Ann Arbor will need commuter trains and the Fuller Road train station
With the rapid increase of jobs in the Ann Arbor area being filled by out of town commuters, the freeways leading into and out of Ann Arbor are being more congested at a rapidly increasing rate. I estimate that the 70,000 daily commuters into and out of Ann Arbor* might be increasing currently at as much as a 5% rate per year! This trend is expected to continue and will create real problems and material delays with a negative impact on economic development in the not too distant future.
In the short run, consideration should be given to encouraging our major employers, all of which are government entities, to stagger their shifts, so there is not a large surge in commuters at a specific time each morning and evening.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Unfortunately there are no adequate sites still available on the South side of town or the West side of town for similar "park and ride" facilities, due to past poor planning decisions which allowed all the available sites near railroads to be developed.
Selling the air rights to build a tall building over the new train station’s parking structure would yield a very large amount of money (up to $20 million), create a large ratable asset to enhance city tax base (the ultimate project could easily be $100 million in value) and more than pay for the city’s share of a federal match to build the new train station. The closest property near a high speed rail train station is by far the most valuable. The current plan contemplates using 100% of that extremely valuable real estate only for - parking cars (ouch)!
The $100 million tall building above the high speed rail station could have medical offices and residential condos. You could then add location focused retail on the ground floor (for example, convenience store and coffee shop). With the planned skywalk directly into the hospital from the train station, it would be a quick walk to the main hospital and this would become the premium space for medical office research space in the area because of its convenience for the docs (wasting time commuting between the hospital and their medical research office is very expensive to them since they can't bill sitting in a car). That means the building could charge premium rates per ft2 (which increases the value of the tall building). Locating the train station closer to the hospital complex would drive ridership on the train for the many people who visit their doctor for follow-up visits to the hospital because of its convenience (just park, ride the train and take an elevator up).
I ran this idea by Al Berriz, the CEO of McKinley, the largest property management firm in the city. His thoughts: “I think it's a very credible concept. As to the economics and demand, it would be there for sure. You have premium medical office in conjunction with high end for rent and maybe some high end “For Sale” housing. If the parcel is given enough density, you may see retail as well. I think the math works. The demand is there. I am hopeful that we advance the dialogue as a community, both on the train station and this idea of a potential development site. We need the train mode in my view, it will add jobs.”
(Stephen Lange Ranzini is president of University Bank and resident of downtown AnnArbor. He's also an occasional columnist on AnnArbor.com.)