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Posted on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Knight's Market expansion headed to Ann Arbor City Council for approval

By Ryan J. Stanton


Knight's Market has operated for decades at the northeast corner of Miller Avenue and Spring Street in a cozy neighborhood just west of downtown Ann Arbor. Its owners are now looking to expand.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The Ann Arbor Planning Commission voted 6-1 Tuesday night in favor of allowing Knight's Market to expand at the northeast corner of Miller Avenue and Spring Street.

The neighborhood market's request for a rezoning, with plans of converting an adjacent house into a bakery, now goes to the City Council for final approval.

The vote came with Erica Briggs dissenting and Commissioners Eric Mahler and Wendy Woods absent.


Knight's Market, left, and the house immediately adjacent to it that could be converted into a bakery, as viewed from the wrap-around parking lot behind the house.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The Knight family has plans for an addition to the market and expansion, reconfiguration and improvement of the parking lot spanning the three parcels it wants rezoned for commercial use.

Commissioners spent some time discussing concerns about the potential for "commercial creep," a gradual encroachment of business into the residential neighborhood.

"I do see potential to creep up the street," Briggs said, pointing out all three parcels proposed for rezoning are entirely within the 100-year floodplain of the Allen Creek.

"Future planning commissions may look at this spot and say, 'Well, you know, they rezoned that, and we do have a floodplain issue, so what's the harm in going just a little further up the street?' "

The market is asking that three adjoining parcels at the northeast corner of Miller and Spring be rezoned to C1, a local business zoning district.

One of the parcels at 418 Miller Ave. already is partially zoned C1 and partially zoned M1, which is a light industrial district.

The two other parcels immediately north of the market on Spring Street are partially zoned M1 and R2A, which is a two-family dwelling district.

The Knight family, which has owned the market since 1952, plans to convert the house adjacent to the market at 306 Spring Street into a commercial kitchen. The kitchen would be used to make prepared foods that would be sold out of the market and its two restaurants.

Responding to concerns that a national retailer such as a convenience store or fast food chain could redevelop the site in the future if the rezoning goes through, City Planner Alexis DiLeo acknowledged the property could accommodate a building up to 17,812 square feet.

She said that much retail space requires between 58 and 63 off-street parking spaces. It's possible to maximize development on the site, she said, but it would require virtually all off-street parking to be located underground or in a multi-level structure.

Given those considerations, she said, it's probably financially impractical to develop the site to its maximum commercial potential, particularly in a floodplain.

DiLeo pointed out the parking lot for the market, wrapping around the rear yards of the two residentially-zoned lots immediately to the north, has been in place for almost 30 years.

"For the past 30 years, the entire site has been operating as a single mixed-use district, containing both residential and local commercial," she said.

In arriving at a recommendation for the rezoning, DiLeo said, the city's planning staff considered several competing city goals, including one specific to the central planning area that expressly discourages expansion of commercial uses, and others that encourage supporting existing neighborhood businesses and facilitating modest expansions.

"This kind of reminds me of the debate we did have on Zingerman's when they did their expansion," said Commissioner Tony Derezinski. "A number of neighbors raised concerns, but the concerns were not enough to stop the project."

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.


Bob W

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

I agree with the sentiment that this should be allowed, but it does put into perspective how and why the city is challenged so often in terms of development. If the City Council likes you (your project), heck change the zoning. If they don't like you (your project), heck change the zoning. Fickle I call it.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Council hasn't even voted, yet the haters have all decided otherwise. Will they apologize for their scurrilous snarky remarks when it passes? We'd all be better off if people didn't jump to conclusions.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

Well, you have to admit that the A2 City Council has made some pretty hair-brained decisions in recent years, so they probably have earned a bit of the ire that's aimed at them.

John Tucker

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

The Knight family has always been a great part of Ann Arbor. My dad moved to Beechwood Dr. in the Fifties and they were our grocery store throughout my childhood. Their restaurants are both excellent and feel like home. Good luck to all of the Knights, Ann Arbor is lucky to have them.

Honest Abe

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

"...headed to City Council for approval" Of course it is. As with anything, other people always decide your next move for you.

Chip Reed

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

In the old days (before it became Water Hill), there were a bunch of little stores in the neighborhood, including one at Seventh and Brooks. Driving around, one can readily see houses with large display windows that were stores back when.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

This is a no-brainer!! We need more people like the Knights, with a strong Ann Arbor orientation and respect for its culture and well being--building its commercial base. You don't deny something that is absolutely right for the City because of some unimaginable parade of horribles that might otherwise occur because of a future, irresponsible City Council. God Bless Ann Arbor and its future if this is egregiously voted down.

Ron Granger

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

I absolutely *love* Knights' restaurant. I love the food, the ambience, the service. And as a business, I am blown away by how sucessful they are, and how they pack the place. It is a great example of a local family business. I also like how they've kept the market low-key. I hope they can expand in a way that doesn't have much impact on their neighbors. This part is a bit troubling: "Responding to concerns that a national retailer such as a convenience store or fast food chain could redevelop the site in the future if the rezoning goes through, City Planner Alexis DiLeo acknowledged the property could accommodate a building up to 17,812 square feet." That would be really horrible. I'm sure we can all agree that something like that would be completely inappropriate for that residential location. Can you imagine a 7-eleven or mcdonalds at that location? It is unfortunate that there isn't a zoning option that allows a low key expansion like the Knights' but not the open-ended potential of the proprosed designation. Perhaps A2 needs a zoning option to fit that situation?


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

Read a little further along the story and you'll find that in order to build something on the scale of 17,000 sq. ft. they'd have to build underground or multi-level parking, which would make it financially impractical (probably impossible). The Knights have been there for 60 years, so I don't think they're going to invest in the business, then turn around and sell it to the higest bidder. And as far as a national retailer building a 7-eleven or McDonalds, that's just silly. It doesn't fit the business plan of any national chain to build in such a location. Its already zoned M2 (light industrial), so someone could buy the property and build a small industrial building there right now. Would you rather see that?

Ron Granger

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

How about we be realistic instead of pretending those things don't happen? Once you make this zoning change, you can't easily undo it. The property value goes up dramatically with the zoning change (the neighbors' property - not so much). If they sell the property, the new buyer could develop it based on the zoning. If the city re-zoned after a sale, the new owners would likely file suit. Also, the city can't make zoning changes just because we love eating at Knights. If they allow this zoning change, others can sue if they aren't allowed to do similar expansions into residential neighborhoods.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Lets deal with the problems we have now, not a problem we don't have yet and might never have.

Pat Ardner

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

If Zingerman's was permitted to expand, then a "local" family business should also be allowed to expand. They are as well known in Ann Arbor as Zingerman's, and the food is cheaper and much better.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

Please don't forget that there is already a long time bakery across the street - Big City Bakery.


Thu, Jun 21, 2012 : 3 p.m.

I too have been treated like dirt when simply stopping in at Big City Bakery. I have taken my business to businesses who appreciate their clientele.

Mike S

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

Big City has some amazing vegan cookies and cupcakes; if I needed to put on some pounds I'd shop there more often.

say it plain

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 4 p.m.

I would so love to see some competition to Big City Bakery! They have some nice items that will undoubtedly keep them going but *man* do they have some attitude as a side dished up there, phew! I hope this project goes through just because it seems reasonable and desirable for the Knight's folks to be able to expand!


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

Ann Arbor is a "foodie" town, if the baked goods are better (as opposed to weaker), that's where the customers will go.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

Yes competition is good in most cases, especially in large commercial business. But in most cases in small family run shops like on those corners it might be a real business killer to the weaker of the two.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Please don't forget competition is the cornerstone of our economy.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

Why not?


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

Let's see. Its not a city project; its not an unwanted expansion of parking in which construction would close a major thoroughfare through downtown Ann Arbor; its not an art project in which we can re-purpose money designated for street repair. OK, I guess the City Council can now reject it out of hand. However, there is hope that someone on the council will have the sense to approve it since this is the kind of expansion that defines the character of Ann Arbor.

Madeleine Borthwick

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

MG, the city council in all its stunning brilliance just might reject it....


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

We have lived on Spring St, a few houses up from Knight's Market, since 1973. It is truly a "mom and pop" and now "children and grandchildren" store. They are a wonderful anchor for our neighborhood. I'm pleased with this correct vote.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

"The kitchen would be used to make prepared foods that would be sold out of the market and its two restaurants." The Knight family has two restaurants? I know the steakhouse on Dexter Avenue near N.Maple, but where is there a second restaurant?

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Vivienne...the secret is...sitting upstairs...

Jonathan knight

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Knight's Steakhouse and Grill ~ 2125 Horton Road, Jackson, Michigan, 49203 ~ (517) 783-2777 This information for Jackson Restaurant


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

In Jackson, Mi.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

According to the website, there is one in Jackson (Michigan). No help for the wait for tables on Dexter.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

Again, come on City Council -- try supporting a long time family business. Love that little area - used to be two stores and a bakery . don't know why we can't have them again.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 11:58 a.m.

I truly hope that this council has come really "good" sense with approving this request. Knights have been a major part of that area for many, many years. Are a very respected family oriented business and deserve the privilege to expand their business. I for one will be going to the bakery Good luck with the additional business.

Jimmy McNulty

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

So what beef does Erica Briggs have with the Knight family that she wouldn't support their expansion?

Mike S

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Paragraphs 5 - 7.

Madeleine Borthwick

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Yeah Erica, what precisely is your problem?! please explain...if you can....


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

No request to go 30 feet higher than allowed. No brownfield credits. No goofy tax abatements. No ugly monstrous building. No trying to squeeze money out of the city. Oh yeah, The Knight family actually lives and works here. For over 50 years.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

A Mom & Pop store long before it was hip! I hope they get what they want!


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

This will be good for the neighborhood...let them expand.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 11:12 a.m.

"The neighborhood market's request for a rezoning, with plans of converting an adjacent house into a bakery, now goes to the City Council for final approval." Good luck and may God have mercy. Somebody(s) on council somehow are going to think this is bad.