With poll: Campaign circulates to gather support for $50M high-rise proposed for South University
Rendering by Brad Moore
The mixed-use development, called the “Gateway,” would be located at 1320 S. University Ave., next to the new Landmark high-rise.
But in order to build the 145-foot tall building, the property owner must overcome a zoning obstacle: the site is located in the city’s D2 zoning district, which has a height limit of 60 feet.
In February, property owner Phil Sotiroff — who also owns Ann Arbor’s Prime Student Housing — requested the property be rezoned from D2 to D1. The D1 zoning district would allow for a building 150 feet tall.
At the time, Sotiroff submitted an “area plan” with the rezoning request that outlined the potential for the site.
Ann Arbor Planning Commission voted unanimously against the request after the city’s planning department recommended denial, reporting that the proposed rezoning “is not in keeping with the master plan recommendation for the subject site.” (Read the full staff report here)
The parcel was zoned D2 in 2009 when the city adopted its A2D2 zoning changes. It’s located adjacent to the 14-story Landmark to the west and a fraternity house — with the "mudbowl" — to the east. It also abuts a house on Forest Court to the south.
Rendering by Brad Moore
Now, Sotiroff and his representatives are preparing to go before Ann Arbor’s Zoning Board of Appeals at its Oct. 24 meeting, and they have launched a marketing campaign and petition to gather support for the project.
Sotiroff is seeking zoning variances that would allow him to construct a building permissible under the D1 zoning, but with added restrictions that would minimize the impact on neighboring properties.
The campaign, termed “Yes to the Gateway,” argues that downtown Ann Arbor needs better, safer living environments for students.
The proposed building would “provide Ann Arbor with the greater density and walkability needed to meet the goals and vision for a vibrant downtown,” according to the project’s website.
Tina Bassett of Bassett & Bassett Inc., a spokesperson for the project, compared the Gateway proposal to the neighboring Landmark high-rise.
She said the building, which was designed by Brad Moore of Ann Arbor-based J Bradley Moore & Associates, would house as many as 500 tenants. No official site plans have been submitted to the city of Ann Arbor.
Amenities at the building would include an exercise studio, community room, entertainment center, about 6,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and an outdoor cafe. Parking is included below, at and above grade at the rear of the building.
“It’s a quality, high-class looking building we’d have it fit in and be very complementary to Landmark and everything else being developed in that area,” Bassett said.
She said the site is a “natural fit” for this kind of project, particularly because the zoning allowed for a higher density development prior to 2009.
In 2008, the site was included in the plans for University Village, an ambitious high-rise development that was proposed before it was scaled back as 601 Forest, now called Landmark.
The proposed University Village was for a 582,390-square-foot structure with two connected towers that would rise as high as 26 stories. The project was later reduced to one 14-story structure located at 1300 S. University Ave., and the zoning at 1320 S. University Ave. then changed.
“(The Gateway), we thought, would be a really nice, natural step down (from the original proposal),” Bassett said.
“This whole area needs this kind of redevelopment. South University is where students thrive,” she continued.
Along with Landmark, the 200-bed Zaragon West and 144-bed City Place apartments both opened last month, bringing a total of nearly 1,000 new beds downtown. Several other housing projects are in the city's pipeline.