough 2011.

Yesterday, Crain's Detroit Business reported shares of Tecumseh "were at $3.93 late this morning, the lowest since their all-time low of $3.75 in March 2009."

The price ticked upward, and stands at $4.35 as of this posting.

Nathan Boomey of AnnArbor.com reports that there are concerns the company is too big, and that could mean layoffs for Tecumseh Products employees.

CEO Jim Conner said the company worked to reduce overhead and employee numbers in 2011, but "these actions alone were not sufficient to offset the lower sales, and additional restructuring actions may be necessary."

From AnnArbor.com

Connor...attributed the tough 2011 to "higher raw material costs, lower volumes and unfavorable changes in mix as a result of weak demand in the second half of the year."

The company said sales of compressors for commercial refrigeration and aftermarket devices fell 5.4 percent. That segment accounts for 58 percent of its total sales.

One positive sign for Tecumseh Products is sales increases in Latin America, where air conditioning is becoming more common in the home.

Tecumseh Products had about 7,300 employees as of July.

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