Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Planning Commission Tables North Main Condo Proposal

22. September 2004 • Brandon
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“We just want this project to die and go away.”
-Chris Crockett, Old Fourth Ward Association president.

A story from the print edition of today’s Ann Arbor News documents last night’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Planning Commission:

A plan that was said to be an early test of the city’s ability to attract more residents to downtown Ann Arbor stalled Tuesday night after the Ann Arbor Planning Commission agreed with concerns of neighbors and business owners who said it was just too big.

The commission voted 8-0 to table a decision on the North Main Condominiums development, which would have brought a 14-story tower and a nine-story tower to what is generally a two-story neighborhood. The ambitious project would have put 150 multiple family residential units on North Main Street, north of Catherine Street and south of Kingsley Street.

At the meeting, NIMBY and other opposition to the project was strong:

About 50 people attended the meeting. All but one of the seven speakers during the public hearing opposed the plan. Residents and business owners attacked the project as out of character and too big, and they said it would overwhelm the neighborhood and squash the small-town charm of Kerrytown.

In the wake of voters’ approval of the “greenbelt” millage last year, there has been a general agreement among most city leaders and residents that to protect open space outside of Ann Arbor, more housing must be created within the already-urbanized area. As yesterday’s Planning Commission meeting shows, pro-density advocates will continue to face stiff neighborhood opposition to any sizable changes in the cityscape.

  1. Editorializing now:

    1. To be fair, I think we could do a lot better with the site, though I don’t think 9 and 12 stories are too high. The architecture is pretty ugly, looking at the artists’ rendering in the paper… it’s a bit glassier Corbusier. Something more, uh, pre-war might fit the area a bit better, and moreover encouter less-opposition. Look at the traditional-looking building across the street from Village Corner on South U. The average joe finds the architecture attractive, even if most contemporary architects will scoff at its “nostalgia.” If these developers really want less public opposition, they oughtta look into architecture that residents of a historic district might find more acceptable. Also, where’s the commercial space at street level? it’s on main for heaven’s sake, mixed-use just makes sense. The current design is setting up a deadened street—I see a long stretch of blank walls with perhaps a car drop-off space or parking garage entrance(?). So, maybe this isn’t the best proposal for the site, but I don’t think the height is the main issue.

    2. Those of us who should be at these meeting countering NIMBY opposition and supporting density really dropped the ball.
       —Brandon    Sep. 22 '04 - 03:25PM    #
  2. 3. I’m pretty sure these were advertised as “luxury” condos (can anyone comfirm this?), so it isn’t like they’d be helping the housing market for the average to lower-income resident.
       —Brandon    Sep. 22 '04 - 08:24PM    #
  3. Agreed: Yes, I want to see projects like this go forward. But the architecture of this project was so awful, so likely to be unwelcome, that I wonder if the promoters WANTED it to be rejected.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Sep. 22 '04 - 09:31PM    #
  4. As an anti-NIMBY pro-density standard-bearer, I don’t particularly like this proposal, from what I know about it. 14 stories in Kerrytown? Totally out of context. Look at the new 8-story Cornerhouse Lofts on State, and imagine something that sticks out twice as much.

    There’s a place for 14-story buildings in A2, but it’s not Kerrytown. Plenty of parking lots on Huron that could hold such a building without much context-disruption.
       —Murph    Sep. 23 '04 - 02:24PM    #
  5. It’s not IN Kerrytown per se, though. It’s on Main… as a backdrop to Kerrytown, admittedly. I think downtown can stand to grow a bit. North or South on Main seem like good routes along which to do so. May as well replace the half-assed commerical buildings with something more useful. Huron would be better, though, I agree. A more sensible solution would be to densify non-downtown areas up from their suburban densities, but we all know that’s even less-likely.
       —Brandon    Sep. 23 '04 - 10:39PM    #
  6. And I don’t mind Cornerhouse lofts. Relatively-acceptable (or at least non-obtrusive) architecture, ground-floor retail, and within a block or two of taller buildings like the Campus Inn and Tower Plaza.
       —Brandon    Sep. 23 '04 - 10:41PM    #
  7. On a sort-of related note, I saw Chris Crockett in attendance at the Ann Arbor Parks Open House Workshop on the PROS plan tonight.
    I am guessing that the Old Fourth Ward is representing the group of Ann Arborites who want no density increases, no sprawl, only additions greenspace and increasing property values through the roof. This way, none of the students or younger workers can afford to live in this town just like the artists who have had to leave.

    I was pretty disappointed that there were not more people in attendance because it is so easy to stop by the Open House Workshop and write down what you’d like to see in the Parks and greenspaces for the next 5 years.
    If you want to tell the Parks department what you want (or need!) from the City Parks, please go to
       —Lizz    Sep. 28 '04 - 08:51PM    #
  8. These were clearly necessary. First, the addition of luxury housing helps low-moderate income people. As higher income people relocate elsewhere, more affordable options are created for the rest of us.

    The biggest threat to the city, by far, is the increase of strip malls and big box chain retailers on the city’s periphery. Increasing the population density of downtown ensures that downtown will continue to be a vital destination and thus helps to preserve the surrounding areas.

    Ann Arbor’s residents should take action to bring this project back.
       —Alec Klinman    Oct. 16 '04 - 06:42PM    #