You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 7:25 a.m.

Ann Arbor officials say revised Heritage Row proposal still offers public benefits

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor City Council will consider a revised version of the Heritage Row apartments proposal when it meets at 7 p.m. Monday inside city hall.

Eight votes are required to approve the planned unit development, which calls for a deviation from the city's existing zoning on 1.23 acres at 407-437 S. Fifth Ave.

The project fell one vote short of approval when it was before council last year, but now council members are rethinking their position in order to stop another development approved for the site — the controversial City Place project, which would result in the demolition of seven homes.

In the time since the City Council voted to reconsider the Heritage Row PUD at its Oct. 3 meeting, the city's staff has reviewed the proposal presented by developer Jeff Helminski and compared it to the original Heritage Row PUD considered by council in June 2010.

heritage row.jpg

A look at the Heritage Row proposal considered by council last year.

Image courtesy of developer.

Based on that analysis and review of past meeting minutes, the city's staff had several discussions with the developer about modifying the proposal to ensure the public benefit standards are met for the PUD zoning, said City Planning Manger Wendy Rampson.

Rampson said the developer has revised the proposed PUD supplemental regulations for consideration at first reading tonight. If approved, the project would come back to council for second reading and final approval next Monday night.

With the changes made, Rampson said the city's planning staff has concluded the revised Heritage Row proposal still provides three notable public benefits:

  • Affordable housing in excess of that required (14.45 units proposed compared to 12.3 units required)
  • Innovation in land use and variety of design through incorporation of a historical streetscape
  • Use and reuse of seven century-old homes that contribute to the desired character and form of the established Germantown neighborhood

The following chart was put together by the city's staff to show how the new Heritage Row proposal compares to the one council considered in June 2010:


But it doesn't appear the developer is counting on Heritage Row getting approved. City Place Ann Arbor LLC, which owns the land the seven houses stand on, is asking the City Council tonight to approve a resolution that would allow revised elevations for the City Place project.

The building elevations are being revised to accommodate minor changes to the interior layout of the buildings and to improve exterior aesthetics of the buildings. The developer wants to add windows to the gable ends on the north and south sides and make minor changes to window placement, as well as changes to the approved siding.

Council Member Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward, is the sponsor of that resolution, as well as another resolution on tonight's agenda that seeks some flexibility on the city's landscaping and screening requirements for the City Place site plan.

City Place was begrudgingly approved by the City Council in September 2009, despite concerns about aesthetics and whether the project fits the character of the neighborhood. It legally conformed with city codes, so the council felt it had no choice but to approve it.

The developer has since taken several steps that indicate he's serious about moving forward soon, including moving tenants out of the houses and purchasing the property.

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 e-mail newsletters.


Widow Wadman

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 10:02 p.m.

Any negotiations for the use of public parking spaces should be kept separate from approvals to build new buildings or demolish existing buildings. I do not like the revised Heritage Row proposal because it does not allow for adequate on-site parking. The City Council is not making itself look any better after blocking approval of the previous Heritage Row proposal by considering the present one. The homes that would be razed if City Place were to be constructed aren't all in the best of shape. The landlords are not doing the greatest job in keeping them up. The idea that they hold historic value that should be preserved is a joke forced upon the developer by the City Council and others who seemingly would prefer poorly kept student housing in the neighborhood.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 2:18 a.m.

The landlord who is "not doing the greatest job keeping them up" IS the developer! The developer also declared the houses to be historic when he submitted his Heritage Row proposal and wanted credit for preserving them as a result. You can't have it both ways.

The Picker

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.

This is just another pathetic example of why rules and regulations should be kept simple. Over the years Council has been gerrymandering the rules to build in this town to serve their own agenda and now it has come back to bite them in the aesthetics. Serves them right for making things so persnickety. Get out of the way and lets get working!

rusty shackelford

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

The Build-Nothing's only recourse now is for Carsten Hohnke to chain himself to some "historic" house and hope the bulldozer spots him in time. That's something I'm sure a lot of people in this town would pay to see. Come to think of it, I have an idea to help the city reduce its deficit....

rusty shackelford

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

This is what happens when amateurs try to play hardball.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

Ann Arbor has the most horrendous public parking of any city in Michigan and it will only be exacerbated by this project.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

I'm still confused by this whole thing. If the City Place project has already been approved and is moving forward, how can City Council approve a different development project (Heritage Row) for the same space?

John of Saline

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 7:23 p.m.

The developer is allowed under current zoning to do City Place, which is blocky and would require nuking the houses. Heritage Row requires a zoning variance, but looks much better and preserves the houses.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

I am opposed to incorporating permits for city parking structures into a development agreement. These proposed units are not downtown and using downtown parking spaces to replace what should be onsite parking blurs the line between Central Area (neighborhoods outside the DDA district) and downtown. It also brings into question the role of the city in providing downtown parking at all. This parking system is supposed to make downtown accessible to local residents while supporting and promoting businesses downtown. It should not be used by Council as pieces in a board game (as they did with Google) to support development, and especially not for developments outside the downtown. Each parking space that is constructed in a new structure and then leased on a monthly permit basis is subsidized by the taxpayers. For example, the new structure at 5th Ave will cost between $50,000-$70,000 to construct. Monthly permit fees are not sufficient to amortize that cost, because such fees would be so expensive that most users would not pay for them. Now that the city is using parking fee revenue to supplement the general fund, any such subsidy is a direct draw both on the general fund and on downtown parking users who are being required to pay higher hourly fees. If I were a developer outside the downtown and saw this deal go down, I'd be asking why I couldn't get a nice subsidy like this too. I'm afraid that the Varsity (which is downtown) may already be attempting to use city parking leases to lower their costs.


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:09 p.m.

Nice, we've lost 60 more parking spaces. Great work, council!


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

Someone has to use that underground parking structure.