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Posted on Tue, Aug 25, 2009 : 12:10 p.m.

Ann Arbor residents invited to community open house for unveiling of updated downtown design guidelines

By Ryan J. Stanton

The final draft of the A2D2 guidelines is finally ready to be unveiled. And you're invited.

Ann Arbor officials are giving the public a chance to hear about future design guidelines for the downtown area at a community open house event next Wednesday, Sept. 2. The meeting is expected to last from 7-9 p.m. at the Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fourth Ave.

Winter & Co., a consultant who prepared draft design guidelines for the Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown project - also known as A2D2 - was retained by the city to prepare revisions to streamline and simplify the proposed guidelines, said city planner Alexis DiLeo. The final draft will be unveiled at the community open house.

“The final draft is supposed to be delivered by the consultant today,” DiLeo said, adding that the document could be posted on the city's Web site this week.

“Nothing new will be added to the final draft, but what they did is they previously had about 50 design guidelines spread across different categories and those have been whittled down to 28,” she said. “And of those, 10 have been flagged as high priority. The whole goal was to make them more streamlined, concise and user-friendly.”

DiLeo said three broad design guideline categories are in the revised document, including guidelines for site planning (such as building placement and how the building connects with adjacent properties), guidelines for building massing (such as how the building is shaped), and guidelines for building elements (such as what materials can be used and what the facade should look like).

DiLeo said the city is stressing that developers need to provide connections linking sidewalks to open spaces such as plazas or open courtyards. For larger developments, developers are encouraged to provide mid-block connections to sidewalks with rear alleyways.

“The guidelines are steering you toward traditional concepts like, for example, having a base, middle and a cap on a building,” DiLeo said. “Now, whether it be a modern building with a base, middle and cap, or a traditional building with a base, middle and cap - that's the developer's choice.”

The City Council has postponed the first reading of A2D2 amendments until Sept. 8. A joint working session of the City Council, Planning Commission and Downtown Development Authority now is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 14 in the CTN Studios, 2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 200. The design guidelines will be discussed at that meeting and then could come back for council approval in October.

"The guidelines really define what people want buildings to look like, and this has been through years of community input,” said City Councilwoman Marcia Higgins, a member of the A2D2 Steering Committee. “Our hope is that developers will take this to heart."

Higgins said the guidelines are strictly voluntary at this point, though they will stress what kinds of designs the community values.

"It really is what is the look of a building," she said. “I think most people agree that our downtown has got to be a vital interesting place to be. In talking with our consultants, everybody agrees we are kind of on that tipping point where how we work, how we play and what we do is changing. We're going away from manufacturing.”

Height restrictions are not included in the guidelines because they're already in the city's zoning ordinance, which is coming back before council soon, Higgins said.

The City Council established the A2D2 initiative in September 2006 to implement high-priority recommendations of the Downtown Development Strategies Project. It has focused on changes in the areas of downtown zoning, urban design guidelines, historic preservation, development processes, parking and transportation.

Areas still under consideration include affordable housing development, a zoning ordinance update, and economic development strategies, according to

Ryan Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Aug 26, 2009 : 1:25 p.m.

Thanks Ryan. Will do.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Aug 26, 2009 : 12:36 p.m.

Alan, send me an e-mail with any questions you want me to ask any of the candidates and I will ask them for you.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Aug 26, 2009 : 11:51 a.m.

Don't be too sure Ryan. She's been on Council for nearly a decade and hasn't taken the leadership on jobs or the homeless. Or 4th Ward quality of life issues either. Looking forward to your articles on the November Council election where hopefully she'll be answering some questions from the media.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Aug 25, 2009 : 3:45 p.m.

In all fairness to Councilwoman Higgins, I should add that, in her comments to me, she was pointing out that there are jobs that have sprouted downtown in recent years such as those in advertising at Google. I don't think she was stating any preference for more dishwasher jobs and tent cities.


Tue, Aug 25, 2009 : 2:21 p.m.

...or good-paying accounting jobs. In the modern world, you have to read, write, add, and think. If your skill-set is limited, you won't make it. If the guidelines are "strictly voluntary", who cares? How do they become mandatory?


Tue, Aug 25, 2009 : 12:28 p.m.

"We're going away from manufacturing.Oh boy more of those low paying retail/restraunt jobs for everyone!! Hope city council can talk AATA to make a bus stop at the tent city on the outskirts of town to bring those low wage earners in to wash our dishes and scrub our floors. The race to the bottom continues!