Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Planning Commission: Capital Improvements Redux

17. January 2007 • Juliew
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Thursday, January 18 at 7:00 pm.
Ann Arbor City Hall
Planning Commission Agenda

Highlights:

  • Capital Improvements Plan
  • Ashley Mews PUD revision
  • Burton Commons Rezoning and Planned Project Site Plan, 8.06 acres, 2559-2805 Burton Road. A request to rezone this site from R1C (Single-Family Dwelling District) to R4C (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) and construct 120 units in five three-story buildings with 185 parking spaces.
  • Liberty Place Condominiums Rezoning and Planned Project Site Plan, 4.65 acres, northeast corner of Liberty Road and I-94. A request to rezone this site from UNZ (Unzoned District) to R4B (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) and a proposal to construct 63 residential units in seven two-story buildings with 98 parking spaces (83 in garages).

Note: the schedule for City Council and Planning Commission Meetings should be back to normal soon. All these pesky holidays in December and January have made for some unusual meeting times.



  1. Well, what do you know, people do live in Ashley Mews. And they are not happy. In the Ashley Mews PUD revision, residents came out to protest changing the usage of one of the ground-floor sites from retail to non-retail usage (the new proposed use is a DTE computer training center). In the discussion, it turns out that DTE/Syndeco have not exactly been the best neighbors. Commissioners Westfall and Potts objected, but the motion did pass although just about every Commissioner took Syndeco to task for not taking better care of the shared property.


       —Juliew    Jan. 19 '07 - 05:50AM    #
  2. A local real estate broker who was having trouble getting businesses into the old AM sales office spot and the Thai restaurant space brought up the possibility of amending the PUD to make it broader than just retail a year or so ago. I asked if DTE would make the ground floor facade more visually permeable and allow for less tasteful signage to attract passersby and he said they wouldn’t. He claimed DTE wanted to fill the building as cheaply as possible (without going below $20 a foot for rent) so they could get approval for another building across the street. I thought it wasn’t worth it and I’m a mite skeptical now. They need to do something about that terrible ground floor. I’d take Corner House’s ground floor in a second over AM.


       —Dale    Jan. 20 '07 - 02:27AM    #
  3. hunh! what does easy st. know that ashley mews does not?


       —peter honeyman    Jan. 20 '07 - 06:05AM    #
  4. As Commissioner Westphal noted, the “hardships” that DTE is now trading on have always existed and reducing the rents would probably fill the spaces. When Ashley Mews was built, it was acknowledged that retail might be difficult there so DTE was given concessions in order to support that use (more housing units, more height). I agree with Dale that bigger signs, lower rents, and more visibility (along with better marketing by the businesses) would do wonders, but most of the Commissioners took DTE at their word that this was an area that was “too difficult” to rent. The part that really annoyed me was then they said there was “no reason for anyone to walk past William.” I guess everyone who lives past William, goes to Leopold Brothers, South Main Market, the Dairy, or Michigan Stadium don’t count. I’m very skeptical of the “too difficult for rental” argument. I remember when the corner of Detroit and Kingsley was “too difficult” an area to rent and when the third deli in a row went in, everyone said there was no way they would succeed and it was a dead area. Despite the predictions of doom, Zingermans seems to have done OK.


       —Juliew    Jan. 21 '07 - 10:45PM    #
  5. Slightly off the beaten path… Does anyone know what the construction project in the middle of Brown Park is all about(the park is between Stone School and Platt south of Eisenhower)? I was surprised to see half the park fenced off when I went running through it this morning, and I don’t remember seeing any mention of the work here.

    Thanks for any info people can provide.


       —Jeremy Hallum    Jan. 28 '07 - 04:38AM    #
  6. “The part that really annoyed me was then they said there was “no reason for anyone to walk past William.” I guess everyone who lives past William, goes to Leopold Brothers, South Main Market, the Dairy, or Michigan Stadium don’t count. I’m very skeptical of the “too difficult for rental” argument. “

    Whoo. My brother loved this quote. Who said this? Must be yet another Ann Arborite who doesn’t get out much.

    Next time some dumbass says this, tell them that Leopold’s is one of a handful of places whose sales are going up in the downtown area.

    This is a telling comment about how important infrastructure can be. Take a look as where the purty street lamps, the Art Fair Bus Stops, and X-mas lights stop appearing, and you’ll get a good idea as to where city officials (and many citizens, apparently) think ‘downtown’ Ann Arbor ends.

    I have to say that I believe that that’s part of the charm of our place down here….we’re quite literally off the beaten path.


       —todd    Jan. 28 '07 - 09:23PM    #
  7. Who said this? Must be yet another Ann Arborite who doesn’t get out much.

    I can’t remember which Commissioner said it (yup, a Commissioner, not someone from the general public), but other than Westphal and Potts, there was general agreement to the statement. What really annoys me on the South Main stretch is that the official DDA area goes down to South Main Market, but Todd is right, they totally ignore any business past William.


       —Juliew    Jan. 29 '07 - 12:08AM    #
  8. JulieW,

    This is another example of how many, many Ann Arborites, including those who are steering (except not so much) Ann Arbor’s future think that vibrant downtowns just happen by accident.

    Many here act like Ann Arbor is some rich annoying kid who’s fallen ass-backwards into money (read: UMich, the ultimate cash cow), and no matter what we do, the City’s economy won’t be affected, and we’ll never run out of Daddy’s dough.

    It’s damn near impossible to get government to think proactively rather than reactively. Calthorpe was a big, big step in the right direction, but we’ve got a ways to go.

    These are the same people that think that we should turn several blocks of downtown into a pedestrian mall. (Neat!)


       —todd    Jan. 29 '07 - 12:54AM    #
  9. Pedestrian malls work wonderfully in some places. Boulder for example has many of the same elements A2 does, especially lots of students walking around. Many, many medium size European cites have wonderful pedestrian malls. Must we forever be locked up in our cars?

    What are the vast new, outdoor “life style” shopping centers if not pedestrian malls? Sure you drive to them but then you leave your car and walk, just as we do downtown, you park in a structure and walk. Why must you be able to drive right up to the front of the store, restaurant or brew pub?

    Are doomed to be married to our cars?


       —Laura B    Jan. 29 '07 - 04:31AM    #
  10. I think of the diag as sort of a big pedestrian mall, and I like it and everything, but it has the effect of psychologically cutting off S. Univ from State and the rest of downtown. Not sure I think that would be a great thing to do with Main Street.


       —Anna    Jan. 29 '07 - 04:39AM    #
  11. Why Main St? How about State between Washington and South U? Hard to drive through there in the daytime anyway. Have a street car that runs between Main and St. on Liberty. Add floors on to the Tally Hall Structure so people could park and walk.


       —Laura B    Jan. 29 '07 - 05:03AM    #
  12. “Pedestrian malls work wonderfully in some places. Boulder for example has many of the same elements A2 does, especially lots of students walking around. Many, many medium size European cites have wonderful pedestrian malls. Must we forever be locked up in our cars?”

    Without boring you with the details, it ain’t all sunshine and roses for businesses on/near Pearl Street.

    Speaking in general terms, you need at least a few of these things to make a pedestrian mall work: good weather (300 days of sun in Boulder), integrated transportation system (park & rides w/shuttles), density, lotsa retail.

    In my eyes, Ann Arbor has NONE of the above. People who were discussing the pedestrian mall were thinking “hey, let’s shut down main st., and see what happens”.

    Thanks, but no thanks. It’s a little more complicated than setting up a few roadblocks.


       —todd    Jan. 29 '07 - 05:08AM    #
  13. Not Main St., consider State St., loads of peds, hard to drive through anyway, more parking could be installed nearby and there is an existing groiup of users, 40,000 students. And, there could be a streetcar on Liberty. Boulder doesn’t have one of those.


       —Laura B    Jan. 29 '07 - 05:19AM    #
  14. Laura B. – if any street should not be closed to vehicular traffic, it’s State Street. The presence of the Diag as a 4-block-wide no-vehicle zone creates some of the traffic on State and Washtenaw. Close State, and you create an even worse problem one block over. Closing the street won’t magically get people out of their cars – they’ll just get diverted to the next street over.

    I’d support closing off some streets to traffic under certain conditions. Specifically, we have to understand that pedestrian malls do not in any way create pedestrian traffic – they can only serve pedestrian traffic that already exists. If we get to the point where we’ve got commuter transit running through town in both directions, a few thousand more housing units downtown, and the Link running full, then I’d say we can probably think about closing streets.

    I’d still be against State Street, though – just too much damage to connectivity. My first choice pick would be Fourth.

    Meanwhile, spend a while comparing the number of people walking through Nickels Arcade to the number of people on the parallel bits of William and Liberty. If pedestrian malls are going to create pedestrian activity, we should see more people in the arcade, right? Hmmm…


       —Murph.    Jan. 29 '07 - 05:46AM    #
  15. “Are doomed to be married to our cars?”

    This might make sense to me if there were no sidewalks and pedestrians were forced to risk life and limb in the streets. But almost all of the downtown streets have sidewalks on both sides and usually generous enough in width to accomodate pedestrian traffic and outdoor activities. Traffic moves pretty slowly on State too. It’s not like cars are racing down State or you have to cross 5 lanes of roadway. And who goes downtown regularly who thinks they can park in front of any downtown business? OK, it’s possible in some cases but it’s almost always a gamble that doesn’t pay off and it’s almost always more productive to park and walk versus circling hopelessly for a spot to open up.


       —John Q.    Jan. 29 '07 - 05:59AM    #