Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

University Village Public Meetings

5. March 2008 • Juliew
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From a press release on the city web site and other e-mail:
The much discussed University Village is a proposed 421-unit residential and retail “green” urban mixed-use development on 1.61 acres at the corner of South University and South Forest Avenues (where the Village Corner and Bagel Factory are currently).

University Village Town Hall Meeting, Wednesday March 5
The University Village-Ann Arbor LLC development team, led by Ronald Hughes and Daniel Ketelaar, will be hosting a Town Hall Meeting to present and discuss all aspects of the project on Wednesday, March 5 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the MITC Conference Center, 1000 Oakbrook Drive, Ann Arbor (behind Howard Cooper off State Street, just north of Eisenhower). Reservations are not necessary. Refreshments will be served. Please direct inquiries to spokeswoman Tracy Koe Wick at tracy.wick at kirkwoodgroup dot com.

University Village Brownfield Community Forum, Thursday March 6
A public meeting will be held on Thursday, March 6 from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Burns Park Elementary School auditorium (1414 Wells Street, Ann Arbor). The purpose of the meeting is to explain and discuss the brownfield component of the University Village site plan. The project developers will explain environmental challenges posed by the site, remediation, proposed tax capture, and other topics specific to brownfield activities on this site, and answer questions about the preliminary brownfield proposal.Public input is desired on the brownfield component before an application is submitted to the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. For more information, please call Jill Thacher, City Planner, at 734.994.2797.

  1. The meeting was interesting. I have to admit, they are (mostly) local developers who are really trying to build a green building that is a good space to live in. It was in marked contrast to the cell-block development that is Zaragon Place.

    Some details:

    -L-shaped building 20 stories tall on S. U, 15 stories tall on Forest.
    -450 apartments with a mix of 4-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 1-bedroom units for a total of 1400 beds.
    -260+ car spaces plus some parking for the retail.
    -There will be one entrance/exit to the parking on the East end of the South U side and one more substantial entrance/exit and drop-off area on Forest. They did discuss how they would work move-in days.
    -Large, two+-story retail space—hopefully for major anchor tenant
    -300+ enclosed bike spaces.
    -Would like to have 2 Zip or other shared cars.
    -Operable windows to the outside in every bedroom and living space on every floor.
    -Green roofs and a green “raised urban park* in the center of the L-shape.
    -Full-time staff person devoted to working on waste and recycling.
    -100% stormwater runoff capture, which will be reused in a graywater system for landscaping and “other graywater uses.”
    -Low VOC materials and “earth-friendly” materials throughout living spaces.
    -Pedestrian pathway through the site.
    -Slight setback above 40 feet.
    -Emphasis on light in the units and in the stairways and all public spaces. (So much so that I was a bit concerned about privacy for the residents. One quote from the developers was “you will be able to see the people inside and see their activity.” Indeed!)
    -Village Corner was given option to come back but declined. (Not sure of any other specifics-I imagine there are two sides to that story.)
    -They are working on a web site-should be available within the next month or two.
    -They declined to give any specific rents, but a number that was bandied about was “Corner Lofts charges $950/bedroom and they have a waiting list.” Now, Corner Lofts is also advertising so I’m not sure they actually are rented up, but that was something that was thrown out there. I’m guessing they are looking at $1000/bedroom, maybe a bit less for a 4-bedroom, more for a 1-bedroom.

    The developers did a decent job of stating their case. I do think it would be much better received as a smaller 15-story building with fewer occupants than a 20-story building with 1400+ people, but as they pointed out, they are working within current zoning so there are no height restrictions, just FAR restrictions and with a 1.6 acre lot, they have a lot of room to play with. As so often happens, they were quite Pollyannaish about the opportunity here and really think they are going to fill every bedroom at any price. Ron Hughes of the development team said “As long as the UM is here, there is a demand.” We’ll see.

    The most disturbing part of the whole meeting was seeing Maggie Ladd (who walked out of the meeting in her full-length fur coat—was that real?) of the S. U Area Association and Jim Chaconas (hyperly-suave realtor for just about every retail space in Ann Arbor) tear into the current S. U merchants. Jim said that “there are no shops on S. U that anyone would want to shop in.” Maggie said that S. U was a cesspool and that she was sure that no one in the room ever goes down there and that there wasn’t currently any reason to shop on S. U. Hmmm, with supporters like these, who needs enemies! The people in the audience who lived and owned businesses in the area didn’t look very happy. As someone who regularly shops at many of the stores on S. U, I was insulted and felt bad for all the businesses currently there. They also seem to think this building is the second-coming of S. U. Although several people pointed out that the street’s demise coincided fairly neatly with the building of U Towers.

       —Juliew    Mar. 6 '08 - 10:25PM    #
  2. Juliew wrote: “... seeing Maggie Ladd (who walked out of the meeting in her full-length fur coat …”

    Could you clarify whether that’s just a description of what she was wearing when she departed—or did she actually ‘walk out of the meeting’ in the sense of exiting before it was over to make a point?

    Either way, the idea that a rep of the South U. association would rip into South U. merchants in a public forum strikes me as pretty surreal. So was your sense that her remarks were meant to be in support of the new development (this will help drain the cesspool) or against it (this will only make the cesspool deeper)?

       —HD    Mar. 6 '08 - 10:54PM    #
  3. What demise of South U.?

    Are we speaking of the utopia of the days of Doug Harvey and tear gas?

       —Dale    Mar. 7 '08 - 02:01AM    #
  4. No, she didn’t walk out in a huff with her fur coat slung about her shoulders. It was just the coat she was wearing when she left. Real or fake, it was very out of place. Particularly so after she had just talked about how horrible S. U was, how all the buildings were dumps and all the residences were dumps. Which really ticked off the people who lived there.

    She thinks that this proposal will entirely change S. U for the better. She is a proponent of any and all residential development in that area. She strongly endorsed Zaragon Place too. I’m not sure it is going to be the magic bullet they are hoping for.

    Yeah, I was pretty shocked at the way those two (Ladd and Chaconas) were talking about the businesses there. It really made me not want to go down there. It was all gloom and doom with no mention of the good aspects. But it is one of the areas of town I frequent a lot. Pizza House just did a big addition, Village Apothecary will be the only pharmacy downtown when the Prescription Shop temporarily (hopefully) relocates, the BTB Cantina just opened, the UM Museum of Art has their temporary museum there, lots of good Asian restaurants, Ulrichs, Stucchis, Middle Earth (for now), Village Corner (for now), Red Hot Lovers, the Post Office, the Safe Sex Store, Maize and Blue Deli, Brown Jug, Backroom, NYPD. I was on S. U at lunch and stores were packed with lots of different people, not just students. It just has a different, less bustling, and creepier feel at night.

    Dale, people want to go back to the time when the Bagel Factory was the place to be on a Sunday morning, when the Mule Skinner was on Fourth, the movie theatre was still going, when Pizzeria Uno was packed, when Middle Earth really was a head shop, when Miller’s Ice Cream had lines out the door, and you could get an Orange Julius before you went off to Pinball Petes to play the latest games. It did have a cool, but inclusive feel at one point which has kind of faded away over the years, but the last attempt to “save” South U included getting rid of the movie theater and putting in the Galleria and that just didn’t work out at all. A lot of the buildings were refaced with the “trendy” materials of the times and they haven’t aged well so the general feel is pretty run down, especially that Forest/S. U intersection.

       —Juliew    Mar. 7 '08 - 02:40AM    #
  5. Now I’m confused. When you said “several people pointed out that the street’s demise coincided fairly neatly with the building of U Towers,” it seemed like this was a statement of fact, which I question. I agree with your second-to-last paragraph (except for the creepiness), indicating you also disagree with whoever asserted South U took a nosedive from the heights of Orange Julius. But do you? And what does U Towers have to do with this, really, except represent the lost Ann Arbor that we’ve heard so much about?

       —Dale    Mar. 7 '08 - 03:45AM    #
  6. When you said “several people pointed out that the street’s demise coincided fairly neatly with the building of U Towers,” it seemed like this was a statement of fact, which I question.

    No, not a statement of fact, but an observation that bringing in a lot of residents to an area does not guarantee that it will be vibrant. There are a lot of other factors that play a part. The South U Area Association and the developers of this project are acting like this development will solve all of South U’s ills. There is no guarantee of that. U Towers was seen as a similar project and while it did bring many new residents, it also changed the dynamics of the street. Unfortunately, the retail and the shoppers have never seemed to come to terms with this change so South U seems caught in some sort of terminal awkward adolescent phase.

    I agree with your second-to-last paragraph (except for the creepiness), indicating you also disagree with whoever asserted South U took a nosedive from the heights of Orange Julius. But do you?

    I have mixed feelings. I don’t agree that South U is a “cesspool” or “has no place to shop.” I am there several times a week and find plenty to buy and some very nice stores. I love Village Corner, I love the Prescription Shop, I eat lunch at many of the restaurants, and buy shoes and gifts there. But honestly, I don’t go there at night other than to go to Village Corner and pick up some groceries or wine. The stores close early and it just doesn’t feel good to be there, and that makes me sad. I think the first block between North U(?) and Church is OK, but the block between Church and Forest is a problem, especially the East end. Middle Earth is wonderful with the best windows in town, but that is the bright spot in that block (and I like the Brown Jug, but it needs some upkeep). The Galleria is just horrible. Although it has many of the things we say are good (and that are in the plans for University Village) like big windows on the street, light, air, visibility through the buildings, and so on, the scale and materials just seem wrong somehow. The Starbucks there is the saddest Starbucks I have ever seen. Even NYPD and Bubble Tea just seem so mally and corporate. It is as if trying to hard to compete with the mall left that part of the block just soulless. The darkened windows of the Touchdown Cafe are particularly, yes, creepy. The materials on the facade of U Towers haven’t aged well and the empty structural facade areas really break up the street. I like the stores in the block from Forest to Washtenaw, but it is hard to get through the previous block to get there and most people don’t. Even during Art Fair, foot traffic pretty much ends at the weirdly wide lanes of Forest. I do think that the windowless Village Corner is a problem. If you don’t know what it is, you aren’t going to just walk in. So I’m hopeful that having a taller building there with a thriving anchor store (hopefully) will help the general feel and give a better scale to make Forest seem more appropriately sized, but a lot more needs to happen too. Unfortunately, losing Village Corner is going to be a very big blow since that was one of the stores that made living and shopping on South U much better.

       —Juliew    Mar. 8 '08 - 01:21AM    #
  7. I don’t think U Towers led to the demise. It was there when I came here 22 years ago and the street was thriving — there was a fancy men’s shop, somewhat like Van Boven, no pinball and the Galleria was a movie theater. Sorry to be so anti-pinball, but that was a definite downer for the street, as was turning the movie theater into a boring mall. I’m hoping Village Corner will stay and I think they have an option to do that in the new building. Bagel Factory was not the world’s most elegant place, but it was much used by the non-student population as well as the students, so it did bring activity to that block when it existed. Maggie’s coat is made of recycled plastic bottles, by the way.

       —Joan Lowenstein    Mar. 9 '08 - 01:25AM    #
  8. I can’t speak to the pre-Pete’s era on South-U, but I feel compelled to stand up for Pete’s. I spent a lot of time in the East Lansing Pete’s in my younger days spending money on pinball and at area stores and restaurants. While I don’t manage to get to the Pete’s on South U as often as I would like (pinball is a great game after all), it brings young people to that part of the city.

    While pinball aficiandos may not spend money at fancy men’s shops, they certainly help keep places like Village Corner, NYPD, and Red Hot Lovers in business. They may also shop at Motivation, a nice new store where I was able to buy my Nephew some cool gear for Christmas.

       —Katie    Mar. 9 '08 - 06:45AM    #
  9. Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pinball, right here in Tree town.

    C’mon, Joan, it’s a college town, you have to have pinball. And the current Pinball Pete’s is a far, far cry from the location it used to have, which was right across the street, smelly, dark, uneven floors, and probably a fire trap.’s

       —Edward Vielmetti    Mar. 9 '08 - 08:33AM    #
  10. Maybe pinball doesn’t get the recognition it deserves because it’s Wizard is a deaf, dumb, and blind kid.

    I mean . . . how hard can it really be?

       —Michael Schils    Mar. 10 '08 - 11:00PM    #
  11. Joan, I was so intrigued by the idea of a faux fur coat made out of recycled pop bottles that I had to find it on the web. Here’s one

    Julie, does this look like what Maggie was wearing?

    I know this doesn’t have to do with the post, but I thought it was cool.

       —Nancy    Mar. 12 '08 - 06:27AM    #
  12. Nancy, Maggie’s coat looked more like this one. I checked a bit but couldn’t find one like it specifically made with pop bottles.

       —Juliew    Mar. 12 '08 - 06:39AM    #
  13. Actually, the coat I link to is made out of cotton. Can’t find any made out of pop bottles.

       —Nancy    Mar. 12 '08 - 06:45AM    #