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Posted on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

Ann Arbor DDA seeking feedback on redevelopment plan for 5 downtown sites

By Ryan J. Stanton


This draft plan for five city-owned properties was presented at a recent meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Ann Arbor DDA

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is inviting members of the public to give feedback on the emerging plan for redeveloping five city-owned properties downtown.

The DDA recently released a draft copy of its Connecting William Street report, which is expected to be presented to the Ann Arbor City Council on Jan. 14.

Before that happens, the DDA is holding two more open houses. The first takes place from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The second one takes place from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3, at the DDA office, 150 S. Fifth Ave.

Both meetings will follow an open house format with a brief presentation at 6:30 p.m., said Amber Miller, the DDA's planning and research specialist.

For the past 18 months, the DDA has been exploring potential future uses of five downtown parking sites: the Library Lot atop the city's new underground parking garage, the Y Lot across the street at the corner of Fifth and William, the ground floor of the Fourth and William parking garage, the smaller Palio Lot at Main and William, and the larger Kline Lot at Ashley and William.

DDA officials say they've heard from dozens of groups and thousands of individuals and they've worked to distill that feedback into a series of recommended development strategies.

Previous story: Connecting William Street: Draft plan emerges for 5 city-owned sites in downtown Ann Arbor

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.



Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

Have the DDA take a look at the feedback on THIS project: If they build something that is in character with what is already there, people will support that. They could build something- on Ashley- very similar to the Main Street block from William to Liberty with retail at street level and residential above and you can bet that people would support that. Those store fronts and apartments would be prized- particularly if they were reasonably priced- and small businesses in the outskirts could move downtown. DDA, you have the technology. It has existed for 100+ years in Ann Arbor.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 4:34 a.m.

Community discussions are usually, as Ted Annis has said, "a forceful presentation of the above plan with an orchestrated attempt to curtail citizen input." They are put on to appease the public and to make citizens think that they are being heard. The lack of open space in the DDA plan is so obvious, and the density is so,,,, too dense that it is not a reasonable plan. Human scale is not considered next to the monolithic, large and characterless nature of the proposed buildings. Space to breathe is what is needed. Develop the area next to the library with welcoming open space for individual use and community activities. And for goodness sake, stop saying that the UofM diag is a public park. it is not. C Smith Ann Arbor resident who hopes for a unique, well thought out plan for Connecting William Street

Alice Ralph

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

When this 'planning' project began, I began trying to participate as a member of the general public and as a person with specific interests. I was, after all, the primary author of one of the open space responses to the 'original' RFP for the Library Lot. At first, the DDA idea was to find a more coordinated way to promote development in an area, rather that a single-site approach that had failed. As with the previous approach, the current project acquired some counter-productive aspects--including time and money spent retreading old ideas. I eventually limited my participation due to the way it was structured and the internalization of the process. What I see here is somewhat modified from the zoning maximums and not much else. Surely we can leverage public ownership for more connectivity, more solar access, and more pedestrian and bike character on William Street--among other things--incorporating more creative and engaging ideas. Because of economic and environmental, we have an unusual opportunity to put public benefit at higher priority. I'm certain we have the capacity to do better, so let's do.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

One of the choices in this poll should be "why are you suddenly interested in feedback from us? Come on, DDA, you do whatever you want to do anyway whether we peasants like it or not!"


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

The city needs to spend some effort convincing store owners in the asteroid belt periphery to move downtown and create a NEED for new structures BEFORE building them on spec. Renovate the existing spaces, get businesses in them, then tear down the crap on the outskirts of town and their attendant acres of blacktop parking. Once the existing spaces are renovated and full, THEN talk about filling in the gaps.

Scott Reed

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 9:53 p.m.

Sounds like a chicken-and-egg problem. But I totally agree that the crap on the outskirts of town should be relocated toward a dense core area.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:35 a.m.

The DDA's "draft" does not allow for real citizen input because it never included an option to insert a park (or parks) into the plan for all Ann Arbor citizens to provide feedback on. A rather large group of citizens (Library Green Group) continues to ask the DDA to take into account the interest that many people in town have in creating a green space above the Library Lot. Instead, the DDA has decided to cater to the "more density downtown" interest group when rendering the Connecting William Street Plan. It is a joke that the DDA claims to seek real citizen input when they have never included a park option in the planning, in spite of so many people I know that are supportive of a downtown commons or park. Is there some citizen's group called the "I want more density downtown now group" that is made up of a wide range of Ann Arbor citizens that I am not aware of?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:06 a.m.

Would you like some chocolate ice cream, or would you rather have chocolate ice cream?

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:32 a.m.

The DDA is not an impartial planning organization. It has as its major goal to develop the downtown. The more development, the higher their harvest of Ann Arbor property taxes. There are many things to be said about bias in the process. I have begun a blog series on the subject with this post and hope to document a number of points in future posts.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:46 a.m.

What? The survey is missing a couple of questions. 6- I would like a train station on Fuller. 7- I would like a train station on Fuller soon. 8- The mono rail should go from the conference center to the new train station.

Alice Ralph

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

Yes. Satirical and worth a chuckle. I could think of a few other items to put in the survey. But wait! The DDA already got results from their own survey, which showed more support for open space than they could handle--so, they didn't pursue it.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

It was a satirical post, I believe. I laughed anyway..


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:05 a.m. I don't.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:59 a.m.

So you want to spend millions of tax dollars constructing railway track and stations to facilitate a commuter rail system that will carry few passengers and require more local tax money to subsidize its operation and maintenance. In addition you want tax payers to finance a monorail from Fifth and William Streets to Fuller Road and Maiden Lane? More millions of dollars spent to move few passengers a couple of miles. The buses used in our transportation system are the most economical and efficient manner of transporting commuters. If needed add more buses to routes or purchase the double-sized accordion buses. Please do not waste federal, state and local money on folly!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:44 a.m.

Got in the car today,drove out of Ann Arbor for the afternoon and shopped/ate and parking was free. Keep it up DDA ....and neighboring communities will figure some things out.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

Kafkaland and ordmad - All the proposed developments are entirely speculative. Do you see a dire need for any type of business not yet present in Ann Arbor that should occupy any of these buildings? Even the DDA has provided no specific suggestions. What would attract visitors to a downtown hotel costing $199 per night for a room when a two bedroom suite costs $117 per night a brief shuttle-ride away from downtown? The DDA construction plan will eliminate four surface parking lots conveniently located for visits to Main Street. With construction on all sites the closest parking, in addition to the Fourth and Williams structure, will be further away at Fourth and Washington and at the Library Lane parking structure. Maybe a secondary purpose for the recommended developments is to force visitors to park in the presently underutilized underground library garage as mentioned by djm12652.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

The DDA should acknowledge that all of the five locations being considered for development provide important services for the community, that is, they are heavily used parking lots. As such, they are also sources of significant revenue for the DDA and the City. With development, the present revenue will likely be reduced or eliminated as the DDA and City Council routinely return Tax-Incremental Financing (TIF) payments to developers/owners as reimbursement for Brownfield remediation and for site development. Just recently significant TIF funds will be returned to the owner of 618 S. Main Street in the form of street and sidewalk improvements. Similar arrangements exist for the Packard Mall development and the Arbor Hills Crossing project. As for building a possible hotel on either the Kline lot and/or above the library parking structure, the cost for such construction remains as high as it did when the Valiant Partners hotel was proposed and Ann Arbor's overall hotel occupancy rate remains suppressed. These facts along with other financial considerations caused hotel and hospitality expert, Chuck Skelton, to conclude that the Valiant Partners proposal was not feasible. City Council ultimately and appropriately withdrew its support for hotel construction and the Valiant Partners proposal. Circumstances have not changed significantly since then. Besides destroying the attractiveness of downtown Ann Arbor, development of the five public properties according to the plans offered by the DDA will likely result in less revenue for the DDA and the City. To pay for over $100 million in recent debt obligations, the DDA and the City may have to generate new revenue from either another millage or from Ann Arbor's first income tax.

Scott Reed

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

The "attractiveness of Downtown Ann Arbor" is NOT parking lots; it is DENSITY - walkable, mixed-use development with few large roads. If you are attracted to parking lots and sprawl, then you should be pleased to spend time at any of the blighted strip malls on Washtenaw or Plymouth, or anywhere else in America. The whole POINT of a good downtown is to make life pleasant for pedestrians, and unpleasant for drivers.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 4:01 a.m.

This is a good evaluation of the situation.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 9:14 p.m.

Disband the DDA as soon as possible. The city has a planning department and zoning laws. Private developers should be the ones to create and submit plans for development. The city should decide what open space it wants. The DDA is totally unnecessary.

Ted Annis

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

1. This is an unreasonable plan and an attempt to resurrect the Convention Center. The top of the underground parking structure should be a community commons (large active-use park with retail on one or two sides). Also, there should be additional decent open space adjacent to the other proposed buildings. 2. I participated in one of the DDA "community discussions." It was not a discussion; it was a forecful presentation of the above plan with an orchastrated attempt to curtail citizen input. 3. The DDA does not seem to be capable of considering a balanced view between community space and high density development. Nor do they understand the property value "bounce" from creating a lake-front condition from a nice-sized community commons area. 4. I suggest that this planning project be removed from the DDA. Ted Annis Downtown resident


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 4:26 a.m.

Community discussions are usually, as Ted Annis has said, "a forceful presentation of the above plan with an orchestrated attempt to curtail citizen input." They are put on to appease the public and to make citizens think that they are being heard. The lack of open space in the DDA plan is so obvious, and the density is so,,,, too dense that it is not a reasonable plan. Human scale is not considered next to the monolithic, large and characterless nature of the proposed buildings. Space to breathe is what is needed. Develop the area next to the library with welcoming open space for for individual use and community activities. And for goodness sake, stop saying that the UofM diag is a public park. it is not. C Smith Ann Arbor resident who hopes for a unique, well thought out plan for Connecting William Street


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

Exactly what marketing specialist came up with the choices here?


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

Eliminating parking surfaces is just a ploy to force people to use the big hole in the ground to park, therefore validating the need for it!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:32 a.m.

If the DDA keeps giving away parking to companies, as they did with Barracuda, it won't be long before there aren't any spaces left for the rest of us.


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

I do not like the DDA's plan at all. We need more green space downtown, not more tall buildings. Let's preserve the character of our city, not convert it into a generic place to earn money for the DDA. Follow the money and you will understand their motives.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 7:03 p.m.

The building next to Palio would severly hinder the view of their roof top dining in the summer.

Alice Ralph

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

If taken seriously, a new green roof could both improve the current parking lot overview, and provide area to which the crowding sidewalk dining could be moved. This would be even more intriguing if the new development did not shadow the old.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:36 a.m.

nowayjose: that's a joke, right?


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

So... their roof top menu is almost as good as frozen Michalenas. I dont see any problem with that.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

I think the plan is shortsighted given the lack of open spaces in downtown. We would be better served to turn the parking lot next to Palio into a park, complete with benches, lawns, flower beds, and an attractive "normal" water feature. Main street needs an attractive entry point. Here is the opportunity.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

Yes to another hotel with conference amenities. None downtown can accommodate a conference of any size and we constantly lose that business to other universities. This business not only benefits whatever hotel moves in, but also the restaurants, bars, etc..., where attendees spend their money. And the more they make, the more the City takes in.

Vivienne Armentrout

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

This is rather confused. "lose that business to other universities" Is this intended as a venture for the UM? "the more they make, the more the City takes in" The City of Ann Arbor does not collect sales tax or any other tax based on level of business. It does collect property tax and older downtown properties that have good business presumably will increase in value, but that is very indirect and long-term. Most property tax from the new building itself will go directly to the DDA. They are even suggesting that money from the sale of the property go to pay for affordable housing outside the downtown. So the City (government) will not profit directly.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Basically, I like what I see - it seems well thought-out. The storefront ground floors are nice, the Palio lot will become a nice entry point to downtown mainstreet, and we'll get high-quality office space. I would like to see a hotel, though. It is often hard to get blocks of rooms, and the Dahlman properties are a bit dated. Some competition would be good.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

I have one request..... No More Student Housing please!!!!