Blog: Rebecca Lopez Kriss

Anyone who has met Rebecca Lopez Kriss knows she almost always says what is on her mind. Rebecca is "thrilled to pieces" that her irreverent running commentary on life, culture, and Ann Arbor, is finally being appreciated. However, upon further reflection she hopes she has not spoken too soon. 

A transplant to Ann Arbor from Detroit, Rebecca is a concerned citizen and community advocate at all levels. She volunteers her time with a number of organizations including
getmedowntown.com, the Women's Exchange of Washtenaw, the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, and Ann Arbor SPARK.

She is currently the chair of the Ann Arbor Art Center’s 100th Anniversary Events Committee, and encourages everyone she meets to watch for upcoming festivities in 2009. Ms. Lopez Kriss is also a co-founder of the YP Underground, an informal networking group that encourages conversations between young professionals.

Rebecca's work experience includes marketing, business development, and a variety of supervisory positions. She received a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Detroit Mercy. Her influences include: Dorothy Parker, Susan Sontag, Wes Anderson, Valerie Solanas, and Monty Python.

Rebecca Lopez Kriss - Most Recent Posts:

Rebecca Lopez Kriss - Post 5: A Plug

A plug for YP Underground, an informal networking group for young(ish) professionals who live or work in the Ann Arbor area. We are not fighting for a cause, but are always looking for an excuse to get together for conversation

Melange (314 S. Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor) has graciously offered to host the next YP Underground networking event on Thursday, November 20th starting at 5:00. Melange Management couldn't resist your devilish charm and will be providing free appetizers to our group. Who can resist such a delicious (and generous) offer? Get there early to take advantage of the other happy hour specials (1/2 off ordered appetizers, sushi, select libations, and wines by the glass) that run until 6PM.

So before you face your family to enjoy/endure another Turkey Day, join us for cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and vibrant conversation.

Also...if you're looking for some authentic urban holiday fare, here are the details of the next getmedowntown.com trip:

Grab your winter woolens and ice skates to witness Detroit's tree lighting ceremony and figure skating extravaganza in Campus Martius Park, Friday, November 21st. If hot chocolate and wholesome goodness are not your thing, Hot Toddys, Irish Coffees, and other libations, await at the many walk-able bar and club destinations in the Campus Martius Park area. Pubcrawl maps and suggestions will be provided. (One verse of "Silent Night," and I might need a drink. ;-)

Get the babysitter scheduled, and give the dogs a treat: the bus leaves downtown Ann Arbor at 6PM, and will be back by 1AM.  See more complete schedule information and reserve your seat at our website:

Thanks!


Rebecca Lopez Kriss - Post 4: My Three Favorite Marketing Ideas for Washtenaw County That No One Lis

Hey! Ken Fischer, are you listening?  I grew up on the east side of Metro Detroit without a love for football, and therefore pretty much oblivious to Ann Arbor. I can name every major road that runs north/south from Gratiot to Telegraph, but never had a reason to make the trek on I-94 all the way out to Washtenaw County.

I am sure my experience is in many ways a-typical. I suspect that there are many people in Metro Detroit who came to school at the University of Michigan, make a life in the suburbs of Detroit, and suddenly Ann Arbor is just an idyllic horizon in their distant collegiate experience. These are the same people who exclaim, "Oh, I just love Ann Arbor," when I tell them where I am living these days, but they just can’t remember the last time they came out here. 

In an era of people rediscovering their backyard and not spending on lavish vacations outside of our beautiful state, the marketers of our region may find themselves marketing a little closer to home. 

Get Oakland County to Fall in Love All Over Again

How many of you have driven up Woodward recently? It’s like a direct route to the other town-and-gown crowd of Southeast Michigan. 

You know, out there they have amazing opportunities to remind people how great Ann Arbor is.  They are called billboards, and I have been told they are very effective. I won’t spell out the ad campaign, but it goes something like, "Rediscover Ann Arbor..." 

Sell Train Packages from Birmingham and Royal Oak for Dinner and a Show

Does anyone remember when the Tigers were in the World Series in 2006? Anyone? Here is what I remember: Olympia Development, the Detroit Tigers, Amtrak, and the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) teamed up and offered train and ticket packages for $29. Trains left from Pontiac, Birmingham, and Royal Oak, and passengers were then shuttled up to Comerica Park from the Downtown Detroit Amtrak station. That is hot.

And it can happen in Ann Arbor. Imagine all those cultured Birminghamers getting on a train to come to Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble on a Saturday night, or the ladies coming out to see the Jerusalem Symphony on a Sunday afternoon. With the existing Amtrak schedule, both parties can come out to the show with plenty of time to spare, have dinner, do a little shopping, and then hop right back onto the train to head home. All we need is a shuttle that runs between the Amtrak Station, Kerry Town, Downtown, and then to campus. (Hmmm, maybe reroute the Link for special events?) And viola! One super cosmopolitan commuter rail way experience coming up. 

Can anyone see family packages to Summer Fest and Top of the Park?  The possibilities are endless; Chris Bidlack would have a field day with the posters. 

Design Better Maps and Guides

And the crowning piece... better downtown guides. This is going to hurt when I write this, but guys... Grand Rapids has better, cooler, hipper, city guides and maps than Ann Arbor. I don’t know who is doing them, but they look hot, and they make me want to come back to see what I missed. 

Another great example is Portland (which is to be expected). Every district of Portland has its own guide, yet all are co-branded and consistent, and every business from hotels, restaurants, to shops, in that district has them. The maps are inclusive of all features of an area, but look to me to be sponsored by the participating businesses that are highlighted.  Every Portland guide is a fabulous piece that includes walking tour instructions, where to get lunch or dinner, and where to buy a great purse.

Sure, I admit these ideas are easier said than done, but at least now they are out there just ripe for the picking. Ken Fischer are you listening?

Rebecca Lopez Kriss - Post 3: Do something

For giggles, I have been taking classes at Washtenaw Community College lately, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know what the kids are doing. I take the Number 3 bus, which is also a great route because it passes Huron High School, and then you really get an inside scoop. It is pretty cool to see high school kids sporting Obama gear, when they are probably not even old enough to vote. (Like many, I am still riding a wave of post-election optimism. Don’t spoil it!)

Anyway, here’s the point: everybody and their brother is reporting the nearly record breaking voter turnout for 18-29 year olds. Which is great, and I am thrilled. Now let’s get back to the business of fighting the good fight here in Washtenaw County.

If Millenials and Cuspers managed to find their way to a polling place, it sure would be nice if they found their way to the United Way, 826Michigan, Washtenaw Literacy, Growing Hope, Neutral Zone, or any of the other 1,100 non-profits in Washtenaw County that desperately need people and resources.

It took a monumental effort to get hundreds of thousands of young people registered for the 2008 election. (From first hand experience, the "get registered" volunteers were FIERCE at WCC.) It took many multi-million dollar marketing campaigns by organizations like Rock the Vote and Declare Yourself to convince people, "oh yeah, you should stop texting your friends long enough to go do something for yourself and your future.

The civic organizations of our community do not have millions of dollars to convince people that they have a stake in making our county a better place to live. If I have to listen to another person say to me, "They should do something about that," I might claw my eyes out.

So, I am urging the dear Concentrate readers out there to ask themselves, "Are you the marketer or marketed?"

I am challenging you to spend 15 minutes looking for a non-profit of your interest and think about lending a hand, or writing a check, or sharing your expertise. Just 15 minutes! Just think about it!

And another thing, going around picking up garbage for the day is cute, but lets get real, a 6-year old can do that. If you are a professional with some sort of expertise, your value is not in picking up trash. If you know how to make websites, or write press releases, or do bookkeeping, I strongly urge you to think about making a real and lasting contribution to the organization of your choice.

Besides the warm feeling you get in the cockles of your heart by knowing you are doing something helpful to others, the greatest thing about taking responsibility in making your community what it is, is that you get to complain about it later if it doesn’t work out.

See its simple: no volunteer, no vote, no complain.
Volunteer, vote, you get to complain.
And everyone knows, I like to complain.

Rebecca Lopez Kriss - Post 2: Underground Parking Blues

It is somewhat ironic that the Ann Arbor Planning Commission just approved a long-overdue underground parking structure. If you are unfamiliar with the project, let me assure you it is a very, very sexy parking garage. Like, the George Clooney of parking garages. There will be fancy way finding, and natural lighting, and all kinds of very forward thinking ideas. 

Such as: interfacing with the lower levels of the soon-to-come new Ann Arbor District Library; planning for the redevelopment of the prior YMCA space; giving the structure the support to build a multi-story building on top of it, should someone in the next 50 years decide to do so. Let’s hope someone does. As discussed at the Planning Commission meeting, this structure is designed to be the be-all-end-all parking structure for the City of Ann Arbor.

This particular parking structure project has also been in the making for over 19 years. And construction has not even started yet. If all goes well it will be years before we can expect a ribbon cutting ceremony. (And we all know, darlings, how much I love a ribbon cutting ceremony.)

Never fear, dear Ann Arborites. Recently I learned that Arlington, Virginia's transformation from a sprawling, dying suburb to a vibrant growing city was originally planned in the late 60s and early 70s. According to Dr. Terry Holzheimer, Director of Arlington Economic Development, speaking at the Creative Cities Summit 2.0 in Detroit, the plans sat dormant for 20+ years before public transportation, and creative zoning, proved to be a catalyst for growth. 

So while Ann Arbor is finally thinking about what our town may look like in 2050 (and beyond) as far as parking downtown, I am not sure it's thinking about long-term housing. 

The groundwork for increased density in Ann Arbor’s expanding core is just being laid now. I just hope that it isn't another 25 years before anything actually happens. By that time, George Clooney will be old news, and so will the state-of-the-art parking garage that the generation before us had the forethought to dream up.

Next topic: You've managed to vote, now get out there Millennials and make something.


Rebecca Lopez Kriss - Post 1: When Trees Grow Out of Your Gutters

My husband and I blissfully rent a quirky apartment in Ann Arbor’s Old West Side neighborhood. The house is one of the oldest in the neighborhood, more than 150 years old, and boasts a hidden grave stone on the property. (A hippie neighbor told me this once; she was an anthropology major and despite her overbearing patchouli perfume, I trust her assessment completely.) 

The house has been divided into five rather haphazard apartments. My husband and I were blessed the day we were looking, because our apartment has a nice layout, includes a deck, and is large for a one-bedroom. The other apartments are, well... I won’t even bring up the creepy basement space.

It is historic, well located, and...falling apart. The plumbing leaks, the wiring is not grounded, the windows are original, it is not well insulated, the gutters are not actually attached to the house, and on and on and on. Its idiosyncrasies are perfect for my inner eccentric, and frankly for the neighborhood, it is dirt cheap.  I really do love it.

I have a theory about this house. I speculate that the owner is sitting on the property, waiting for a good time to develop a housing complex that was actually designed to fit the five families that live there. (I suspect at that time he will evict the large woodchuck that has made a home underneath the foundation.)  

And it makes sense. For a split second, I channeled Martha Stewart and tried to imagine what this house would be like restored. Which is difficult, since it is nearly impossible to ascertain the original layout. I imagine the costs to be astronomical, given the state of disrepair. It would amount to gutting the entire house and building over, and at that point you might as well just build a better building.

I only bring up my house, because it is such a perfect example of what we should not save. Someone needed to care about preserving it 75 years ago. There are perfectly beautiful homes and buildings in Ann Arbor that have been preserved and beloved for generations. But I urge you, to not let nostalgia get in the way of redevelopment of the many homes and buildings that have not been cared for and for which it is too late. When barriers to redevelopment are tied up in romantic notions about saving historic homes -- which have been rental slums for the past 50 years or more -- we won’t be getting anywhere soon.

My house is inefficient and wasteful, and surely lacks the sort of beauty that the Historic District Commission is intended to preserve. (I won’t even bring up the
Zingerman's debacle; I mean really...you show me someone for whom retainingc322. E. Kingsley is "in the interest of the majority of the community," and I'll show you someone who needs to get out more.)

I understand, Ann Arbor, no one wants to demolish buildings willy-nilly to be replaced by make-a-quick-buck-cheap condos that would be better suited for less discriminating neighborhoods, like Wixom. (Actually, even the people living in cheap condos in Wixom, hate cheap condos in Wixom...just ask my mother.) And I doubt that anyone living in Ann Arbor wants to live in a neighborhood that is nouveau-suburbia.

But I assure you that redevelopment can coincide with historic aesthetics and neighborhood sensibilities. (Just ask Doug Farr, an architect and planner, chair of the USGB LEED for Neighborhood Development Core Committee, and who has been described as a "Sustainable Urbanism Superstar" by this very publication. (His book "Sustainable Urbanism: A Pattern Language for LEED Neighborhood Development" is a must read.) 

Building techniques, sustainable energy technologies, and changes in transportation models, are in every modern city’s future. Building standards need to reflect what Ann Arbor can become, not every scrap of what it once was.
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