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Posted on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Washtenaw Avenue shopping center project wins approval from Ann Arbor City Council

By Ryan J. Stanton


A map of the proposed Arbor Hills Crossing shopping center on Ann Arbor's east side, across the street from Whole Foods, at the corner of Platt Road and Washtenaw Ave..

The Ann Arbor City Council voted 10-0 Monday night to approve the site plan and development agreement for the Arbor Hills Crossing shopping center.

The approval came without any of the debate that sometimes surrounds new developments in Ann Arbor. Instead, council members offered only praises for the project, which includes constructing a 90,700-square-foot complex at Platt Road and Washtenaw Avenue.

Located directly across the street from Whole Foods, the proposed development is on a 7.45-acre site at 3100 Washtenaw Ave.

The property has been vacant since a former car dealership was demolished to make way for a previously planned project that was never developed.


A drawing of what Arbor Hills Crossing could look like.

Image courtesy of developer

"This site had a previous site plan that was approved and unfortunately it didn't go anywhere, so I'm hoping this project receives ample financing," said Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward. "It's certainly a tough market out there for retail."

Council Member Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward, said the site plan was reviewed by the Planning Commission in detail before coming to council.

"This development takes a piece of land that you've been looking at across from Whole Foods there and really makes it something that I think is going to be very attractive for the area," he said. "It also comports with a lot of the themes that we're working on for the Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue — for instance, sidewalks, a bus turnabout."

Added Derezinski: "The parking will be in the back, rather than in the front, which is again one of those things that really comports with how we want to see that corridor look."

Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, said he wanted to echo Derezinski's enthusiasm for the project.

"This has been an area of the city and the ward which has long been underutilized, and it will, I think, be a great benefit to the area and the neighborhood," he said.

The site plan calls for demolishing six vacant buildings and constructing four retail buildings with some potential for office space. It also includes 310 parking spaces, 30 covered bicycle parking spaces, new public sidewalks, a covered bus stop and a new traffic signal.

Plans for the site were unveiled in February 2011, and received a mostly warm welcome from neighbors and residents at a public meeting. Council Member Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, praised the developer for working cooperatively with neighbors.

Plans have been in the works for a retail development at this site for years. In 2006, City Council approved a site plan and development agreement for The Shops at Arlington, a 138,000-square-foot retail project with underground parking.

However, plans for the $9 million project, which was originally developed by Gordon Mathews and Bill Conlin, expired in fall 2009 as lender Comerica Bank sought to sell the property following foreclosure.

Ann Arbor real estate owner and developer Campus Realty bought the property from the lender in 2010, and is partnering with Chicago-based North Shore Properties Group on the Arbor Hills Crossing development.

Earlier this year, Tom Stegeman of Campus Realty said that Arbor Hills Crossing will have no large anchor, such as the Whole Foods Market across the street.

He said he hopes to attract national chains, regional players and local businesses. It will include a mix of tenants, including most likely food use, apparel and specialty retailers.

He also said North Shore, who is handling tenant selection and leasing, has been in serious discussions with a number of potential tenants, and there is strong interest.

To help finance the project, the developers proposed a brownfield plan to remove contaminated soils at the site, which are a result of the former dealership and gas station.

A brownfield property is one in which site conditions present an obstacle to redevelopment. Brownfields can can include properties that are contaminated, blighted or functionally obsolete.

Ann Arbor’s Brownfield Review Committee voted in September to approve tax-increment financing assistance for the project. The City Council offered a 10-0 vote of approval Monday for the brownfield plan, which now awaits county approval.

The brownfield plan includes $6.7 million in tax-increment financing that would be paid back over a period of 19 years. Of that total, $5.4 million would reimburse the developer for eligible expenditures, and the remainder would cover administrative fees and other costs.

Council Member Margie Teall, who was present for part of Monday's meeting, was not in attendance when the votes were taken on Arbor Hills Crossing.

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.



Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 4:37 a.m.

This development is an indicator of where this country is going, yet one more shopping center to purchase imported products with credit cards.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

You, of course, have better use for this land that will create the same number of jobs and that will generate the same amount of tax revenue? Let's hear it! GN&GL


Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 1:09 a.m.

I just wish all you people that have negative comments and want what you want on it would have bought the property and paid the taxes and built what you wanted on it until then shut up


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 11:54 p.m.

City council spent two years evaluating City Place and two minutes on this development. We know where their priorities lay.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 9:42 p.m.

Some of the residents who own houses on Washtenaw across from this "development" have "for sale" signs in front of their homes......I wonder why. More congestion, more traffic, more noise, and more unneeded retail. Who would want to live across the street from that? Look at all of the empty stores in Arborland, down the street. This entire stretch of Washtenaw Ave is a traffic and congestion disaster, so the city approves more unneeded development, that only fattens the pockets of the developers. Of course, the city loves the added tax revenue, if the stores ever materialize. Do the empty stores still pay taxes, like Borders and Circuit City in Arborland? Most likely. This development has no large anchor store and no retail commitments. It is a disaster from the beginning. So why build it? To fatten the developers, who walk away after their carnage is done. It is impossible to turn into or out of the existing retail "strips" along Washtenaw, so let's add another one! Oh, and while they are at it, why not make the parking spaces even smaller than the ones in the Whole Foods parking lot, that were apparently designed for mini coopers. Let's see how many more huge SUVs and vans and trucks can be crammed into miniature parking spots and how many more dents their open doors can make in the adjacent cars. Good decision, Ann Arbor city. Thanks for adding more pollution and congestion to our quality of life.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 10:09 p.m.

So, when the various business that were located along that strip were running, did they not already have 3 entrances onto Washtenaw Avenue? Platt Road will be the main entrance into the new retail center. As far as the homes along Washtenaw... the traffic buildup has little to do with the businesses located there. It's the traffic going into campus and downtown that are causing the congestion. You might as well blame Ann Arbor for being here. Anyone owning a home along Stadium or Washtenaw has seen traffic go up dramatically in the past 20 years -- long after those homes were built. Expet for those monstrosities by the Hoover mansion, that is.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 8:33 p.m.

I am surprised that Kunselman missed the opportunity to proclaim that the abandoned car dealership should be declared a historic district.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

It's a good thing developement in AA isn't left to the tree hugging liberals...They would create a city, in which no one would want to live. Including themselves! Yes, of course we all love the nature of the GREEN ways set forth in AA, but with out the development this city would be nothing. You cant support a college like, U of M, with parks and nature walks. Like it or not, UofM runs this city, and thrives on staying "Cutting Edge" in everyway possible. As a planner on this project, i can stand behind the nature of it. Utilizing blank space, that has been an eye sore on the city for far to long! Re-working brownfields into useable space! COME ON PEOPLE! This alone should have the population on board.. As previously mentioned, their are far to many cites out there leaving abandoned properties like this to waste. With very few companies willing to work with brownfields and otherwise contaminated sites like this one, i dont see that changing anytime soon. I hope people can learn to take the positives, as is, and move forward..


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

I bet this wouldn't "fly" on the West Side. It's going to look like any other "strip mall", rear parking will create a safety issue, and vacancies are already high in the area. Traffic management is non existent in this area. council should have brought in a traffic management specialist prior to approving any developments. The developer may have negotiated road improvements to better manage the traffic. Right now, there's cars coming and going out driveways going every which way and cars that willingly block intersections because traffic light timing and spacing is inappropriate. Good planning city council......maybe you'll even put another couple of poorly marked and planned crosswalks in to further the traffic confusion.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

Pedestrian bridges and tunnels are not free. A HAWK signal costs ~$100,000, whereas a pedestrian bridge probably costs ~$1.5 million. Moreover, if you have to go up a ramp and down a ramp, most folks won't use them. (They will use them if they are level with the surrounding terrain, i.e. going over a freeway that's lower than the surrounding terrain.) Here's one of many sources I found by googling: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Look at the Cost Comparison discussion at the bottom. If we're going to build bike / pedestrian bridges (and I think we should), I'd much rather we spent the money building safe pedestrian crossings across freeways, where they will be much more likely to be used, and use cheaper solutions like HAWK signals in town.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

1. The new traffic light at Washtenaw &amp; Platt, which isn't mentioned much in the article, will slow things to a crawl on that stretch during busy weekday rush hours. 2. 310 parking spots? That's gotta be about the same or less than the experiment in Darwinian scarcity that is already the Whole Foods lot. 3. Great, more coffeeshops, a fast fresh burrito joint, and lots of empty storefronts. No anchor spells disaster.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

Great news, but PLEASE include a pedestrian overpass or underpass between the north and south sides of Washtenaw. A shopper should be able to park their car once and move between all stores. It will be a traffic nightmare if people try to drive between stores on both side of Washtenaw.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 6:27 p.m.

Why? There will be two traffic lights that pedestrians can cross at. People can use the perfectly good crosswalks at the traffic lights.

Daniel Soebbing

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

I like the sentiment, but the reality is that most people would still drive back and forth.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

Great idea Judy. I fully agree.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

Considering that the property has been pretty much a wasteland for the past 5 or 6 years, I see it is an big improvement. I live within a mile of the development, and have no problems with it. Before people get all cranky about needing more &quot;green space&quot; -- County Farm park is right next door. The design looks appropriate, and while yes, there are empty stores at Arborland, that's the problem of a non-resident management company that doesn't give a rat's butt about Ann Arbor, remember?


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 3:05 p.m.

You would think that the only activity valued in A2 and the U.S. is shopping.

Rob MI

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

It is. Nothing else matters anymore as evidenced by the horror that &quot;Black Friday&quot; has become over the past 10 years. Disgusting.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 2:24 p.m.

Previous articles have stated there will be a new traffic light at Platt and Washtenaw.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

Build Baby Build!

just a voice

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

1 - can we get a larger copy of the image, I can't read any of the text 2 - where are the plans for new traffic lights in the area? 3 - are they also getting a pass on having enough parking?


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

Click on the link that says &quot;site plan and development agreement.&quot; It will take you to the City Council meeting documents, and the .pdf dated 10/18/11 has the site plan drawings. The labels read Building A1, Building A2, Building B, Building C1, Building C2 and Building D. The text underneath indicates the square footage of each planned building. Follow the links in the story.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

An apparently well-designed development is approved that will bring tax dollars and jobs and so far all of the comments are negative. Are you kidding me? I work in Flint and we're happy when an abandoned property is torn down before it burns down. There are blocks and blocks of abandoned businesses. Maybe some of you should move to Flint where there is no traffic and you won't have to make comments like: &quot;Just what Ann Arbor needs is another shopping center!&quot; Personally, I'd prefer to see more development downtown rather than on Washtenaw, but this is what the market seems to support right now. Let's keep this all in perspective, people. We are very fortunate to live in a city where development is still happening and there is economic growth. I say bravo to this project!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Welcome to the discussions, where no one is ever happy. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 3 p.m.

New development is not really happening when we keep tearing down abandoned stores and building new stores as other stores continue to be abandoned. Use some of the buildings that are not being used or make them into parks or naturalized areas.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

The traffic on Washtenaw is already a nightmare, I can only imagine what the construction and then opening of a shopping center will do. I think there would have to be another traffic light somewhere for turning in and out of both shopping centers.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Yes, there would be a traffic light at Washtenaw and Platt road according to the site plan. Which is really just formalizing the fact that traffic backs up past there anyway during high traffic periods, but at least it would provide a safe(r) pedestrian crossing.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

to dconkey -- Why not just leave it? Let some trees grow back and leave it as a natural forest. Natural beauty can be in that area, not more stores and cars.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

Why not leave it open space? The owners of the land are paying taxes on the land, and no doubt have a debt load on it. I am going make an educated guess and say they are a for profit company, and therefore want a return on their investment. They only it would end up as open/park land is if the city/county were to buy it, and we all know how much extra monies they have. On top of that, by developing it, you are adding jobs and increasing the tax base to the municipalities.

Jamie Riddle

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

I have an idea, turn that area into some type of parking garage. That way people can park there and walk to Arborland or the Whole Foods complex or any of the other shopping complexes throughout that area of Washtenaw. I think that would help to alleviate some of the parking issues that are associated with a lot of the shopping areas around there.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

This is exactly what Washtenaw Ave needs in that area, more traffic. It would be nice if the city council would do something to address the traffic issue in that area instead of adding to the problem.


Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 2:18 a.m.

well maybe a park would suit you. no traffic, no taxes, no jobs ... greenspace, not greenbacks. when all of our streets have reduced traffic, we have a problem.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 7:32 p.m.

What?! No roundabout?

Usual Suspect

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

... and crosswalks.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 12:31 p.m.

Have faith, they will! Expect them to narrow the road to one lane (each way), add in islands and bike lanes. Stadium Blvd. part deux.


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

Just what Ann Arbor needs is another shopping center! Hollywood Video has been empty for years. Look at all the empty stores in Arborland too. Probably not much parking either like Whole Foods. I just don't understand the waste!


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

So, what would you propose be done with this tract of vacant land?