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Posted on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Residents weigh in on development planned for unfinished West Towne Condo site

By Lizzy Alfs

westtowne.jpg

A rendering of the proposed Blue Heron Pond development, which is proposed for the unfinished West Towne Condos property in Ann Arbor.

Rendering by Brad Moore

The developers of Blue Heron Pond — a 65-unit townhouse development proposed for West Liberty Street and South Maple Road in Ann Arbor — met with a handful of community members Monday night to detail plans and receive public input.

The consensus among the few attendees was generally positive, with most just happy to see activity at the site.

“I’m happy that you guys are doing something over there,” said Judith Marks, who lives across Liberty Street from the development. “It’s kind of nice to see activity.”

She added: “(The buildings) do look smaller and they’re prettier, too.”

The property was targeted for development in 2005 when Michael Concannon proposed the eight-building, 87-unit West Towne Condos. But financing issues and the economic downturn stalled the project after only one building was constructed.

west.jpg

Norfolk Development Co. wants to finish building on the property on West Liberty and South Maple streets in Ann Arbor.

Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

Lender Fifth Third Bank then sold the loan to Ann Arbor-based Norfolk Development Co., who foreclosed on the note last year. Now that the site plan for the original project has expired, Norfolk is moving forward with a new project: Blue Heron Pond.

At a citizen participation meeting for the development Monday night, project architect Brad Moore unveiled details of the new plans.

Norfolk wants to decrease the building footprints, providing more guest parking and green space, and take the total number of units from 87 to 65. It would be townhouse-style rental units, each with its own attached garage.

“Looking at what the site could yield in alternative designs, the owner came upon the conclusion that it was probably more marketable if people weren’t living on top of each other, but rather beside each other,” Moore said.

Four small buildings would front West Liberty Street, rather than the two large buildings that were originally proposed. The new plans increase the setback from Liberty by seven or eight feet.

“We’ve talked about adding some amenities to the site…possibly (a platform) so you could possibly walk out into the water…it’s a very nice, natural landscape and we want people to be able to take a part in it,” Moore said.

The new project would use the infrastructure already in place, including the existing driveways. It incorporates the same brick and siding materials as the existing building. The units would be two and three bedrooms and range in price from $1,500 to $1,800 per month.

“That doesn’t mean if the strength in the condo market were to return, they couldn’t be converted (from rentals), but right now, the market is for rentals,” Moore said.

Marks was concerned with the units’ marketability due to street level noise, but Moore said the buildings would be well insulated.

Another attendee expressed concern about the existing wildlife in the area, particularly ducks and geese that are living near the pond.

Betsy de Parry, a resident in the existing building on the site, said the wildlife tends to stay near the pond and shouldn’t be too disturbed by future development.

She added: “I think (the new project) looks great.”

The developer now plans to submit a revised site plan to the city and plans will go before Ann Arbor’s Planning Commission and City Council. If approved, Moore said construction could start in spring 2013.

oldproposal.jpg

A drawing by Midwestern Consulting shows the layout of the original West Towne Condo proposal

Midwestern Consulting

newproposal.jpg

This drawing shows the layout of the new Blue Heron Pond proposal, with smaller buildings and more green space

Midwestern Consulting

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at lizzyalfs@annarbor.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.

Comments

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Oct 16, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

Betsy de Parry--shouldn't you note this person is another local developer?

rjnewman

Tue, Oct 16, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

I am sure whatever they do it will be in the community's interest. Norfolk very reputable developer. I have known them for years. How is the rental market in Ann Arbor area?

condokitty

Tue, Oct 16, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

I hope the project will be consistent with the building that Mike Concannon built - I toured that building, and it is a high quality product, and architecturally very attractive; its too bad the bank didn't allow him to finish it.