Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

William Street Station (Old Y Site) Meeting: January 11

10. January 2006 • Juliew
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The developers of “William Street Station” (the development proposed for the old Y site) are having a public meeting this Wednesday evening. The proposal currently is a mixed-use project including a new AATA transit center, retail, office, and affordable and market-rate housing. Please join them to ask questions and offer input (only six people attended the last meeting!).

There are some “negatives” with this proposal: the proposed building is quite tall for something right across the street from a residential neighborhood (there will be a 14-story tower and a 12-story tower), there is not enough parking for the residents or office space, and the entity that will provide services to the very low-income residents is not local. However, the proposal really is very impressive. They are planning to provide a lot of affordable high-quality housing and services to a very low-income population, they have made a lot of changes to the design based on local input, and they are building a bus station into their building (hard to fault them on transportation!).

So please take this opportunity to ask questions and give your input now, rather than complain when the proposal is set in stone!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 6:30 p.m.
Ann Arbor District Library (343 South Fifth Avenue)
Third Floor Free Space



  1. I haven’t looked at this proposal in depth. Is there a way to download the project description from somewhere? your description made me wonder, though…

    there is not enough parking for the residents or office space

    First, the residents of the low-income portion do not have cars. That’s why they have to live in hotels that have bus service, for example. Or is this not enough parking for the market-rate units? if that’s the case, they could work out a deal like they did at Cornerhouse Apt. residents who park at Tally Hall.

    And second, this project is right across the street from the Fourth & Maynard structure, which always had an empty floor or two the times I parked on it. IMO residents and office workers can park there and pay for a pass like everyone else if they want their car downtown.

    And third, this is in the DDA, correct? so why do they need to provide parking for the office at all? they shouldn’t if it is less than a couple stories.

    The ‘residential neighborhood’ right across the street is all converted office IIRC (funeral parlour, liquor store) and beyond that are mainly student rentals. Too bad the low-income management co. isn’t local though, Avalon for example does great work.
       —KGS    Jan. 10 '06 - 05:46PM    #
  2. In addition, the building falls within FAR provisions of existing zoning—this is not a PUD with height or density exceptions. If there is any other spot more appropriate for such a development, I have yet to see it.
       —Dale    Jan. 10 '06 - 05:54PM    #
  3. I’m intrigued by this project. I would also like to know if the plans are available online.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 10 '06 - 07:57PM    #
  4. Free yourself from dogmatic thinking! I support dense development, and don’t care much for parking as I don’t own a car. As long as the bus goes there I see no need to insist on lots of parking. Space is at a premium in a good city and those who demand space for cars should pay a premium for it.

    Rob
       —Rob    Jan. 10 '06 - 09:13PM    #
  5. I second a call for more info, especially the name of the developer and a link to the proposal.

    I found this on www.detroitrising.com:

    “William Street Station-HDC LLC is planning to build 8 and 10-story residential buildings on top of a four-story base structure on William Street. The project would offer 30 efficiency and 70 one-bedroom units on a tower on Fourth Avenue. There would be 90 rental units or 70 market-rate condominiums in a tower on Fifth Avenue. There would also be retail along William Street and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Transit Center between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.”

    but it is neither confirmed or terribly descriptive.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 11 '06 - 02:55AM    #
  6. I don’t think there is much online about this proposal. I did have notes from the last meeting about the developer and specific details, but I couldn’t find them quickly last night.

    The ‘residential neighborhood’ right across the street is all converted office IIRC (funeral parlour, liquor store) and beyond that are mainly student rentals.
    Rentals deserve good living situations too. The good thing about this building location is that it is on the North side of the street so it won’t shadow the residential area nearby.

    Or is this not enough parking for the market-rate units? if that’s the case, they could work out a deal like they did at Cornerhouse Apt. residents who park at Tally Hall.
    I’ll ask for more details tonight. There was not a lot of parking considering they are planning to have a lot of housing and a lot of office space. I do think that we have to be careful about leasing large chunks of our “public” parking to downtown residents. This puts a big bind on downtown retail because they depend on the parking for people to come in from outside of downtown (and downtown retail will continue to need this infusion of people, even if there are more residents downtown). I know this has caused problems with the parking structures because spaces are reserved even if no one parks there. So the spots sit empty while people search for parking. I think the City is going to have to go to the “hunting license” model if they want to actually park up the parking structures.

    As long as the bus goes there I see no need to insist on lots of parking.
    It would help if the busses ran 24 hours because there are a lot of people whose jobs do not fall into the 6a.m.-11:30p.m. Monday through Friday bus schedules (for example, the custodial staff at the University all start at 5:00a.m., restaurants and bars close after midnight, the hospital runs shifts 24 hours/day). It would also help if Ann Arbor had a good, reliable car-sharing program and regional transportation (beginning with the airport). Until these things happen, people are going to need/want their cars.
       —Juliew    Jan. 11 '06 - 11:45AM    #
  7. Yes, I agree that rentals need good neighborhoods too. My point was, saying the neighboring buildings are residential was not quite accurate. This is a great spot for this development – on the north side of the street (less shadow impact), few residential neighbors (lower impact), great mix of uses that could make the street more lively, etc.

    I do think that we have to be careful about leasing large chunks of our “public” parking to downtown residents.

    I agree, we need to be careful about making parking agreements with downtown developments. Part of me wonders if this is a good use of our public funds, though in the case of Cornerhouse apts, the rate the residents pay is even higher than the rate the businesses pay for spaces, so that the residents have ‘guaranteed’ parking in the future. But as long as the parking permits are covering the costs of the providing that parking, what does it matter whether it is for residents or commuters?

    This puts a big bind on downtown retail because they depend on the parking for people to come in from outside of downtown (and downtown retail will continue to need this infusion of people, even if there are more residents downtown).

    As for the impact on retail, I know the Maynard & Fourth structure first two floors (maybe even 3?) have a time restriction so that morning commuters can not park on the lower floors. Also, there are few if any reserved spots for a single user. That leaves those floors to retail customers and late arrivals, and as far as I know that works fine. And as I said, that structure is never full except on the rare Friday or Saturday night when a big event is going on. I know this because my husband liked to park on the top floor – he could always find his car because it was always empty! Bluntly put, if someone is circling the block to find parking, it is because they are looking for a free on-street spot rather than paying at the structure.
       —KGS    Jan. 11 '06 - 12:44PM    #
  8. Julie,
    The majority of monthly parking passes sold by the DDA are “hunting licenses” at $105/month. “Premium”, i.e, reserved, parking is $145/month.
       —tom    Jan. 11 '06 - 01:54PM    #
  9. Re: “hunting license.” The City only sells a specific number of permits for each parking structure and they don’t allow more people to have permits than there are spots in that structure (but you don’t have an actual designated spot unless you pay extra). The University, on the other hand, sells way more permits than there are spots and the permits are for all the University lots rather than one structure, because they know that on any given day, a certain percentage of people won’t actually park. For the most part this works out although during high times (first day of finals for example), there can be times when finding a place to park is extremely difficult, especially in the closer-in parking structures. A lot of people object to this system because they say they aren’t actually paying for parking, but are paying only for the right to hunt for a parking space. I think it works better most of the time because you aren’t holding spots open for people who never show up. There are a very few designated spots for people who provide emergency services.
       —Juliew    Jan. 11 '06 - 03:46PM    #
  10. It’s going to look like a 19-story tower and a 21-story tower from the OWS!
       —ann arbor is overrated    Jan. 11 '06 - 05:25PM    #
  11. “It would help if the busses ran 24 hours because there are a lot of people whose jobs do not fall into the 6a.m.-11:30p.m…. It would also help if Ann Arbor had a good, reliable car-sharing program and regional transportation (beginning with the airport).”

    Sure, that’d all be great. But the existing bus system does satisfy some people’s needs.

    “Until these things happen, people are going to need/want their cars.”

    Let’s not over-generalize. I’ve survived here reasonably well without a car for 12 years now. Especially for low-income workers (and many students), there are obvious drawbacks to buying and maintaining cars.

    So Rob’s original point still stands—a bunch of low-income residents next to a bus mall will probably generate less-than-average parking demand.
       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 11 '06 - 09:23PM    #
  12. OK, more details on William Street Station.

    It is not online and they aren’t planning to have anything at this time. A copy of the proposal is at City Hall.

    The project includes:
    5000 sq/ft of retail space,
    111,000 sq/ft of office space (divided into three large floors that can be split up however the office tenants want),
    one low-income residential tower (Y housing replacement) with 30 efficiencies and 70 one-bedroom apartments,
    one tower with either 45 “workforce” and 45 market-rate rentals or 60 market-rate condos,
    bus station with room for 12 off-street busses (only two stops would remain on Fourth),
    75 underground parking spots (current zoning would require 163).

    There will be a Planning Commission Public Hearing on this proposal on January 19 at 7:00.
       —Juliew    Jan. 11 '06 - 11:39PM    #
  13. Let’s not over-generalize. I’ve survived here reasonably well without a car for 12 years now. Especially for low-income workers (and many students), there are obvious drawbacks to buying and maintaining cars.

    Bruce, while I agree that you can live without a car, I don’t believe most people want to live without a car. I live 5 blocks from downtown Main Street, less than a mile from Central Campus. The neighborhood has a real mix of people of all ages, incomes, and lifestyles: Avalon residents, Washtenaw County low-income housing, downtown workers, people who work from home (artists and small business owners), grad and undergrad students, retirees, people who work in Ypsilanti and Detroit, and people who work outside of downtown Ann Arbor. Several of us don’t use cars on a daily or even weekly basis. So I counted up the cars owned by 30 of my neighbors and, guess what, there are 32 cars (and one Hovercraft). Everyone has different reasons for needing or wanting their cars and certainly some could go without now, but they don’t choose to and I think we are a pretty typical group.

    As expected, the very low-income Avalon residents have the fewest cars (two or three cars for 15 residents), but the low-income families in the Washtenaw County low-income housing mostly do have at least one car per family. The students around me all have cars and many actually drive to campus on a regular basis! I think it is short-sighted to say that people will just do without because I don’t see that happening at this time for most people. I think we have to take some steps to create a more alternative-transportation-friendly situation rather than ignore it and hope people will act accordingly. I like what Peter Allen is doing with his proposed development on Kingsley—right up front he is saying “I’m including a bike and car-sharing with each unit and if you want your own parking, you will have to pay an extra $35,000 for it.” That gives people the opportunity to decide just how much parking is worth to them.
       —Juliew    Jan. 12 '06 - 10:55AM    #
  14. Julie, thanks for reporting back on this development. It’s too bad that they won’t be putting it online somewhere for public review; it seems like that would be helpful for development discussions in general. Still, an in-person account of the meeting was very useful!
       —KGS    Jan. 12 '06 - 11:46AM    #
  15. They put proposals online before the Council’s public hearings (you can click through from the agenda to see full details on any item), but not before the Planning Commission’s. I’ve never gotten a good answer of why it would take that much more work to do it before the Commission’s meetings. Occasionally I’ve thought about picking up hardcopy at City Hall and scanning them as a public service, but have never had time to.
       —Murph.    Jan. 14 '06 - 06:47PM    #
  16. Looks like the “workforce housing” on William Street Station has turned into a hotel.


       —Juliew    Feb. 16 '07 - 11:20PM    #
  17. Yep. Also, according to a December DDA resolution attached to City Council’s agenda for February 5, the City wants the housing for the “challenged” tenants (the other part of the project) to be cheaper, necessitating a higher subsidy.

    I think this project is doomed.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 17 '07 - 03:23PM    #
  18. There is a planning commission memo to the City Council that has details from the Feb 21, 2006 Council meeting. Find D-15 on this web page to open a 39 page .pdf file. It has drawings of the project.
    http://www.ci.ann-arbor.mi.us/CityAdministration/Clerks/AgendaDocuments/2006/02-21-06/02-21-06Agenda.html


       —Carl    Feb. 28 '07 - 06:58PM    #