Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

CPC to review two developments on Plymouth

5. October 2005 • Murph
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The A2 City Planning Commission, meeting on Thursday this week, has two public hearings on developments along Plymouth Road on their agenda (pdf).

One is the Upland Green redevelopment of the Diehl junkyard at Plymouth and Upland (gmap), discussed on this site around its first hearing and tabling in April. From the description on the agenda, it looks like the developer reacted to at least some of the input that I and others gave at the first hearing: “That’s all you want to do with the site?! Think bigger!”

Public Hearing and Action on Upland Green Zoning and Planned Project Site Plan, 2.64 acres, 1771 Plymouth Road. A request to zone this site C1A (Campus Business District) and a proposal to construct a 11,020-square foot, three-story building totaling 52.75 feet in height for commercial use and a 23,844-square foot, two-story building for office and retail uses and 154 parking spaces (some underground) (tabled at 4/19/05 meeting) – Staff Recommendation: Approval

The previous proposal included a similar two-story building accompanied by a one-story restaurant building with half the square footage; only 9 parking spaces have been added. I’ll try to snag the site plan from City Hall and comment on the layout of the buildings. I assume the three-story building will be along Plymouth, since the Upland neighbors to the back of the site are height-sensitive.

The Plymouth Green Crossings PUD project, at Plymouth and Green (gmap), was previously reviewed by CPC in October last year.

Public Hearing and Action on Plymouth Green Crossings PUD Zoning District and PUD Site Plan, 8.79 acres, northwest corner of Plymouth and Green Roads. A request to rezone this site from RE (Research District) to PUD (Planned Unit Development District) and a proposal to construct a mixed-use development containing three buildings with first floor retail uses totaling 21,336 square feet and 35 residential units on the second and third floors totaling 47,697 square feet; a 5,900-square foot restaurant building; a 4,116-square foot bank building; and 264 parking spaces (some in garages)- Staff Recommendation: See Staff Report.

I didn’t post the agenda text or look at the site plan last time, so I can’t tell how this is different (if at all) from last time. I noted in last year’s post the existence of three-story buildings with condos above retail and the two one-story buildings, all of which still appears to exist, along with plenty of parking.

  1. Looks like, at Upland and Plymouth, they’re proposing about as good a development as I’d hope for at that site: the front building (along Plymouth) has been pulled (stretched, not slid) forward, with a 40’ setback used as parking reduced to 10’ or grass and sidewalk, and a third commercial space added. There’s a driveway towards the Willowtree end of the Plymouth line, with a stairwell on the far side of it.

    The 2nd & 3rd-story residential is on top of the commercial, spans the driveway, and tops the stairwell, with a proposed “rooftop garden” accessible to the residents. The 11k sqft is just the first floor commercial segment; looks like the residential totals about 31k (it doesn’t say; I’m just subtracting), in 20 units with 42 bedrooms. The building is nearly lot-line to lot-line across the Plymouth frontage, with a driveway through the first floor.

    The back building is unchanged – 2 stories with some underground parking, set towards the rear (away from the intersection) corner of the site. Rezoning had originally been proposed for “C3 – fringe commercial”; now for “C1A – campus-oriented commercial.

    It’s a vast improvement on the previous proposal, IMHO, and seems to be something the neighbors on Upland are okay with also (included in the staff report are notes from a July meeting between ~10 neighbors and the development team to discuss revisions to the proposal).
       —Murph    Oct. 5 '05 - 01:50PM    #
  2. I think just about anything would be a better neighbor than the dump/junkyard that is there now.
       —John Q    Oct. 5 '05 - 02:49PM    #
  3. Well, yes. But – some of the neighbors at the first meeting were quite concerned that construction of anything would involve throwing all the pollution up in the air to come down in their yards; to some degree they seemed content to let sleeping petrochemicals lie. They also don’t want anything too huge next door. I spoke against the development initially because I wanted to see something actually good there, rather than just something slightly better than the existing condition.
       —Murph    Oct. 5 '05 - 03:19PM    #
  4. The Plymouth Green project sets aside about 4.5 acres, or 55% of the lot (towards the intersection) as open space, around an existing wetland area that will be expanded to help handle stormwater runoff in the Miller Creek watershed. The rest of the lot is developed in happy suburban fashion – 21% FAR surrounded by parking lots. A one-story bank-with-drivethrough faces Plymouth, but is set well back; 3 buildings on the edge of the wetland have retail on the ground floors and residential on 2nd/3rd floors (35 units; it’s a PUD but they’re paying cash in-lieu-of); and a one-story restaurant in the back corner. Parking “261 spaces (200 required by proposed uses)”, 73 shared-use with Ave Maria.

       —Murph    Oct. 5 '05 - 03:50PM    #
  5. And it looks like Upland Green is a Bill Conlin project (like Whole Foods); Plymouth Green is a David Kwan project.

    At this point I’m just throwing stuff in so that I can google it in six months…
       —Murph    Oct. 5 '05 - 03:57PM    #
  6. Excellent news on Upland Green! Hopefully it will pass and everyone will benefit from having the developer work with the neighbors on issues and the input of Murph (and others) to make it better. Any idea why residential is not mentioned in the agenda item for Upland Green. It just says commercial, retail, and office.

    I have to admit that C1A (Campus Business District) is a very scary zoning code to me. I don’t know what it means, but it doesn’t sound good, why is there a separate code for “campus”?

    You would think that Diehl would not be a good neighbor, but they have been there for a very long time, are locally-owned, and have always taken pride in their service (as an aside, they have a nifty web site if you are looking for auto parts). I have very fond memories of going to Diehl as a kid and getting giant inflated inner tubes so we could go sledding. Mostly I think it might be a case of “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” The neighbors knew exactly what to expect from Diehl, they don’t know that with any new development.

    The Plymouth Green Crossing plan worries me a bit. I think that this is a prime area for redevelopment, but it shouldn’t be more of the same. Interestingly enough, that area has a lot of housing, is quite walkable, has a grocery store, post office, hotels, drug store, and a lot of jobs. It also seems entirely unwalkable and auto-oriented (Green Road is extraordinarily wide north of Plymouth Rd.). I think there are a lot of opportunities for a good development at this site that could promote the walkability of the area—hopefully that is what is proposed. There is a large wet area in the front though that might or might not be buildable. I’ll have to take a look at what is proposed.
       —Juliew    Oct. 5 '05 - 04:37PM    #
  7. Oh, whoops, Murph I just read your post #4 about Plymouth Green. So much for hoping for better things. Sigh.
       —Juliew    Oct. 5 '05 - 04:42PM    #
  8. “I don’t know what it means, but it doesn’t sound good, why is there a separate code for “campus”?”

    Tried to check the code online but it’s down – but I’m guessing that the campus zoning has less-stringent parking and setback requirements due to the nature of most commercial development in the campus area. Outside of it, suburban-style zoning seems to rule.
       —John Q    Oct. 5 '05 - 04:43PM    #
  9. I like the Upland Green project! Let’s hope it goes through. I’m sure it helps that the neighbors seem to have blessed it.

    The big problem with Diehl, for decades, has been that they block the sidewalk on Plymouth with junk cars, etc.
       —David Cahill    Oct. 5 '05 - 05:19PM    #
  10. From the staff recommendations, it sounds like the original proposal asked for “C3 – Fringe Commercial”, and the CPC asked staff/developer to look at “C1 – Local Business District” also/instead. “C1A – Campus Business District” was chosen because it “provided the best fit for the proposal”. Sounds like it was a case of finding some sort of agreement on what something there should look like, and then figuring out what zoning it could be fit into.

    And, yes, Juliew, I consider it unfortunate irony that we have a project that seems an excellent example of developer, neighbors, and CPC working together to figure out what’s best for all involved paired with a “more of the same” project that just re-emphasizes Plymouth’s existing ex-urban nature.
       —Murph    Oct. 5 '05 - 11:05PM    #
  11. I caught the tail-end of the meeting last night. Looks like both projects were approved. I saw the vote for Plymouth Green Crossing, but not the rest of the discussion. It seemed like there were grumbles about it around the table but it was approved nonetheless. Upland Green was a different, and much happier story. The neighbors and the developer really did get together and work on the plan and other than a few requests to monitor the removal of contaminated soil, there wasn’t much contention (it was kind of jovial actually). It passed unanimously.
       —Juliew    Oct. 7 '05 - 11:16AM    #
  12. Upland Green shows what the planning process can be at its best – when everyone, including the neighbors, is brought in early.

    Plus, the project is “four stories or less,” which fits into the vision of Ann Arbor expressed in the B. V. H.
       —David Cahill    Oct. 8 '05 - 11:45AM    #