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Alternative Futures for Ann Arbor's Riverfront


The City of Ann Arbor Michigan & the Huron River Watershed Council


Facilitator/Designer/Author of Visions of Argo

Facilitation methods used


Facilitated a 2-year process with quarterly meetings towards developing three Alternative Future Scenarios for land and water management.


The initiating planning problem was what to do about an out-of-commission and crumbling dam in the downtown area which dated back to the founding of the city. This challenge had already spanned many decades of conflicting opinions and indecision, and no solution that had been proposed with full stakeholders support because of competing interests. Either removing it or repairing the dam had serious ecological, economic and social implications but the question could no longer be delayed as an unplanned breach of the dam could have even more catastrophic implications.


Engaging a multidisciplinary public working group of 24 individuals representing different community groups with different values, needs and diverse expertise, my team translated community values into 3 different sustainable development futures, compared to a Business-as-Usual future. Evaluation metrics of success were based on stakeholders expressed values, to compare futures across differing priorities. Because the criteria was stakeholder defined it added credibility and neutrality to the work. It also offers shared understanding of constraints and opportunities.


The processes helped to build community rather than continue historic divisions as stakeholders felt ownership of what priorities are driving each as well as the trade-offs and compromises being made. The area is now a a regional destination which has won several awards.

Visions of Argo Final Report

​Visions of Argo Presentation

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