Ann Arbor

Education
4:00 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Ann Arbor schools to cut more than 60 full-time teaching positions

The Ann Arbor school board passed its budget last night which eliminated teaching positions.

Kyle Feldscher from Annarbor.com reports:

Trustees passed the $183 million budget by a 5-2 vote, filling a deficit that eventually grew to about $16 million. The budget originally included the elimination of high school transportation and 70 full-time teacher positions. The final budget passed Wednesday included high school transportation and eliminated 62.3 full-time teacher positions.

Feldscher reports that teacher layoffs are not expected:

The budget includes no layoffs of full-time teachers, with all of the position reductions coming through attrition and negotiations with the Ann Arbor Education Association.

Arts/Culture
4:55 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Books: His Michigander unhappiness

My American Unhappiness, the second novel from Dean Bakapoulos, the author of Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, is about an unhappy (surprise!) man working in the humanities in Wisconsin who makes a series of terrible decisions for the ostensible purpose of getting married and keeping his family together.

While the main action of the novel takes place in Madison, WI, the protagonist, Zeke Pappas, has a number of connections to Michigan. His time at the University of Michigan features many references to university and Ann Arbor town life including [mild spoiler alert!] Alice Lloyd Hall, the Fleetwood Diner, and beloved professor Ralph Williams’s popular Shakespeare class. 

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Economy
3:59 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Borders prepares for important bankruptcy court date this week

Borders bookstore, Ann Arbor, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Attorneys for Borders will be back in court this week  asking a judge to give the troubled Ann Arbor-based book store chain more time to exit bankruptcy protection.  When Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February, the hope was the bookstore chain would be able to quickly turn itself around.   That apparently isn’t happening. 

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Arts/Culture
12:00 pm
Fri May 6, 2011

A unique music festival in Ann Arbor (video)

Neighbors play music from their front porch during the Water Hill Music Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There were 60 performances around the neighborhood.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

""It must be something in the water." - Paul Tinkerhess.

Last Sunday, I walked around a neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side and witnessed a new music phenomenon - the Water Hill Music Festival - where neighbors played music from their front porches, backyards, and garages.

The idea for the festival came from Paul Tinkerhess, a local business owner and musician.

Tinkerhess described the concept in Groundcover News:

"The concept is simple," Tinkerhess said. "On the afternoon of Sunday, May 1st, everyone in the neighborhood who either is a musician or wants to pretend to be a musician is encouraged to step out onto their front porch and play music. That's it. Or half of it. The other half is that we are inviting all the other neighbors, and the rest of the world, to wander through the neighborhood that afternoon and enjoy something like a music festival with a lot of stages."

The neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side, dubbed "Water Hill" by Tinkerhess, if filled with musical talent.

I caught a small fraction of the festival, and made this video:

One festival attendee, Patti Smith, said the event was "Ann Arbor covered in awesome sauce."

Arts/Culture
1:00 pm
Sat April 30, 2011

Ann Arbor neighborhood opens up its lawns, porches for new music festival

Erin and Eric will perform with their band Lake Folk on Sunday at 4 p.m. as part of the first ever "Water Hill Music Festival"
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

An Ann Arbor neighborhood will host a one-of-a-kind "front porch" music festival this weekend.

On Sunday, May 1 from 2 p.m. - 6 p.m., musicians who live in the city's Water Hill district will sit out on their front porch or lawn, and put on a show. It's called the Water Hill Music Fest, and more than 50 house in the neighborhood will participate.

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Economy
9:05 am
Mon April 11, 2011

Ann Arbor economic development leaders want to keep Borders HQ

Economic development leaders in Ann Arbor are hoping Borders Books will find a new home for its headquarters in city where the company started. 

Four decades ago, Borders started as bookstore in Ann Arbor.  With the big box bookstore chain now in bankruptcy protection, Borders executives are planning to move out of their Ann Arbor headquarters. 

But where?   As part of the company’s bankruptcy plan, Borders is looking for less expensive office space to rent. 

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Government Shutdown
2:34 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum could be among the first victims of possible govt. shutdown

Exterior view of the Gerald R. Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan
(courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Library)

The Gerald R. Ford presidential museum and library would be among the first places people in Michigan would see affected by a possible federal government shutdown.  

On a normal Saturday in April, a few hundred people visit the Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids.   But, if Congress can’t reach a budget deal by midnight tonight, the Ford museum’s doors will stay locked over the weekend.

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Economy
2:06 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Borders spokeswoman insists decision to leave Ann Arbor has not been made

Borders bookstore located in Arborland shopping center in Ann Arbor, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A report in the Wall Street Journal suggested Borders plans to move its headquarters from Ann Arbor. But company spokeswoman Mary Davis insists no final decision has been made.   

"We are looking at a number of options all around the greater metropolitan Detroit area including Ann Arbor. News reports are making it sound like the decision is final and we are moving out of Ann Arbor. That is not the case."   

The Wall Street Journal reported late last night that Borders will outline its future plans to a group of its creditors today. Part of those plans involves moving out of the company's Ann Arbor headquarters. The company has said the building no longer serves Borders needs. Borders issued a statement saying the company will look for a new facility in metro Detroit.  

Borders filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year. Since then, Borders moved to close more than 200 bookstores, including four in Michigan. Borders hopes to exit bankruptcy protection later this year, possibly in late summer or early fall.  

Borders, once a leader in the nation's book selling industry, has struggled in recent years as book buyers have moved online.

Economy
8:38 am
Wed April 6, 2011

Report: Borders to leave Ann Arbor for Metro Detroit

A report in the Wall Street Journal says Borders will move its headquarters from Ann Arbor, MI to Metro Detroit
Lorna Is Flickr

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Borders Group Inc. will move its headquarters from Ann Arbor to the Detroit metro area. The company is currently operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. From the Journal:

Borders Group Inc. plans to tell publishers and landlords Wednesday it has achieved major cost savings, including more than $30 million in rent reductions, and that it will move out of its Ann Arbor, Mich., headquarters for cheaper office space in the greater Detroit metro area.

Presenting its business plan to an unsecured creditors committee, predominantly made up of publishers and landlords, Borders also plans to say it has now closed about 50 superstores as part of efforts to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter. Altogether, Borders will close 226 by the end of next month, although a handful of additional stores could be closed, depending on negotiations with landlords, the people said.

News organizations around the state were quick to pick up the report:

Environment
3:58 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

Meeting tonight about pollution under Ann Arbor

A graphic representation of the dioxane plume under Ann Arbor
Scio Residents for Safe Water

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding a public meeting tonight about changes to the 1,4-dioxane groundwater cleanup plan in Ann Arbor.

The meeting will be held at 7:00 p,m. at Abbot Elementary School, 2670 Sequoia Parkway, Ann Arbor.

From the MDEQ:

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Economy
4:45 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Borders will get more time to review bookstore leases

Borders bookstore located in Arborland shopping center in Ann Arbor, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal bankruptcy judge has decided to give Borders Group another 90 days to review leases for its bookstores.   The Ann Arbor-based bookstore change is working to emerge from bankruptcy later this year. Borders is already closing 200 bookstores across the country, including 4 stores in Michigan.   Borders is expected to announce plans to close additional stores and renegotiate leases on about 600 other outlets. 

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Arts/Culture
10:14 am
Mon March 14, 2011

AnnArbor.com lays off 14 employees

AnnArbor.com replaced the 174-year old daily Ann Arbor News in 2009
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Update March 14th, 10:14 a.m.

Tony Dearing is AnnArbor.com's chief content officer. He posted a comment over the weekend on AnnArbor.com about the layoffs. Here's what he wrote:

While personnel issues are an internal matter and we don't discuss them publicly, I can confirm that we reorganized our newsroom this week to put our focus more squarely on local news coverage. As a new organization, we have tried a lot of things. Now that we are well into our second year, the community has told us very resoundingly that what it wants most from us is hard news coverage, particularly in the areas of government, education, police, courts, health, the environment, University of Michigan sports, and business. These areas of coverage account for all but a tiny percentage of our readership and revenue. Meanwhile, we also have put a lot of effort toward other things -- including lifestyle topics like Passions and Pursuits, The Deuce, Homes and some areas of Entertainment coverage -- that our community has shown much less interest in, and we are scaling back in those areas.

We have made tremendous progress since we launched, and we continue to be very happy with the growth we're seeing in audience and revenue. But from the beginning, we said that we would be shaped by what the community wants, and the community wants us to focus more sharply on local news reporting. We have repositioned ourselves to throw our energy and resources into our local news coverage and that is how we will operate moving forward as we continue to grow.

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Offbeat
1:30 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Ann Arbor known for its "cheese cubes"??

Is Ann Arbor known for its cheese cubes?
user jamiesrabbits Flickr

On the public radio program Here & Now, host Robin Young was interviewing Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef and owner of the New York City restaurant “Prune.” She wrote a memoir called “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef,” (which chef Anthony Bourdain called “simply the best memoir by a chef - ever.”).

During the interview Young asked Hamilton about her time in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Young says, "like a lot of Americans, you thought, 'Ann Arbor, Michigan… cheese cubes.'"

You can hear Young's comment in the audio here. It's at the 6 minute mark.

That comment sparked one listener to write in. Phillip wrote:

I do hope that someone from your Michigan network of stations will  contact the host of Here and Now about her  comment yesterday  regarding Ann Arbor; specifically, in an interview with the chef/ author of Prune, the host
remarked something to the effect that "When  most of us think of Ann Arbor, we think of cheese cubes..."  Give me a  break!

Well, we did share that comment with the producers at Here & Now and host Robin Young wrote back:

Dear Phillip

OY YI YI!!!!

The cheese cube kerfuffle!!

We're going to address on a letters segment on air, but I've been writing the (many!) people who've written.

Just to clarify.. what I said was, "YOU" (meaning the author) thought Michigan meant cheese cubes. This is what she writes in the book! Then I went on to say, but you found otherwise.

I buy from Zingermans!! I don't think Ann Arbor means cheese cubes!

SO sorry for leaving that impression,

Best
Robin Young
Here and Now

Arts/Culture
12:28 pm
Fri February 25, 2011

Borders No. 1, where it all began in Ann Arbor

Borders Books has filed for bankruptcy. One former employee remembers the first store in Ann Arbor.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Borders Books started in Ann Arbor as a small independent book store.

Tom and Louis Borders opened it in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1971.

The first Borders bookstore was located at 209 State Street, north of the State Theater.

Eve Silberman was a graduate student in Ann Arbor when she got a job at the very first Borders Bookstore owned by the Borders brothers.

The company recently declared bankruptcy.

Silberman sat down to talk with public radio host Dick Gordon of The Story.

Silberman talked with Gordon about her memories of working at the first Borders bookstore (she described herself as "not a very good worker").

She recalled several things about the first Borders Bookstore:

  • Joe Gable was the "shaper and caretaker" of the store (many thought Gable was a Borders).
  • Gable saw the store as a "cathedral of books" and the workers were the "worshippers."
  • Classical music played in the store.
  • Potential employees had to take a test to get a job at the store.
  • The store carried unique titles.
  • The store's cash register was complex at the time.

Host Dick Gordon asked Silberman about the sense in Ann Arbor about the misfortunes of Borders.

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Economy
4:52 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Borders Books liquidation sale begins Saturday at closing stores

A look inside a Borders Bookstore
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The company handling the liquidation sales at some 200 Borders Books stores announced today the sales will begin Saturday.   Hilco Merchant Resources of Chicago issued a press release saying the liquidation will begin with 20 to 40% on all merchandize with some exceptions. Over $350 million of inventory including books, magazines, music and movie media, calendars, posters and more will be liquidated.  

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Economy
9:12 am
Thu February 17, 2011

Borders: What's Next?

Books sit on the shelf in a Borders bookstore
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Borders Books’ successful trip through bankruptcy is contingent on deals with publishers.    Borders filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday. 

Court documents show the Ann Arbor-based bookseller owes more than $150 million to 7 publishers, including Simon & Shuster, Random House and Penguin.    Borders has also been delaying payments to publishers since December. 

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Economy
1:56 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Could a Borders bankruptcy be a boom for independent bookstores?

A customer buys a book at a Borders bookstore in Ann Arbor
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Independent bookstore owners are not sure whether Borders Books expected bankruptcy filing this week will be good news for their businesses. 

Analysts expect Borders will close 200 or more stores as part of any bankruptcy plan.  

When Borders Books and other mega-bookstore chains started opening 40 years ago, it seemed like the end for many small local bookstores.   They found it difficult to compete with the big stores with their wider selections, coffee bars and other amenities. But the obituary for the corner bookstore was a bit premature.  

Now that online book sales and e-book readers are shrinking the market for big-box bookstores,  the smaller footprint booksellers suddenly have a brighter future. Deb Leonard is the executive director of the Great Lakes Independent Bookseller Association

“Those independent stores in those neighborhoods will benefit because people need a place to go.”

Leonard says, in some cases, local bookstores might consider taking over former Borders locations.

Economy
9:51 am
Mon February 14, 2011

Next chapter or Final chapter for Borders

Books sit on the shelf in a Borders bookstore
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Borders Books is expected to begin its next chapter this week. The Ann Arbor based bookseller is expected to file for bankruptcy protection Monday or Tuesday. 

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported Borders will likely file for bankruptcy protection this week. Borders stock fell by a third on the news.

It’s not like the news was unexpected. Borders has been struggling financially for years. Less than a year ago,  investors were paying more than $3 for a share of Borders stock. When the market closed Friday, you could have bought a share of Borders Books for 25 cents.

Borders is still the nation’s number 2 traditional bookstore with more than 600 stores. But as book buyers have spent more online, Borders’ share of the total book market has shrunk.

It’s been delaying payments to publishers and others since December, as the company has tried to hang on to some cash. Borders’ bankruptcy plan reportedly includes closing more than 200 stores. 

No word on what the plan is to convince book buyers to return to Borders.

The Rise and Fall (and Re-Rise?) of Borders Group.

Economy
2:46 pm
Fri February 11, 2011

Borders Books may file for bankruptcy Monday

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Borders Group may file for bankruptcy protection on Monday or Tuesday next week. The Ann Arbor-based bookseller has struggled in recent years as book buyers have migrated from big box stores to the web.

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Economy
11:07 am
Mon February 7, 2011

Borders Books "One foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel"

A big week for Borders
Ruthanne Reid Flickr

This could be a pivotal week for the future of Borders Books with some sources saying the company could seek bankruptcy protection.    

The Ann Arbor-based bookseller delayed payments to publishers and others the past two months.   The company has been trying to negotiate with its vendors and come up with a plan to move forward.    Borders has a half billion dollar financing deal in place, if it can come to terms with its vendors. 

Jeff Manning is a managing director with BDO Capitol Advisors.   Manning’s company closely follows the retail market. 

"The challenge,  if you look at the statistics,  majority of companies that enter bankruptcy do not emerge.  If you look at recent statistics with retailers, an awful lot of retailers have gone straight into liquidation." 

Manning expects Borders’ vendors will decide it’s more in their interest to keep Borders viable. He says, if Borders does file for bankruptcy, the company will probably exit bankruptcy before Christmas.   But Manning says Borders execs must be careful, since the bookseller is in a precarious position:

"One foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel," says Manning.

 

The Rise and Fall (and Re-Rise?) of Borders Group.

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