So promises architect Carl Luckenbach, designer of the structure the Downtown Development Authority will build beneath the current surface lot next to the Ann Arbor District Library. "Underground parking structures have a bad reputation, which I think has been well earned," says Luckenbach, "because with their low ceilings and dim lighting, so many of them have all the charm of a storm sewer." Not this one, he says: "We envision higher ceilings, better lighting, higher [quality] finishes, and dedicated pedestrian walks so people aren't competing with cars when they try to leave."
Though Mayor John Hieftje has talked for years about putting cars out of sight, this is the first time the city has found the money to do it-and it's not going to be cheap. The new structure will cost $50 million and will have 485 more spaces than the existing surface lot. That works out to more than $100,000 apiece. In the last major above-ground structure, on Forest, each space cost just $34,000.
The Library Lot structure could have been even bigger, and costlier: council approved-but didn't fund-a leg extending under Fifth Avenue to the old YMCA site at Fifth and William. The structure also was supposed to link underground to a new Ann Arbor District Library building-until that project was abruptly suspended last December.