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Posted on Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

New drawings for Blake Transit Center released; AATA hoping to break ground on project in September

By Ryan J. Stanton


The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority released this drawing of what a new, two-story Blake Transit Center might look like in downtown Ann Arbor. The new building is shown hugging Fifth Avenue, instead of Fourth Avenue, with the old YMCA site (now a parking lot) in the background along William Street.

Courtesy of AATA

The demolition and reconstruction of the Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor is expected to start later this year and be finished before Art Fair next July.

That's the timeline Michael Ford, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's CEO, laid out at a Downtown Development Authority meeting on Monday afternoon.


Another look at what's proposed to break ground later this year.

Courtesy of AATA

Ford, unveiling new drawings for the proposed two-story building, said AATA officials are anxious to get started on the project following a public input period.

"We'd like to break ground in September. October at the latest," he said, adding the AATA is on "a very quick timeline" for the project at this point.

Ford said he's expecting the project, which has been talked about for years, to go before the Ann Arbor Planning Commission for approval on July 17. After that, it would go to the Ann Arbor City Council for final consideration on Aug. 20.

The project appears to have broad support from Ann Arbor officials. The City Council agreed last year to sell a strip of land to the AATA for the project.

Construction drawings have been submitted to the city already. Ford said the AATA is working to ensure minimum disruption during construction to the area along Fifth Avenue, directly across from a new 711-space underground parking structure built by the DDA.

The new, two-story Blake Transit Center is proposed to be built in the southeastern corner of the current site with a visual connection to the library across Fifth Avenue.

AATA officials said the foundation and building could support a third and fourth floor if a future development opportunity presented itself. It also has a basement.

It will be barrier-free and fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also will include offices for the getDowntown staff.


The new Blake Transit Center is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification for sustainable building design.

Courtesy of AATA

It's expected to achieve LEED Gold certification for sustainable building design, with a green roof and stormwater collection for gray water use.

The AATA also is investing in an energy efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, as well as energy efficient lighting with advanced lighting controls and LED fixtures. The sidewalks and driveway will be heated for snow and ice removal in the winter.

Making a case for a new transit center, Ford said ridership has increased more than 60 percent since the existing center was built about 25 years ago.

He said more than 5,000 riders a day pass through the Blake Transit Center, coming and going on somewhere around 40 buses an hour. AATA officials expect future frequency and ridership increases as they push for a countywide expansion of transit services.

The price tag for a new Blake Transit Center has been a moving target over the last few years. When it was first proposed, it was estimated at $3.7 million, which was raised to $4 million in 2010, then to $5.5 million in 2011. AATA officials said last September they had received a total of $4.2 million in state and federal grants to put toward 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.


Basic Bob

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Heated sidewalks? How about hiring some young guys with snow shovels? That would be green.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

A wonderful use of tax payer money. Go for it mayor, city leaders and city council! You have the support of the majority of Ann Arbor voters.

David Cahill

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

Would it kill the AATA to build something that looks nice? This thing has the same look and feel as the ill-starred police/courts facility: The illegitimate offspring of an air conditioner and an Edsel.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

I just wish the city, AATA, library and dda would have talked to each other before everybody considered their own individual replacement projects for their own parcels. Working together to create a vision for the area and possibly realize some efficiencies -- that would have been impressive. I do pay a line item on my tax bill for library, AATA, and city and would have been impressed if they worked together efficiently all the while possibly creating a better place rather than independent projects. (consider that the dda is trying to reinvent William when the opportunity to engage some of the important parties in the area is gone)


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

Also consider that the proposals for the library lot were to have had a financial benefit to the city whereas the same is not expected of the library project or the AATA project (and that creating a vibrant 'place' between main and state could have benefits not factored in when 'direct' financial benefit is the benchmark)


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

A 7-eleven store, and a homeless shelter should be available in the building.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

It's not rectangular enough.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

"We'd like to break ground in September. October at the latest," he said, adding the AATA is on "a very quick timeline" for the project at this point. So, 5th is going to be closed AGAIN for this construction? Hahaha good luck with that.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

I hope that council will rethink this design. What is the justification for its height? Why is it so ugly and uninviting, without any charm or imagination? Is it truly practical, given the weather in out city and does it do a good job of shielding passengers outside and of not blocking traffic on 5th and especially 4th avenues? The problem in 4th is especially complex because of the entrance to the public parking lot that is across the street from the current station, creating backups. We all understand that council could not do much about the horrible design of many private building projects going up that are going to have negative impact on the area, such as some of the high rises and especially the Motel 6 duo of garbage construction on 5th avenue, but this is a public project and we need a new design that is less of an abomination. Whatever happened to architects? All we seem to have is hacks ...

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

Still doesn't work. Among the biggest issue is size; it is too small. Another issue, location, the location is does not take full advantage of the strip of no-mans land between Fourth and Fifth.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

Unnecessary. Another perfect example of the government thinking they know how to spend your hard earned money better than you do. In reality AATA ridership is low. What they are very accomplished at is grant writing!


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

Do we really have the numbers of riders to pay for all this? Or are we paying for it with government money (election-time give aways)? Ann Arbor ridership is not large enough to need a 2-story Taj Mahal to the bus system. And what do the merchants do in the neighborhood, who have already had to try to survive the library expansion?


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

No, we won't have the riders to pay for this. What's your point?


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

I was hoping for a comment like this one. Think about ridership for the hi school students. The numbers will surely increase once AAPS dumps this into the AATA system. Can't wait to hear the tax payers scream. Thanks thinker for this comment.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

I hope the Ann Arbor Art Commission get involved with the design! After all, this is Ann Arbor, the city of trees and Art! Don't worry about paying for the new Hieftje Transportation Centre, we will get the "RICH" to pay for it. It does not have to be functionable so long as it looks good! An what about the Homeless? Will it have Accommodations for them? Will it be sexual orientation friendly? Will it be Gender neutral? What about "Low Cost" transport for those who don't have any money? These are some important issues to think about when designing the Hieftje Transportation Centre!

Monica R-W

Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 4:10 a.m.

WTH? Really, is this the best you could come up with? Don't answer because the answer to the question is yes!


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Why call IT a transitcenter , when it is a BUS station? Where and When is a train stopping there? Where are the taxi stands? Where is the Zip-car stands? Where is the parking lot?

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

you must admit "transit-center" sounds a bit snazzier than "bus station"


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Why have it look so boxy and uninviting? Nature has many different colors, shapes and textures. What is so human or natural about glass, steel, concrete or plastic? Why do older buildings have so much more class than what is being built today? Real craftsmanship in America has given way to what is the least expensive and easiest disposed of. Who is Blake????


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

Very good point, look at what Detroit did with the Rosa Parks Transit Center.

John of Saline

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

Why do so many modern public buildings look like palaces?


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

If your one of the politicians who helped get the money for this do you want your name on a ugly building? That wouldn't look very impressive on your website where you can tout how many federal tax dollars you bring to the district.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

I think this building is going to look great! The additional floors are for offices and are not a waste of space for those who think that...The space that is provided for the riders gets very crowded when there is bad weather and would be great to have more space as I sometimes miss my bus and have to wait. People might not have noticed that the whole sidewalk is completely deteriorating also. I am always twisting my ankles because of the wide cracks and can't wait for a smooth run to my next bus. As for the glass awning. It will be tinted to protect us from the sun rays. It was built to let more light in as it is very dark right now and I feel it will be more appealing this way. The sun should not affect us as the glass will be treated. Relax everyone! This will be great once it is finished. This is one step Ann Arbor is making that is actually a great idea. The transit center is very behind the times compared to many cities. Let's give them some support on this one:)

Angry Moderate

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Do you work for the AATA, or for the construction company that's going to build it?


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

OH the Sun please on the Roof SOLARPANEL in case of black-out . winds,no electric etc


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Les Gov raises the question of whether replacing the present Blake Transit Center is necessary even if bus usage has increased 60% during its existence. The design does not appear to increase the number of buses that can exchange passengers which is the primary service of the Blake Transit Center. While the AATA will receive $4.2 million from state and federal grants where will the AATA find an additional $1.3 million needed to complete the new Blake Transit Center? The AATA can save literally hundreds of thousands of dollars by just constructing the Blake Transit Center according to LEED Gold standards without obtaining formal certification. The environmental and energy advantages of LEED construction can still be achieved without wasting important funds on certification. I wonder if the New Transit Authority that is being formed will have offices in the Blake Transit Center and if this expectation provided motivation for new construction.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

They do LEED because the certifications make them feel special, not because they want to save the whales.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

I ride the bus to/from downtown. The place where we need better shelter for those waiting for busses is along the street at the actual bus stops. The current "shelters" along Fourth are a joke. Are all the busses going to load alongside this new building, so people can all wait inside out of the sun, rain, and snow? The bus I take loads on Fourth, not alongside the building. Have some pity on the riders, please, AATA.

Madeleine Borthwick

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

I have no problem with the existing transit center. what I do have a problem with are those Completely Ridiculous "shelters" along 4th ave. that funnel rain down on the seats, said seats are too hot to sit on after the "Eye of Heaven"(Shakespeare) has been beating down on them all day, cold/wet in winter. who designed these things anyway? what kind of drugs are they on?

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

. I've long thought that those shelters are just about the best looking and totally useless (from a functional point of view) bus shelters in the world. I am sure someone picked them for their looks.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

The Feds pay for about 80 percent of this scheme, which goes a long to inoculating AATA about the money. But it almost certainly means another year of snarled traffic through much of downtown resulting from Fifth St. construction closures or delays. And I see no case made for a need. What's wrong with the current bus depot? You might have to bank 100 years of future energy savings to make up for construction usage today.

Krystal Lafferty

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

It looks like the "awning" coming out of the building doesn't provide any sort of sun or weather shelter while waiting for the bus. As a person with limited, light-sensitive vision, I rarely wait inside - I wait close to where my bus will stop - and I rely on some amount of shade to be able to read the bus name. I do understand that they may need more room for offices and driver amenities. My concern is that design not trump function.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

Why do we need a 3 level bus building??? does anyone hang out at the bus station, or just wait for the next bus?? this is dumb and yet another total waste of money by the idiots in city hall... its not an art gallery! save some coin and use cinder blocks...


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

Ryan, the facts aren't important when people want to rant. You know that!

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

It's two stories, plus a basement, for the record.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

Yes, the homeless hang out in the bus building.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Multiple levels would support elevated mass transit as well as walking tunnels ala MSP. Plus, offices and gathering/food areas can be in the upper level. A wise use of space is important in downtown areas.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 11:17 a.m.

Wow how nice....soooo what about Ypsi transit over here? We're AATA to...but there isn't even much of an area inside to sit at, if anything at all. I love that Ann Arbor gets all this improvement and extra bus lines, but nearly everyone there has a car. I can assure you, there are quite a few more people here in Ypsi who would love to have more busses and more lines. Oh wait, we arn't the ones rolling in cash. My bad.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

The sad truth of it is that richer communities get nicer stuff, including transportation centers. I too wish the bus service in Ypsilanti could be improved but as a community, Ypsilanti just can't afford the same sort of service Ann Arbor gets. That is especially true with the township.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

I so totally agree. No place to sit and really could use a make over. We sure could use something nice.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Les Gov

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 10:54 a.m.

"AATA officials are anxious to get started on the project following a public input period."....what a joke. The pubic doesn't want this! Yet Ford plans to buy himself a kingdom with taxpayer money! I use the Blake twice a day, every day. You can always get a seat inside the Blake. There is rarely anyone in line at the ticket counter. There is plenty of room to stand and wait for the bus. What is real funny...."It's expected to achieve LEED Gold certification for sustainable building design".....what is the point of "sustainable building" when you tear down buildings that are only 25 years old? And the City of AA calls itself "Green"??!!


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

LEED Gold Certification??? Seriously? It's a bus station belching diesel exhaust! How big of a carbon footprint does a bus leave when it drives around town all day with three passengers on it? I don't care if its burning vegetable oil.


Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

Have you even read any of the proposals?? Read my comment...

Madeleine Borthwick

Tue, Jul 3, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Les Gov.....are you sure you know what the "pubic" wants.........?