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Posted on Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor City Council approves 14-story high-rise at Huron and Division

By Ryan J. Stanton

The fear of losing an eight-figure lawsuit ultimately kept the Ann Arbor City Council from rejecting a 14-story high-rise development Monday night.

Immediately after the council voted 6-5 to approve the controversial 413 E. Huron St. apartment project, dozens of residents stormed out of city hall.

Shouts of "Disgusting!" and "Shame on you!" could be heard as the pews inside the council chambers emptied.

Earlier as the council deliberated, audience members jeered and literally hissed at council members as they stated they were going to be voting for the project.

The six who voted for the project: Sally Hart Petersen, Christopher Taylor, Margie Teall, Marcia Higgins, Chuck Warpehoski and Mayor John Hieftje.

The five who voted against it: Sumi Kailasapathy, Sabra Briere, Jane Lumm, Stephen Kunselman and Mike Anglin.


The latest rendering of the 413 E. Huron high-rise showing recently incorporated changes.

Humphreys & Partners Architects

The approval came after about two hours of discussion Monday night. The project has been at the center of an intense community debate for months, spanning multiple council meetings where attorneys for the developer and property owner have made legal threats.

Council members remarked it was one of the toughest decisions they've had to make, and the risk of losing a lawsuit if the project wasn't approved factored into their decision.

Much like they did with the controversial City Place development a couple of years ago, council members begrudgingly approved a project they were less than thrilled about because they felt the developer substantially met the legal requirements and would be able to win in court.

"I don't like a lot about this building, but I'm not willing to in good conscience risk the taxpayers' money," said Teall, D-4th Ward.

"Even if that lawsuit is winnable, it's nonetheless a lawsuit that's going to cost a lot of money for the city," said Petersen, D-2nd Ward.

"I worry that if we deny this, we are going to leave a legacy of ill will amongst developers," she added, suggesting it could stunt Ann Arbor's future economic growth.

Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, said he was casting a "very reluctant" vote for the project because he feared the city could potentially pay tens of millions of dollars in damages if there was a lawsuit.

"Someone suggested that we should stand up to developers — that we should take courageous action," said Taylor, D-3rd Ward.

"I don't fear lawsuits," he added. "I fear losing eight-figure lawsuits."

Hieftje took a moment before the vote to compliment the many residents who have lobbied council in recent months and have opposed the project.

"I've been talking with them and actually meeting with them for a long time," he said. "There have been statements in the community, 'Oh, this is a NIMBY response.' I don't think it's that at all. I think it's a response by number of people who really care deeply about what happens in their city."

Conor McNally, chief development officer with Georgia-based Carter, spoke on behalf of the development team Monday night. He said the building is designed to attract mostly University of Michigan graduate students and young urban professionals.


Ann Arbor resident Widd Schmidt made this poster to show the proposed 413 E. Huron project — identified by the light yellow building — in relation to its neighborhood.

Courtesy photo

"That's absolutely reflected in the unit configurations," he said. "Almost 60 percent of the units are 1 and 2 bedrooms. There's nothing bigger than a 4-bedroom."

Even though the project has been scaled back slightly, many residents who've spoken out against it still believe it's out of character with the historic neighborhood to the north.

The proposed building measures 263,504 square feet, containing a total of 208 apartments and 513 bedrooms.

"The welfare of many people will be affected by this," said Anglin, D-5th Ward, before casting his vote against the project. "The land values in adjacent areas will probably not be what they once were. The historic district most definitely will be affected."

Lumm, an Independent who represents the 2nd Ward, said she doesn't think the developer did enough to listen to the community.

"Yes, development should occur at this site. No one argues otherwise," she said. "But not development of this size and scale."

Some council members expressed hope that the developer might still consider coming back with revisions to the site plan to make the project more popular with residents. But in terms of further substantive reductions in density, McNally said that's unlikely to happen.

Multiple council members suggested the city's A2D2 rezoning process resulted in the wrong zoning designation for the property in 2009.

The city's customized D1 zoning for the 400 block of East Huron limits new development to 150 feet, but some think D2 step-down zoning with a 60-foot cap would be a better fit.

Hieftje said he appreciated the developer making some changes to improve the proposal, but he agreed with opponents of the project that it still falls short.

"This has always been a problematic site," he added. "For the last several decades leading up to 2009, a massive, tall building could have been put on this site. The 2009 rezoning did not make this a more appealing site to build on. It actually imposed a height limit that wasn't there before."

Higgins, D-4th Ward, said the community consensus from the A2D2 rezoning process was that density belongs in the downtown.

"The place where you have the most friction in urban planning is wherever you have a downtown that rubs up against a residential area, and you will always have friction there, and you will never be able to satisfy every party," she said. "It just doesn't happen."

Hieftje said if he were a developer, he would have stopped investing in student apartment buildings in Ann Arbor "about three buildings ago." But he said some of them do have one- and two-bedroom units, and it's his hope that young professionals and other non-students will rent them.

Briere, D-1st Ward, asked what will be done to encourage recycling and composting at 413 E. Huron. While there will be recycling on every floor, McNally said, there aren't plans for composting yet.

"I am expecting you to come up with solutions for composting since the city does food composting now — raw food — and expects to move toward plate scrapings, including meats and fats, in the next year," Briere said. "I'm really expecting your project to have full composting capacity for its tenants."

McNally said that's something that could be looked at.

Briere raised additional concerns about the potential impact on traffic near Huron and Division, including on Ann Street and Fifth Avenue. She said the developer has failed to provide adequate assurances that the construction will not create a serious nuisance due to poorly designed traffic flow and poorly designed service access for deliveries and trash pickup.

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.


John of Saline

Thu, May 16, 2013 : 9:39 p.m.

It's pretty contradictory to support the "greenbelt" and then be surprised when developers want to put high-rise residential towers in town. People have to live someplace.

Widow Wadman

Thu, May 16, 2013 : 8:57 p.m.

It's about time that the City Council and the mayor had the guts to vote on this project... Regarding the hecklers at the various meetings, why didn't the security guards throw the disruptive people out? Honestly those adults were behaving like brats. We wouldn't tolerate that behavior from our children but we'll put up with it at a City Council meeting?


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

You're cute when you're indignant, Widow Wadman!


Fri, May 17, 2013 : 1:49 a.m.

The same group stood in the hall after the meeting shouting obscenities at the developer as he left the building under a police escort.

J. Letaw

Thu, May 16, 2013 : 3:51 a.m.

There's a lot to regret in the way this project has developed. The continuous threats of litigation have not made for an easy relationship between the councilmembers and their constituents and made it harder to objectively analyze the issues at hand. I talk about it a little more here (, and would be interested in feedback if anyone had some.


Thu, May 16, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

I don't have a strong opinion on the design or features of this project, but I recall that during the greenbelt debate the response to concerns about a reduction in the housing supply on the outskirts of town was that there would be more support for high density projects in the city's core. Looks like that wasn't the case.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

Oops - sorry for duplication of messages!


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

In all fairness, Sally Petersen has had the grace to email the 2nd Ward setting forth the reasons for her vote. Whether or not we agree, it is a genuine courtesy which, I would gather, is not often extended by other council members to their wards. Thank you, Sally.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

Sally Petersen has had the grace to email the 2nd Ward setting forth the reasons for her vote. Whether or not we agree, it is a genuine courtesy which, I would gather, is not often extended by other council members to their wards. Thank you, Sally.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

So, comments get deleted for calling this decision spineless? Interesting.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

Fat cat out of state developers win, and the city loses. Any city council member and the mayor will likely need to look for other jobs after the next election. I would bet the Georgia developers will sell this monstrosity after it's built and their bank accounts are fatter. Big loss for A2.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

I would like to think that a 'Yes' vote was really a vote of 'No Confidence' in the ability of our City Attorney to defend us against a potential lawsuit.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

During yesterday's "dedication" of the Stadium Bridge they affixed a plaque that had the names of the council members claiming credit (I am not making this up). I sure hope they will do the same thing with this building.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

I hope the plaque gets tagged....

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:46 a.m.

So High Rise Hieftje was the tie breaking vote. Well, he certainly changed Ann Arbor.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:01 a.m.

The disappointed citizens who hissed and booed at the council members who voted to approve the site plan are politically active insiders. That is not meant as a criticism. The council members, however, once elected must represent all citizens, even those who don't vote and don't get involved. The council members who voted for the project showed a real honesty and strength of character and not fear of lawsuits. They based their vote on an unbiased review of the record and a duty to act for what they believe in the long will benefit the city and its future residents. I would rather vote for and support a person who has the strength of character to risk re-election and the booing elite in service of the bigger picture and community rather than the politically ambitious strategist or the uninformed council member who does not understand the city's laws. Any person who fairly and intelligently reviewed all the relevant facts and law that has been available would suspect that the council members who voted to deny the site plan either did so 1) strategically, i.e., although they shared the same concerns as the more principled council members, the strategists could see that the resolution would pass with or without them taking the same honest but unpopular political risk; or 2) because they really did not understand or critically review anything that they might have read and wanted only to do what they believed was popular. When you open-mindedly assess all that has happened: the filibustering and other tactics to delay the process; the inappropriate outbursts during hearings; loudly riduculing speakers who spoke in favor of the building; hissing and booing at council members; and shouting obscenities at the developers, it is tough to admit, but the real bullies were not the out of town developers; it was those persons who opposed them.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.



Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:14 a.m.

One thing that no one has mentioned is the mere lip service given to the many people who worked on design guidelines for future development in the city. Many hours were spent by many people on this, but when it came down to it, those guidelines don't mean anything. Council person Briere asked about these guidelines last night because they clearly go against this development. She was told that they are only guidelines. Then why create them at all if they don't mean anything? Was this just to placate the public and make them feel like have a say in what happens to our city? It appears so. Disgusting!!


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

Apart from its over-sized scale, the building is grotesque and will be a permanent reminder of the arrogance of rapacious developers who have thumbed their nose at a thinking majority of Ann Arborites in order to milk the market for rich kid housing. They will cart the money back to Georgia and leave us with a huge Kaaba in our midst-- right for Mecca-- but not for Ann Arbor. We should picket its construction and picket the rental office from day one. Maybe that will have an impact on union workers who won't cross any picket line, labor or consumer, and stop thinking students and their parents from renting here.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Give it the old Monkey-wrench Gang.

Lets be real!

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:56 a.m.

A couple more points: As to the building, I actually don't mind the design. I could probably make design suggestions and I would probably like the building to be 9 or 10 stories, rather than 14. But so what. What I think about the design and height is really irrelevant. At some point, I am content to live with development within the zoning regulations. I don't consider myself "pro-development" but this is just how the system should work. I agree that it took some political courage to vote yes for the project. For example, the new Councilmembers Warpahaski and Peterson had to act in the best overall interest of the City even though they had nothing to do with the earlier zoning decision and may have disagreed with it. The criticism of them here seems misplaced, particularly while the "NO 3" took no action for years and then watched these newest members show them how to actually use some backbone. As to the remaining four members, if they really didn't want the zoning, they shouldn't have voted for it. But at least they understood that a decision had been made by the City about the zoning and were prepared to abide by their decision. I'm not even sure the zoning decision in 2009 was as wrong at this location as people now claim. (I approve of downtown density.) As others have said, just like with the Campus Inn and Sloan Plaza on the same block, everyone will adjust. It will be much better than what is there now and might provide some activity in that sort of dead area. I hope that these new buildings also provide some added life to the State/Washington/Liberty area. No building will please everyone, but let's put this all in perspective.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 10:20 a.m.

Keeping it real!

Lets be real!

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:53 a.m.

I have watched this drama unfold over the last several months in, and as a long time resident have some thoughts on this. I don't usually get too excited about local government issues, but I don't like irrational political behavior. I recognize that, at times, the Council has to make hard decisions on many issues. In this case, the Council had to decide if they were going to approve a site plan the seemed to meet all the legal qualifications. That is what the planning staff evidently told them. A no vote against this project may have been politically popular with the nearby neighborhoods, but it also showed a serious lack of decision making ability. I am particularly concerned by the no votes of Councilmembers Briere, Kunselman, and Anglin as I believe that they voted for the scaled down D1 designation in 2009. (Someone correct me if I am wrong here.) But more importantly, if the "NO 3" really wanted to help this neighborhood so much why did they make no effort to change this designation when the other large building across the street was approved in 2011. If they had really wanted to do something, they would have moved in 2011 to change this zoning or at least raise the issue again. To take no action until a no vote in May 2013 against this 413 project, is not only too little too late, it is completely unprincipled. (Also, an ill-conceived moratorium in 2013 was about a year late in my view.) I am focusing on these three councilmembers because of the hypocrisy of their non-actions and because it was their "no" votes that also brought us City Place, the lesser of two plans in that area. They refused to support the other proposal -- which to this day makes absolutely no sense to anyone and was the lowest point of recent government decision making. Just saying no is not a way to lead the city in any manner. The "NO 3" get the lowest grade in this episode.


Fri, May 17, 2013 : 1:53 a.m.

Very well said. The neighbors and historic district commission could also have lobbied harder to effect change before the property was sold and the investment made.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

Briere would vote 'Maybe' if that was a choice.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 10:19 a.m.



Tue, May 14, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

Big ugly building in one of the historic areas of Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor needs a whole new city council. One that values the city and NOT developers. So very sad. Composting? Lets compost some of these building ideas.


Fri, May 17, 2013 : 1:54 a.m.

There is almost nowhere in the downtown that is not designated as an historic area.

craig stolefield

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:26 a.m.

I was very thankful they valued my tax dollars and didn't play poker with a losing hand. The building will of course pay taxes and that is not all bad either. The site is by the way not in a historic district, its last use was a pizza place in an ugly block building.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

This is what happens when too many real estate agents run the city, when too many people who trade property for a living hold key seats on the planning commission, the DDA, and city council. The character of the city becomes more about the art of the deal and less about the quality of life.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Surrovell is on the Library Board, and served on DDA in the past I believe.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

I can't think of any that hold a real estate license.

craig stolefield

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

I remember the mayor used to work for rienhart selling homes, not buildings, but gave that up when he was elected. I can't think of a single real estate agent on the city council or planning commission. There may be one on the DDA. Can you name a few of the "too many" you site?

craig stolefield

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

Sorry JRW, I thought a "no" vote was the spineless one on this issue. The council members who voted no hid behind the council members who voted in favor because they weren't willing to risk millions of the taxpayers $$. The "no" votes must have known how this would come. They took the politically safe path.

craig stolefield

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:19 a.m.

Can you name a few of your "all the times.?

craig stolefield

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:18 a.m.

When has the mayor hid behind others votes in a similar way? C

Blue Dog Red

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

I think they learned that trick from someone...Hizzoner does it all the time.

Linda Peck

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

I am not intensely opposed to this building, although I don't like the design and the height, and if I were on the decision making end of it before it was approved, I would have voted it down. One thing does interest me. The Mayor said he would have stopped 3 years ago building the tall apartment buildings in Ann Arbor if he were a developer. I wonder about this statement he has made now, at this time in the decision making process.

Linda Peck

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

Thanks for correcting me. I meant 3 buildings ago and typed it wrong. Thanks for your comments.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

3 buildings ago...

craig stolefield

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

I think the mayor first said that a few years ago, or at least that is what one of the speakers at a public hearing said a couple of weeks ago. But, he may be wrong this time as far as investment decisions go. The banks must think these buildings are viable or they would stop funding them and developers would stop building them.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 6 p.m.

Thinking back on it I am amazed that various elements of our city government, including some members of council, thought nothing of supporting a plan that will result in trucks, including garbage trucks, that will back out on to Division St. Has any one of them ever driven that way? How is this possible? Once the accidents start happening there will be wringing of hands ...

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:43 a.m.

Huron and Division are meant to be fast moving roads, too.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:50 p.m.

I'll bet every one of the Council members would have voted no if this was being built across the street from their home.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

Let me get this straight. The University can seize private residential property via eminent domain. But Ann Arbor taxpayers cannot block the construction of a towering monstrosity development on the edge of a historic district of houses?

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:40 a.m.

It is kinda crazy.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

"The University can seize private residential property via eminent domain." Yes. "But Ann Arbor taxpayers cannot block the construction of a towering monstrosity development on the edge of a historic district of houses?" Correct, at this stage of the game. But that's only because they didn't insist on rectifying the zoning mistake after A2D2 was passed in 2009. They could have certainly stopped it by asking the council to addressed D1 / residential interfaces across all of downtown for all future projects. As an example of how this works, think back to the proposed development just south of the huge one on south U. There was also debate at that lot between D1 and D2 and they settled on D2. When the developer tried to get it switched back to D1, the city could stop it and they did.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 10:07 p.m.

You are correct.

Seasoned Cit

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

Interesting to note that no one has complained about the increased tax revenue that will come to the city. Of course we will ned to put some of that aside for public art, but even then the income off the property will be much more than is coming in now.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

If everyone in this town is so agianst highrises, can we please stop putting money into the whole Greenbelt thing? A LOT of our tax money is going to pay for that commission and buying vapor. Not wanting to build up in town and wanting to buy useless "development rights" that the program exists to make sure are never sold are two contradictory ideas. So one or the other, please. I feel for people who hate this development, but I for one would have been enraged if the city carelessly threw a bunch of money at a developer because of a lost lawsuit, only to have the highrise happen anyway (but paid for by the city instead because of the loss). I guess this should be the trigger for them to change the zoning again, which I think they already put like 3 years into, and only finished a few months ago. So all THAT time was wasted.


Fri, May 17, 2013 : 1:56 a.m.

They should have bought the 413 development rights if they wanted a smaller building.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

There are many levels between high rise and suburban housing tract. It's not one or the other.

craig stolefield

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

I have to disagree on the statements by Steve K. and Anglin. Just a couple of meetings ago Kunsleman said something like " I don't play poker with other people's money" when he voted against the moratorium but now, with the same basic risk, he votes against this "by-right" project. Kunsleman took advantage of the responsible council members voting yes so he could take the low road with a political vote. Anglin voted for the current zoning in 09 and now he criticizes it without saying "I was wrong then and changed my mind. If the no votes had won with the city almost sure to lose in court those who voted no would have been ridden out on a rail when the verdict came down. Fact is the property was down-zoned in 09 or this would have been an even bigger building. I have to respect Higgins, she stood up for the taxpayers in her ward. A lawsuit would have been a disaster with huge outside legal bills piling up and eventually the BIG payout. Don't see how the city could have hoped to win after pulling the rug out from under the developer who legally bought the land with this zoning in place. Higgins has never pandered and again, I respect that.

Colorado Sun

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

I was present during the vote while an armed police presence maintained security - the police sergeant left after the crowd heard the vote and departed early in the night. There was tremendous indignance of citizens after the vote and many in the hallway outside City Council chambers approached Jack Eaton to volunteer for his candidaate campaign against Marcia Higgins. Kudos to Mike Anglin and Steve Kunselman who gave eloquent speeches why they were voting against the project. Developer interests gave generous funding to the Higgins re-elec tion campaign committee in 2011, per County Clerk records. Developer representatives and their attorneys were visibly relieved over their hard-fought victory over the residents who opposed the project. A builder in the audience told me that he was familiar on how developer tactics work against municpalities and if the City Council would have voted to deny the project, even a winning case by the developer would have tied up the courts for years and the City of Ann Arbor could almost certainly havehad the leverage to have exacted further concessions from the developer. The City Council reps comments before the vote suggest that the City Attorney's office strongly supported approving the project.


Fri, May 17, 2013 : 1:57 a.m.

The police sergeant left to escort the developer from the building as that hallway crowd shouted obscenities despite an ongoing council meeting.

4 Real

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 11:41 a.m.

Anglin has never once been eloquent and Kunselman is just flailing around trying to look important as he has not done anything since the whole chicken thing. Now he has a real challenger.

Laurie Barrett

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Whiter goest thou, Ann Arbor, in thy shiny car in the night?

Vince Caruso

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Our 'Buy Rights' Council has spoken. Now where can us residents (80 to 90% of the city tax base) Buy some of these Rights? Maybe the ballot box?

Larry Ryan

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

Before 2009 a larger, taller building could have been built here so while I understand people don't like change it is hard to be sympathetic to those who are upset by this. As someone else said, the land was down-zoned in 09. The building changed a lot by going through the process and looks good now. A2 needed to make room for more people to live here and that is happening. People with jobs and young families are moving into many of the houses near downtown that students used to live in. This is making a big difference in my neighborhood and all the others near campus. A lot of jobs are being created in Ann Arbor and now more people can live and work here. Now there is room for young people to live here. This is a good. I don't see what the fuss is over a 14 story building on a the biggest, most traveled road downtown that already has big buildings. Nothing wrong with some growth, it has enabled the city government to make it through the recession without the millage going up. This too is good.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

So all it takes to get the city council to agree to anything is a threat of a lawsuit? If that's the case, I'm going to threaten to sue since they won't pick up my leaves or christmas tree any more.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

No wonder young people don't want to stay here. Let the Ann Arbor develop into the city that the younger generations want! A true city!


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

And the council wonders why we cannot keep young people here n the city after they graduate - its getting uglier by the year because the buildings are designed by people with no aesthetics and no investment in how Ann Arbor looks. Take a look at the buildings in Portland Oregon - beautiful, varied, livable, and a joy to walk in because because of the attention to detail and aesthetics. Mayor has got to go - he has destroyed to the look of the downtown, let it happen, and encouraged it. Looks like a bunch of 1950s mental institutions! I'm ashamed to show it off to visitors for sure.

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:35 a.m.

Aesthetics need to be considered in zoning.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

So your contention is that young people leave Ann Arbor because the new buildings are ugly? s t r e t c h .

Dirty Mouth

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Woah, Chuck Warpehoski! I always knew you were a sham.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

Are you 5th warders having that voters' remorse now?


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:12 a.m.

Was there ever any doubt?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

Only in Ann Arbor, or Mayberry, would a 14 story building be described as a "high rise."

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:34 a.m.

It's huge for us, Sonny.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

As a Wayne County resident it will make me feel so much more "at home" now that Ann Arbor is quickly transforming from that "special little hometown" into exactly the same as everywhere else - in architecture and "feel". I have seen the transformation occurring over the last 6 years and it won't be much longer before I cannot tell if I am at work or at home!

zip the cat

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

So you got po ed and stormed out of the meeting because you all were fed up with council,right? And come next election for council seats all you whiners and complainers will sit home and do nothing. Wa Wa Wa

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:33 a.m.

They won't, they will vote. The problem is UofM students are often the deciding factor and they are the "low information voters" in town.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

All the venting here is hilarious. We all know (though many of us won't admit) that a few years in the future, after this thing has been built and become integrated into the neighborhood, no one will much care that it's there, or even remember what it was like before it was there. For those who do remember, it'll be difficult to recall exactly what all the fuss was about. Life goes on.

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:30 a.m.

Good luck finding a place to park anywhere near that corner.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

Life goes on but it matters how it is lived.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

Just a few comments: 1. I have the feeling that the DDA has become a kind of shadow government where non-elected people decide on crucial matters for the city without citizen input: like declaring South University "downtown" area. 2. Those who voted for approval would want us to give them absolution for their "anguish" in voting yes. If you have to anguish so much, it means that something is amiss and you should look for it. 3. The report says that the plan met "essentially" the required regulations. In a case such as this, it must meet totally and to the last detail the regulations, including the quality of the material to be used. I just read a Gay Talese interview in which he narrated the reaction of some of the people who built the Twin Towers. They said that they had little faith in the building because it was built not with regard to quality but with an eye to maximizing space and profit. 4. The idea that those who voted for the building were afraid to be sued, is one of the lamest excuses on record. So, you just threaten a law suit and you get what you want? This has become a pattern to be used time and again by developers. And as for saving the city money, you are willing to ruin a neighborhood for ever? 5. As for Petersen's comment that we would risk the "good will" of developers. Would that it be so. These "developers" are not here to improve the city but to make a quick dollar. I heard that the building on Forest and South U. has already been sold TWICE. This reminds of the mortgage scandal in which the original lender sells the mortgage and the buyer sells it again so no one becomes responsible.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 11:06 a.m.

I wonder what "good will" Peterson was speaking of? This particular developer has been just short of intransigent. Certainly deaf to the concerns of the people who'll have to live in the shadow of this.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

The council's vote to approve this project was almost entirely predicated on the fear of a lawsuit - which was euphemized as "we don't want to gamble with the taxpayers money". So our lives, health and welfare are gambled instead? This building is so greedy for more income producing space, that all of the infrastructure necessary to accommodate car and pedestrian traffic going in and out of the building has been pushed out onto public property. +There is no setback from the sidewalk, so people and bikes crowding into the entrance of this building will clog the public sidewalk. +There is no turn-in lane provided in front of this building, so cars entering the structure will have to slow down in the middle of Huron St.- the ONLY section of Huron that is reduced to 4 lanes from 5- before trying to navigate a sharper than 90 degree turn onto a downramp. +There is no merge lane coming out of this building. Cars hoping to exit this parking structure are placed at the curb of Huron St. immediately next to the solid brick wall of Sloan Plaza, unable to see the oncoming traffic they are required to drive into. What is the exchange rate between conserved legal defence dollars and squandered human sacrifice? I would like to make a trade.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

Wow, you sound like quite the expert on traffic flow and this building's exact design. Pretty sure I have seen some drawings with (minor) setbacks off the sidewalk. Sharper than 90 degrees into the parking ramp? Huh? So the wall of sloan plaza extends out into the street, blocking all view to the east? Calm down, the speed limit is low on Huron, traffic will do just fine. The threat of a lawsuit from the developer was REAL. Your dramatic description of impending traffic doom is not.

Andrew Rogers

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2 p.m.

This is a wake-up call for political action. It's time for new leadership in City Hall that will protect its citizens from this kind of 'development.'


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

I am going to express the unpopular opinion. I think development that has one and two bedroom apartments for young professionals is a great idea. As a young professional living in Ann Arbor, I would like to live in an urban environment, so I can walk to the grocery store, restaurants, bars, etc. and its just not feasible in this town to live there. Housing is expensive and there is a shortage. When I look for an affordable one bedroom on property management companies, I find they are leased out until September 2014 because of students. And I find all kinds of "cooperative" housing with 4 or 5 bedrooms in there, which I just don't want to do. So what if property values and rent goes down in the neighboring areas? Most of the properties are owned by investors who rent the houses out to students anyways. The area is not owner-occupied. The conversation probably would have been more productive to focus on height and aesthetics rather than whether or not it should be there.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

Let's see if any "young urban professionals" actually ever move in to the space before we buy the developer's claims.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.



Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

The conversation WAS focused on height and aesthetics! Many people feel exactly as you do. But it is the stark monolith overshadowing beautiful old houses that are, in fact, owner occupied, that doesn't fit.

Paul Wiener

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Why only 14 stories? This is cowardly planning Many people have been hoping for years for a 55-60-story building. With a bike lane down the center of Huron leading to it. And a private elevator to penthouses selling for 4.5 million. Think big!

Scott Reed

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

This is a great project, and victory for Ann Arbor residents over incumbent landlords who tried to do everything possible to prevent competition. Well, it looks like they have some more competition now! Awesome.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:09 a.m.

Is it mixed-use enough for you, Mr. Reed?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

Sorry, but the opposition came from single family homeowners and other people who care about our city. I have no idea where you got this notion from.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

As a second warder, I was disappointed in Ms. Peterson's vote.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

In all fairness, Sally has had the grace to email the 2nd Ward setting forth the reasons for her vote. Whether or not we agree, it is a genuine courtesy which, I would gather, is not often extended by other council members to their wards. Thank you, Sally.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

This 2nd warder is disgusted. Shame on you, Sally Hart Petersen, shame on you. And we thought you were going to be different than Tojo Derezinski. What a piece of work. Nice.

craig stolefield

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

In 2009 city council down zoned this property and imposed a height limit for for the first time. Prior to that, an even bigger building could have been built here. Some might argue it was not down zoned enough but this is the widest street downtown, the US 23 business route. There are 2 other very large buildings on the same block, one is equally tall. Mike Anglin voted for that rezoning but now complains about it and puts the city at risk of losing millions along with 4 other council members who were willing to gamble with the people's money. Bad decision. Most of downtown is part of one of the numerous historic districts so even if you don't like taller buildings, their is no chance they will take over. Some people like or at least don't mind taller buildings. This one started out looking worse but it improved a lot. Taller buildings are OK by me and the tax revenue, more people downtown, opening up near downtown rentals to working people, etc., are all good things. Not losing a law suit and having to pay out $10 or $20 million and then having them build anyway, is an excellent outcome.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

If people are smart they will push a moratorium on new submissions to the planning process NOW. Then they will review the zoning and make changes over the spring/summer and reopen the process under new zoning in the fall. Failure to do this zoning review will mean that a third developer will end up with a vote for a "by-rights" building and unhappy citizens. If you want to change the direction of development (Connecting William Street anyone?), now it the time to step up and get it done. Enough people care right now about what is going on to get the level of involvement it will take to make changes. Wait 6 months and no one will care again. Your call folks, which City Council member has the guts to introduce the moratorium?

David Cahill

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

Sally Petersen was the biggest disappointment. She is willing to make Ann Arbor a "free fire zone" for developers. Too bad that she has gone over to the Dark Side. As for Marcia Higgins, her bad zoning plan laid the foundation (literally) for this monstrosity. She decided to double down on it. Luckily for us, she has a principled opponent of this kind of development in Jack Eaton, who is running against her in the August Democratic primary. I hope that in August we can say "High-Rise Higgins is history."


Thu, Jun 6, 2013 : 3 p.m.

So, if somebody doesn't vote the way you wish, they are automatically 'unprincipled'? You may not share her vision for the City, and may not like the way she votes, but to imply that she is unprincipled is unnecessary and appears to be the act of somebody starting on a smear campaign. That smacks of being unprincipled to me.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:08 a.m.

Many share your disappointment with the Petersen vote.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

What was the point of SHP replacing Tony Derezinski if they'll make the same go-along votes?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Well put. Petersen's defense of business climate was hardly credible in view of just how many building projects have been approved, even such horrors as the Varsity. We had hoped for more from her. As for Higgins, the most vexing were her crocodile tears, given her involvement in the bad zoning decisions that made this project possible. We definitely need change on council!


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

Prediction: This building will be sold within one year of completion. The developers will make a bundle and then move on to some other town that has a zoning opportunity/anomaly and do it again. They have no stake in our town. If you want to stop this, then change the zoning. Increase the buffer zone between residential and high density living. Don't grant variances like the the one given to the Fox Tent site. Otherwise, a development team will come in and identify another parcel like 413 that they will max out value per square foot, aesthetics be damned, and do it again.

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:23 a.m.

They would sell when it is full.

Dirty Mouth

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:44 a.m.

I think you said it perfectly. Regardless, taxpayers will be left holding the bag as "Developers" laugh all the way to the bank. Painful how this City Council doesn't get it.

Ann E.

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

Perhaps at that point the city can use some of the money saved from avoiding a lawsuit to tear down the unwanted building.

Basic Bob

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Now you want to be able to approve the legal sale of property between two individuals or corporations? You are not the NFL!


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1 p.m.

The underlying problem here is the City's attorney and his overly cautious reading of the law and resulting advice to Council -- one doesn't get a "perfect" legal record (see the recent Observer article) unless one shies away all but slam dunk fights. Anyone who drives by City Place sees that it has a 3rd floor that is prohibited. Anyone that is but the City's attorney. Shameful.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.

Maybe we can learn from this and change the zoning laws so they actually represent the values of the residents?

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:51 p.m.

When are they going to change the rules so this cannot happen again? When? They spoke of that when the City Place development was forced through but nothing happened. Now here we are again. How long until it happens again? My guess is soon.

Jon Wax

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

well... looks like it's time for some new leadership around here. in re:the property owners and their lawsuit, interesting. we don't want you. you know we don't want you. so your force yourselves on us. Peace Wax

Jack Eaton

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

Once again we were treated with Council members expressing their dislike of a project but claiming they no choice but to approve the site plan. The 413 E. Huron project is the foreseeable result of the Council's 2009 decision to zone that property as D-1 in spite of the Master Plan mandate that zoning be implemented to create buffer areas between core density and nearby neighborhoods. This tower will be a monument to the prior Council's failure of leadership. New members of Council were, in effect, being asked to fix the problem the prior Council failed to address when residents raised the issue in 2009. I find it hard to fault any Council member who was not involved in the A2D2 rezoning process. Although Council members express dislike for these disruptive projects, they do nothing to fix the zoning that allows this kind of project to harm residential neighborhoods. For example, when the 42 North project was approved for a site on South Maple Road, our Ward 4 Council members predictably expressed the requisite dislike of the project and the belief that they had no choice but approve the site plan. Within a year, under the leadership of our Ward 4 representatives, the Council modified the zoning code to allow even taller buildings and even smaller set backs for that same property (as well as others throughout the city). The reluctance to approve these projects is often just an act. The massive tower that will be built on the edge of an historic neighborhood is just one of the many problems that will arise from the wide ranging changes made to our zoning regulations by the prior Council. There will be significant problems in applying the Area, Height and Placement modifications to zoning outside the downtown area, once the economy picks up. Council will have an opportunity to change zoning to protect neighborhoods when the long overdue R4C zoning modifications come up soon. Will they listen?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

Not sure how much of this is hyperbole and how much is reality: but looks like Marcia Higgins can take quite a bit of the credit for both the zoning changes that led to this 413 E. Huron debacle AND the fact that the Packard Square development has sat unbuilt for years and years.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

The city Planning Commission did not approve it. How was that not sufficient to deny the project?

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:22 a.m.

The mayor only delegates when he delegates.

sandy schopbach

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

Ann Arbor needs to decide what kind of place it wants to be. This skyscraper concept is destroying a lot. And the effects are now spreading. This building is fine... elsewhere. But overshadowing those historic homes in a historic district, plunging them into darkness, is just not right. And no, I don't live there, so I don't have a dog in that fight. Ann Arbor is not Manhattan, even though it's trying hard to be. I don't think Mayor Hieftje should have let it go through, even though I agree with his assessment that building for students should have been stopped 3 buildings ago. A stand has to be made now. If the problem isn't the principle behind this - too many tall buildings - but just the financial aversion to lawsuits by their promoters, maybe the definitions of what is allowed, and where, need to be revised and finalized so no more developers even start. My representative (Fourth Ward) didn't vote for it. To those who did, be careful what you wish for. Not ALL development is good development. Discouraging a certain type of developer - and this one isn't even local! - can be a good thing.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:04 a.m.

Yes, changing to non-partisan elections would really help with the choices we face each fall. And that is key, vote in August!


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

You should check your facts before August. Due to having partisan council elections in a one-party town the REAL election is almost always the primary in August.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

The women of Fourth Ward have voted for every high-rise, without reservations. Check your facts before this fall, and please get out and vote for sense on city council.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

Your 4th ward representative didn't vote for it? You might want to recheck the voting - they BOTH voted for it. Very unsurprisingly, I might add. And don't hold your breath about the mayor stepping in. They don't call him "High-rise" for nothing.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

"I worry that if we deny this, we are going to leave a legacy of ill will amongst developers," A legacy that they cannot bully the residents and council to do whatever they want by repeated threats? I like that legacy. The council needs to grow a pair and remember for whom they work.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

Thank you for saying so clearly what I was thinking!


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

get over the hissing at the meeting...there will be even worse by many people at the wheel of their autos when thedownright dangerous corner developes after the implementation of in inappropriate number of tenants with or without autos completely changing the dynamic at the corner from a straightforward artery and intersection into havoc.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

let's build a round-about...they solve everything!

Bertha Venation

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

Thanks for naming who voted for and against it, Ryan. It makes the next election that much easier!


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

I agree, but there was a No That Needs to Go.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

Sorry to the neighbors who will have to live with this ugly monstrosity. But we all knew the parcel was zoned D1. It's just not fair to deny a developer their right to build per the zoning after they have invested millions in the site and design. They will sue, and win. The rest of Ann Arbor's tax payers don't want to pay that pointless bill. So, we must live with it.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

I wonder how they decided which five of them got to vote no.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

I was told by one member that they were voting no no matter what. Since I have started attending more meetings, it is easy to see how there is shady business going on, the looks that are passed around that room are really something. I like to look at everyone else when a council member is speaking, and see their reactions. This is something that you can't appreciate from viewing the otherwise excellent video coverage.

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

I hope you are right, Bud. I was thinking the same thing as Brad.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

Not everyone was in on the scam. There were honest NO votes cast.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

Another item; Composting!! was the big issue from one of the Council members. I have never heard this person ask other developers if they were going to require composting. The previous (January 2013?) 624 Church Street campus high rise glided through Council without one tenth of the scrutiny of this one. Especially, composting! This person noted that U of M is requiring their student tenants to do this. I checked, they do not. The U of M kitchens have a composting program for only unprepared foodstuffs. That's it.

Widow Wadman

Thu, May 16, 2013 : 8:23 p.m.

Any chance you would run against that council member?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

Hee Haw!

Kai Petainen

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

A few thoughts... 1. In this decision, council members did a great job of articulating why they were voting the way they were voting. 2. Except for the developers, it appears that no one loves this building. 3. The public was heavily involved in this -- council voted against the public, but the public was heavily involved. Hopefully the public pays more attention to other events in Ann Arbor, and gets more involved/vocal at city hall (for and against issues). 4. It seems like 'blame' (for those who don't like it) sits on those who voted to zone this area in the way that they did. It would be good to know who voted in favor of the zoning in the first place, and of those who voted in favor, which ones still sit at council. 5. Power in Ann Arbor does not occur at City Hall, but with those who have money. No one on council loved this idea, but money (threats of lawsuits) won the day. Money has power, council does not.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 4:25 a.m.

I think No. 5 is very well put.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

re. #5. While I am not disagreeing with the basic premise here, it does seem in this case that it wasn't money per se that ruled the day, but rather the rights of property owners to develop their properties as they wish, within the currently existing laws.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

Some of those responsible are running for Council this fall as new candidates, and some are running for reelection as incumbents. You can see that planning wanted no part of the responsibility for this, when have you heard the heard the head of the planning commission last weigh in on this?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

Council does too have power! They decided upon and approved this piece of D1 zoning! It's their fault.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

I would think, not only should we look at the elected official who worked out this zoning, but those citizen committees and their members too. All I have heard is people saying they were there, but were not in favor of this zoning. So who is and where is this silent majority. Some of the opponents were/are actively involved in this zoning, one even claims to have been "the father" of it. The city is now rethinking this zoning, are the same people who were involved the first time going to be at the table again? Is that wise? I think we need some fresh minds applied to these issues, not the same old group who we see year after year.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

The wealthy neighbors, some of whom are architects, could have spent the last few years working with the owners of the property to search for a developer who would create something more appealing. Instead, they just waited for something to happen so they could try to tear it apart. The bottom line is that property owners have the right to develop their properties according to the existing laws. Most of us would not want anything that infringed on that and left us to the whim of elected officials.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

Exactly. Well put.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

When the well presented "facts" from last week turned out to be not true after vetting through the City staff, this turned the votes in favor of the project. Looking at the drawings presented (misrepresenting proportions and accuracy) (Look at the one above heading this article, it is far from accurate) by the opponents and the information they tried to push forward as the truth, while painting the developer evil eventually worked against them. The vote ended up being purely political. Approved so there would be no suit and by one vote so as many council members as possible , could show their constituents they were on their side. Yelling and swearing at the development team in the hallways after this meeting (and another earlier event) did not show any maturity on the part of the opposition either. All of us drawn into this question the motives when deception and profanity have to be used. Not all the shameful behavior came from in front of the podium.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

I agree, seems the opposition over played their hand. Probably should have just tried to get it down to 8 stories tall or so, and live with it. IT WAS ZONED D1! And everyone knew this already. Can't change the zoning after a developer has invested millions in the project. Just not fair.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

Shame the zoning laws don't forbid ugly buildings.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

if it did, we wouldn't have that monstrosity called city hall....


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

"I don't like a lot about this building, but I'm not willing to in good conscience risk the taxpayers' money," said Teall, D-4th Ward. oh I see, but you have NO problem spending our money on useless crap... get a clue!!! wonder where those 500+ cars are going to park... BAD MOVE CITY! not that I expected anything good from you idiots.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

Set the rents at normal rates, then when the tenant says "oh, I have a car, where do I park?", raise the rent to double, with the second half going to AATA.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

"Earlier as the council deliberated, audience members jeered and literally hissed at council members as they stated they were going to be voting for the project." If you have a legitimate argument say it. I don't value the opinion of people who hiss.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:08 p.m.

I agree it is not the right behavior, but this is what it has come to. No argument against out of scale development, no matter how compelling or how many people bring it, is enough to derail developer interest on this council. People boo and hiss because it is all they have left after their legitimate voice is taken away. Is it any worse than DDA board members Smith and Collins jeering and eye-rolling during antiDDA commentary?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

Watching and listening to the audience response by hissing reminded me of second grade. That is where I learned this was inappropriate behavior. It was sad to see apparently respected members of this community fall to this level of heckling during a governmental meeting.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

Simply refuse to close arterial street lanes for construction use... and the project shrinks considerably. Problem resolved. Congestion, thy name is Huron.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:37 a.m.

Clearly the city "fathers" of Ann Arbor have Spartan envy. Continue this high density development and soon you will have not A2, but Lansing Jr., looking just like the concrete canyon found on Grand River entering Lansing from the East. And I really don't understand the comment about "the biggest apartment planned only has 4 bedrooms". What? You looking for a military barrack type apartment with 10 or 20 bedrooms? I doubt most of us live in houses with even 4 bedrooms. As for composting food stuff - its called the dump, very useful for improving the quality of the soil in the dump. Better there should be a bus stop at the lobby of this building, where the bus could actually pull OFF Huron or Division...


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

NSider - Many of the student housing buildings have 5 or 6 bedrooms surrounding and living area and a kitchen. So the fact that this one is a mix of 1, 2 and 4 bedrooms means it has different mix than many of the other student housing buildings.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

Interesting that no one accused you of being "melodramatic".


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:34 a.m.

Let's not compare this to City Place. The horrendous City Place was given to us by a smattering of angry neighbors and some council members that thought they could stop the development altogether. The original proposal saved the facades of the old houses and attached a modern structure with underground parking to the rear. Oh the humanity. When the developer could not get that approved he went forward with the "by right" development and now we have a character free structure that looks dated right out of the gate.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

What is wrong with the city place apartments? They seem to like alright to me.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:24 a.m.

Some members were undoubtedly motivated by fear of a lawsuit, but the majority of those who voted for this monstrosity have regularly supported this kind of terrible development as a matter of course, including our high rise mayor. These are the same council members who gave us City Place. It seems that council as a matter of course sides with developers and bad architects against the interests of citizens who live downtown and in the near downtown. Is this a good way to run a city? This was a shameful decision and the only hoe fr the future is that perhaps some voters may take a good look at their representatives and vote them out of office. We also need a viable new candidate for mayor.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

I totally agree PersonX, it's time to clean house and not with a candidate for mayor that is from any of the planning or zoning boards. They need to go too! Hopefully our citizens will remember this come election time and not vote for the same old names.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:23 a.m.

A shameful legacy of this council that we all have to live with. Throw the bums out this fall, please.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

In case you need one more reminder, wait until you see what they are spending 400K on for the Stadim Bridge. Meanwhile Detroit is getting a Kickstarter funded 10-foot tall bronze Robocop statue for less than 60 K.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

But we already have two of those (city hall and the dry fountain) just a block away. We're convinced already!


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:11 a.m.

We'll get used to it.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

Like the old YMCA and the that ugly hotel/ now senior citizen residence place. We will soon have high rise derelict buildings


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:10 a.m.

Injunction anyone?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

For what? If anyone could win an injunction, it would be the developer. The city can't unilaterally impose additional requirements on a developer who conforms to the zoning.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:05 a.m.

It happened and the world did not end. But we will all live to regret it.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 10:54 a.m.

Composting???? Are you kidding me???? If the city council doesn't like what a developer can do within existing laws and regulations, then change the laws! This isn't that hard. Instead, what the council does is institute zoning guidelines and then, after the fact, doesn't like what they just did and tries to blame the developer. You can't put that monkey on the back of the developer - change the zoning so the developer knows what they are dealing with up front! For the record, I don't like the building, but the developer is obeying the zoning laws!


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

That does not mean one has to buld such a monstrosity. Wehave reached a tipping point. Talk about unintended consequences of compacting people in the downtown area. We should recind any new high rise developments. Grandfather what we have so fo. What a mess!


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

Composting...indeed. As a student highrise (aka dorm), composting will be achieved as it always has been in these types of the halls and elevators! :-)


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 10:50 a.m.

Seems like the people who run Ann Arbor won't be happy until we have canyons...kind of like out west. Only the mountains will be buildings and the streams will be bike paths running through them. To see the light of day you will have to exit Ann Arbor proper. Which is exactly what we did years ago.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

Curious - the alternative is sprawl. We have a well thought out master plan for the city. Density at the core, greenbelts outside and mass transit to move people. The alternative is sprawl. I don't love this project, but it is in line with the plan. I've live here over 30 years. Your memories of Ann Arbor of the 70's are romantic, but not realistic for 2020.

Jojo B

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

I've lived here for three decades and I actually love the idea of canyons in A2. Bring on the big soulless buildings! As an added bonus of the housing bust of 2018, these junk buildings will become the next mecca for urban exploration and the tourism industry will flourish ala Detroit.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:02 p.m.

I could try Hugh, but the intent stays. Little by little the character of Ann Arbor is being homogenized. If you haven't been here long you could never understand that.

Hugh Giariola

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:22 a.m.

Could you be a little more melodramatic?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 10:42 a.m.

Lawsuit - don't quite understand. So if one does not get their way, threaten lawsuit. How can they sue the city? If one can explain, appreciate. We have enough tall buildings here in Ann Arbor, and a Georgia based company building another is very questionable.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Carole (and Ryan): Your question is very appropriate. The primary reason that anyone on council voted in favor for this project was Fear of a Big Lawsuit. Legal experts who analyzed this threat for the developments opponents have stated publicly that the City would not lose a court case. They explained in detail why this was so. They cited precedents that correlated to the type of case we would be in. The council and staff have continually stated that they have convincing evidence that their prospects in court would have been slim. They have not thus far divulged this convincing evidence- calling it "privileged and confidential" . This may have made sense while the possibility of going to court with the developer existed. Now we have fully capitulated to developers. There won't be a lawsuit. There is no more reason for the City to keep this big secret. We are entitled to know what information was so sensitive yet so compelling that it forced our council to approve a building that no one likes. Ryan, can you please provide this information?

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

Just supplying factual information to help answer a reader's question about how the developer could sue the city. I make no assertions about the merits or strength of such a case.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.

If it fit the rules, it would have come forward wi approval from planning. But it did not. It came to council with No approval from planning. Who are these staff you speak of? Our city attorney who has yet to issue a written statement on ANY issue before the city? By right=fix is in.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:04 a.m.

Foobar417 is correct. The development was presented to the City Council as a so-called "by-right project," mean in staff's opinion it met the zoning requirements. The city's planning staff recommended the project be approved because, again in staff's opinion, it would comply with all applicable local, state and federal rules and regulations and would not cause a public or private nuisance and would not have a detrimental effect on the public health, safety or welfare. Of course, some disagreed with that stance. If you follow the second link in the story, you'll see links to download recent letters from Patrick Lennon and Susan Friedlaender, the attorneys for the project, stating their case for approval of what they also saw as a by-right project.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:01 a.m.

Cities have rules. Private property owners have rights. If a private property owner proposes something that fits within the rules, then they have the right to build it. If the city denies them that right, the private property owner can sue the city in court, essentially saying you are stealing part of the value of the property and ask for potentially significant redress. if the judge agrees with them, then the city might end up owing a lot of money to the private property owner. For this particular issue, many folks have argued that what the private property owner has proposed does not fit in the rules. The city staff professionals have essentially disagreed, saying that it does fit within the rules, whether the city likes it or not. The city council has decided by a slim majority, to say "we don't like it, but this fits within the rules, so we'll allow it". Some members of the city council and many members of the citizenry have also said, "we made a mistake with the rules", but that doesn't have any influence on the ability to sue the city.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 10:39 a.m.

That building is ugly and looks like it was designed in the 80s...


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 2:33 a.m.

Sellers, this Don't dare insult the government on this blog, they need the government to breath!


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

Yeah, but until they raze city hall no building can be the ugliest one on Huron.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder....

Usual Suspect

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

It looks like it was condemned in the 80's.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

yes, it is ugly, but should the government decide what is ugly and what is not ?


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 10:22 a.m.

Yea, food composting. Let's focus on that. Big issue...

Tom Whitaker

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

Urban density proponents always toss out the "sustainability" card when advocating for these tall buildings. If the residents of these buildings are not able to fully engage in environmentally responsible practices such as composting and recycling, what does that say about the sincerity of the sustainability argument? The construction and furnishing of these building consumes a massive amount of energy and other natural resources and often includes the removal of functional buildings and sending them to the landfill. The environmental pay-off on a new high rise is already decades and decades out--especially a building like this that will not lure anyone away from a new subdivision in the country (marketed to students that do not buy houses). Anything they can do to help the building and its residents shorten that environmental pay-off time should be encouraged and applauded. Spread over 513 occupants, even the smallest things can have a big impact.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

She knew she could vote against it because it had the votes to win, so she had to come up with a reasonable (to her) argument for voting no, that was the best she could do. Her no vote was political, not practical.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

I couldn't believe someone actually made that comment in regard to this disastrous project. For someone on city council to make that comment is really beyond belief.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

You can almost hear McNally laughing under his breath.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

if you've ever heard her (try to)'d understand...