You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 6:04 a.m.

New tax-capturing authority proposed to facilitate major redevelopment along Washtenaw Avenue

By Ryan J. Stanton

Local officials have big hopes for redeveloping Washtenaw Avenue in the coming years and now say a special tax-capturing improvement zone may be the way to go.

During a working session of the Ann Arbor City Council on Monday, city officials received an update on the Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue corridor study project.

Anya Dale, project manager for the Washtenaw County Economic Development & Energy Department, has taken a lead role on the initiative that's now two years in the works.


Local officials are proposing the creation of a corridor improvement authority that would collect taxes in a specified district along Washtenaw Avenue to make improvements along the corridor between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

Lon Horwedel |

Dale told council members that officials involved in the project are putting final touches on a formal recommendation to create a corridor improvement authority — a body that would oversee improvements along the five-mile stretch of Washtenaw Avenue from Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor to the water tower in Ypsilanti.

Under the Corridor Improvement Authority Act of 2005, local municipalities are allowed to set up authorities that use tax-increment financing to make capital improvements within an established commercial district. The act allows communities that already have downtown development authorities to extend similar benefits to aging commercial corridors.

"The authority," Dale said, "has the ability to acquire and improve property, improve aesthetics, really market the corridor as one unified area, they can do much more to improve the transportation system than probably the individual communities could separately, and again they have more opportunity for securing and leveraging funding."

Washtenaw Avenue is considered the primary transportation corridor linking Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, traversing Pittsfield and Ypsilanti townships. All four municipalities have been in talks for the past two years about ways to facilitate redevelopment of the corridor.

In addition to being considered the most heavily congested traffic route in the county, Dale said Washtenaw Avenue has its share of other challenges: an incomplete and failing sidewalk network, limited pedestrian crossings, no bike facilities, high vehicle crash rates, and high vacancy rates in strip malls and properties that line the corridor.

"The fact that there is this much traffic really should be seen as a plus for the businesses along the corridor," she said.

Dale said past planning practices along the corridor have resulted in a sprawling, auto-centric development pattern. She said there's currently more than 100 acres of underutilized land with potential for infill and redevelopment.

The vision for Washtenaw Avenue is a corridor lined with transit-oriented development that enhances quality of life, stimulates the economy and improves mobility. The vision also includes more dense residential housing, a variety of retail and increased walkability.

"Unfortunately, the Washtenaw Avenue that we all know doesn't really have those things readily available to us," Dale said. "We know that there's a ton of congestion. The setbacks and sort of the built environment really doesn't lend itself well to walking. It's not very well integrated through neighborhoods around it, and there's a pretty significant lack of transportation options — at least sort of safe ones."

Dale said a goal is to reduce setbacks and bring buildings closer to Washtenaw Avenue, getting rid of vast seas of empty parking lots.


Anya Dale

"We can start making a more walkable environment, having sort of two- or three-story buildings, mixed-use buildings, increasing height, allowing more density," she said. "And this really aligns with the area, height and placement standards."

An action team of residents and leaders from local government, business and other interested groups has been working on the vision for Washtenaw Avenue. Its work has been complemented by a smaller technical committee on which City Council Member Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward, serves as a member.

Derezinski is championing the idea of a corridor improvement authority.

"When we are cooperating with four communities, the enhancement of our ability to get monies and grants for this is incredibly increased," Derezinski said. "And that's one of the real incentives, I think, for collaboration."

Dale said creating a corridor improvement authority will require buy-in from all four municipalities. She said most of the planning needed to create the authority has been done over the last two years. Officials are finalizing an official strategy this month that lays out transportation and land use recommendations.

"There's not a lot more that would need to be done if this is something that the communities decide to move forward with, which is definitely the recommendation," Dale said.

Dale said 16 corridor improvement authorities exist in Michigan, and another five are in the works. One of them is Michigan Avenue, a 3.5-mile corridor that crosses three jurisdictions and connects downtown Lansing and East Lansing.

The revitalization project is the result of a partnership between East Lansing, Lansing, Lansing Township and Michigan State University.

Financing options available to corridor improvement authorities include tax-increment financing, sale of bonds and ability to levy special assessments.

Through tax-increment financing, future tax growth along the corridor would be captured by the authority to implement improvements, similar to how a DDA operates.

"It has these increased benefits of funding opportunities using tax-increment financing, levying special assessments, receiving grants and charitable donations," Dale said, adding the money netted could be used to match federal transportation dollars.

Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, wondered if there potentially could be a situation where tax revenues captured from one jurisdiction are used by the authority to make improvements along the corridor in another jurisdiction. Dale said the cities and townships have the option of setting it up so that wouldn't be the case.

Click here to learn more about corridor improvement authorities

Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, said when the formal recommendation comes back to council, it would be useful to have a better understanding of the opportunity costs.

Dale noted on Monday there would be no loss to existing tax revenue.

"It's only gathering the increase," she said of the tax-increment financing option. "Some communities decide to gather 100 percent of the increase, some communities decide to gather 50 percent of the increase. You can lay it out a million different ways."

Kunselman questioned whether there's interest from developers in the corridor. Derezinski said he's seen interest in the public sessions he attended.

"We had a number of people and businesses along that corridor, and some of the developers, that were very interested in what was going on with a lot of the developable land within the city of Ann Arbor," he said. "But then also in Pittsfield Township, in particular where that Kmart is. That's just ripe for something really big to happen."

The Kmart is just inside Ypsilanti Township; Golfside Road is the dividing line between Pittsfield and Ypsilanti townships along Washtenaw Avenue.

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said she hopes the four municipalities can come to an agreement on a plan. She recalled seeing an early master plan for the Washtenaw Avenue corridor sometime around 1980 that never went anywhere.

"Back when that early plan was designed, the idea was that the Washtenaw corridor would be this amazing parkway — all green and beautiful," she said. "This is, of course, a different vision. But the reason it never materialized, I was told, is because of the four jurisdictions — that though they all agreed on this plan, didn't implement it. Hopefully times have changed and the four jurisdictions will implement a plan that they all agree on."

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



Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 9:27 p.m.

Capturing the taxes places greater burden on homeowners to pay ever increasing amounts for essential services. How many foreclosures is this corridor worth? How much of the burden will be placed on township residents who live far from this corridor and avoid it at all cost? We are taxed enough already!

Don Wenzel

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 7:50 a.m.

I'll add my voice to those who feel this is a good idea. I've lived in Ypsilanti and Pittsfield Township for over 20 years. During that time, I've seen improvement in the the Washtenaw corridor being discussed. The new Arborland and Whole Foods area is an improvement over what was there before. There is increased foot traffic there. There have also been improvements in some areas of east of 23, the Asian market and large Chinese restaurant next door, significant among them. But there are things that could be done that would be facilitated by this proposal, some of them basic. There are significant stretches along Washtenaw that have no sidewalk. Cohesive planning and execution along the entire strip for various improvements is a forward thinking idea, one that doesn't happen nearly enough in urban planning and I welcome it here. Making the area more inviting overall, including to pedestrians will add to the area's value. To those who worry about how the money would be used, I suggest you stay involved and have a voice in the process. I plan to.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 1:18 a.m.

Just a note: I am often around the Washtenaw / Huron Parkway intersection and have loved how, in recent years, there are sooo many pedestrians. The numbers just slowly increased until one day last summer I noticed several pedestrians on each and every corner. It was great! And a little amazing considering the amount of traffic buzzing around them. On a personal level, I walked from Collex to McDonald's the other day and found it to be a very pleasant walk. haha! Seriously, it wasn't much of a walk, but that McDonald's has that nice outdoor seating, and, there is a little greenery and stream between the two businesses. I could use more of that.

Stephen Landes

Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 7:55 p.m.

@Vivienne Armentrout If I can't get you started on the Library Lot how are we going to have fun with this? :)

mike from saline

Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 7:36 p.m.

Rusty Shackleford is right! "Tax capturing" doesn't sound very sexy, now does it? How's about "revenue harvesting" instead? I Like it!!


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 12:14 a.m.

Did I say something wrong?

Peter Eckstein

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 11:46 p.m.

I can't wait for an opportunity to walk down Washtenaw on my way to US 23. Then I can hitchhike the rest of the way to Lansing or Detroit and reduce congestion on two roads in one trip.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 11:12 p.m.

YpsiLivin's comment: "The biggest improvement anyone could possibly make to Washtenaw would be to widen it". I remember when Washtenaw was only THREE lanes and it certainly wasn't a race track like it is today. But then, college students "back then" didn't have cars...we rode bikes or walked every where we needed to go. Veracity - great comment - and so true, so true. This whole idea/comcept sounds to me like some people are doing nothing more than creating a job for themselves and "empire building".


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 9:49 p.m.

Mr. Vielmetti: Read MCL 125.2885; it contains the following: (2) The municipality may at the request of the authority borrow money and issue its notes under the revised municipal finance act, 2001 PA 34, MCL 141.2101 to 141.2821, in anticipation of collection of the ad valorem tax authorized in this section. The trouble is, there IS NO ad valorem tax authorized in this section. This statute is sloppily written. The subsection above was simply a cut-and-paste from the DDA act, which DOES have the ability to levy a tax. And that just skims the surface. (BTW, a BIZ has no ability to use TIF.) Mr. Shackleford advocates for language that obfuscates because clarity elicits anger. Interesting, that, because the term, "tax-increment financing" is nothing more than statutory permission to take other jurisdictions' revenue. Luckily, the CIA Act allows the jurisdictions to opt out. The officials of any county, library, park authority, community college, etc. that do not opt out shirk their fiduciary responsibility to those who pay taxes supporting those institutions. They are sitting idly by while their tax bases are permanently eroded, when a simple resolution could prevent it. The descriptions that say TIF is not a tax increase are true, but incomplete. What happens in TIF districts everywhere is that the revenue they steal doesn't go to support the services you pay the taxes for. If you want to maintain those services, everyone's taxes go up. If not, you get less in services. "But it's only on the increase in value!" they say. "It's money you weren't getting before!" Well, while the tax revenue goes up 3%, and the price of services goes up 3%, revenue collection goes up only 2.5%, because the TIFs suck off part of the growth. They love to claim the growth was "caused" by their activities, but studies of SEV growth are practically unanimous statewide: when the overall values are up, TIF district values are up. When overall values are down, TIF district values are down. You should hear the stories out of Lansing--that's right, the town whose hyped-up CIA is trumpeted in the story--and how the mayor-cum-governor uses TIF to build the downtown. He has, but again, it's only part of the story. Services in the rest of the city have plummeted. Grass isn't cut, roads aren't plowed. While he brags about all the jobs he "created" in the TIF, a closer look reveals the businesses that locate there are, in large part, just transplants from other parts of the city--often just other parts of the TIF district!--who get a shiny new building built with other peoples' money. Don't forget, also, that these are built on a foundation of falsehood. They are sold as a 20- or 30-year plan. What happens more than 95% of the time statewide, according to the state treasury department, is that the district is renewed for another 20 or 30 years when it expires, and the growth that was characterized by the TIFs as an "investment" by the other jurisdiction to increase their tax base, never bears fruit because the increase in the tax base is NEVER returned to their tax rolls. Read the enabling legislation of all the TIF authorities. They don't give them the power to do anything cities can't do already except one--take other jurisdictions' revenue. The unelected bureaucrats like Dale love to say the people want this. Maybe, but let's test the hypothesis: instead of allowing TIF capture, put a millage dedicated to economic development in commercial areas on the ballot. The results of that election will be a true indicator of how much people want their taxes directed to salaries of "Main Street coordinators" and "CIA executive directors" instead of parks, libraries, schools and city services. The bottom line is, people love these things proportionately to how much they can get other people to pay for them. When the spigot is turned off, or worse, the money has to come from their own pockets, their passion miraculously wanes. If readers want CIAs based on a complete understanding that the benefits TIF plans generate are offset by additional costs often in excess of benefits, and that the benefits sold are often moronic intangible ones like "urban cooperation," "walkability" and "sense of place" that have quantities attached to them which can be neither proven or disproven, fine. Don't let your support be a product of city councils' dog-and-pony show, presented by complicit media whose overriding goal seems to be a desire to be perceived as an agent for positive change.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 9 p.m.

@Stephen, what happened was that the county board of commissioners canceled the county planning department and just a few planners were transferred to the new department of economic development and energy. She was a county planner and probably started the Washtenaw project before all the changes were made. Don't get me started on the Library Lot!

Stephen Landes

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:48 p.m.

@ Vivienne I saw Anya's title, but never heard of this office and couldn't tell if it was something official or some new organization specific to the effort. I am skeptical of "staff" in all our local/county agencies as we seem to be incredibly screwed up -- no plan for things and we "plan" as we go (the new parking garage is a fine example as we either have no idea what is going on top of it or we're being lied to). In this day of electronic communications, web sites, online drawings, etc, we should have a much more open and aggressive publication of planning materials and actions. That step alone might improve public confidence in government functions.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:38 p.m.

@Edward Vielmetti: thanks for the reference. I haven't toiled through it yet though I was cheered to see the reference to historic preservation in the title. At one time it seems to me one could find staff summaries of these things written in the vernacular. @Stephen Landes: Anya Dale is a county employee - a planner by training and experience. Her job title was in the article.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:14 p.m.

One other thing. The State needs to be involved at US 23. Those exits/entrances should be made similar to those at 94 & Telegraph and M-59 & 23. That would allow foot and bike trafffic, and even people with disabilities to traverse that area. The highway basically cuts any type of flow and really sections it off.As any one knows this phenomenon contributed to the demise of Detroit, seperating the neighborhoods physically when the highways came through. You don't have this problem on Packard where there are not any entrances/exits.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:08 p.m.

We need to find out the names of all the politicians in favor of this and VOTE THEM OUT! There are people everywhere complaining about higher taxes and government waste. People are working for low wage jobs (if they have one) and struggling to make ends meet--in a state that has traditionally held the highest unemployment rate. Now they want to raise our taxes more to develop some BS plan that will likely take years to even clear. People, start speaking up and stop the bully that is stealing your lunch money!


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:01 p.m.

@Speechless, On turning the vacant property on the south side of Washtenaw near Platt into a park... no can do. It's privately owned property, having recently been purchased from Comerica by Campus Realty and the North Shore Property Group.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:08 p.m.

A Joint planning group of four communities -- yes to that. Another dedicated pot of money? Absolutely not! How did this group come into being? Who is Anya Dale: background, experience, qualifications? Who is paying for her now? Seems like a group that has already been formed and has hired someone is well on its way to taking control of another chunk of OUR tax money. Remember: the tax money doesn't belong to the city to distribute or chunk out as it feels. Tax money is the money of the citizen taxpayers of this city and the other three communities involved. Taking the step of moving control farther from the citizen tax payers is not a good idea.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 6:34 p.m.

If taxes are to be "captured" to fund any new projects or public works along Washtenaw — east of java (Bearclaw) — I'd prefer to apply them toward purchasing and converting the unused, essentially fallow acreage on the south side near Huron Parkway into parkland & recreation space. Improved sidewalks and/or bike lanes can also be part of a package for this stretch. Adding a big chunk of green to a high-visibility gateway into our city would further help balance the suburban-style development that has long cluttered much of the Washtenaw corridor, Arbor-Ypsi's longtime 'heartburn row.' In general, I favor the idea of directing greater density toward downtown zones, while allowing the outer city neighborhoods to increase green areas. Almost the entire length on the south side of Washtenaw from Platt on over almost to Huron Parkway could undergo such renewal and be aesthetically transformed into a large extension for County Farm Park. Situated between the existing park and the long-vacant commercial sites to its east is only the county recreation center, making for an almost contiguous green space. The "captured" taxes could also be applied to fund maintenance for a new park. (And nearby, directly across from Platt on Washtenaw is a small, aging commercial site, adjacent to a neighborhood, that might additionally be acquired at some point and converted to open park space.) Keep in mind that the Borders and Barnes & Noble operations on the north side of the street are both in serious danger of going away in coming years, as large scale, bricks & mortar bookstores continue down their evolutionary path to commercial dinosaur-hood. It's more sensible to plan for the eventual replacement for these major anchor stores, rather than build entire new malls across the street. There's also little indication that consumer spending will pick up substantially anytime soon, and most of the upper Midwest could fall victim to a long funk similar to what's happening in Japan's economy.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 6:04 p.m.

@Rusty Shackelford The author of this article did not make up the phrases "tax capture" and "tax capturing authority." Do a Google search to enlighten yourself about these additions to the lexicon.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 5:59 p.m.

More loose-screw, crack-pot, thinking from the same losers in Hieftje Hall who have brought you crumbling infrastructure and declining basic services while they pursue financially irresponsible, "if we build it they will come" pet projects. I wonder what it will take for area voters to wake-up and purge local government of these dreamer-politicos/thieves?! If developers want to redevelop Washtenaw, let them proceed with their own money. If not, it can sit there. Don't pick my pocket to do it.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 4:45 p.m.

"limited pedestrian crossings, no bike facilities, high vehicle crash rates" Please explain how "high vehicle crash rates" are affected by an increase of "pedestrian crossings" and "bike facilities".


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

This is the usual arch-liberal strategy of surtaxing excuse me "capturing" revenue in order to build businesses. As if taxes weren't high enough already in Ann Arbor. did it ever pass through City Council Members' anti-chamber of the brain that by lowering taxes perhaps they may attract more businesses???


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 3:23 p.m.

I just hope a boulevard like the giant stretches of Jackson Rd. doesn't go in on Washtenaw. I find few things more annoying than a boulevard left turn...

rusty shackelford

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 2:52 p.m.

It's interesting how easily unintelligent people are persuaded by word choice. Call something a "tax-capturing authority" and all the proverbial pitchforks and torches come out. If Stanton had referred to it as a "business promotion plan" or something equally accurate yet more innocuous-sounding, I'm sure it wouldn't have received this kind of ire.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 2:51 p.m.

Why create another bureaucracy? We already have local govt.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 2:39 p.m.

Anya Dale said in her presentation last night that Washtenaw Avenue consistently has had the highest ridership among all AATA bus routes for the last 30 years. Citing numbers from the 2000 Census (which she argued are probably higher today), she said more than 700 people per day within the study area (a quarter-mile buffer on either side of Washtenaw) use public transit regularly to get to work, and more than 550 people per day there bike or walk to work. On a loosely related note, I'll tell you that the AATA and DDA met on Aug. 31 and talked about the following topics of overlapping interest: 1. Countywide transit planning (status of efforts and how the DDA can assist AATA in its planning efforts) 2. Ypsi/A2 transit service enhancements (express bus, evening service, or weekend service, possible funding partners) 3. Bringing back a downtown circulator 4. South Fourth Ave (how to make the block even more of an intermodal transportation center e.g. build out the first floor of the Fourth and William structure for a new getDowntown office) 5. Blake Transit Center (status of design)

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 2:11 p.m.

I have added a link in the first paragraph to a PDF file showing the four options that have been considered for improving the Washtenaw Avenue corridor. At the top of the list is the corridor improvement authority, which the graphic to the right explains would allow for greater opportunities for implementation and funding but requires more commitment from the four jurisdictions. The other three options listed are the formation of a Joint Planning Commission, tackling the situation through intergovernmental agreements, or just coordinating on specific single issues but going about implementing them separately.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 1:26 p.m.

We do not have the current tax receipts nor the future tax receipts to properly maintain the city's current infrastructure (ie: Stadium Bridge, streets, water/sewer lines, parks etc.) so why add to the fiscal problem? Also, unlike Plymouth Rd. and Geddes Rd., there does not appear to be enough buildable land for a park and ride lot at Washtenaw & 23 (someone please correct me if I am wrong), so all the out of town commuter traffic will remain.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 1:12 p.m.

In my earlier comment, I said that the new authority would not have anything to do directly with transportation. Then I read the article again in which Ms. Dale said that they could use the money raised as matching money for transportation. I'm guessing that this might be for a streetcar or some other special transit. Another use could be as a "partner" with the AATA (though why the AATA wouldn't just be the one to apply for federal funds, I can't guess). I'd hate to see a group compete in providing transit. We need a comprehensive system. As with so many current local issues, there is a gap here between the vision (very nice) and the implementation (questionable). This proposal would create a new unit of government, essentially not accountable to residents and taxpayers. (I assume that the board would be appointed by all four existing jurisdictions.) This part was scary: "Financing options available to corridor improvement authorities include tax-increment financing, sale of bonds and ability to levy special assessments." The idea of such a new authority selling bonds and levying special assessments to, as Ms. Dale says, "leverage" development should be examined carefully. This could result in excess debt (not covered by revenue) being issued, with uncertain consequences. (Note that any TIF income would not be available until buildings are actually occupied, but expenses would have been incurred years before that.)


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 12:46 p.m.

Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue would have been a great idea - about 30 years ago. This ugly stretch of suburban roadway is not going to be fixed, period. The group should move on to something smaller that has a hope of success. Let Ann Arbor start from Arborland and West. Let Yspi deal with the Water Tower to Hewitt. Those are the most 'appealing' areas along the stretch. Very Ugly in the Pittsfield and Ypsi Township portions - come to think of it, the parts that are in the townships, where taxes are low and sprawl was encouraged are the ugliest parts. Coincidence?


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.

The biggest improvement anyone could possibly make to Washtenaw would be to widen it. The road already carries all of the traffic it possibly can, and moving the setbacks up just means that Washtenaw will never be "right-sized" to accommodate the traffic flow. (Even if we had flawless public transportation that people were dying to use, Washtenaw's just not wide enough from UM to US-23.) The cities/townships involved ALREADY control the planning for this stretch of road. The creation of this "corridor improvement authority" has the vague stink of "Stop me before I kill again!" If these municipalities want a better Washtenaw Avenue, they already have all the power they need to stop approving projects that don't improve Washtenaw and start approving only the ones that do. (Sheesh!)


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.

>> I can't say that I've seen muddy boot prints down the whole length of Washtenaw in February That's because businesses clean their walks, and no sooner do they finish than the plows bury the sidewalks. Sometimes you just can't retrofit something that was never intended to be anything other than it is.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 12:20 p.m.

New taxes always seem to have majority support in A2; although only a fraction of the voters end up paying for them. This is even worse. The Arlington retail site will be developed when the economy recovers. Imposing new taxes on these businesses at this time is unwise. I've walked it's length many times as a kid and I can tell you that you are not going to transform Washtenaw into something fundamentally different no matter how much money you throw at it. Few people have any interest in walking underneath the expressway, that's for sure. Look at 2:48 on the youtube video. Is that what they are planning for Arborland or other strip malls? With more buidings right on Washtenaw? Traffic is *%&#^ there already. Oh, and Pittsfield Township will never have a real "downtown" of it's own as much as its residents might pine for one.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

I'm with treetowncartel on this one. Open the area to foot and bicycle traffic and you make the corridor more economically attractive. I, myself, have walked from Arborland to Ypsilanti and it was very unpleasant. A wider path aka. sidewalk would be smart.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 11:45 a.m.

This project will create yet another "bucket" of funding. The city will then whine that they do not have enough money to fund essential services. Not to worry. Hizzoner will be able to ride his bike, or take a bus and tell us how swell things are. That's the important thing. I also noticed that in the video none of the computer generated "after" images showed anyone walking or riding their bike through a foot of snow. Is "Transit Oriented Development" compatible with a Michigan Winter? Were any of the "after" images not generated by a computer?


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 11:14 a.m.

I think this is a good idea and I am encouraged people are considering it. I'm not certain, but isn't there a large concentration of apartment complexes near the Washtenaw-Carpenter Rd. intersection region? I'm talking literally thousands of residents in apartments alone. Many of these folks may not have a vehicle to start with, so making it easier and safer for them to transit to businesses up and down Washtenaw should improve the business climate in this area as well as promote lower traffic congestion.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 11:10 a.m.

I like the IDEA of this. But in reality, let's see--I hop on the bus to Arborland and shop, and after hitting Bed Bath, Old Navy, Borders, I stagger to the bus stop to haul all my stuff home? Crossing Washtenaw to do it? Not likely. I'll drive my car. If we want to encourage pedestrian-friendly shopping and living, then we need to develop DOWNTOWN, not some strip-mall heavy road out of town. We will be increasing urban sprawl and inadvertently encouraging more traffic. Plus, the last thing Ann Arbor needs is another group "capturing" tax dollars. The city captures enough of my money as it is.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 10:23 a.m.

@Brad "Who is walking to where on Washtenaw between Huron Pkwy and Arborland? There just doesn't seem to be that much residential property in that area, which is fine..." Have you ever gone south of Washtenaw by Arborland? There are lots of homes there. And if you knew about it you would know that many of these people walk to the places on Washtenaw. We walk to Whole Foods, Hillers, Borders/Barnes and Nobles, our bank, bike to Trader Joes. I love that I can walk to these places. I for one would love for Washtenaw Ave to be more accessible (safer) for the pedestrian and the bicycle and definitely be more attractive. Why does it always seem people just think the only places for walking/biking are downtown? This is a major road for Ann Arbor/Ypsi. And this needs to happen!


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 10:19 a.m.

I wonder what the business owner's on Washtenaw have to say about this. They have endured year after year of road construction hurting their traffic flow; inadequate sewage, vagrants living in the nearby woods badgering patrons and rumaging through refuse containers, not to mention repeated power outages forcing their businesses to close. I know that power outages aren't really tax-related, but I bet if you asked anyone of those that have survived, they would just like to get what they are already paying for, but aren't getting. Before improving anything in this area, it would be nice to finish whatever the last "improvements" that were put in place.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

Veracity says it so well. I also refer you to Paula Gardner's recent excellent column that makes the point - development should be market-driven. One thing not explained here is that the proposed authority would not have anything directly to do with the transportation piece. Currently that would be the job of AATA. Anya Dale was recently appointed to that board and is doubtless heavily involved with the proposal to extend service to Ypsilanti with funding from a "partnership" (aka deep pockets) including the Ann Arbor DDA and the University of Michigan. (The City and Township of Ypsilanti have had trouble paying for the service.) AATA has been subsidizing various commuter service outreach experiments, but unless or until a county-wide transportation millage is passed, it will be difficult to find money for the proposed transportation enhancements for the Washtenaw Corridor.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

All that is really needed is a contiguous very large path/sidewalk from the Water tower in Ypsi to Brockman just past Tappan junior high. The path should be able to accomodate bike and foot traffic simultaeonusly, and get you under under or over US 23 wiothout having to go toe to toe with the on and off ramp traffic. Maybe they could funnel it down the miffle of the road from Carpenter to Arborlan. It is just amazing that they can build a nice big path out Platt that dead ends at Michigan Ave, and then a bike path over 23 at Geddes. BTW, I can't wait to see the usage the one over 23 gets. However, they can't build a path between the two biggest cities on the most heavily travled road in the county?


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 9:40 a.m.

Let's see here... "Everybody complains, but nobody does anything about it." It's a common refrain to recognized problems. So, here we have the beginnings of an organization that wants to bring together 4 communities to improve the region for everyone. OK, so far, so good. They're identifying the concerns and problems that have been building for 40 years along the Washtenaw Ave corridor and are making suggestions and laying a foundation to prepare this area for the next 50 years. OK, sounds good, too. Then we start talking about $$$$ to implement the process and every naysayer in the county comes out of the woodwork. Maybe Lounsbury is right and everyone really prefers a congested, deteriorating corridor, with no vision for the future and no hope of improvement. Bold vision, distinctive ideas, community/private sector cooperation and enthusiastic support is essential to bring the corridor to its potential. If we allow the naysayers to run things, nothing great will be accomplished.

Jay Allen

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 9:36 a.m.

This is killing me over here. As I type this there are 214 votes. Currently it is 58 for, 31 against, and 9 riding the fence. There are 19 comments with all but TWO people bashing it. The pole and the voices do not coincide. The people saying Washtenaw is filled with fast food joints, car friendly, traffic, blah-blah-blah, really? Isn't this "proposed" project going to transpose what Washtenaw is now? Or am I totally retarded and cannot read? This group would "re-design" Washtenaw and it would look totally different. Well that is the way I read it. The person who brought up set back variance, this is NOTHING new. Most set backs were from the 1950's and 1960's when construction first started. The roads were infantile and set backs were established to facilitate road expansion. Now that the road is established and is NOT going to expand, many times set backs are adjusted. This is a case of change and people are typically resistant to change. Change is regards to Washtenaw Avenue and change because folks just do not READ the articles. They skim over stuff and then go off w/o READING and then processing what is in front of them. Now, as far as the money goes, this is where I begin to listen. A few have commented on money and there is not enough information to formulate a definitive conclusion. We can speculate at best at this point. As of RIGHT now, I am for this. However, if the money is not appropriated as this article lays out, I reserve the right to change my mind accordingly.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

DO NOT BE DECEIVED: The "Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue corridor" study project is nothing more than a ploy to obtain public financing for private development. If this is not the case then developers would have already sought City approval for developing the properties at Washtenaw and Platt and across from Arborland Mall which are featured in the planned development video presentation at the end of this article. The fact is that no demand exists for more mixed commercial-residential development. Furthermore, obtaining financing for speculative projects is difficult in this recessionary environment. Having the City back the financial investment may assist developers in obtaining funding. This situation is similar to the Valiant and Acquest proposals for a hotel/conference center next to the downtown library which relies on the City floating a $8 million bond issue. And nothing in the Washtenaw Corridor plan will improve traffic flow. In fact, the diagrams in the video actually show replacement of a center lane with a median of trees. I have seen another proposal for a trolley running down the center of Washtenaw Avenue which again eliminates one lane for traffic. These "improvements" will effectually narrow Washtenaw Avenue for traffic and will increase congestion. In addition, the mixed use projects shown in the video will increase traffic feeding in and out of the developments, adding to traffic congestion along Washtenaw Avenue. Another objective of the Washtenaw corridor plan is to facilitate pedestrians crossing Washtenaw Avenue. One option for helping pedestrians involves constructing more cross-walks which will require additional traffic lights and thus will disrupt traffic flow along Washtenaw Avenue. Or, pedestrian overpasses can be built which will be unsightly and not easily used by people carrying things or by the disabled. Creating tunnels across the street will work but will be unacceptably expensive. Again, if developing the properties along Washtenaw Avenue is so desirable why do they lay fallow? Certainly, many commercial enterprises exist on both sides of Washtenaw Avenue so the entire length of Washtenaw Avenue is not barren. If developers can't build without financial assistance from the City then the proposals and the timing are wrong.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:54 a.m.

Washtenaw Avenue from the Ypsilanti Water Tower to Hewitt Rd includes beautiful residential homes and a mix of retail businesses. Contrary to that, when walking or biking in this area, it would seem people just dont belong. Cars often exceed the posted speed limit and rarely yield to pedestrians when crossing its 5 lanes. Without continuous sidewalks and curb cuts, navigating the area by walking is impossible during the winter months and for the physically challenged, its a year round issue. There are no bike lanes despite the road having the required width to support lanes, and the businesses could add bike hoops for bike parking. This is the likely reason why motorized traffic views the so area coldly; speeding through it and dont get in my way attitude.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:30 a.m.

I'm also for it. I'd rather see Washtenaw Avenue redeveloped than continue to extend the Jackson Road boulevard through empty land in Scio Township. While Washtenaw may have been sprawl when it was first developed, at this point it's a major built-up thoroughfare that sits right between two cities only a short distance apart that has become an aging business district. The latter is pure build-it-and-they-will-come-sprawl leading into the countryside. All the comments about how "no one would walk or bike here" are a self-fulfilling prophecy in my mind. If there were decent bike lanes and traffic-calming measures, plenty of people would bike it, not drive. It would also be a major commuter route for bike commuters between AA and Ypsi. If there were decent pedestrian facilities, bus stops, and ways to cross the road, then plenty of people (many who don't own cars) would feel comfortable taking the bus and walking. Sidewalks are not only needed in residential areas or on the assumption that someone is walking from one end to the other. They serve plenty of function for short walks between stores, crosswalks, and bus stops. When you go to Main Street in AA, you park once and walk around. Almost no one would do that on Washtenaw Avenue today, but that's because of how carelessly it was developed, not because its against the laws of physics. Careful planning and patience could easily lead it being a great business district. There are plenty of aging "Washtenaw Avenues" throughout the country. Those that thrive are the ones that are reinvented by forward-looking regions. The ones that turn into wasteland are the ones that are ignored. I for one am glad that the Michigan legislature (hardly a bunch of liberals) saw fit to encourage exactly this sort of redevelopment.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:22 a.m.

I agree with Sallyxyz! Because the AATA buues are on longer allowed in the parking of Arborland And there people walking out between Bell Tire crossing the street for the buses. There in a cross walk at the light, the space betwee is so far when you carry bags from the stores, you are just tired when you get to the street. Let the buses back in the lot to save a life on Washtenaw! That comes for the wheel chair people also,they need out!!! They do not drive, so why drive over them to cross a stret?


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:17 a.m.

I know I am in the minority but I like development and more business in the area. I like it when people get rich and spend THEIR Money on things they want to. Build baby build!


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:16 a.m.

I used to take the bus to Borders all the time (until they removed the bus station from Arborland, now I ride down to Barnes and Noble) The difference between driving and bussing is Usable Time, ie in the car you are just driving and doing nothing that benefits yourself, and on the bus you can spend it doing whatever you want (homework or office work as I have, listening to podcasts and knitting as my wife does) There are LOTS of residents all along this corridor who SHOULD have the ability to not drive, same as we do downtown Ypsi and A2. It is one of the major business corridors for Pittsfield Township, it SHOULD look more like a downtown area than it does.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 8:15 a.m.

A couple of points, questions really. 1. The millage rates are very different in the 4 jurisdictions. I think the Ypsilanti City millage rate is the highest of all, followed by Ann Arbor. The other two are townships with much lower millage rates. This presents another issue in how to "spread the wealth". 2. Where will the population come from to feed all the new housing to be developed here? According to the US Census bureau population estimates for 2000-2009, Pittsfield and Ypsilanti Townships and Ypsilanti City have been approximately flat in population growth since 2005, and Ann Arbor City has actually lost population. I would think that development would have to be presaged on a market expectation (demand for new housing, and at that location). But much of what is being said here sounds like a "build it and they will come" vision. Perhaps UM job growth would fill some of it, or if affordable enough, these developments might draw population from Eastern Washtenaw to be closer to jobs. Still, I hope that some attention is being given to the actual source of new residents for this area rather than pointing (only) to the desirability of the revamped corridor.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:57 a.m.

I will apparently be the first person to say I'm all for it.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:53 a.m.

All this is well and good of an idea. But, realistically, what is it going to do about the congestion? Unless you remove a certain % of the businesses (not likely), how are you going to reduce the traffic? Most peope aren't going to magically start taking the bus to go to Borders, Hillers, Whole Foods, or whatever. They're going to continue to drive their cars. I'd love to see a boulevard put in with trees and grass, but I doubt very seriously it would fit in there. I don't know that we need a separate organization to get some improvements done.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:49 a.m.

Why is it that any time someone has an idea that something needs to be done, there has to be a new committee or some set of people put in place? What would this new organization do that can't already be done? Especially if they put in place restrictions that tax "captured" from one jurisdiction can't be used in another; what is the unique power of the group that cannot be weilded by communities trying to get this going themselves? And I really don't like all the "sort of's" thrown out by this Dale person; we can't get someone a little more articulate in charge of stuff like this? Also, those "vast seas of empty parking lots" exist because people aren't shopping at those places. Putting buildings closer to the street isn't going to fix ANYTHING. Are we seriously going from "if we build it, they will come" to "if we move it, they will come?" Seriously? Washtenaw is congested; that's the big problem. Being able to bike on it would be great. Those are two easy problems to fix without dreaming up some weird project like corridor appeal or building tetris. And yeah, comparing this to the DDA is basically saying "and just in case it's not obvious this is a bad idea, here's proof."


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:41 a.m.

Cooperative planning? Great. Diverting more tax revenue away from basic services? NO! "It's only gathering the increase." Last I checked, basic services cost more each year citywide. How about using the "increase" in revenue to pay for the increase in costs instead of urban planner fantasies?


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:36 a.m.

Who is walking to where on Washtenaw between Huron Pkwy and Arborland? There just doesn't seem to be that much residential property in that area, which is fine. And I agree that we don't need another appointed "authority". Next thing you know, they'll be building a big and unneeded parking structure out there.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:36 a.m.

why are we developing this area. Rather than furthering urban sprawl we should be developing the downtowns of the cities that already exist and are in dire need of restructuring. This is a waste of money and will only pull business away from the downtown areas.

Henry Ruger

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 7:17 a.m.

This is a great idea. I assume that the taxes "captured" fall from the sky or float up from the drains or something so that funds currently being lost to wind and water would now be available for elaborate development guided by unelected officials. It would have no effect on the tax revenue available for current obligations like maintaining the road surface and keeping the street lights on. This is "found money," correct? Beautiful, tree-lined boulevard, here we come! We could even reinstall the interurban tralley. And all from money that we could have been "capturing" all along!

Steve Hendel

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 6:28 a.m.

The basic ideas for Washtenaw Avenue improvements may or may not be good, but I am leery of giving a significant voice over how tax dollars are spent to a non-elected body. As witnessed by our experience with the Ann Arbor DDA, such bodies accrete more and more independence from the political process.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 6:12 a.m.

I like Washtenaw Ave just the way it is. The only thing a "tax-capturing improvement zone" will do is take money from folks to pay the salary's and perks for the "tax-capturing improvement zone" employees.


Tue, Sep 14, 2010 : 5:42 a.m.

"We can start making a more walkable environment, having sort of two- or three-story buildings, mixed-use buildings, increasing height, allowing more density," she said. "And this really aligns with the area, height and placement standards." Make Washtenaw Ave "walkable"? Are we talking about the same strip of road with 4 lanes of intense congestion lined on both sides with tacky fast food, gas stations, parking lots, strip malls, etc? All of which are geared to the automobile. People are going to walk to Bed Bath and Beyond and then carry home their newly purchased lawn chairs? People are going to walk to Hillers and carry home 4 bags of groceries? How does increasing the density along Washtenaw Ave do anything other than increase congestion? It's already gridlock starting at 4 pm on weekdays! The article mentions decreasing the setbacks. So, they are going to move KMart on Washtenaw closer to the street? Mixed use buildings? Who would want to live on Washtenaw Ave with all that pollution spewing from the 4 lanes of constant traffic, not to mention the incredible noise and sea of concrete? Take a look at all the attempts at adding density and residential mixed use buildings around town already vacant for several years. Look at Plymouth and Green Roads and see how many of those overpriced condos at that intersection are sold or rented, and how many of the ground level commercial spaces are rented. Very few. InkStop moved out 2 years ago and it's still a huge vacant space. Good luck.