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Posted on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 5:47 a.m.

Fuller Road transit station should be new welcome gateway to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan

By Peter Allen

I went to the Fuller Intermodal Transit Station (FITS) meeting last week and was really disappointed. More than gave me fits! As the name might suggest, this is a plan that is so far done by traffic and parking engineers trying to fit a narrow scope and short-term deadline.

This site is as significant as the Gandy Dancer, a.k.a. Michigan Central Railroad Station, was to Ann Arbor in 1877 or so. That station welcomed visitors, students and residents to Ann Arbor for 100 years.

This new Fuller Road development should become the new welcoming gateway to Ann Arbor for the next 100 years.

For many reasons, it needs to be world-class design. I think this site deserves one percent of the capital cost--this could be a $60 million development-- for public art, such as subsidizing a world-class architect. Santiago Calatrava is to buildings like Dreiseitl is to waterscape design. Calatrava did the Milwaukee Art Museum and is doing the Ground Zero subway station in Manhattan. He would be my first choice. Let’s talk to him as I think he would find the site well suited for his genius.

Santiago Calatrava’s buildings ooze a sense of arrival, sense of place, such as the new train station in Belgium.

Let’s agree: The city and the university need parking for the opening of Motts Women and Children Hospital in two years. No problem. But let’s add remarkable connectivity to the region, world-class architecture and services to make this site perfectly balanced and economically feasible.

This site must take the following factors into account:

1. The new commuter from Ann Arbor to Detroit will start late next year.

2. The Hospitals have about 1.9 million patient visitors per hear, nearly all by auto.

3. The hospitals have 17,000 workers and the adjacent North Campus has another 10,000 workers, students and staff needs services, housing, Ann Arbor quality of life amenities.

4. The current Amshack station is bulldozer bait. Their current parking could help open up the riverfront at MichCon.

5. The Fuller Pools, soccer fields, park, arboretum and riverfront surround this site and need to part of the design, “Welcome to Ann Arbor” and sense of arrival. Click here to see what options my students came up with.

6. The North South rail stop at Plymouth Road and Barton provide the easiest connection to bring north south people to this transit hub.

7. The new trolley being researched will tie this site to all the campuses and downtown.

8. The city’s own design guidelines, while technically for downtown, need to be applied here.

9. The city’s one percent for art needs to be applied to get a world-class architect.

10. We have the potential to put Ann Arbor on the international map for connectivity to the world. Walking from downtown to a trolley to Metro to Barcelona and Beijing is possible.

How can I help marshal support?




Thu, Oct 8, 2009 : 4:31 p.m.

I think you left a few stakeholders out. The city and county parks departments are players in this structure. As already pointed out, the proposed facility sits on the Gallup Park trail... which is a segment of the Washtenaw County Border to Border Trail. That trail is not only a major recreational pathway but a viable off-road commuter link. The proposed transit center will house some sort of bicycle facility - this ought to be world class, a visible sign that bicycling is embraced as a serious mode of transportation in Ann Arbor.

Marvin Face

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 8:02 p.m.

Peter, what a lovely academic exercise for you and your students. Now back to reality. Based on reports, here are the stakeholders who have a say in the project (let me know if I missed any): City of Ann Arbor and its many departments, University of Michigan and its many departments including the Medical Center, Michigan Department of Transportation, AATA, Amtrak, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Do you think any of your quaint ideas will will get by the teeth of this formidable group? Any one of them is bad enough but can you imagine having to please each and every one?. With that said, I think you are right that this should be a gateway to AA and that the design should be significant. However, I don't want to pay Mr Calatrava's $600/hr fees and his first class travel requirement. If you pay for it, I'm all for it!

Art Vandelay

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 6:15 p.m.

Peter and his student have some great thoughts here. The proposed parking deck from the city would be awful. Can we get the University to take the lead on this? They brought us a beautiful new stadium and a few other great projects while the kids on City Council chase any intelligent developers out of town with their ridiculous and ever changing design ideas. This is an important project for the region and it's too important to let City Council get involved.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 2:08 p.m.

No Peter. You blew it when you said the word 'Dreiseitl'. He's a hack, a safe trendy artist who plays to current fashion and will be forgotten as soon as his water pumps break or his phallic masterpieces rust away. The Per Cent for Art process isn't a point I'd use to further my thesis. It's a world class joke the way his work was shoved down the throat of this city because a few of the local arts community decided in private to hire him for the Court-Police Building. You should know better. Having said that, you are right about this project being a major turning point in the future of Ann Arbor. Santiago Calatrava might be a good choice or better yet, why not have a world-wide contest for designing this project? And have the cost as part of the project? It's great to think out of the box, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for your work over the years. But it's the kiss of death, poison plan and simple, if you suggest using the Per Cent For Art Program funds for this after the Three Stooges ways this group has handled everthing in the past. But otherwise, some great ideas here and you should really consider running for mayor.


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 11:53 a.m.

I believe the focus of art and design in a transit station is very important if you want to welcome people and encourage ridership. I also agree (#5) that we need to include more of the surrounding sites into the design. Personally, I would love to see pedestrian bridge over the tracks that would connect the path from Gallup Park with the path in the Nichols Arboretum and the new transit station. Many people cross the tracks at two unmarked locations along the paths which I am told is trespassing and can result in a hefty fine.


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 10:03 a.m.

"unused" - he's calling for 1% of upto $60 million, or $600k for public art, and he's really recommending that we think of that percentage as extra commission to hire a really good architect. Where else in the Midwest would they do that? Chicago. They spent $23 million for Cloud Gate (the giant bean). And as someone who takes the Amtrack to Chicago at least once each year, your statement about Amtrak riders is nonsense. The riders from AA are a mix of university students, local families, and business people. Besides, you don't need a degree in architecture or an MFA to be impressed by a unique building.


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 8:38 a.m.

Peter, the fieldstone Michigan Central Railroad Depot (now Gandy Dancer) really wasn't significant at all in 1877, since it didn't open until ten years after that date. It welcomed folks to Ann Arbor until 1968, after which it became a restaurant, so I calculate that it did its welcoming for only about 82 years (not 100), with a considerable dropoff in activity after 1945.


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 7:19 a.m.

What's with this town's fascination with parking structures? I think the parking issue is just being used as an excuse to erect new buildings. Many in the developer's community narrowly view new building construction as the only acceptable sign of social progress. We need to take care of our bridges, roads and other infrastructure items before we waste tax dollars on any more new building construction. And forget that tired old "world class" crap. AA is a midwestern college town. Always has been. Always will be. It is not and should not be in competition with the world's capital cities.