Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Return of Return of Glen Ann Place

3. July 2007 • Murph
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Yes, it’s back, again – the A2 News reports that City Council last night unanimously approved a settlement with the developer that will allow the controversial Glen Ann Place project to be built; the Historic District Commission, which had previously rejected the project, apparently voted 5-1 in support of the settlement last week. Details are few –

Glen Ann Place will be either nine or 10 stories, to be determined by the city’s Historic District Commission in a settlement pitched by developer Joseph Freed and Associates, Mayor John Hieftje said.

The project was originally approved by the Planning Commission and City Council but rejected by the HDC in September 2005. A State Historic Preservation Office administrative judge ruled in favor of the developer in September 2006, but SHPO overturned that decision.

Previous AU articles:
> Glen Ann Place stalled by Historic District Commission, September 16, 2005.
> The Return of Glen Ann Place, September 11, 2006.
> State Review Board Rejects Glen Ann Place, January 27, 2007.

  1. I don’t see an item for this on Council’s agenda. If Susan Wineberg is around, maybe she knows some details of the settlement…?

       —Murph    Jul. 3 '07 - 08:49PM    #
  2. It’s about time this happened. If the council waited any longer, those “historical” houses would have collapsed out of their own dilapidation. There’s nothing historic about that area, at least the immediate block… it’s just another student ghetto. This is good news for the area.

       —matt    Jul. 3 '07 - 10:27PM    #
  3. This is awesome! And precedent setting! Once this sumbitch is underway there will be nothing, nothing AT ALL, to stop the construction of monstrous, looming, smoke belching, shadow casting skyscrapers in EVERY residential neighborhood in Our Fair Towne.

    Think of it! All over the world blood-crazed Super-Duper-Mega-Developers are salivating at the thought of sinking their fangs into the Old West Side. And Ox-Bridge. And Burns Fucking Park. And without a doubt somewhere, in some secret developer lair, is a cardboard model of a seventy story building built right up to the sidewalk on the 800 block of Brooks, directly across the street from Ms. Lucifer Glorie.

    Ann Arbor is like a submissive dog, whimpering on its back with its soft underparts exposed. But this is no time for mercy. Chow down, boys!

       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 4 '07 - 12:19AM    #
  4. The News reported that the Council approved the resolution of this matter, as did the Historic District Commission (5 – 1 vote).

    Does this parcel of land even belong in the Historic District. I drove by it the other day and it was a pathetic site/sight.

    Can someone explain what the fuss over this development is?

    I’m not in favor of much development, but this always seemed to make sense.

       —sometimes reader    Jul. 4 '07 - 01:23AM    #
  5. sometimes reader –

    The Old Fourth Ward historic district extends to Glen Ave, and includes all of the parcels within the Glen Ann Place site: those couple of houses, Angelos’ parking lot, and the old gas station. The holdup over the development was the HDC’s earlier denial of the demolition of the existing buildings.

    Sure, none of those buildings seem “worth saving”, but they are protected – part of the idea of a historic district is that it’s a “historic district”, not a “historic collection of pretty houses”; the historic district protects not just architecture, but also urban design. (And this is something I strongly support – if somebody wanted to raze the OFW and throw up a subdivision of tacky single-family McMansions on quarter acre lots, I’d be darned glad the HDC was there to protect a historic – and therefore walkably dense – neighborhood.) Protection of the district as a district includes protection of “ugly” or low value buildings within the district, as well as the ability to review new construction within the context of the district – the new building is not itself “historic”, but it is part of the district.

    So “the fuss” over this development is the idea that it constitutes an erosion of the historic district – it’s not just a demolition of a few shabby buildings, but a demolition of part of the urban fabric of the neighborhood.

    Now, all that said, Glen Ann Place has long seemed to me among the best of the proposed developments discussed on this site over the past few years. The Glen Ave. frontage of the district is, in my opinion, already a generally compromised part of the historic district – there’s not a lot being destroyed even when viewed as part of the whole. Additionally, Glen Ave. is a major artery, leading to the Medical Campus, North Campus, Huron High, and the VA, among other destinations: this isn’t a project that could be cut-and-pasted up the hill on Catherine or Ann, so I’m not worried about some march further into the neighborhood. Finally, I think that Glen Ann Place will improve the edge of the neighborhood significantly: turn an abandoned gas station into sidewalk-oriented commercial space, add some streetscaping, and add residents to a street that’s pretty dead (but for cars), especially on evenings and weekends (at least, once Angelo’s closes for the day). I think it will do more to buffer the OFW than to erode it.

       —Murph.    Jul. 4 '07 - 05:20AM    #
  6. Murph, thanks for information, it is helpful. However, your last line seems correct also.

    What is there is simply bad for the neighborhood it seems to me. I walked by on the way to the UM med. center. It is a crappy gas station and some dumpy houses next to some silly looking other building/apartments? I don’t know anyone who likes what is there. Clinging to this bad reality is what turns people off to preservation issues. But I know it is not easy.

    But if the Historic Commission approved some version of this now, why can’t they do this? Aren’t they the group that can make this decision?

    What was Council vote on this? Did the Councilmembers from the Historic District’s Ward even oppose this? It wasn’t clear in the news article.

    Thanks for any additional information.

       —sometimes reader    Jul. 4 '07 - 06:17AM    #
  7. News flash!

    Sources say that as part of the deal, the developer has agreed to “give” a million dollars to the Historic District Commission.

    Arbor Update scoops the print media again!

       —David Cahill    Jul. 4 '07 - 04:17PM    #
  8. First off, it would seem from above that Parking Dude, the brightest & best known export to the greater Ann Arbor metropolitan area coming from the AA Is Over web site, now wishes to break away from his two-dimensional heights-of-misogyny stereotype. To get out from under the shackles of this limited public image, a little dot-gov bestiality should do the trick. Can the city reduce its budget deficit through setting up a special import tariff?

    Secondly, here is a modest development proposal delivered in the spirit of the nascent New West Side organization. I don’t know if anyone moved into the old carpet store at Main and Madison. Even if it’s now occupied, condemn the place anyway. In addition, take down from behind this former carpet market a couple of old, historic/hysteric houses that by all rights belong at Glen and Ann. That should leave enough room to build a 15-story multi-use Victory tower to shade the east end of the OWS — helpful in July. “Y”-style open parking underneath will allow any floodplain waterflow to pass through. As a side effect in this immediate area, beyond providing more customers to Washtenaw Dairy, the project potentially removes the occasional appearance of mediocre live folk music. Such twanging drowns out the cicadas and lacks their expert Terry Riley rhythms.

       —New South Main Marketing    Jul. 5 '07 - 12:26AM    #
  9. David Cahill is wrong. The project is a PUD, thus the developer will make a large financial contribution to the affordable housing fund — not to the historic district commission.

    There had been a proposal for the developer to also make a modest contribution to the City to pay for the historic district coordinator’s salary; I don’t know where that stands.

       —Bill T.    Jul. 5 '07 - 02:34AM    #
  10. Having read this article and the related articles on this, I am puzzled. Other than the few folks quoted in the Ann Arbor News article, is anyone actually opposed to this project? What will rents be? What a great location.

    I’m not clear why the Historic Comm. rejected this in the first place.

       —potential renter    Jul. 5 '07 - 04:06AM    #
  11. Oh, New South Main, your dated references to Ann Arbor events wound! What next – will you sink your beastly jaws and insightful use of the slash key into the weirdos at the Fleetwood? Arblogger readers want to know.

    I should note that Happy’s Pizza moved into the Cingular store and are a tremendously welcome addition to the old neighborhood (I note that they carry both Bell’s and ABC beers for carryout). Real estate and mortgage offices moved into the Shayani/Great Lakes Cycling building on the other side of the street.

       —Dale    Jul. 5 '07 - 12:51PM    #
  12. Sorry, Bill T, but I’m not wrong about the million-dollar “gift” to the HDC. The AA News knows about this “gift”. I expect follow-up coverage on the project by Tom Gantert soon.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 5 '07 - 04:42PM    #
  13. I was recently caught on the edge of an e-mail storm about Glen Ann Place. What follows is an e-mail sent on July 3 at 9:35 p.m. by Mark Hildebrandt, a member of the Historic District Commission, who was not reappointed, to a bunch of folks interested in historic districts. This is the source of my comment above. Since Arbor Update is “the first draft of history”, I have not corrected the typos. “Tom” refers to Tom Gantert.

    > Tom also called me and asked me whether I thought the mayors appointments
    > to replace the retiring HDC members( myself and Michelle) and non
    > reappointment of Gary were part of a plan to get this project approved.
    > I suggested that if he looked at the credentials of the appointed persons
    > and compared them with the previous HDC members, he could draw his own
    > conclusions.
    > He also said that as part of the “deal”, the developers are going to
    > “give” the HDC $1M. This was not mentioned in the AAN report this evening.
    > I must say that I find that sort of “negotiation” ethiically flawed.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 6 '07 - 12:02AM    #
  14. I was going to comment that New South Main Marketing was a year or so behind the times, not to mention falling flat at the attempt at witty tone, but I note that I’m a comment or two behind the times – Dale beat me to it. The falling flat bit still holds, though. Sorry.

    David, your post reads as though Hildebrandt was hearing about the $1m from Gantert? But Commission appointments are July 1st effective, aren’t they, such that Hildebrandt would have still been on the HDC last week when they voted on the settlement? So shouldn’t he know the details? (Or, if the HDC voted on it without knowing about the $1m, assuming it exists, wouldn’t that negate any ethical concerns about the cash? It can’t be a bribe if nobody’s told you about it…)

    I’m still interested in seeing the terms of the settlement – I’m not saying I don’t believe you, David; I just want more details.

       —Murph.    Jul. 6 '07 - 05:16AM    #
  15. That’s literally all I’ve got, Murph. Yes, apparently Hildebrandt was hearing about the $1 million from Gantert.

    With regard to the details of the proposed settlement, I know that a FOIA request was made yesterday for them. No, I didn’t make the request.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 6 '07 - 06:18PM    #
  16. As I recall the $1.2 was going into the affordable housing trust fund. The HDC has no way to accept money, it would just go into the general fund.

    Looks like Hildebrant is dead wrong about the recent appointments to the HDC. Malcolm McCullough is probably the most well qualified commissioner they have ever had. Degrees galore in related areas (Harvard and UM) and lives in the Old West Side Historic District. I remember hearing that the latest appointment has a masters degree in historic preservation.

       —LindaB    Jul. 6 '07 - 06:56PM    #
  17. >> He also said that as part of the “deal”, the developers are going to
    > “give” the HDC $1M.

    Scare quotes are always tricky to interpret. I do think it’s plausible—consistent with what LindaB and Bill T. indicate—they’re there to signal that the money’s not destined for the HDC specifically, but rather for the affordable housing fund—even though the deposit of $1M into the affordable housing fund was something offered by the developer in an effort to mollify the Commission as a part of some earlier package, right?

    I’m betting the FOIA will reveal a transcript from a meeting where a Freed rep tells City staffers:

    “Okay, we’re gonna stack the Commission, see? Then we’re gonna knock down the two little houses, see? Then we’re gonna construct a new building 10 stories tall, see? But to make it all happen, first we gotta pay a million bucks to HD, see?”

    That would explain almost everything.

       —HD    Jul. 6 '07 - 10:53PM    #
  18. Oop! Hold page one for a replate! Tom Gantert sent me e-mail to the effect that Mark Hildebrandt’s report of the conversation with him is not accurate, and that Gantert did not tell Hildebrandt about a $1 million donation to the HDC. Go figure…

    Also, I have been sent electronic copies of the major documents in the Circuit Court appeal file. Judge Connors has the case; it is 07-295 AA.

    The State Historic Preservation Review Board, which issued a stinging opinion rejecting Glen Ann Place, is a party, along with the developer and the City. The Attorney General filed an “appearance” on behalf of the Board, but has not filed any pleadings.

    The developer’s appeal is rehash of the arguments it made (and lost) before the Board. The City’s answer to the appeal denies all of the developer’s arguments.

    No motions have been made, and Judge Connors has not issued any rulings.

    There is a scheduling order dated June 26 stating that the scheduling conference is adjourned until July 31.

    So, according to the court file, nothing has happened, and the case is still in its early stages.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 7 '07 - 04:26PM    #
  19. Yes I was on HDC at the time of the previous Glen Ann HDC rejection. At that time Freed had offered $1.2M for Affordable Housing Fund and to provide a Historic District Coordinator for ( a time). The city, which failed to appoint a new coordinator when the previous one left, hired a person to update the Historic District Ordinance. In conversation with Mr. Gantert, he mentioned as part of the settlement $1M to HDC, though he denies it now. Perhaps he meant affordable housing.

       —H.M.Hildebrandt    Jul. 9 '07 - 01:09AM    #
  20. Malcolm McCullough is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. My only hope is he won’t be bored.

       —Dale    Jul. 9 '07 - 03:32PM    #
  21. they aren’t wasting any time. i saw today that the gas station and Leonardos are already demolished.

       —matt    Jul. 11 '07 - 06:41AM    #
  22. Well its about time. The gas station was an eyesore. I’m still not clear why people thought it was historic. Almost anything is better than what is currently there.

       —sometimes reader    Jul. 11 '07 - 04:57PM    #
  23. The gas station is gone. As of this evening, the fence around the hole has at least one big gap in it big enough for a kid (or an agile adult) to get through.

    I wonder if they got a demolition permit, or whether they just knocked it down.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jul. 13 '07 - 06:50AM    #
  24. sometime this past weekend, the old house across the street from the Glen Ann Place site was demolished… anyone have any news on this, what was the reason? more UofM expansion for parking, etc.?

       —matt    Nov. 28 '07 - 12:06PM    #