Creative Assets Attract New Development in Downtown Ann Arbor 

Outdoor art installation at Kingsley Rain Garden


The Ann Arbor News reports that the downtown area is seeing a development boom with 20 new building projects currently under construction or pending approval. Two luxury condo projects profiled in the news article are proposed on land adjacent to the recently completed Kingsley fish sculpture park located at First and Kingsley, attracted by the newly-created community green space that features an outdoor art installation entitled “Riverscape”.


Completed in 2014, the fish sculpture park was designed to be a functional landscape, specifically an urban rain garden, engineered to absorb, filter and cool stormwater runoff. Flourishing with native plants – wildflowers and grasses that provide seasonal color and habitat for wildlife, the rain garden benefits the community and the environment in several ways. From the viewpoint of planners, economic developers, business and municipal leaders, the rain garden and Riverscape art installation are recognized community and cultural assets that are attracting economic development.


Ann Arbor outdoor art and real estate development


Experts in urban planning describe the relationship between the arts and economic vitality. Research by the American Planning Association finds that, “Arts and cultural activity can increase attention and foot traffic to an area, including attracting visitors and increasing the length of time and money they spend, thereby contributing to continued development. Similarly, the presence of public art and related streetscape amenities such as artist designed lighting, signs, and benches is a way to attract pedestrians.” In addition to foot-traffic, the perception of a vibrant and creative environment is important to local businesses that want to attract a talented workforce. “Cultural and creative amenities are assets as well as excellent tools for identifying and promoting other community assets. Creative-class theory suggests that a high-tech, highly educated workforce prefers a location with creative amenities. A flourishing arts and culture sector can affect where workers in the information economy, especially younger ones, want to live and as such is important for workforce recruitment and retention strategies.”


Architects rendering of Kingsley Parkside and rain garden


Two luxury condo developments in front of the Ann Arbor Planning Commission expressly capitalize on the park’s amenities. A proposed five-story, two-unit condo building even refers to the park in its name – the Kingsley Parkside. Architects’ renderings of the building prominently feature the park’s fish sculptures. Those units are listed at around $1 million and $1.2 million respectively. The second building at 410 First Street proposes 25 units ranging from $350,000 to $1 million.


Conservation Design Forum designed the Kingsley rain garden and worked with the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission to solicit artwork for the project. Patrick Judd, Principal Landscape Architect at CDF’s Ann Arbor office, developed the public space in collaboration with Colorado-based sculpture artist Joshua Wiener to provide bio-retention, engage the community, and metaphorically represent the flow of the nearby Huron River.


To read more about the development boom in downtown Ann Arbor, visit:


Tags: urban land, community assets, rain garden, bio-retention, Ann Arbor redevelopment

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