Asked how he likes the new Library Lane parking structure, neighbor Herb David replies bluntly: “I don’t. The architecture is great, but I don’t think it’s functional. I haven’t seen people using it.”

David’s opinion may be clouded by the damage two years of construction did to his business, the Herb David Guitar Studio, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary November 22 (see Events). Sales “went down big time, 50 percent,” he says, “and it remains to be seen if it’ll come back up.” Business has improved since the structure opened, David says, “but it’s nothing like it was before.”

Other neighbors are happier. “The comments I’ve heard have been positive so far,” says Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor downtown library just across from the four-level underground structure. “I have parked in it and found it easy to navigate, and I like the open design and the natural light.”

“The lighting is fluorescent with white-painted ceilings, so it’s very bright,” explains Roger Hewitt, treasurer of the Downtown Development Authority. Architect Carl Luckenbach “turned a mundane piece of construction into something exciting. We’ve heard nothing but very positive comments.”

The numbers back him up. In its first full month in August, the structure earned $43,234, nearly 10 percent of the DDA’s first-year goal of $451,479, in the slowest month of the year. In large part, Hewitt says, that’s because “the demand for monthly parking permits far exceeded expectations. Well over half the [738] spaces are requested for monthly parking. Over one hundred monthly parkers moved from the Liberty Square structure because of the special opening rate of $95 per month for the first two years”–$60 a month less than at Liberty Square. Thanks to the exodus, the DDA is opening part of Liberty Square to hourly parkers.

“The way things have been going, [Library Lane] will be as full as the other structures in a year,” Hewitt predicts. “During the school year, most structures are 80 percent full or more.”

Critics warned that rate increases to pay for the $50 million underground structure might drive people away from downtown. That hasn’t happened. “Overall we’ve grown revenue 12 percent in the last year compared with the previous year,” says Hewitt, “and that’s with rate increases only in the 6 to 7 percent range.”

As for what’ll go on top of the structure, Hewitt defers to DDA board member Joan Lowenstein. “After months of public outreach and evaluation by a land use economist, the DDA will make recommendations to [city] council about that parcel, as well as the other surface parking lots” on William, she emails. “The council will ultimately decide what goes there.”

Though the DDA will make its recommendations this fall, Lowenstein continues, “there is no rigid timeline and the state of the economy will probably have more impact than anything else. If a developer with millions of dollars in the bank comes along, there could be a quick decision, but I am not aware of anyone waiting in the wings.”

“We should have an atrium attached to the library, and invite craftsmen and artists to work there, and a little park in front of the library where they can display their stuff,” says Herb David. “And we should have a skating rink in front of the library in the winter. Wouldn’t that be great?”