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December 08, 1989 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-12-08
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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By Tara Gruzen'

Idrove to Ann Arbor in a
Model A Ford with a
friend sometime in the
early 1940s. We came on a
Sunday and there was hardly a soul
around. It was what you would ex-
pect to see in a small town on a Sun-.
day afternoon. But'it was pretty and
I liked it." '
Nelson Meade, after his 1940s
tour of the city, eventually moved to
Ann Arbor in the late 1950s. He
now represents the dity's Third Ward
on the City Council. Meade doesn't
think all the eity's "progress" is for
the best.
"Briarwood," he said, "doesn't be-
long in Ann Arbor. It isn't the Ann
Arbor I kow."
The upsurge of developpent in
recent years has, in the eyes of
Meade and many others, created two
cities within one. On the one hand,
there is the old downtown and on the
other, the surrounding areas closer to
the freeway. The only thing that
seems to connect the two are the
shoppers.
"Briarwood was the end of the
downtown," said Selma Sussman, a
long time-resident of Ann Arbor.
"Main Street didn't have the glamour
that a mall could offer."
Eppie Potts, a resident of the city
for over 40 years, said Briarwood
was purposely built as big lit is so
that it wouldn't become part of Ann
Arbor. She said that because of the
nature of the area, even people who
live close to the mall have to drive
there to go shopping. "You drive
from one parking lot to another,"
she said.
"People said Briarwood was
inevitable but an-made things are
not inevitable because man makes
them," Potts added.
In addition to the shopping cen-
ter, the construction of residential
complexes near the mall has been on
the rise since3Briarwood opened in
October, 1973. Unlike most of the
houses in Ann Arbor's downtown
districts, the living accommodations
by the mall are mostly condomini-
ums - homogeneous in both ap-
pearance and price.
"The new developments in Briar-
wood don't create a tie to Ann Ar-
bor, but to the freeway system," said
Dave DeVarti, a former city coun-
cilmember and local publisher. De-
Varti said commuters and residents
of the outlying area-do not become
involved in the Ann Arbor commu-
nity.
"It's going to take a long time, if
ever, untiLkthese people become part
of Ann Arbor," Potts said. "The
newer people don't feel any com-
mitment to the town. It's the same
people over and over again who are
active in Ann Arbor."

Ann Arbor Mayor Gerald Jerni-
gan attributed some of this lack of
involvement to the fact that more
people living in Ann Arbor are earn-
ing better wages. He said the newer,
wealthier residents of the city are
more settled, more concerned with
their jobs and families, and partici-
pate less in the affairs of the city.
any residents have
bemoaned the disap-
pearance of the dis-
tinct character of
the city, as the "old" Ann Arbor
quickly gives way to the "new."
Areas which were once filled with
privately-owned specialty shops and
homestyle-cookidg eateries are now
replete with chain stores, neon
signs, and upscale restaurants. "Ann
Arbor still exists in certain parts of
town but in other parts you would
never know what city you are in,"
Potts said.
But City Planning Director
Martin Overheiser said to restrict na-
tional chains and business franchises
from coming into the area wouldl be
to tamper with the underlying free
market economy. He said the de-
crease in the number of "Ma and Pa
operations" in Ann Arbor is part of a
larger, nationwide trend.
According to many store owners,
Xnn Arbor is one of the best loca-
tions in the country to open a busi-
ness, both because of its affluence,
its cultural awareness, and its student
population.
Marcus.Goller, one of the owners
of Espresso Royale Caffe, which
opened last January, said his restau-
rant is successful because cos-
mopolitan Ann Arborites are famil-
iar with the foreign coffees they
serve.
"You get the sense that there is a
Wall Street on Main Street," Goller
said. "It's like a miniature New
York. Out of town businesses are
going to come to produce the prod-
ucts that modern college students
want."
Even some of Ann Arbor's lib-
eral institutions are changing their
look to appeal to a more affluent,
'80s and '90s population. Richard
Nadon, a former volunteer at the
People's Food Co-op (PFC), said
the co-op now sacrifices quality and
lower prices for a new "yuppie" im-
age.
"It started off that people could

said the co-op hasn't compromised
its values by changing over the
years. "In order to survive, you have
to be a business," she said. "Ann
Arbor is getting to be more of an
upscale community and you have to
attract those dollars."
A less visible change in the city
has been that many previously
commercial or residential areas have
been converted to office space. It is
these new offices, many people say,
that have forever dissipated Ann Ar-
bor's small-town feel.
"All of a sudden it was the smart
thing to do to build an office build-
ing," said Asho Craine, who has
lived in Ann Arbor since 1953. "It
was after World War II that things
started going to the dogs but the
skyrocketing of pricing has been in
the '80s."
Although Mayor Jernigan said he
does support keeping the downtown
alive through development, he is
worried that the city not lose the
small town flavor it historically has
had.
"I do have reservations about de-
velopment," Jernigan said. "I am
concerned that Ann Arbor not just be
a city of office buildings.'
However, he said the city does
not have enough money to buy all
of the vacant land available in the
area and so it cannot completely con-
trol what developments are made.
A nn Arbor was once fa-
mous for its fervent ac-
tivism, on the part of
both students and resi
dents. But with the rise of a wealth-
ier class of citizens, a good part of
this activism has died out.
Meade, who was elected to city
council for the first time in 1971,
said activism has decreased dramati-
cally since its peak in the late 1960s
and early 1970s. "(Today) activism
is the exception rather than the rule,"
he said.
Meade said students were very in-
volved with the city government be-
ginning in 1972, when the Human
Rights Party, a political party made
up mostly of students, was first
established. But Meade cites the
Ecology Center, which opened in
1970 with the celebration of the first
Earth Day, as one of the only ac-
tivist movements that has kept up
its commitment over the years.
"Many students are still active,"
Meade added, "but they don't com-
prise the significant number they
used to."

Al Wheeler, the only Black
mayor in the city's history and a
leader in Ann Arbor's civil rights
movement, said the difference be-
tween activism today and the earlier
years is that it has become reactive
instead of aggressive. He said stu-
dents protest injustices that fall upon
them rather than trying to make
changes before problems happen.
Potts attributes this change in
student attitudes to the rising cost of
tuition at the University, resulting
in a more homogeneous student
body. She said students are more
conservative, less involved in the
town, and more focused on getting a
job after graduation.
"Students used to be more inter-
ested in an education and less in a
marketable skill," Potts said.
"Investment in an education is so
high now that noone is looking to
the right or to the left."
But First Ward Councilmember
Ann Marie Coleman, a Democrat,
said activism is constantly fluctuat-
ing. She said it is often the media
that makes it seem as if the amount
of activism in Ann Arbor is more or
less.
While the protests of 20 years
ago were focused on the Vietnam
War, today's activists are engaged in
a variety of causes, Coleman said,
making it seem as if there's less ac-
tivism.
Although she senses there are a
lot of students with "tunnel vision,"
who are concerned only with what
their future will hold, Coleman
praised groups such as the Latin
American Solidarity Committee, the
United Coalition Against Racism,
and the Ann Arbor Tenants Union
for continuing to do a good job in
the city. "I haven't heard of any
group that is going to give up," she
said.
T he fall in the level of ac-
tivism in Ann Arbor co-
incides with an argu-
ment over whether the
city can be labeled liberal or conser-
vative. Although many say the town
has lost the liberal tendencies by
which it was once characterized,
others say Ann Arbor has always
been a conservative city.
"Development is making Ann
Arbor more of a conservative town,"
Meade said.
Ann Ofarian, a long-time Ann
Arborite who has been involved with
issues of development in the city,
says change has always come hard in
Ann Arbor because of its strong
conservative, establishment-oriented
government.
"This is a very conservative city
and they think themselves liberal,"
Ofarian said. "If you ask most peo-
ple they will say they are liberal be-
cause Ann Arbor has the Parkland,
recycling and the five dollar pot
law."

But, Ofarian added, "although
they have a strong sentiment for the
liberal, they have a hard time putting
it into practice. Even a person with
liberal tendencies doesn't want
higher taxes."
Many people also charge that
Ann Arbor is not a "liberal" city be-
cause of the lack of emphasis it puts
on building moderate and low-in-
come housing.
This "gentrification" of the city
has led to an Ann Arbor which caters
to its wealthy citizens at the expense
of its poor, say activists who battle
for more affordable housing. Conse-
quently, they say, the diversity
which Ann Arbor once had is being
eroded as low-income residents and
blue collar workers are forced to
move away from the city.
Michael Appel, a member of the
Tenants Union, attributes the present
housing crisis to cuts in federal
spending on housing, and to federal
tax policies which enable "the rich
to get richer while the poor get
poorer."
Along with rent increases in Ann
Arbor over the past five to six years,
there has been a rise in the average
income of residents, Appel said .
Consequently, more renters are able
to pay higher prices for living in the
city and low-income renters are dis-
placed.
"The most affordable housing is
being demolished and the most ex-
pensive housing is being built," he
said. "It's a lie to say development
improves Ann Arbor."

At left, former Ann Arbor Mayor
Espresso Royale Caffe co-owner h
People's Food Co-op Publications

See Cover Story, Page 12

work together and trust each other,"
Nadon said. "But the people who
were running the co-op found out
they could run it just like Kroger's."
Although the co-op still puts out
a politically conscious newsletter,

Nadon said its only purpose is to
convince people that the co-op is
committed to world peace, so they
will agree to pay five to ten percent
-more than they would at Kroger's.
"PFC is still a bargain," main-

tains Rod Hunt, the publications
manager of the co-op. "Whenever
people call something natural, they
charge more for it."
Ruth Ramson, the membership
development manager of the PFC,

Physically, socially

and

economically,

Ann Arbor

isn't what it

used

to be

Page 8

Weekend/December 8,1989

Weekend/December 8,1989

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