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Posted on Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

Controversial student housing project 42 North no longer moving forward, Ann Arbor officials say

By Ryan J. Stanton

A controversial student apartment project known as 42 North is no longer moving forward, according to Ann Arbor officials.

Wendy Rampson, the city's planning manager, told members of the Planning Commission Tuesday night the project site plan — approved three years ago by a 7-4 vote of the Ann Arbor City Council — has expired and the property owner isn't seeking an extension now.

The project called for construction of five buildings on a 15-acre site owned by Grace Bible Church, off South Maple Road near Pauline Boulevard on the city's west side. It would have included 494 parking spaces, a number far in excess of that required by city code.

When the site plan expired recently after three years without activity, Rampson said the church, acting as the applicant, came in seeking an extension.

"And then they found that they were going to have to make significant changes to the plan in order to meet our new codes and opted not to do that," she said.

Rampson said the developer of the site never exercised its option to purchase the property, and the church was hoping to extend the site plan to make it available to a future developer.

A representative of the church could not be reached for comment.

At the time the project was approved in September 2008, council members spoke at length about their reservations about 42 North. A majority, however, concluded there wasn't sufficient justification to block the planned 120 four-bedroom units.

Because the project would have housed University of Michigan students at some distance from campus, transportation was a concern when it was approved. Neighborhood residents also raised questions about stormwater management and crime.

"It was a fairly controversial project," Rampson recalled Tuesday night. "It was a pretty ambitious project. There was neighborhood concern about the scale of the development and also the character of having a student housing project so far away from campus."

City Council members rejected an earlier version of the plan. The developer — Wood Partners — later reworked it, devising a project that didn't require the planned unit development rezoning previously requested.

Mayor John Hieftje said three years ago he was begrudgingly approving the project, even though he wasn't in favor of it. He said he thought it was being built "for a market that may not exist" and that the number of student housing units proposed was "way beyond demand."

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.


J Keller

Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

Watching this development get shut down was a spectacle in sociology. Ann Arbor, known for being a compassionate and diverse college town, stood proudly and shouted "we don't want students in our neighborhood." Proving that, whether referring to the young or the old, age-ism is the only remaining openly discussed -ism in our society. I wasn't a fan of the project, didn't have the location, but wow, those open forum discussions were a disappointing look at our citizens.

Jack Eaton

Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

I think you misunderstand the position expressed by the neighbors. We are not opposed to having students in our neighborhood. In fact, the South Maple area has many condominiums and apartments occupied by students. We enjoy having diversity in our area. Conversely, the 42 North project was specifically intended for and would have been marketed to students. A kind of reverse discrimination. The configuration of the apartments -- four bedroom suites where each bedroom is leased independently -- was not suited for family or elderly tenants. Moreover, concentrating student populations increases the likelihood of crime. Students are more often the victims of crime, due to their relative wealth and the newness of independent living. Also, neighborhoods with high percentage student populations experience more alcohol, noise and nuisance crimes. You can witness this in neighborhoods near campus and in the crime reported from other apartment complexes of this kind built by that same developer. Students who live in diverse neighborhoods, like those in the South Maple area, often do so to avoid the very same problems that concerned the rest of our neighborhood.

Jack Eaton

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

The Council's 2008 approval of the second 42 North site plan was based on faulty reasoning. The Council refused to consider the impact of the project on the surrounding area and failed to adequately address potential problems that would likely arise from the destruction of natural wetlands on the property. The City Code provides the standards for approving a site plan in Chapter 57 section 5:122(6). That section provides that the Council must determine that the "development would not cause a public or private nuisance and would not have a detrimental effect on the public health, safety or welfare." Reportedly, the Council received secretive legal advice that the "public health, safety or welfare" standard was unconstitutionally vague. We were told that the legal opinion existed but were never allowed to see that opinion. Oddly, Section 5:122 has not been amended to cure the purported constitutional deficiency. Chapter 57 section 5:167(3) of the City Code provides that where a project will destroy natural wetlands, "mitigation shall be provided on-site" unless there it is impossible to provide on site mitigation then it may be placed on public property. Neither planning staff nor the Planning Commission considered whether the developer's off-site wetland mitigation was necessary, workable or desirable. When the issue reached the Council, it was dismissed as if unimportant. The 15 acre site at 1430 South Maple is at the head waters of three watersheds - Honey Creek, Allen's Creek and Mallett's Creek, on the highest elevation in the City. Any development of this property should be required to address the impact of the project on the existing wetlands and the surrounding watersheds. As we have observed in West Park, elaborately designed concrete storm water systems are prone to failure. Hopefully our leaders will exercise sufficient foresight to avoid future systemic failures. The history of this project and periodic updates can be found on: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

Wonder what happened to the senior citizens project. See <a href=""></a> In that article there was a paragraph that said: &quot;In Ann Arbor, a Louisville, KY, company is eyeing an undeveloped piece of land along South Maple Road between West Liberty Street to the north and Scio Church Road for a 60-bed health care center. Paul Plevyak, of Trilogy Healthcare, said the Washtenaw Health Campus would include assisted living and residential care.&quot; Maybe it was a different parcel.

say it plain

Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 12:38 a.m.

Old people lost all their MONEY (which still does talk lol, it just speaks loudest closer to campus!) in the recent stock markets, housing for them!


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 8:10 p.m.

As one of the resident who opposed this project (on many grounds) one had only to Google the development company's other similar projects in other states to see what massive failures they were: started out as student housing, only to become pass-the-buck management nightmares with students leaving in droves and undesirable tenants moving in (drugs, violence, property destruction, vermin, etc.) I loved how one of developers who came to talk to us was such an overwheening windbag (Read aloud in the fruitiest, most condescending voice you can conjure) &quot;Sorry folks, but these students have MONEY and MONEY talks and we plan to give them what they want! What they want is Plasma TVs, Parking, Tanning beds, and their parents will pay to keep them happy! The sooner you realize this truth, the happier YOU'LL be.&quot; Vile. Good riddance!

Ron Granger

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

That may have been the most stupid student housing project ever. What student would want to live out there?

say it plain

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

No surprise, given the new supersized supply downtown! &quot;Density&quot; wins, but given that only students (isn't that somewhat ironic?!) are able to afford &quot;downtown&quot; rents these days, we have to wonder at what price do these student towers downtown come for the city ultimately? Interesting to see how it all plays out these next decades...