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Posted on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

Arbor Hills Crossing shopping center wins approval from Ann Arbor Planning Commission

By Lizzy Alfs


A map of the proposed Arbor Hills Crossing shopping center on Ann Arbor's east side, across the street from Whole Foods, at the corner of Platt and Washtenaw.

The Ann Arbor Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the site plan for a new development called Arbor Hills Crossing shopping center, a 90,700-square-foot complex proposed for the Platt and Washtenaw intersection.

The project will now go before the Ann Arbor City Council for final approval.

Located directly across the street from Whole Foods, the proposed development is on a 7.45-acre site at 3100 Washtenaw Ave.

The property has been vacant since a former car dealership was demolished to make way for a previously planned project that was never developed.

The Arbor Hills site plan calls to demolish six vacant buildings and construct four retail buildings with some potential for office space. It also includes 310 parking spaces, 30 covered bicycle parking spaces, new public sidewalks, a covered bus stop and a new traffic signal.


The former "Shops at Arlington" property, shown in May 2010 when it was sold to the current developers. The site plan for the new project, Arbor Hills Crossing, received Planning Commission approval. file photo

Plans for the site were unveiled in February 2011, and received a mostly warm welcome from neighbors and residents at a public meeting. In June, Planning Commission voted to postpone approval of the site to address a few outstanding issues regarding access, stormwater and the intersection at Platt and Washtenaw.

Since June, the developers of the project have made minor modifications to the site, including altering small architectural details, relocating a bus pullout and reconfiguring an island where traffic flows into the development.

Commissioner Bonnie Bona, who called the development a “pretty good strip center,” said she was glad to see the developers make the changes to the site plan.

“Thank you for responding to some of the comments made before,” she said. ”While subtle, I think they’ll benefit the project greater than the costs.”

“I want to generally compliment you on the site plan,” she continued.

In addition, no residents brought forward any concerns about the project during the public hearing portion of Tuesday’s meeting.

Plans have been in the works for a retail development at this site for years. In 2006, City Council approved a site plan and development agreement for The Shops at Arlington, a 138,000-square-foot retail project with underground parking.

However, plans for the $9 million project, which was originally developed by Gordon Mathews and Bill Conlin, expired in fall 2009 as lender Comerica Bank sought to sell the property following foreclosure.

Ann Arbor real estate owner and developer Campus Realty bought the property from the lender in 2010, and is partnering with Chicago-based North Shore Properties Group on the Arbor Hills Crossing development.

Earlier this year, Tom Stegeman of Campus Realty said that Arbor Hills Crossing will have no large anchor, such as the Whole Foods Market across the street.

He said he hopes to attract national chains, regional players and local businesses. It will include a mix of tenants, including most likely food use, apparel and specialty retailers.

He also said North Shore, who is handling tenant selection and leasing, has been in serious discussions with a number of potential tenants and there is strong interest.

To help finance the project, the developers proposed a brownfield plan to remove contaminated soils at the site, which are a result of the former dealership and gas station.

A brownfield property is one in which site conditions present an obstacle to redevelopment, which can include properties that are contaminated, blighted or functionally obsolete.

Ann Arbor’s Brownfield Review Committee voted in September to approve $6.6 million in tax-increment financing assistance for the project, and now the brownfield plan must also be approved by Ann Arbor City Council.

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



Sat, Oct 22, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

Hello, Please know that I'm not infavor the the proposed development. My reasons are as follows: There are thousands of square feet in vacant BEAUTIFUL: BUILDINGS in our comminity. We need more oxygen in our community at the price of trees, plants, gardens and so forth. We need to slow down for another generation or two; catching up with the rest of the world, recessions are times to fordge forward with GREEN matters. We need more electric automobiles first. Apple has 52 Billion dollars to spend here in ANN ARBOR (Yes go for it). Not a new building. Please do not disturb the surface run off of water by using vegation. This is Ann Arbor; grow, grow more Arbors (Important to remember please) I could write for hours. Please know that I am retired (did 150 years of work in 20 years or so). Would be most happy to assist a person in the development of the above mentioned ideas. Note: I do not know who the developer is. Guess it would not realy matter even if it was/were/is Donald Trump. My best to all. Dawn D. Johnston


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

oh good, more shopping centers to make aa look exactly like every other city in middle america


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

There is not going to be a resolution to the traffic problem. Ann Arbor is a small city surrounded by freeways with thousands of commuters funneling into downtown and the University areas. Drivers want to enter and exit the city at the same speeds they are used to out on the perimeter. The ideal solution would be to have all the new job locations be stacked right next to the highway interchanges! Not. going. to. happen.

Hot Sam

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

The biggest problem with that area is that Stadium Boulevard has never really been a boulevard... Now we are trying to make up for what was terrible planning in the past...very difficult.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

Let's do the math ... finally developing that eyesore location + increased revenue + diverting from eyesore/traffic mess Arborland+no additional park that requires public $ to maintain + hopefully protecting Huron Hills from development = WIN!


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

This is a "Field of Dreams" project where the owners will hope to lease the buildings and then generate profit. The developer will do well with his off-the-top fee no matter whether the shopping center is successful or goes into bankruptcy. Considering the offerings up and down Washtenaw Avenue, exactly what businesses does the area need to have added at Ann Arbor Crossing? If it is built, expect Ann Arbor Crossing to be bankrupt after a two or three year struggle. Do you really believe that this project should be considered a "WIN"?


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

David - Perhaps, but that's a different type of place. This isn't the type of place that people will be walking to and it shouldn't be. I think we have enough of the stores that will fit into a pedestrian mall - bookstores, small independents. We also have enough big places like Lowes, Home Depot, etc. But it'd be great if we can get somethign in the middle - standalone Crate & Barrel, Gap, Anthroloplogie or something like that. Drawings also look like it's not your usual strip mall. It looks like the separate buildings will provide some visual interest when look at it from Washtenaw - not just a big building with a big parking lot.

David Paris

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

But hedonist, what if we accomplished all that with a development such as a slightly down-scaled Ashley Mews that included nice store fronts, wide sidewalks, and pedestrian walkability? Could you imagine something nicer than what has been proposed? It don't take much...


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

Hmmmmm. JUST what Ann Arbor needs!...Another strip mall!


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

As a long time resident of A2 and growing up in Ann Arbor Hills, I look forward to this empty lot being developed. The Stegeman family has a long standing commitment to Ann Arbor and I think the town is in good hands with them at the helm of this project. For those that wanted more park space, actually know the area before you speak up... just cross Plat Street to the County Park and recreation area. Like many residents in this town I am all for our park space and want to maintain the look and feel of Ann Arbor, but there is no reason not to move forward with smart targeted development. I hope that this project may include some "green" ideas and building, the layout looks more creative than a typical strip mall. Perhaps they will use this opportunity to showcase modern eco friendly building and energy saving technology. Either way it is a better use than a polluted derelict lot that has been an eye sore for years on our main road into town.


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Ssshhhh. Let's keep County Farm Park our secret...

David Paris

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

I understand what you're saying JR, but as someone pointed out, this development just adds to the Cantonization of East Ann Arbor. There is so much more that could have been done, just look at downtown Plymouth for example, the whole downtown is superior to anything I've seen developed in this town in recent years. I just drove through Dublin, OH last weekend, again, it is superior to what our planning commission has approved of lately. In a town with such a fine university that includes the A.Alfred Taubman School of Architecture, I personally expect better than this! You are hopeful that they will take the opportunity to showcase modern eco-friendly technology, but they've already demonstrated that they are working within a budget, so to speak, I don't have any hope of them raising the bar on technology, when they have lowered the bar on aesthetics, and usage.

Peter Eckstein

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

Some good can yet come of this. Maybe I can find some Wall Street outfit that will sell me a credit default swap that will offer me a big payoff if the developers default on the loan to build this new shopping center. I'd like to see the Planning Commission and City Council ask each developer who comes before them how much of their own money they are putting into their projects. I don't know the answer in this case, but I would sure like to. We don't need the recent asinine proposal to create a Washtenaw corridor development authority with TIFF revenues, in order to further increase "density" (our sacred mantra) and create bicycle lanes along the road. What we do need an imaginative and thorough traffic plan for Washtenaw that will prevent the awful standstills that occur during many hours every day. Such a plan should recognize that Washtenaw is a main access route to and from US 23, which means that it has to work for passenger cars and other motorized vehicles, as unfashionable as these may be in City Hall today. Maybe this is the "boulevard" being talked about, maybe it is a widening of the road, maybe it is creating a bypass to US 23. Certainly it would include putting all bus stops off the road itself. In the meantime, I'd suspend all development of new construction (as opposed to rehab) along the corridor. It doesn't work now. Let's not make it worse.


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

HAving the bus stop on Washtenaw Ave is one of the biggest contributors to backed up traffic on that stretch.

say it plain

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 1:57 a.m.

great points and lol about the CDS...


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

Although we are involved with a deepening recession construction costs have not declined. I wonder how much this project is expected to cost and how much of the financing has been secured. Several developments in the Ann Arbor area were never completed because of insufficient financing. As unattractive as the property is now I expect that it will look worse with half completed buildings. Since this shopping center is being built on speculation, what leasing rate will the owner ask? Considering vacancies at Arborland, new speculative construction planned for across the street from Arborland and the Hollywood Video vacancy, Arbor Hills Crossing will face stiff leasing competition as soon as construction is completed. Another food store is unlikely to locate there because of local competition from Hiller's, Whole Foods and Trader Joes. In what form will City Council provide Tom Stegeman of Campus Realty with $6.6 million in tax-increment financing assistance? How, if ever, will the City obtain any financial benefits from Arbor Hills Crossing? In the second worse case scenerio, (the worse being incomplete construction), Arbor Hills Crossing enters bankruptcy because it can not lease its commercial space at rates that will cover its costs. The buildings remain unoccupied providing a ghostly testament to the poor judgement of city governing officials. In the end, Mr. Stegeman may be the only individual profiting from this effort if he can take a developer's fee off the top of the financing he secures and before the project's financial collapse.

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Back in the late '60's when I was writing for the Detroit News, I did a piece on that stretch and the problems faced by motorists whether they wanted to shop along there or not. Since then, nothing has changed and another addition to an already congested area won't help. 42 years and counting!!!


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

As a country, the U.S. is extremely over-retailed. With consumer demand so poor right now, it doesn't seem to make much sense to add more retail space to the local area. The only businesses I can see moving in here right now are restaurants. That and maybe another drug store even though there's one across the road already. The way they're building them now, I wouldn't be surprised.

Marilyn Wilkie

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

or maybe another bank! Can't have too many drug stores and baks, can we? Maybe more chain restaurants and coffee shops...too.

say it plain

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

that strip of town isn't enough like Canton yet lol...this'll help! Especially if they get mostly national-level retailers... Maybe they can attract some interesting 'ethnic' restaurant into the mix, though...they'd be able to charge higher prices than the look-a-like strips already next door in Canton, but of course they'll have to pay thrice the amount in rent, so... Ah, least the city has bought more land to 'greenbelt' the outskirts all pretty and de-congested, we'll just have our suburban sprawl concentrated sorta centrally in town ;-)

Marilyn Wilkie

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

Thank God Ann Arbor will have somewhere to shop soon.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

The traffic issues would be greatly reduced is people simply drove the speed limit. Far too often when driving through there, others are driving at 10-15 mph below the speed limit when there is no one in front of them. Like the 'debt crisis', this issue is largely self-inflicted.

say it plain

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

maybe that's because they're trying to figure out which strip mall they need to pull into ;-)

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

Too much in the way of parking and not enough in the way of storefront square footage.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

I have to LOL! So many people come here and daily ridicule The City for being "anti-business". Today they ridicule The City for allowing more business (and revenue) in a business district! Too rich!

David Paris

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

What a waste of a good piece of property! Such an opportunity, now lost to suburbanization. I don't know which is worse, the developers lack of vision, or our planning commissions lack of planning knowledge? What would it take to improve on this plan? Just ask any kid at the Taubman School where certainly 9 out of 10 could improve on this site plan in a matter of minutes.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 11:17 a.m.

developers look at $$$$$.PERIOD


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 12:29 p.m.

There is already plenty of empty store space in this area. How many Dollar stores do we need?


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

Wish it could be left as a green space with some $750,000. of art in it.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 11:23 a.m.

Oh gosh....a good excuse to build yet another roundabout???? I try my best to avoid that intersection when it takes so long for the light to change green! I even see cops drive into Arlington Square to avoid that light!


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 11:13 a.m.

I'll buy into it if 1) they put a light there, allow left turns, and 2) start ticketing people who impede traffic and create a hazard on Washtenaw by going 20 in a 45 mph zone. And possibly a right-turn lane into the center. I'll continue to avoid that whole area until that happens


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 11:07 a.m.

this is great. now we need to add. bike paths, crosswalks, turnarounds etc. and really mess it up. oops forgot the idle law. going to be a little hard to have people turning in to barnes and nobel, and the new mall at the same time. should leave about one lane going each way. going to be fun to watch ann arbor planning mess this up.

Tom Smith

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 10:45 a.m.

... All those vacancies in Arborland, Oak Valley, Westgate, Fox Village, the entirety of Georgetown waiting for the Miracle Makeover... hey! I know! Let's build more shopping centers! Sigh. Never mind the traffic difficulties mentioned by earlier comments, real and frustrating though they are. Never mind that the land might be used for something else. Why more shopping centers? The reason all the sites above have no stores is that no one has any money with which to shop. Fix roads, fix buildings, restore libraries, create community centers, anything but more freakin' shopping. If the City Council must go through with this, I echo the sentiment of treetowncartel -- make Washtenaw a boulevard from the Stadium split to the Ypsi line. It'll make things at least somewhat safer.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

You do realize this is a private development right? Taxpayer dollars won't (or at least, shouldn't) go into its construction. That being said, if its not the government who is going to use the land, then its a private interest: whoever's buying gets to decide what they build [with city council approval.] I've lived across from that lot for years: NO ONE has voiced interest in developing it until now... why would we deny a suitor now? I don't think anyone would say a shopping center is the ideal thing to place there, but fiscally speaking, it should bring in more tax revenue for the city. At the very least... more than a vacant lot would. Also, as for concerns for traffic: there's absolutely nothing you can do about it at this point. Even if you denied the permit to build the shopping center, you can't widen the roads into a boulevard without reclaiming strips of private property. It goes without saying that it would not only be 'impossible', but also commercial suicide for the city. You can chalk that traffic problem up to poor city planning in the first place.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

No, it is a good time to build a pedestrian cross walk. Where no one on Washtenaw will ever be able get thru again. Everyone will use that walk way and then we will have to find another way to get to 23.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 10:37 a.m.

too bad, looking at the overview and the picture, that could have been a little gem of a park..already have some strategically placed trees. With a walking bridge constructed over Washtenaw to the already existing shopping /coffee/book places, could see a real upgrade . However, with traffic issues sited by many and the meagerness of the plan with a disjointed layout, doubt that anyone will bother for the trouble .


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

but parks don't pay taxes


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

I'm sorry, are you implying that the space in question is currently paradise? Have you been through there? I used to walk through there when it was a car dealership and believe me it was already pretty well paved. If they make Washtenaw a boulevard and stop people from using the left turn lane as their 'I simply MUST turn left from this parking lot no matter what the time of day' merge lane, things would flow a LOT more smoothly through there. Commuters do clog the area up between about 4:30PM and 6:30PM, no doubt about that. The tricky part is that Washtenaw is part of the business loop through town and is, I believe, controlled by the state, not the city. To change it at all takes heroic measures. But it does need to change.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot....yeah yeah...


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

The walking bridge is a great idea.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

Exactly Lolly! We don't need more "gems" which bring in no revenue and in fact cost us money because we need to maintain them. Ann Arbor is park rich, which is a good thing, but we can't convert every space that becomes available into a park. I already pay enough for parks.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

There is a gem of a park, about 40 acres, across Platt Road from the site (County Farm Park).


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 10:33 a.m.

That's a shame no one showed up at the public hearing to inject some common sense into the discussion. As reflected in some of these comments, traffic in that area is already a disaster and this project adds not only another large consumer destination but also another traffic signal. ?! I'd like to see the traffic impact study on this. Maybe if the planning commission were actually interested in hearing public comment, they could post the proposals and ask for public comments online. Seems to me there's no shortage of opinions out here.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 6:40 a.m.

We need more stores in A2, there isn't enough yet.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

We don't need more stores, bakeries, or coffee shops. We need more Indian and Korean restaurants


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

How bout a new pie shop? Bakery? I don't think Ann Arbor has enough of those yet.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 11:14 a.m.

Well we have 1,000 coffee shops, isn't that enough for ya?

Longtime A2

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 4:34 a.m.

I do wish this article (or future articles) would address more explicitly an important issue made earlier in these comments: dangerous traffic and intense congestion along this corridor of Washtenaw Ave. I think anyone who tries regularly to get through this stretch of town between 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. or 8:30 - 10:30 a.m. knows why I'm worried. It's already an absolute nightmare getting through or, for that matter, exiting any of the store areas along this stretch. And please know: I'm not some grumbling alarmist who hates all change or development. I do, daily, drive and bus through this area, and it's hard for me to imagine how this situation could get better with another large shopping center. reporters and editors, can you please explore the traffic angle with more specificity?


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

LongtimeA2: I could not agree more. You are absolutely correct in the nightmare congestion along Washtenaw, especially in that stretch from Tappan School east to Carpenter. Adding another shopping strip center is just ludicrous. Cars can't enter and exit the existing centers! Getting in and out of Arborland is a nightmare and the corner of Platt and Washtenaw is just total congestion. Not a good move to add even more "shopping" along an area with that kind of traffic. The only people who benefit from this are the developers.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

While I'm with you about the congestion on that stretch of road, I disagree about its source. 99.9% of that traffic is commuter traffic, it's not people going shopping. That stretch is terrible because many people WORK in AA, but either can't afford to or choose not to LIVE in AA. How does that saying go? You're not stuck in traffic, you ARE traffic.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 2:27 a.m.

Another curb cut on Washtenaw is an invitation for disaster - they need to look at how many automobile crashes there are on that section of the avenue as it is already - adding more opportunities for entry/exit would create even more opportunities for injuries or fatalities.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 2:24 a.m.

Even more reason to avoid that part of town. Yet more traffic in a place where it already takes 20 minutes to travel a quarter mile.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

I like going 45-50 mph and the having to slow to a crawl in a matter of 10 feet. Thrilling!


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

I live in this part of town, travel it daily, and I find that the traffic is actually no big deal.

Jim Mulchay

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

Question for the urban planners out there - what impact does this have on the existing open buildings at Arborland (like Borders)? Will this add to activity along Washtenaw or compete for the existing consumers? It will be nice to see something other than the open lot - if it is a viable project.

Ann English

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

I wonder if the decision to prohibit left turns onto Washtenaw from Glenwood foresaw a traffic signal where it is planned for this new strip center. Or did the former dealership, when open, necessitate this prohibition? Hope left turns onto Washtenaw from Arlington remain permitted. There's a crosswalk on Washtenaw between Glenwood and Arlington, and I believe more pedestrians are going to use it once this strip mall opens.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

Any way put, a traffic signal is long over due there. Really need to ease congestion during rush hour. Great to hear that vacant lot is going to get a make over.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 1:22 a.m.

Time for some eminet domain, make Washtenaw a boulevard with a median in the center and the oh so loved MIchigan lefts.