618 South Main apartment project approved by Ann Arbor Planning Commission
This story has been updated to represent the position of the Old West Side Association regarding the project.
The Ann Arbor Planning Commission unanimously voted Thursday to approve the development of 618 South Main, a new downtown apartment building.
The project has been in the planning process for nearly a year and will now go before the Ann Arbor City Council in the coming weeks for final approval.
618 South Main will offer 190 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments on one acre of land situated between Main Street and Ashley Street, bordering Mosley Street, at the location of the former Fox Tent & Awning.
The project also includes a two-level underground parking garage with 121 parking spaces.
When first proposed, the project was sectioned into two separate buildings, one lining Ashley Street and the other along South Main street. The new proposal showed the 153,133-square-foot building in an L-shape, following South Main and hooking around Mosley Street.
The developer is Dan Ketelaar of Ann Arbor-based Urban Group Development Co. The architect is Mike Siegel of Chicago-based VOA Architects.
-Urban Group Development Co.
Ketelaar said the new design allows for a private courtyard on the west side of the property, but required upward expansion of the structure. The current plans measure the building at 85 feet tall, 25 feet higher than zoning restrictions for that area.
Planning Commission members decided the increase in height is worth the design benefit to the community, with the building’s style and architectural look being welcoming and acting as a “gateway to downtown.”
“This is a very unique site,” Ketelaar said, “with east side is much more commercial and the west side is more historic.
“You’re within a five-minute walk from the heart of downtown.”
Ketelaar said the target market is “young professionals in their late-20s and early-30s who want to live closer to downtown.”
He also said if demand for parking spaces in the underground structures isn’t high, there is a potential to rent the spaces to others in the surrounding neighborhood.
Members of the community expressing their opinion about the proposed apartment building also visited the Commission meeting.Barbara Murphy, vice president of the Old West Side Association. told Planning Commission members that the project was the "beginning of a revitalization'' of the South Main area. “This project would provide a nice thing to see when people enter the city,'' she said. "The general feeling is that this will be a good addition to our neighborhood.”
Murphy also said the apartments will bring in an added density of people, which she said will lead to increased retail traffic in the area. The Old West Side Association backs the project but presented a letter referencing their concerns, Murphy said.
An ongoing concern since the project’s conception has been that added traffic could cause congestion to the area, said Eric Mahler, commission chairman. The structure will have two parking garage entrances, one on Ashley and the other on South Main.
He and other commission member, recommended to the project planning team to research possible solutions before going for final approval before the City Council.
One man, area resident Andrew Lindberry, expressed his concerns to the commission at the meeting before members voted on the project.
“It will block a good portion of the sky,” Lindberry said, who frequents that area. “I don’t believe a lot of people want to live in a high-rise building and I don’t know why people keep building them.”
Before voting on the proposal, Commission members Tony Derezinski and Erica Briggs expressed their thanks to the project team for its cooperation and reaction to the community’s feedback over the last year.
“It’s good to see there’s been very little disagreement,” Briggs said about the current project plans.
Contact reporter Danny Shaw at 734-623-2544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.