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Posted on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

3-story development on Detroit Street wins approval from Ann Arbor Planning Commission

By Ryan J. Stanton


This rendering shows the proposed Detroit Street development with its surrounding buildings

Rendering by Marc Rueter

A developer's proposal to demolish a blighted gas station just north of downtown Ann Arbor and construct a three-story building in its place is headed to the City Council for approval.

With some enthusiasm in the room, the Ann Arbor Planning Commission voted 6-0 Tuesday night to recommend approval of the project at 544 Detroit St.

Planning Commissioner Ken Clein, who is an architect by trade, said he thought the project architect did a nice job of fitting a well-designed building onto a difficult site.

"It feels like it fits into the historic neighborhood," he said. "It appears like it will be done in a way that's very good quality and will enhance the neighborhood and enhance property values."

Dan Williams of Maven Development wants to demolish the 560-square-foot former gas station and construct a 4,077-square-foot mixed-use building.


A rendering of the proposed project at 544 Detroit St. in Ann Arbor.

Rendering by Marc Rueter

The first floor would contain 857 square feet of office space, and the second and third floors would contain 1,557 and 1,663 square feet of residential space, respectively.

There would be one condominium on the second floor and one on the third floor. Each story would have steel balconies featuring metal work by a local artist.

The proposed flatiron-style building already won approval from Ann Arbor's Historic District Commission in October.

The triangular site, where Detroit Street and North Division Street intersect just before the Broadway bridges, is located in the Old Fourth Ward Historic District.

Chris Crockett, president of the Old Fourth Ward Association, showed up to Tuesday's meeting to let commissioners know many residents who live in the historic district support the project.

She said the property has become distinguished over the years for its blight, and what's being proposed is a "magnificent gateway" to Ann Arbor's oldest residential neighborhood.

"It has elements that resonate of the architecture in the neighborhood, and it also has many artistic elements that are not required, but the developers have chosen to add them," Crockett said.

"I think on some level they really agree with me that good architecture is the best public art, and this certainly will be wonderful public art."

The plans show five parking spaces in a surface parking area on the south part of the site. Bicycle parking would be provided in a room accessed from the parking area.

Due to the small size and constrained shape of the site, the developer requested "planned project" modifications in exchange for a building arrangement that City Planner Jill Thacher said provides the public benefits of pedestrian orientation, transit access and efficient use of infrastructure.

The requested modifications include 3.5 feet of additional building height above the 35-foot maximum, reductions in front setbacks along Detroit and Division streets from 10 feet to 5 feet, as well as a reduction in setback along the rear or south end from 39 feet to 19 feet.

Thacher said the extra building height allows for a decorative parapet on the north end of the building and a stair enclosure on the roof to allow third-floor access to a roof deck.

A four-foot wall is proposed to be extended along the entire south property line, wrapping around the parking area to provide screening along North Division. The site contains less than 5,000 square feet of impervious surface, so no stormwater detention is required.

Thacher provide a report of the site's history, noting the property originally was a portion of a much larger lot, which had the address of 501 Detroit St. in the 1880s.


The former Clark gas station, pictured in 1975.

City of Ann Arbor

A two-story barn was located near the intersection of Detroit and Division at one time. By 1892, a two-story house was built in its place with the address 537 Division St.

The house, which appears in 1947 aerial photos, later was demolished and the gas station now located on the property was constructed in 1959. It has been abandoned for 30-plus years.

Crockett said many residents came out to a neighborhood meeting to look at the designs and were delighted by what they saw. They're especially pleased, she said, that coming over the Broadway bridges, there's a possibility that soon they can see a beautiful new building.

Williams appeared at Tuesday's meeting joined by the architect for the project, Marc Rueter of Ann Arbor-based Rueter Associates Architects.

Asked who was his target market for the new housing units, Williams responded "empty nesters," not University of Michigan students.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 4:15 a.m.

A crushing blow to Capitalism: this site would have been perfect for a bait shop / thong boutique combo business (or solar powered pot-growing greenhouse). One thing's sure: the future residents will have no shortage of opportunity to record traffic sounds.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:40 a.m.

I'm delighted that someone with the means to develop this lot has the same vision as I did. I'd love to see more redevelopment of abandoned gas stations and other structures throughout town. I hope it happens soon.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.

This is the first distinctively attractive proposal for downtown construction I've seen in months. It fits to a T. Wonder if ivy will be trained up the walls?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:32 a.m.

This is going to look fantastic!

Widow Wadman

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 10:31 p.m.

I look forward to watching this building go up. Any chance that the developer would tear down the stinking eyesore at the corner of Swift and Broadway?

Ann English

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:10 a.m.

I don't know if you yourself live on Swift, but you have me wondering if some residents on it put up pretty Christmas decorations to detract from the business building eyesore. When I take Swift, I have to keep my eyes on the Swift and Broadway traffic signal, then make sure I get to the right-turn lane for Wall or Maiden Lane. It must not be a pretty sight to see from the Kellogg Eye Center windows facing that building at Swift and Broadway; it's 46 or more years old.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

Anon Arbor. Nobody knows who is buying up this town. Including this parcel. So what? If it looks nice it is a welcome development. According to the NY Times Chinese investors backed by their government bought 200 acres in Milan, Michigan to build a "Chinese friendly" community. They have $trillions more to spend on their current US shopping spree. So what? If it looks nice.,


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

If you're curious what the apartments MIGHT be like, here is a similar project (among many like it) in Washington, DC.: This building in DC is larger and has quite a few more units but it sold out immediately. These two apartments will go fast. I wouldn't be surprised if they're already spoken for.

Ann English

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

I like that low fence surrounding the D.C. Bloomingdale building.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

I remember buying gas there!! This new building will be so much better!


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

I used to buy gas at that Clark station. I'm just glad I don't have to pay the rent for one of those two condos. Or buy one.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Wonderful!!! Can they design more buildings in the downtown area? I can't wait to see it!!

Linda Peck

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

I think this will look great on that corner and will be a stylish improvement.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

This site has been a blight on the neighborhood for 25 years. Kudos to the developer and Marc Rueter.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

what is historic about a brick and glass something but don't use "historic' to sell it.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

Although this drawing is not detailed, this is the sort of architecture that should be considered all over downtown. I hope the DDA will read the following quote: "It has elements that resonate of the architecture in the neighborhood, and it also has many artistic elements that are not required, but the developers have chosen to add them," Crockett said. "I think on some level they really agree with me that GOOD ARCHITECTURE IS THE BEST PUBLIC ART..."

Susan Montgomery

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

This is such a nice change from the massive buildings going up downtown, much more in keeping with the character of the neighborhood... Lovely.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

Pop quiz Who is the owner of this property? o Mayor Hieftje o Chris Crockett o Dan Williams o Never revealed - nobody knows Do you know who owns the property in your "neighborhood" ? Does land control have any relevance with local "community" development?


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Epstein was the previous owner (the defunct gas station). Maven Development was formed by a law firm? in Marshall MI. just before the purchase of this property.. Dan Williams is the frontman for that company.. There is a Dan WIlliams & Sons Construction from St. Clair Shores. Perhaps the question should be who's money bought this property?


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

1) Jack Richard Epstein (according to the city assessor's on-line info). 2) Yes. 3) I don't understand the third question.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

"Dan Williams of Maven Development wants to demolish..." He better be the owner if he's going to demolish what's already there.