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Cultivating Conversations

How a downtown parking lot in Ann Arbor, Michigan became a city-wide cultural asset.

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Cultivating Conversations

  1. 1. Cultivating Conversations Cultivating Conversations How a downtown parking lot became a city-wide cultural asset How a downtown parking lot became a city-wide cultural asset
  2. 2. Downtown Home & Garden has served the Ann Arbor community since 1906.
  3. 3. Today it sells organic garden supplies and related interesting stuff. Wallace
  4. 4. Located one block from Main Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it offers handy on-site parking when buying bulk bird seed.
  5. 5. Founder Mark Hodesh and business partner Bill Zolkowski realized this daytime parking lot held untapped potential.
  6. 6. THE URBAN INNOVATOR’S QUESTION: What can happen here? Mark and Bill had an idea for making greater use of this property after regular hours. They also saw how Ann Arbor could benefit from a lively social gathering place for people of all ages and origins.
  7. 7. Mark and Bill met here, across the street, four decades ago.
  8. 8. In 2012, they collaborated to animate the parking lot…
  9. 9. …in the evening after regular retail business hours.
  10. 10. Bill’s Beer Garden soon became the place to be.
  11. 11. Shared tables and a convivial setting make it easy to start a conversation.
  12. 12. Traditional barriers to socializing are minimized.
  13. 13. The space is visually connected to the street.
  14. 14. Views to the interior add interest for people walking downtown. Downtown Home & Garden
  15. 15. It is a place for extraordinary performances… University Musical Society Season Opener: My Brightest Diamond with Detroit Party Marching Band at Downtown Home & Garden and Bill’s Beer Garden, 11 Sept 2015
  16. 16. …like the Detroit Party Marching Band…
  17. 17. …as well as everyday socializing.
  18. 18. In a world of ordinary places, what other elements make Bill’s Beer Garden beloved? - special character - real; genuine - presence of Bill - evolved over time - comfortable and sheltered - textured, not slick and shiny - connections to nature - aesthetically attractive - obvious that owners truly care
  19. 19. Here’s to Bill’s Beer Garden and to seeing possibilities… Local entrepreneur Jane Hughes with Bill Zolkowski of Bill’s Beer Garden
  20. 20. …by asking the innovator’s question: What can happen here? photos & text: Sharon VanderKaay @svkaay