Ann Arbor sets public meetings to get reaction on Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Authority
I drive on Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor on a daily basis., heading from the east side of the city to downtown.
And I’m not alone: About 34,000 other drivers pass through the same intersection with Huron Parkway every day, according to traffic estimates.
It’s a busy road from West Stadium in Ann Arbor all the way east to Ypsilanti. And it’s also a significant commercial corridor that continues to attract development attention.
Some recent examples: The long-closed buildings at the corner of Platt Road and the vacant land across from Huron Village soon will re-enter Ann Arbor’s planning process. Developers this spring expect to propose Arbor Hills Crossing, a 90,000-square-foot mixed-use center with emphasis on retail spaces.
The shopping center a bit east, across from Arborland and home to the Dollar Tree, also has new site plans in the works. Exterior upgrades, parking lot changes and additional retail spaces all are proposed there.
Then even more easterly is the former Dairy Mart, a symbol of blight at the entrance to Ypsilanti Township on its Pittsfield Township border, which soon could be demolished and a new restaurant built.
There are other, smaller examples of improvements, hoped-for changes and needed revisions to the property along Washtenaw.
To that end, the county’s effort to unite the communities that host the roadway into a Corridor Improvement Authority are moving forward in the City of Ann Arbor with several key meetings over coming weeks.
The goal, said city planner Jeff Kahan, is to get public reaction to the effort, since it also could result in the municipalities setting up a tax capture along the corridor to divert increases in tax revenue from the respective general funds to goals that further Washtenaw’s improvement.
The improvements, Kahan told me last week, would be mostly in transportation, then possibly infrastructure and encouraging private development.
“The theory is public improvements will attract private investment to the corridor,” he said.
Changes likely would be gradual over time, he said. Eventually, the corridor _ the most direct connection among Ypsilanti, Ypsilant Township, Pittsfield Township and Ann Arbor - could also unite the communities beyond just traffic lanes.
The corridor also could set a similar vision for alternative transportation options, appearance, function - like encouraging development closer to the road instead of parking lots. All of that could enhance the value in the corridor, both from a real estate and community perspective.
As officials take the next serious step toward a CIA, the funding component could be the biggest hurdle: Every community affected also is fighting to hold onto general fund revenue amid falling tax revenues.
I’ve been skeptical that a new taxing body is needed to accomplish improvements on Washtenaw.
But I also tried to make a left turn onto the roadway at 9 a.m. recently without the benefit of a traffic signal, and recognize that it can use attention.
And I’m curious to hear the public reaction from the 3 meetings Ann Arbor officials will hold on the issue:
â€¢ Feb. 23 from 7:30- 9 a.m. at Paesano’s Restaurant, when business owners and operators along the corridor are invited to share their perspectives.
â€¢ March 2 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Cobblestone Farm, when residents’ input is the focus.
â€¢ March 7, when City Council holds a public hearing at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
The feedback from the meetings will guide the city’s decision on creating the CIA.
The impact of that decision will affect our direction on this significant gateway corridor for years to come.