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Posted on Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

A closer look at the designs for a new Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton

Different versions of what Ann Arbor's new downtown Blake Transit Center will look like have surfaced over the past year.

With the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority ceremonially breaking ground on the project this week, requested digital copies of the latest renderings by DLZ Michigan.

Have a look:


A view of the Fifth Avenue entrance to the new Blake Transit Center.

Courtesy of AATA


A view of the north side of the new Blake Transit Center facing the federal building.

Courtesy of AATA


A view of the south side of the new Blake Transit Center facing the city-owned parking lot that abuts William Street.

Courtesy of AATA

The new and improved transit center is slated for completion by fall 2013 and is expected to cost about $8.1 million, mostly paid for by state and federal funds.

AATA officials said the Downtown Development Authority has offered the use of a portion of the adjacent surface parking lot for construction staging. AATA officials said they don't anticipate the need for any long-term closures of either Fifth or Fourth avenues.

The current transit center will remain open until completion of the new one, at which time it will be demolished. For more information, visit

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.


Lois Miller

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Ryan: will these comments be forwarded to the City Council? As I said in a survey somewhere, sometime... why not work cooperatively with Greyhound on this TRANSIT center, and really show what can be done by movers and thinkers. I also agree that it is not necessary at this time. I agree that the building rendition above is blah - and for an "over estimate" amount of money, this building could and should be quite wonderful. This is NOT.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

There was so much construction on that side of town... is this really needed? To me it seems like a boondoggle, but just my opinion. I swear, can't Ann Arbor go 1 month with NO construction whatsoever?!?!

Elijah Shalis

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

This is one big mistake. Did they take a look at the bus center in Grand Rapids? It is well done.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

Ugly! Go figure!

Michael Rodemer

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

First of all, those roof overhangs are not going to keep the rain off anyone. I have ridden the AATA plenty and can say that, compared to, say, German public transit, it does an abysmal job of shielding riders from the elements. Second, this design is an ugly, unimaginative box, as others have noted. It does not fit into the historical downtown (but does go with the bland federal building and the charming parking garage on 4th). There is nothing wrong with William St. that needs fixing or "connecting!" People walk and drive there all the time! What I suspect is that some developers smell a chance to make a pile, while further transforming the Ann Arbor we love into "Annhattan." Stop this nonsense now! Save money where we can! Preserve or imitate historical styles consistent with the best of the downtown! Go for beauty melded with utility! Get some people with imaginations to design these new pieces of the city, if we need them!


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 3:46 a.m.

Amen Michael! the draft designs of the new AATA building does nothing to improve the comfort of regular riders who depend on the AATA. I stress 'depend' because many who rely on the bus don't have a car, unlike riders like me who have a car but use the bus to campus for convenience. Your 'Annhattan' term is a perfect assessment as to what the city council is trying to make of Ann Arbor with all the constant construction. Sometimes I feel that the city is trying too hard to impress the East/West coast folks who live here seasonally to attend/work at Michigan, to only move on to somewhere else. How else can we explain the stripping of the character of this mid-size college town into a pseudo cosmopolitan utopia that those of us who really live here don't recognize anymore? How much does anyone want to bet that the Federal building is next, after all, it looks soooo 70's. Ewww.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

Unfortunately, architects/developers who would seek to rehabilitate a beautiful existing structure or build something beautiful- but in character with what is already there- must subsume their own egos and forego the accolades of the hipster, modernist cocktail set. This they seem utterly unwilling to do. Ann Arbor's own "development plan" (FWIW) starts out: "Downtown's identity as a place is significantly influenced by its architecture. Older commercial buildings play an especially important role in creating positive downtown identity and in establishing visual interest and comfortable sense of scale which help give downtown streets a strong pedestrian orientation. As the traditional civic, economic and cultural heart of the community, downtown Ann Arbor is rich in historic resources." This is one of the very first things written in the city development plan yet how many recent projects take THIS is their point of reference? Zero? This bus station is no different.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

Remember - this is not a replacement library. The designs are still ugly.

Rod Johnson

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 4:15 a.m.

I guess Peter's not getting paid to support this project.

Peter Baker

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 1:13 a.m.

I think it does fit with the some of the architectural character downtown; bland, beige and boring.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

While home to some of the best architectural firms in the state, once again Ann Arbor manages to inspire some of the WORST architecture! YUCK!! Where does this garbage come from? This offensive metal box successfully ignores the city where it resides in favor of more of the same gimmicks that made the Justice Center so ugly and offensive. Do we know if the "designer" has even visited Ann Arbor before creating this mess? ..or more likely, did he just rely on some project he found in an architecture magazine for his misguided inspiration. AATA needs to seriously revisit the method they used to select this architect. ...I hope they at least saved a lot of money by hiring a firm so obviously working beyond their capabilities. As usual, the city will pay the price when this embarrassing box is inflicted on it's residents and adds to the decline of the city's urban environment.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

The south elevation is a real dog's dinner.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

Is there some pressing need that explains why this is being done now, seemingly independent of the "Connecting William Street" project? Shouldn't the bus depot be part of the Connecting William Street project so that there is at least some overall design harmony? The designs for this depot have zero in common with the drawing I've seen for the choices being considered for the William Street project. Are there ANY architectural guidelines for development in downtown Ann Arbor?


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.



Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

It would be interesting to see how many of the comment flamers ride the bus regularly.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

I ride the bus every day. The new building looks ugly and the awnings will not keep rain/snow etc off the riders under it. Is there any way to stop this project?


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

AND you're taking for granted that this proposed building is an IMPROVEMENT. I don't think it is. The current building can certainly be improved upon, and maybe it SHOULD be. Especially considering there is a grand plan for redesigning the area bordered by Ashley, William, Liberty and Division: Since this structure is firmly within those boundaries, WHY does this have to be even considered, entirely independent of all that planning? It's ridiculous and seems to point out that- when it comes to city planning- the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing.

average joe

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

L-bus- It would be interesting to know how many non-bus riding state & federal TAXPAYERS are allowed to voice their opinion without someone questioning their right to do so. By your comment, that is what you have implied.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

If money was being spent for more routes and more coverage instead of this building....more people would be riding, me included. Walking 4 miles to a bus route isn't feasible at my age.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

I'm betting that none of them do. They just sit at home and flame every time this town tries to make improvements.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

It would be interesting to see how many regular riders would prefer better service or some money back from their property taxes rather than a not-at-all better new bus station for no real reason.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

Looks like someone is getting desparate for their projected payola (cough FODDA - Friends Of DDA). No Convertion Center Hotel, no Library, no Trainsit Station, no Countywide Bus Service, Overruns on parking, whats an accountant to do? Hey, how about an unnecessary, overly-inflated Bus Depot ? Now there''s the ticket ! $100k for the trailer, $8M for the consulting "fees".


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

At least it's not $65 million dollars.

Dog Guy

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

This intentionally grotesque structure could use access from the upstairs VIP lounge for daily washing or shovelling snow on that glass roof. That menacing aspect vividly embodies passive-aggressive hatred of its taxpayer hosts and would require no added artwork. It is also not necessary to punctuate this wretched monstrosity with a decorative logo.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

I've never lived in any town with a transit agency so widely reviled despite delivering respectable adherence to published schedules. Neither riders nor drivers have much love lost for the transit agency. If AATA wants approval on millage requests, they need to mollycoddle their customers. How many enclosed bus shelters across the service area would have been paid for with $8 million plus?


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

the city is only forking over $1 million. get your facts straight. And if the AATA has to kiss someone's behind to get public approval, then forget about it. Never heard so many whiners in my life. Most of these whiners probably don't even use the bus!


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Hey - if you're empire building you can't have a 2nd rate castle. See City Hall, proposed new library, etc.

Arno B

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Well I didn't see any place reserved for more Public Art to grace this small temple. I think that a statue of Shakey Jake in front of the place would be appropriate! It is certainly too bad that this kind of money (financed by "state and federal grants" - i.e., money taken by force from others - isn't going into putting up more shelters at the bus stops. They are certainly needed.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

A huge impetus for public art is covering up the cuss-ugly architecture we're getting in public buildings.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

Arno, excellent point and proof positive that AATA administrators are putting their customers LAST.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

Wrong priorities, AATA. This is why you don't get the support you desire and truthfully NEED. Create more routes. Cover more streets and neighborhoods. For instance, Superior Township is barely covered at all. Why aren't you on Prospect or Geddes for pickups to Ann Arbor?? Run buses later in the evening. How do night workers at area eateries etc get transport after closing? Many don't make enough to buy a car. Think CUSTOMERS, NOT BUILDINGS. Make yourself MORE available. Forget buildings! Spiff up your building bathrooms and security and stop thinking about ANYONE except your customers.....and getting MORE customers. This building isn't necessary. Create a better environment at your Ypsi Transit Center. Lots of lighting and security would no doubt make for more users of your services. Sorry to be negative but I am so frustrated by public entities creating monuments to themselves. Put your customers first and you will succeed.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Yes Bear I have heard of it. Unfortunately, it covers only the center of their of AA and city of Ypsi. Everyone else who has a service job at night is out of luck. Again, a service that could be successful if expanded.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Don't suppose you've ever heard of the nightride program.... And "public entities creating monuments to themselves" makes no sense.

Stephen Landes

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

Cash, I think you put your finger on it with precision: the new building isn't about customers. Customers don't need the second floor, office space, meeting rooms, etc. AATA is building this for their own people and for their use. "Riders" are just an excuse to build an empire, not a reason to serve the needs of people.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

You can have any DDA design as long as it's UGLY. AATA box @ $667 per sq. foot Most beautiful. all-glass, Toledo Museum Art Pavillion @ $405 per sq. foot. At least our art commission could put a few 1% tractor tires and a Paul Bunyan out front. The DDA might want to test their high-speed rail design at this time too - one way out of town.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

This is what you get with inflated ego's and other peoples $$$$...not to mention the design makes the FEMA trailer, excuse me city hall look good...just another stunning example of people with their heads in a very dark place....


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

A new transit center built in anticipation of the all the new riders from the county-wide transportation authority................oh, wait.

Debra Adams

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

I don't understand why the current facility is not adequate. It's newer than my home and I am not having this demolished. If they pay for this themselves, you can bet they would be more prudent.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

your home is easier to upgrade and doesn't see hundreds of people going through it each day. Your logic is faulty. Perhaps we should wait until it is falling down and becomes a hazard to replace it? There comes a time when you figure how much you are going to spend in maintenance and when something outgrows it's usefulness due to growing use of the facility and expansion of bus services. Bet you never thought of that.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

This is part of the reason for the failure of the county wide transit autority. The present AATA board continues to waste taxpayer's money. Why give them more?


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

An ugly, unnecessary waste of money. We just recovered from traffic in that area being snarled due to another unnecessary construction project. This project needs to be scrapped.