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Posted on Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

41-page draft plan outlines new vision for Ann Arbor's South State Street corridor

By Ryan J. Stanton

A draft copy of the Ann Arbor's new South State Street Corridor Plan was unveiled at Thursday night's meeting of the city's Planning Commission.

The 41-page document prepared by the city's staff outlines a new vision for the 2.15-mile stretch from Stimson Street to Ellsworth Road — a major corridor that connects Interstate-94 to downtown Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township and includes a diverse mix of land uses.

"This was a resolution to recommend to council that it get distributed to neighboring jurisdictions and other public entities so they can react to it and have another voice in the process, in case they weren't involved previously," Chairman Kirk Westphal said of the commission's action on the plan.


The segments of State Street studied in the plan.

City of Ann Arbor

The approved resolution asks that the City Council authorize distribution of the plan to surrounding townships, Washtenaw County, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, DTE Energy, Norfolk-Southern Railroad, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Public Schools and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority for their feedback.

Westphal said the corridor planning process — a collaborative effort by community members, businesses, the University of Michigan and the city of Ann Arbor — was one of the more thorough public stakeholder input processes he's seen during his years in Ann Arbor.

"The city does well in general, and this was an exceptional collaboration between lots of private interests, as well as amongst city staff and residents in this area," he said.

The plan envisions a vibrant and diverse corridor with a mix of land uses that are interconnected so that users can move safely and seamlessly by foot, bicycle, transit and automobile.

"It's a corridor with a fragmented history development-wise, ranging from outmoded research parks on the south end all the way to more retail-oriented uses on the north end," Westphal said. "So I think it has lacked identity to some point, and perhaps commerce has suffered as a result of that. So I think what this does is just clarify our vision for what we might like to see there in the future."

Among the plan's many recommendations:

  • Evaluate the feasibility of utilizing vacant parcels for alternative energy generation
  • Evaluate the feasibility of integrating public art along the corridor
  • Develop incentives for more stringent energy efficiency standards that encourage all new buildings to have solar-ready rooftops
  • Develop conceptual images for public space improvements, streetscape changes, signage and lighting
  • Identify characteristics that distinguish the corridor and highlight destinations and themes that connect to the city at large
  • Develop a South State Street logo and color template
  • Evaluate utilizing open land for community gardens
  • Assess and improve high-crash areas along the corridor
  • As housing is integrated into mixed-use areas, encourage the expansion of affordable housing options
  • Develop safe non-motorized systems, including continuous, connected and maintained bikeways, and redevelop and maintain sidewalks throughout the corridor
  • Utilize lighting and signage improvements to help define the character of the corridor
  • Establish high-visibility pedestrian crossings throughout the corridor
  • Turn State Street into a boulevard between Eisenhower and I-94 to enable safer automobile, bicycle and pedestrian movement
  • Consider utilizing vacant parcels for athletic fields and recreation facilities
  • Preserve appropriate parcels of land for public open space, parks and walking paths
  • Assess traffic circle options (roundabouts) for high-crash areas along the corridor
  • Develop a pedestrian and bicycle path along the Ann Arbor railroad that will connect the planned Allen Creek bikeway to Pittsfield Township through the corridor
  • Identify and apply for grants that will bring financial support to projects that improve the streetscape, including street lights and signage
  • Replace DTE street lights with high-efficiency LEDs
  • Partner with SPARK to help facilitate development and redevelopment along the corridor
  • Explore the development of a Business Improvement District that allows businesses along the corridor to pay additional fees to fund improvements along South State
  • Anticipate and plan for future light rail transit or bus rapid transit along the corridor
  • Increase sanitary sewer capacity throughout the corridor as necessary
  • Improve stormwater management and drainage along the corridor
  • Evaluate innovative parking solutions to decrease congestion and utilize land more efficiently
  • Resurface roads in the corridor
  • Conduct a detailed traffic analysis of the corridor and identify high-priority intersection improvements
  • Annex remaining township parcels along the corridor
  • Encourage the incubation of small businesses
  • Promote mixed land uses (residential and office or residential and ancillary retail) along the corridor
  • Promote commercial development in specific areas along State Street
  • Enhance street systems operations including light timing, turn lanes, and signage

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.



Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 6:16 p.m.

Ryan, What is wrong with the "system for voting today??" It is showing on every comment that I have voted, and I have NOT voted for any comment....up or down!!!

tim somers

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

This is just boiler plate from the planning department, S. State was expanded years ago to include the bike path areas, there are sidewalks all along the corridor. Everything is included in the wish list of the city, good luck placing alternate energy on the golf course or cooperation of the rail road.

Ann English

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:54 a.m.

Increase sanitary sewer capacity along the corridor? I remember a new sewer put in at the southwestern section over four years ago, off State Circle. I expect the next sewer to put in along the middle or northern section. Resurface roads along the corridor? Last summer, Research Park Drive was resurfaced. While we're talking about Research Park Drive, how about making an informed decision this year about what to to do with the building having A123 in front of it, there on Research Park Drive? They went bankrupt last year. And there's land for sale on the INSIDE side of that street; surely the draft plan has ideas about what kinds of businesses could go into those vacant lots. Whatever is done regarding bike and pedestrian paths along the Ann Arbor Railroad, the engineers and developers should make sure that the paths are a safe distance from the TRAINS THEMSELVES, not merely a certain number of feet or yards from the tracks; there have been two collisions along the Norfolk-Southern Railroad tracks in less than six months, one killing a man who was walking alongside, NOT on, the tracks, and one just last week hitting and wrecking a car NOT parked on the tracks. Wide train cars or something jutting out, it's a factor to be taken into account for these proposed paths.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:09 a.m.

Well, here's to spending another $750,000 on signage that no one will use, just like the Ann Arbor Wayfinding Project...


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 5:25 p.m.

I am glad you are certain that no one uses it. Maybe none of your friends or relatives that live in the area use it, but it really isn't for you or them, is it?

Arno B

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

Wow! All of those wondereful things without one mention of the DDA! Also it is quite interesting to note that the Artsy folks are onboard wanting to spread their fantasies around. They might get more attention if they announced a plan to erect a statue of Shaky Jake on this beautiful corridor somewhere! A rather unique but new way of contributing to this large renovation is described in the new "Business Improvement District": it " 'ALLOWS' (my caps) businesses along the corridor to pay additional fees to fund improvements along South State"!! I suppose businesses in town are delighted to know that they might now be "ALLOWED" to send money to another bureaucracy! This new idea might catch on. However, I am not aware of any business being prohibited from sending money anywhere they wish. An appropriate ancient Greek saying comes to mind when hearing about some of these grandiose plans: "Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad"!!


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

How does the Norfolk-Southern RR figure in this? The nearest N-S comes to Ann Arbor is through Milan. It is the Ann Arbor RR that runs near and across State street. Also, creating a boulevard creates maintenance issues. AA can't maintain what it has. Why create more?


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 7:37 p.m.

Norfolk Southern runs east west along the south bank of the Huron River, from Ypsi to Dexter (and beyond in both directions). Ann Arbor Railroad runs north from Toledo. It goes under 94, under Eisenhower, crosses at State / Stimson, goes under newly reconstructed Stadium Bridge, goes north along the western edge of downtown, then via bridge crosses Main Street, the Norfolk Southern railroad, and the Huron river in short succession. From there it bends east, runs along the north side of Plymouth Road before bending north and heading up to Livingston County. There are the remnants of a spur that link the two railroads in Main Street, just north of Depot, but I don't think they'd be safe for a train anymore. If you think commuter rail will eventually come in both directions (E/W and N/S), then one could make an argument that a new train station should be built at the intersection of the two lines, just north of the intersection of Main and Depot Street. No idea where they would fit parking though, in that situation.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

Washtenaw County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. Could it be because there are people putting quality of life issues ahead of business development? Businesses will show up where people like to be. If you want to see what it's like to live in a place where business is first and foremost and quality of life is an afterthought, drive down to Gary, Ind. Miles of Lake Michigan frontage- how could they screw that up? The whole city looks like Zug Island. You can't ride a bike through there, either.,0,3749768.story

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

No. It's because the hated University employs an awful lot of people.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

The resurface the roads in the corridor part: am I missing something? Wasn't the Stimson to Oakwood part totally resurfaced within the past three or four years? Traffic light timing would be a major help. I think there are decent center turn lanes already. Signage: just don't have Maize letters and numbers over a white background.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 7:32 p.m.

Yes, but Oakwood to Ellsworth needs to be redone. I think traffic light timing is in the plan.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:21 p.m.

I drive along State Street between Stimson and Eisenhower Parkway frequently. My impression is that vehicles can travel safely with present conditions. I doubt that new sidewalks and bike paths would be used enough to warrant the cost of installation. I doubt that many pedestrians need to cross the street along this segment of State Street. The properties along side the roadway are well developed, often set back with attractive landscaping. Putting arrays of solar paneling on open land will degrade the appearance of the property as is happening with the DTE installations in front of the North Campus Research Center (the old Pfizer site) off Plymouth Road. Little unused land is present for new construction. The AATA provides adequate bus transportation along State Street. Adding light rail transportation would be expensive and wasteful. Our new biofuel hybrid buses are environmentally friendly. Most of the suggestions listed in the article are unnecessary or would detract from the appearance or function of properties along State Street. City planners who want to consider adding more affordable housing should be more concerned about the present substandard affordable housing that is supposedly "managed" by the Ann Arbor Public Housing Commission (AAPAC). The AAPAC can not afford the $14 million of repairs necessary to provide health and safety for the tenants.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

I bike and drive along the same stretch regularly to and from work. There are many cyclists who commute along this stretch both heading out of town (presumably to businesses around Ellsworth or south of the airport) and in to town (mostly from the apartments by the Kinkos to the university.) It's not the worst stretch of infrastructure for supporting cyclists (except over 94), but it could be better.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

"Evaluate the feasibility of integrating public art along the corridor" So glad that made the list. Better yet, if these things are in order of priority it's second on the list. I was worried for a second it wouldn't make it, but I'd be kidding myself. Seriously, This "plan" looks like more art, pedestrian, and bicycle friendly and less small business and automobile friendly.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Does the plan assure that the Ann Arbor Marathon does not block off access to our businesses??

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

And parades! Let's ban parades too! And football games! They also block traffic! How dare those marathon people flaunt their physical fitness! The vehicle traffic congestion already does a fine job of blocking access to businesses.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

The corridor on State from Eisenhower south to I-94 has been bleak as long as I can remember. This is long overdue; hopefully this will be a vast improvement.

Lets Get Real

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3 p.m.

Noice where incubation of small business ranks -nearly last - behind all the other non revenue generating stuff we can't pay for, i.e. alternative energy, public art, solar rooftops, etc. Who would open a business where they must "pay additional fees to fund improvements to the corridor". This is all about appearance, color logos, public art, streetscapes. How about business development to infuse the tax base to compensate for all the property tax lost to UM continual grab of property, removing it from the tax roles.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:50 p.m.

"Noice where incubation of small business ranks -nearly last -" Many in Ann Arbor are oppposed to corporate welfare. Especially for chain stores owned by huge corporations.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

Dear have no idea how business districts work. Lets Get Real is 100% correct in his post. This is nothing but more typical council-spends-our-money-on-more-needless-consultants-to-appease-the-treehuggers stuff. It shows how out of touch they are with business that isn't art.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

If a business is viable, then it will thrive without my tax dollars. There are plenty of food joints that do well over there. If a business requires additional infrastructure, or generates an excessive traffic burden, then they should pay for those infrastructure upgrades.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Can we please get an Arbys down there. When the new Tim Horton's was being built I was going for Arbys, only to be disappointed.

Unusual Suspect

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.


Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

Yeah - my resolution is to eat more processed fast food. Especially "meat" that is made from scraped grey sludge that is glued together with proteins and science, so it looks like a solid piece.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 2:54 p.m.

@A2reality: "We need to be able to drive around in this town." If you're in a hurry, you can drive around it on the highway. Minneapolis has been ranked one of the best bicycling cities in the country. The weather only stops the complainers. Having some of the worst weather in the country is just part of living in Michigan. Life goes on. Statistically, car use is on the decline and has been for years. Car drivers are no more entitled to safe transportation options than Bicyclists and pedestrians.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

@Steve Hendel First thing that came up in google ... "automobile use decline" ... after a few scholarly articles.

Phillip Farber

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:39 p.m.

@Boo Radley "vehicle registration fees and gasoline taxes" cover a tiny proportion of the cost of the City streets. Most of the dollars come from local property taxes and revenue from State income taxes. And, believe me, I pay plenty of both. Therefore it is only fair that cyclists and pedestrians receive some benefit along the way.

Steve Hendel

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 6:19 p.m.

"Statistically, car use is on the decline and has been for years." Can you document that? I mean, with official statistics?

Boo Radley

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

As long as roads receive the majority of their funding through vehicle registration fees and gasoline taxes, I think car drivers are entitled to more transportation options. Why not require a reasonable registration fee for bicycles to use the roadways and use that money to fund increased bike lanes, etc. ?


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

Presumably because the sensors never detect bicycles (no matter how many 'tricks' you use) so you never actually get a green light.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

I always look for oncoming traffic before I run the red lights on my bicycle.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

"Car drivers are no more entitled to safe transportation options than Bicyclists and pedestrians." True! And the next sentence should read, "Cyclists and pedestrians are no less exempt from following and adhering to local traffic ordinances than motor vehicle drivers." Pedestrians dashing through crosswalks (or taking their time, for that matter) against red lights and cyclists riding very fast on sidewalks and running red traffic lights should be ticketed, too. Share the Road or Bike Lanes and Safe Crossing Zones would be great if everyone followed the rules. Equal treatment for everyone!

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

The new colors for state street should be pink and green, with a hint of mauve.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

What does it mean to "Turn State Street into a Boulevard?" I, personally, am disappointed that we are continuing to turn so many roads in Ann Arbor into streets with bike lanes and reduced automobile lanes. We live in Michigan and we are going to keep driving cars as the method of transportation for 99%+ of the residents and commuters. There's a smarter way to do this. We could keep the main roads, like Washtenaw, etc. as automobile traffic with multiple lanes and aligned traffic signals and turn other roads into mixed use with an emphasis on bicycle traffic. We need to be able to drive around in this town.

Ann English

Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 1:08 a.m.

"Turn State Street into a boulevard" means making it resemble Jackson Boulevard, west of Wagner to Baker Road, with periodic double left-turn lanes built into the middle. Sharper turns, for sure, than the lanes that are in the middle of State Street between Eisenhower and I-94 today. Wherever these left-turn islands are, they help keep traffic moving, unimpeded by those who want to turn left. Putting a roundabout in at State Street and Ellsworth will keep traffic moving even more. I can see in my mind how a roundabout there will prevent the stopped traffic on northbound State Street today, making it impossible for Speedway gas customers from leaving the station via State Street. Or making it easier to turn left onto Ellsworth from the Speedway.

Phillip Farber

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:49 p.m.

@Steve Hendel who asks "Can you document that? I mean, with official statistics?" in response to the statement "Statistically, car use is on the decline and has been for years." That's an easy one to Google: "Miles Driven Have Been Tumbling For 6 1/2 Years" or you can read the gory details at US DOT.

Phillip Farber

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

@A2Realilty I believe we are "able to drive around this town" just perhaps not as freely as you would like. The greatest impediment to driving does not come from bike lanes. Rather it is that the number of cars sometimes exceeds the capacity of the roadways There's not a lot that can be done to expand road capacity within the city limits to accomodate all the car traffic that is induced by people freely choosing to drive. . However, 4 to 3 conversions provide a small capacity enhancement as do measures like bike lanes and a reliable bus system which shift people from driving to cycling for transportation. These are common goods that deserve everyone's support.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

I side with A2 on this one. So how many perdestrian cross walks and signals will be needed? One per city block? Two such cross walks on Stadium between Packard and Brockman are about two blocks apart; really? The merging of traffic at both ends of Stadium between Pauline and 7th is also a joke. State Street from Stimson to I 94 is major in and out of Ann Arbor roadway and should be utilized to move as much traffic in and out as possible. By the way: Default all traffic signals green on that stretch of road and not limit them to 6 seconds during off peak traffic hours and that goes true for AA-Saline/Main Street at Stadiium Ave. What a joke.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

@A2Reality...100% agree...downtown Ann Arbor is out of touch with what we need outside of the 8 block fortress.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

"I, personally, am disappointed that we are continuing to turn so many roads in Ann Arbor into streets with bike lanes and reduced automobile lanes." Apparently it is a tremendous burden to share the roads with other residents and taxpayers.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

Underground electrical?


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

Where's the crony promoted light rail and obligatory underfunded federal partnership project?


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

Really, I think that well light bike/pedestrian paths would be enough of an improvement.