Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Old Y Closed, Residents Temporarily Moved to Canton

15. November 2005 • Juliew
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From last Friday’s Ann Arbor News

The City Council on Thursday discussed finding alternative housing for about 90 residents (from the old Y), a move that one council member estimated could cost the city about $1.6 million over the next two years. The council approved spending nearly $160,000 to keep the residents in two local motels through the end of the year.

The residents have been living in the motels since Oct. 20, when the old Y building was thought to be just temporarily closed after pipes broke and flooded a floor and knocked out the heat for the building. Officials had hoped the building could be fixed and the residents could be moved back in quickly into their single-room-occupancy efficiency units.

...because of the two upcoming University of Michigan football home games, the 90 residents are being moved today to hotels in Canton. The rooms the residents were in had been previously booked in advance by football fans.

Daniel Seller, a YMCA resident, said Thursday many of the residents weren’t happy about moving to Canton because it kept them far away from friends, family and vital medical services located in downtown Ann Arbor.



  1. I find it interesting and telling that in all the discussions of affordable housing going on around town, this news hasn’t attracted a lot of attention. Affordable housing in most development discussions means a house or condo “under $200,000.” I think the majority of people would rather this population of the very poor and often physically or mentally disabled would just go away (say, to Canton).
       —Juliew    Nov. 15 '05 - 01:27PM    #
  2. Juliew, what makes you think a majority of the people would rather this population just go away? The City Council has been firm in its support for housing these folks downtown for years. Why would they support this housing if a majority of the people oppose it?
       —David Cahill    Nov. 15 '05 - 01:55PM    #
  3. At last week’s Council meeting, they called up the city Facilities Manager to describe the condition of the building. Sounded pretty grim.

    I imagine most of the people displaced probably relied on being within the AATA system or within walking distance to get to absolutely anything they were able to get to. (Why is it important to have affordable housing downtown? That’s why.) Being displaced to Canton is a pretty severe disruption…
       —Murph.    Nov. 15 '05 - 01:57PM    #
  4. I don’t question that City Council is trying to do their best on this now and I appreciate that they are keeping the 100 units of real affordable housing downtown with their RFP. But I do have some questions that we need to think about so this situation doesn’t happen again. First, how did that building get so bad so quickly? It isn’t that old. The residence part was built relatively recently. Second, the city said it would only go inspect if there was a complaint. Well, this population, not unlike students, are not likely to complain for fear of retribution. It wasn’t until conditions got dangerous this summer that someone stepped forward. We need to change that. Third, we need to try to house these residents in Ann Arbor if at all possible. Many of them have jobs here, many of them have resources here that are not easily duplicated, and they are a fragile population. Moving them to Canton for two weeks provides only a roof, but nothing else. Is there a shuttle so people can get to work or doctor’s appointments? Even when they are located at the hotels on State Street, will they be able to use the buses? Do they have Go Passes? People all over Ann Arbor opened their doors to refugees from Katrina, where are they now for their neighbors? McKinley had 100 apartments free, do they still? This action has been coming since this summer (it takes a lot to shut down a building), why hasn’t some temporary housing been lined up? It sounds as if this took Council by surprise, but someone must have known the conditions, right? We have made a commitment as a city to house this population, we need to think more about it so this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
       —Juliew    Nov. 15 '05 - 05:40PM    #
  5. The residents are housed in a motel on S. State St., but had to be moved to Canton because of…football. The motels were already booked. They will move back after the Ohio State game. Yes, they have transportation, as well as private bathrooms.

    Remember, the building was owned by the “Y”, not the City, until just recently. The condition was always bad, but the “Y” let it deteriorate markedly because they knew they were going to sell it when their new facility was built. An analysis was done to see if rehabilitation was possible. It is not, because the building was poorly built to start with, and there would have to be extensive asbestos remediation, which is very costly. To provide private bathrooms and kitchens would not have worked in a rehabbed building, and the number of units would have been reduced.

    And, at the “Y”, the people living there were not tenants, they were hotel guests, and, as such had few, if any, rights. The City sued to make them tenants, but lost and they remained hotel guests.

    The new building has private bathrooms and kitchens, rather than shared bathrooms and no kitchens, so the in the proposed development they will be treated like human beings.
       —Leah    Nov. 15 '05 - 07:11PM    #
  6. Why Canton?

    Wait…WHERE is Canton?

    And why not Ypsi?
       —Margaret    Nov. 16 '05 - 06:30AM    #
  7. Canton Township is a recently ex-rural segment of the Detroit exurban sprawl, six miles square. Go 12 miles due east from downtown Ann Arbor and you’ll be in the midst of it.

    Why Canton? A number of the western Wayne County townships were named for Chinese cities, including Nankin (now Westland), and Pekin (now Redford), supposedly because the surveyors who laid out those areas were discontented with their compensation, and associated China with “cheap”.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 16 '05 - 09:45AM    #
  8. I went to a presentation last night at the library by HDC/JJR/SmithGroup, who are involved in the redeveloped Y site.

    As Leah says, the proposed new building will maintain 100 units of very affordable housing on site, targeted at people earning from 15% to 40% of area median income; currently (er, until just recently) the residents of the old Y were paying $380/mo for single rooms with shared bathrooms and no kitchens; HDC’s proposal involves private bathrooms and kitchens in every unit, with rents ranging from a little over $200 to $500/mo. the redevelopment won’t be open until the end of 2008, it sounds like, but HDC apparently has some commitment to provide housing for the Y’s residents in the interim, and is putting together that plan with the County/City right now? They didn’t elaborate much.

    Attendance at the meeting was sparse, due to weather, and the developers said they’d probably have another when more people could come (this one was invitation-basis to the Old West Side, New West Side, Near West Side (ah, overlapping associations!), South Main Neighbors, and Downtown Area CAC). Bloggers made up almost half the crowd; Dale, JulieW, and I were matched by JulieW’s husband, Sonia Schmerl, and a couple who live on Hamilton Pl. (a block away from the site) whose names I didn’t catch. Everybody seemed fairly happy with the project, though not without grilling the presenters first…
       —Murph.    Nov. 16 '05 - 10:34AM    #
  9. I was very satisfied with this project as it stands. The design was quite welcoming to William on the lower floors and decent on Fifth (I didn’t really think about Fourth, I now realize). There was good massing and detailing pretty much all the way up—masonry or masonry veneer, trimmed and recessed windows, and balconies—so that it won’t end up looking like a bigger version of Corner House Lofts’ top 6 floors. I should have asked if they would give me an image or two (which I’ll inquire about today).
       —Dale    Nov. 16 '05 - 11:49AM    #
  10. The end of 2008? That’s three years away! What are the evacuees supposed to do in the meantime? Did the developers say anything at all about their interim plan?

    Did anyone say roughly when the Old Y building will be demolished?
       —David Cahill    Nov. 16 '05 - 11:50AM    #
  11. So what do you mean by “masonry”? Are we talking bricks, or concrete slabs? I was a little concerned by the conceptual drawing published in the paper, but then, this is intended to be affordable housing after all, and it seemed at least that some attention would be paid to the facade on the lower levels.
       —Young Urban Amateur    Nov. 16 '05 - 02:53PM    #
  12. They were talking brick-and-block or decorative Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs) for the lower floors, both of which can look good (cf the first floor of Corner House Lofts, which I think is nearly the ideal, though the upper levels are terrible) or a veneer over pre-cast concrete. For the towers, they were talking a veneer over a steel frame (which is what the Perry addition has).
       —Dale    Nov. 16 '05 - 03:14PM    #
  13. Hmmm…My response to David got eaten.

    Yes, 3 years – they’re talking about a year to get all their approvals and their financing in place, and then 18-24mos. construction time.

    Funding-wise, they’ve got a best-case scenario which involves a competitive (by lottery) program that would yield $17m of the $18m involved in building the replacement affordable housing. This would allow them to build an additional 45 rental units targetted at 60% AMI households. Their fallback funding plan involves all units beyond the 100 replacements being market-rate for-sale.

    They’re also working with the DDA to finalize parking arrangements (the DDA would like to consider adding an extra level u/g of public (permit) parking); with the Feds, about the pedestrian pathway running along the northern edge of the redevelopment; with figuring out the availability of brownfield TIF funding; etc.

    Such is the nature of downtown, mixed-income, mixed-use, transit-centered, brownfield, blah blah blah, development.

    Building 100 Levittown houses in Lima Township would no doubt happen a little faster, but we’ve already decided that’s not what we want for the outlying townships, right?
       —Murph.    Nov. 16 '05 - 03:38PM    #
  14. Why Canton and not Ypsilanti? Because all the motel rooms in Ypsilanti are booked for U of M football games, too. Especially this week-end, for OSU.

    The City is not, at this time, collecting any rent and I believe that they will be looking into moving the residents into apartments for 2006-08.

    Why so long? I think Murph explained it very well.

    It is my understanding that they will not be returning to the “Y” on Fifth. I hope not, because the building is a disgrace.
       —Leah    Nov. 16 '05 - 03:50PM    #
  15. ** You’re Invited! **

    Anyone interested in what will be happening at the Old Y site is welcome to come to the meeting of the Library Board this Monday, Nov. 21, in the fourth floor board room of the Downtown Library, 343 South Fifth Ave, in AA.

    The Board will be hearing an update on the Y site from Connie Dimond of JJR and Bob Jacobson of HDC Construction Co. I will be asking about what will happen to our evacuees after their stay at the motels is concluded. I will also be asking if the fact that there will be no more guests at the Y hotel means that the task of constructing the new building will be made easier, faster, and cheaper. After all, there will no longer be the requirement that the hotel remain open while part of the site is demolished.

    The meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. This presentation should start shortly after we are called to order.

    Members of the public are welcome at our meetings, but only Board members can ask questions. So if you have a particular question you want me to ask, please post it here.

    Also – as a special bonus, those at the meeting will be able to hear a presentation on the proposed schematic design of the replacement Northeast Branch library at Traverwood and Huron Parkway. I just got my packet, and I’m really impressed with the design.
       —David Cahill    Nov. 19 '05 - 12:19PM    #
  16. At yesterday evening’s Library Board meeting I asked Bob Jacobson of HDC Construction Co. when the affordable housing tower would be open for guests. He said December, 2008.

    Then I asked for his best guess as to housing for the evacuees after January 1, when the motels would not be used any longer. He said they were preparing three options for City Council for next week, plus a fourth option: an estimated budget for putting the Y back together so that it could be used again for guests.

    I also asked, if the Y is permanently closed, will there be any savings because you can demolish the whole structure at once? Bob said no. He said they had assumed that the tenants would be relocated for the two years of construction (late 2006 through late 2008), rather than trying to keep them housed on the site. He said the new problems at the Y just moved up the relocation by a year.

    Ed Surovell, the president of the Library Board, said he presumed the current tenants were beginning to disperse. Bob said that a detailed assessment of those residents was underway now.
       —David Cahill    Nov. 22 '05 - 12:48PM    #