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Posted on Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

251-unit apartment project proposed for Traverwood Drive raises concern at public meeting

By Lizzy Alfs

The development team behind a 251-unit apartment project proposed for Ann Arbor’s Traverwood Drive met with about a dozen community members Thursday night to detail plans and receive public input.

The majority of attendees at the citizen participation meeting raised concerns about how the development, proposed for a vacant property at 2225 Traverwood Drive, will affect or eliminate the site’s natural features.


A site concept for the project shows the three buildings on the north end and 13 on the south end. Stapp Nature Area is to the north and Leslie Woods Nature Area is to the west.

Lizzy Alfs |

“This is a magical portal right in the middle of Ann Arbor,” long-time Ann Arbor resident Tanya Brown told the developers. “There are habitats of animals out there. You’ve been sitting on this land for (more than 20) years. You know it is precious, precious land.”

Ann Arbor’s First Martin Corporation has owned the land since the 1990s and is proposing the project. It's divided into two parts: the north end of the property would have three four-story buildings, and the south side would have between 11 and 13 two-story buildings. Existing wetlands and a community building would separate the north and south sides.

Plans are still in the preliminary stages, but the project would have about 251 one-and-two-bedroom units that would range in size between 550 square feet and 1,250 square feet. Pricing has not been determined.

Two parking spaces would be provided per unit in either attached garages or interior parking underneath the buildings. A portion of the site would require a rezoning from office/research to multi-family.

First Martin’s Mike Martin told attendees that the timing is right to build apartments.

“The occupancy rates across Ann Arbor have been very high…I also think there are a number of people saying the area is expected to grow from an employment standpoint,” he said.

Mitchell Bleznak, co-founder of Bleznak Real Estate Investment Group and the owner of apartments in the area, said a project like this is “definitely needed.”


About a dozen residents attended the meeting to provide feedback on the apartment project proposal.

Lizzy Alfs |

“I think you’re doing something very useful for the community and I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s very well needed and there is growing demand.”

Because the property neighbors both Stapp Nature Area and the Leslie Woods Nature Area, some attendees at the meeting requested that First Martin reduce the scale of the project.

“My major concern has to do with the trees to the north of the site,” said attendee Clark Charnetski. “I would personally rather have you go to greater height on the buildings on the south end in order to eliminate some of the buildings on the north end…because then you’d be able to keep more of the trees.”

James Sharba of Hobbs + Black Architects showed attendees a variety of building layouts the developers considered for the site, but said the attached garages and interior parking was the best way to retain some natural features.

Added the project’s civil engineer, Earl Ophoff of Midwestern Consulting: “It’s about where is the financial feasibility as well as the physical feasibility.”

Another attendee asked if First Martin would consider donating the land instead of developing apartments. The company donated the Stapp Nature Area property to the city about a decade ago.

“It would be very good karma,” Brown said.


Courtesy photo

Nearby resident Lisa Dusseau pointed out that residents have been utilizing the First Martin property as a park area for years, and to have that taken away is “really disappointing.”

Other concerns raised by attendees included:

  • Whether there is demand for more apartments in the area

  • Traffic impact

  • How Ann Arbor is becoming overdeveloped

“I’m not against the development; it’s your property. But along with our other pleas for the trees and stuff, sometimes smaller is better,” said Peggy Rabhi, a park steward for Leslie Woods. “And again…are we going to wind up with some of these buildings empty?”

Brown added: “I’d just like First Martin to remember that Ann Arbor is tree town. It’s tree town for a reason, and we really don’t have that many trees left right here…we are your neighbors. I sure would like to be able to go back there and visit the trees and the animals.”

Martin told the development team will consider residents’ feedback and how to incorporate it into the plans. He said they likely won’t remove the buildings on the north end of the site, but might try to rearrange them so there is less impact to the nature area.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

If this butts right up against the 8th hole that will be a very decision indeed. That part of Leslie GC is one of the most picturesque and a bunch of apartments will make it an eye sore. I hope this project does not see fruition


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

Far too large scale for the area. 11 - 13 buildings? 251 units? This is totally out of scale for the area, which already has a high number of apartments. Who is going to rent these? Other apartment complexes are having problems filling units and students will swarm into these from north campus. One more monster student housing project, bringing crime, noise, congestion and degraded property values. Bad idea.

Marc Williams

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

There has to be some compromise. Ann Arbor needs more apartment units in or near the core of the city for families and middle-aged professionals. When I moved here from San Jose, CA in 1999 I was so happy to pay half of what I did in California. Now I'm paying more. We don't want sprawl, we don't like building up, we're against urban infill... eventually the cost of housing is going to push me out of Ann Arbor. I'll need to buy a car and commute to work.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 5 p.m.

Absolutely correct Marc Williams. There has to be more apartments near center city for NON STUDENTS. These student warehouses are overwhelming the city and adults and families are being pushed out in the name of a fast buck and greed on the part of developers. This mega complex on Traver Blvd is a done deal. Nothing the public says will make any difference whatsoever. It's all PR on the part of Martin. Students will swarm to this development from north campus. One more monster student apartment complex.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

Did no one ask questions or express concerns about how this property affects Leslie Park golf course?


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

I can't imagine the zoning commission would change the zoning to allow such a large scale development in that area. There are some ecological issues concerning the area that would have to be addressed as well as the changes in sewage and other utilities that would be required to support such a development. I suspect the developers rolled out a large scale plan with the thoughts when they scale it back people would be more willing to accept it. The area is much more suited to smaller, more enviromentally friendly development. This would have been a good purchase for the Green Belt initiative. Somebody dropped the ball there.

Basic Bob

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

It's zoned R4D: "The R4D multiple-family dwelling district is intended to permit higher density in the form of high-rise buildings on substantial tracts of land located in areas other than the central business district. Land use planning and site design should minimize the impact of the permitted intensity of land use on adjacent property and on the community as a whole."

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

I didn't put this in the story, but one attendee (Lisa Dusseau) raised an interesting point: she felt discouraged by the city process for proposed developments. A citizen participation meeting is required, but she felt it's just an opportunity for citizens to raise concerns and then nothing is done about it. She said the developers already know what they're going to do before the meeting, and don't really listen to the feedback. I'm not saying this is true of these developers and First Martin did say they're going to take some of the comments into consideration, but I thought it was worth noting how she felt.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

At least they can express their opinions directly to the developer. Giving a meeting like this any teeth is a bad idea. Remember, it IS the developers property. The idea of holding an investment property for 20 years and then being expected to donate it for park land? That is not an investment! If neighbors didn't want this area developed they should have gotten together and purchased it with their own hard earned money (or made First Martin an offer years ago) instead of expecting First Martin to spend THEIR hard earned money on their recreation land.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

Recent developers have gone both ways with the voluntary input sessions. The developer of the Fox Tent and Awning site did respond to citizens' input and made real changes. The developer of 413 N. Huron, being voted on Monday May 6 by City Council, mostly ignored the suggestions and concerns. Go to the council meeting and speak against the latter development on May 6. It is a public hearing, so anyone can go and speak.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

Ah yes, the 'concerns' word again. That's a code word for 'they are opposed to the property belonging to others being used for what others want to use it for'. The 'not in my backyard' phrase has yet to show up. The simple solution is for all the attendees to start a special assessment district, buy up the remaining property, pay the taxes and enjoy the peeping frogs. Maybe retiring UofM officials could use some of their billion dollar IRA money to buy the property fair and square and donate it to the City to be used as a park (wooo, maybe some of it for a dog park !) Obviously they would want their name to perpetuate their contribution to this part of the world. Between the City and UofM, the goal is to Pave Paradise in the name of progress. Besides, I remember when all the other 'Traver' and 'Nixon' projects were nothing but woods and ponds. No condos, no roads, no traffic, deer, pheasants, bluebirds, ducks and geese. Then 'THEY' moved in with bird feeders for English sparrows. How dreadful. "On Coleman Pond", a sorta poetic name for a swamp don'tcha think? Pardon the parable....

NE Steward

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

I just hope they do a better job than the gang responsible for putting Plymouth Green Crossings into the corner of Green and Plymouth. What an eye sore that place is - not only reflects the poor quality of development but the lack of appreciation and respect for the little land and ecology left in our neighborhoods. When you enter Ann Arbor from this direction as so many people do, you can imagine what kind of impression people have on the direction our city is headed. Mr. Martin please do something better!


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

Agreed. Plymouth Green Crossings went up after I was off to college, so every time I came home, I drove by it and thought about how ugly it is, crowding into the wetland and allowing invasive species to take over while the soil was disturbed. It's definitely an eye-sore, and one of the more sad reminders that development usually just happens, regardless of what it looks like and what effect it'll have on the local ecosystem.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

I'm sorry, but this is the definition of "greedy short-sighted neighbors". For 20 yrs they've enjoyed these empty lots at no cost. They knew Martin bought them and paid taxes. Now the owner wants to use the property and people complain? Couldn't they have gone to the City and said "raise my taxes and buy this land"?


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

Oh, and lest we forget, Ann Arbor residents already pay a millage for acquiring open space...OUTSIDE the city limits.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

"Raise my taxes"? Jimmy, you obviously don't live in Ann Arbor. If you did you would know exactly what has happened with taxes and how they relate to city services.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 11:40 a.m.

I remember going through this before, in the 90's when this property was first purchased. That was around the time of Prop B, and because of the sensitive ecology of the site a group was tring to get the city to buy it as part of the new parkland acquisitions. The ponds are breeding grounds for frog populations, one of them we call 'Peeper Pond'. I encourage people to check out these ponds before they are turned into storm water retention basins, this next week or so they will really be coming alive with frog calls as mating season nears. While you are there, enjoy the trees, before they are cut down and 'mitigated' with landscaping evergreens. And be sure to look down the street, past the library, and see how ugly apartment development can be. Where is the Lorax when you need him?


Wed, May 1, 2013 : 12:07 a.m.

Yeah throw the book at those frogs. Those frogs and birds are trespassing on First Martin property. AH.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

If you or others have been going on this property then you are guilty of trespass.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 10:54 a.m.

How many acres is this site? I am curious to know the density (units per acre) being proposed.

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

@Basic Bob said it: It's about 21/22 acres

NE Steward

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

Why do you ask and what is your point? I am missing the meaning of your question. Do you want more or less density in this area of town?

Basic Bob

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

The vacant lot is 18 acres, then another 3 from the back of the commercial property. 12 units/acres.