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Posted on Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 6:01 a.m.

Dominick's bar owner continues fight against closure of Monroe Street block in Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton


The owner of Dominick's bar and restaurant is fighting the city's plan to close a one-block portion of Monroe Street.

Lon Horwedel |

Richard DeVarti isn't going down without a fight.

The owner of the popular Dominick's bar and restaurant on the University of Michigan campus has submitted petitions to the city containing more than 1,700 signatures from those opposed to the closure of a one-block portion of Monroe Street near his business.

DeVarti says he has been collecting the signatures since April 2009 as part of a fight that's now two years running.

"It is my understanding that the University of Michigan has filed with the city Planning Commission, requesting approval for a permanent vacation of the one block of Monroe St. between South State St. and Oakland Ave.," DeVarti wrote in a Dec. 18 letter to Ann Arbor officials, passing along his petition signatures.

"It would be nice if all these people could be included on a list of who will be notified if and when there is to be a public hearing scheduled regarding this matter," he said.

The future of Monroe Street remains uncertain at this point as city officials continue to negotiate with U-M, which wants to close the one-block portion near the U-M Law Quad to create a new pedestrian mall. Before any permanent decisions are made, Ann Arborites will get a taste of what it's like to have that portion of the street closed for the next six months.

Starting Monday, the portion of Monroe between State and Oakland will be closed to traffic until July 15 as part of underground utilities work and building construction related to the U-M Law School building project, city officials said.

City officials have announced a temporary traffic control plan. Traffic from Monroe westbound will be routed south on Oakland to west on Hill Street to State Street. Traffic heading toward eastbound Monroe will be routed down State Street to Hill Street to Oakland back to Monroe.

Pedestrian access will be partially maintained up to Hutchins Hall, and a sidewalk detour will be put in place directing pedestrians north onto the campus sidewalk system.

U-M officials say the permanent closure of that stretch would facilitate movement of students and faculty between the 75-year-old Law Quad and a new 100,000-square-foot addition that is being built across Monroe Street on what used to be a surface parking lot.

U-M would put up barriers to vehicles at each end of the block, although access would be preserved for emergency vehicles.

City Council Member Tony Derezinski, who also serves on the Planning Commission, said the law school building project is a great addition to the law complex. He said city officials are in talks with U-M about concerns with regard to closing the street.

"We're working it out right now between the legal departments of the university and the city to see if some sort of an agreement can come forth," he said. "And it has been looked at for about four or five months now. The construction of the buildings have gone ahead with the hope, I suspect, that an agreement will be reached on the vacation in some form."

U-M officials have said the university is willing to mitigate the loss of the on-street parking revenue, which goes to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Consultants working with the university do not believe traffic would be substantially impacted, though.

DeVarti said a permanent closure on Monroe Street would deny any vehicles an alternate route when traffic is too heavy on State Street. He said it also would worsen existing problems at the corner of Hill and Oakland, as well as at Hill and Tappan.

He said it's frequently difficult and time-consuming to make a left turn onto or cross over Hill Street from either Tappan or Oakland.

View Monroe Street Closure in a larger map

"This situation would only worsen," he said. "The proposed pedestrian mall will not be an improvement for the community at large."

DeVarti argues a well-marked pedestrian crosswalk, like one on North University near the bus stops and Natural History Museum, would work just fine. A pedestrian-controlled traffic light is another good option, he said, but vacation of Monroe Street is impractical.

Wendy Rampson, the city's planning manager, said because Monroe Street is a platted right-of-way, it requires Planning Commission and City Council approval to vacate it.

"Planning Commission will make a recommendation to City Council," she said. "At this point, there is no schedule. It really just depends on when the university is ready to respond on the design questions that came up as a part of the review."

As an alternative, Derezinski said the idea of tunnels underneath the street — to connect the buildings on either side of Monroe like the tunnels that connect the present law school library to Hutchins Hall — has been discussed, but doesn't seem feasible.

"They're very extensive and well maintained, but the problem is there's just a lot of stuff underground now and difference in levels and grade levels that make that very difficult," he said. "There also has been talk of having an arch over the street. Again, that poses a lot of problems as well. They were looked at by the university planners as an alternative, but they came to the conclusion that vacation of Monroe Street would be the best bet."

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



Sun, Dec 26, 2010 : 7:48 p.m.

Hey, if the U of M can close Main Street, I'm sure they can close Monroe or any other street if they choose.


Sun, Dec 26, 2010 : 9:25 a.m.

Not a big deal. Better off closed.


Sat, Dec 25, 2010 : 11:59 a.m.

What's with all the assumptions that everyone who drives could walk "a few blocks" instead? We're not all students. Everything we need to do in a day is not conveniently arranged in a 2 mile radius. Some of us actually work for a living and are not having our bills paid by daddy. Traveling to and from work by car isn't a convenience for some of us... it's a NECESSITY. Didn't you ever wonder why the traffic only backs up right around 5 O'clock? Ever even heard of a 9-5?


Sat, Dec 25, 2010 : 10:33 a.m.

@Mick52: Can you supply the details of what Devarti said about generating litter? A search of does not provide that info. Thanks in advance.


Sat, Dec 25, 2010 : 9:16 a.m.

Closing that street is not a good idea. It will create a jam with cars and trucks having to turn left from S State St onto Hill St., so much that southbound traffic on State will stop. The footbridge is a better idea. & What about the many conferences and alumni reunions, etc. at Hutchins Hall? Having those people dropped off or picked up on State St would, again, stop all traffic. Imagine the class of '47.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Dec 25, 2010 : 12:39 a.m.

How about a compromise? UofM pays for Dominick's property taxes and in return UofM gets the street.


Sat, Dec 25, 2010 : 12:23 a.m.

I don't see how the proposed street closure will have any effect on Dominick's business. The proposed closure is one block away from Dominick's and you will still be able to drive right up to Dominick's, park directly across the street, and then walk into the restaurant. What exactly is the problem? People who usually come to Dom's from the west won't be able to find the street access from the east?


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 8:08 p.m.

The arrogant Blue Brain Brass is flexing it's muscles again.TIME to Step Up and SLAP them down


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 8:05 p.m.

"U-M officials have said the university is willing to mitigate the loss of the on-street parking revenue..." UM to mitigate city revenue loss. Hmmm. Much potential here. Why don't our city folks also negotiate to mitigate property tax losses? This is a multi million dollar question. What is the answer?

Mason DeVarti

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 7:40 p.m.

Hehehehe, some commenters are getting Richard and David mixed up. Dominick's is one of the best restaurants in Ann Arbor and the street should stay open. Whenever my mom drives me home from Dominick's there is always tons of traffic. What remains of the original Monroe street needs to stay open, or traffic in the area will be more congested. This is just another university scheme to take over a property that belongs to the Ann Arbor tax payers.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 7:34 p.m.

I may be in the minority but I will not miss Dominic's. The service is terrible and the food is not that good. There are plenty of other places from which to choose. And don't get me stsrted about Red Hot Lovers!


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 6:50 p.m.

What a fantastic idea, a pedestrian mall. I suppose Ann Arbor will have to approve it or else they will loose some credibility of being a "green" city. Too bad the closing is not up to Tappan St. And also in regard to the environment, DeVarti should get the same answer he gave when asked to stop generating large volumes of litter for profit before every UM home football game for years. The irony of this is simply superb.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 5:33 p.m.

Considering that Dominick's is closed during the winter months, I can't see how having a pedestrian mall there would really hurt their business. On second thought, they might have more business without the rude loudspeakers and better service. It's in a walking area, anyways. Most people can walk a block or so from a parking area.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 4:37 p.m.

I am with Country Kate on this one. People get motivated and push the issue.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 3:13 p.m.

Quite cowering to the UM. They own enough of this city. Maybe they should go back to Detroit.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 2:55 p.m.

The closure of streets for long-running construction projects is killing business and community in Ann Arbor's downtown. Enough is enough!


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 2:09 p.m.

When it's cars versus pedestrians, I side with the walkers every time. Stop the constant whining about traffic and parking, park your damn car and use the legs God give you. It's amazing how the very idea of walking a few blocks is absolutely foreign to so many people today.

Long Time No See

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 12:35 p.m.

I travel through that area multiple times every day. The street has very little traffic, and the intersection with State is a very poor place for traffic to make a turn due to the limited sight distance to the south on State. I've seen some very dangerous driving at the intersection due to the combination of impatience with State street traffic, limited sight distance down State, and pedestrians crossing at that intersection. Closing Monroe would be a significant safety improvement for drivers & pedestrians. I sympathize with Rich's concerns about loss of parking spaces for customers. However, I go to Dominick's often enough for Rich to know me by name, and I know that a very significant number of his customers are walking to Dominick's from much further away than those parking spots that would be lost. The construction of the law school building had a *much* more significant impact on available parking for Dominick's patrons since the parking lot that used to be there was used by Dominick's customers in the evenings. The few spots that would be lost due to the closing of that one block on Monroe is inconsequential in comparison, yet Dominick's is still very busy. I don't think that closing that one block will hurt his current business at all. However, I think Rich's concerns may be based more on his plans to expand his business. It's possible that the new types of businesses that he plans to operate could be affected. However, my personal opinion is that a more pedestrian-friendly outdoor environment would increase foot traffic near his businesses and make it more likely that people would become patrons instead of driving to other businesses. Other than the sadly myopic knee-jerk reaction of those who hate everything about the university, I don't see why the street closure shouldn't be approved.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 12:27 p.m.

Does Dominick's still complain and just about throw you out if you attempt to pay for your food with a twenty dollar bill?


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

Now the university can get rid of that annual eyesore (Monroe Street Fair aka Hash Bash) at their vaunted school of repression. They have always hated having Dom's there and now they found a way to get their petty revenge, Close his street! The Arch sounds like the best idea to me, keep the knuckleheads off the street! O maybe that is why the UM wants to close all streets, take over downtown and evict anyone not in their little "community"

Ethics Advocate

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 12:16 p.m.

At one time, Monroe extended all the way to E. University. And many years ago, there was a north-south street that went from Hill to S. University, before the business school started expanding and ended up doubling its land area. After that street was eliminated for the business school, it was also eliminated from Monroe to S. University, between the backsides of the education and architectural schools. Also, E. University used to go from S. University to N. Unversity, which made a "true" quad. So there is nothing new about cutting down traffic through the central campus. As a Dominick's customer, I think that it is reasonable for Monroe to be closed between State and Oakland for the benefit and safety of the law school students. And I don't think Dominick's will be harmed so long as Monroe is kept open between Oakland and Tappan. To me the negative aspect is losing still more street parking spaces.

Marshall Applewhite

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 11:59 a.m.

We need to close this road down and turn it into a park! Then the GREEDY UofM can never take it from us!! There's plenty of room for an ice rink where that street is. We can even fit a dog park in there! This stretch of road is a GEM to the community, and we must never let them take it from us!!!!!1!!!!

David Cahill

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 11:47 a.m.

More than 1700 signatures! Looks like the Sovereign Nation of the U-M has a serious revolt on its hands. Vacating streets is completely under control of the City Council. In the recent past, Council has not been willing to give the Big U what it wants. Remember the claim that the University would be closing one lane of Main Street near the stadium for largely illusory "security concerns"? That idea went nowhere. Closing Monroe Street sounds like another bad idea.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 11:34 a.m.

For those of you talking about drunk kids or a pedestrian mall in front of Dominick's, the block they're talking about closing IS NOT the block in front of Dominick's. Re-read the article as many times as it takes to understand that.

Tom Joad

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

Take a look at the new Law School edifice under construction. It's obviously designed to mirror the current law quad and turning Monroe St into a pedestrian mall makes eminent sense in integrating the two. Pedestrian concerns should always win out over the convenience of a a group of savvy motorists who use it as a short-cut. You drive to Dominick's at your own risk, after imbibing a couple of sangria's you should not be driving anyway. The tyranny of the automobile is ending. The more car-free areas the better. Those law tomes are quite heavy. It would be a big inconvenience for a law student to have to wait for traffic to clear to utilize the new law school facilities. Dominick's is already a cachet location and creating a pedestrian-friendly area will only be a boon for his business.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 10:43 a.m.

"They [alternatives]were looked at by the university planners as an alternative, but they came to the conclusion that vacation of Monroe Street would be the best bet." Best bet for whom? Not the poor drivers who have to get around that area. DeVarti is absolutely right about that. 'Cheapest bet' is probable the more correct phrase. In researching the proposed closing of College Place in Ypsilanti because Eastern wanted to put in one of these pedestrian malls, we found the malls at other universities were not the great attractions they'd been touted as being. We managed to convince the city to keep College Place open and Ann Arbor residents can do the same there. But, instead of just posting here, you need to contact Mr. De Varti, give him some support and turn out at City Council meetings to let them know there is opposition. Because this issue is way bigger than just Dominick's. Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have in common the problem of a non-taxable institution taking over valuable property and putting heavier and heavier tax burdens on the residents and businesses surrounding them. Ypsilanti could not longer afford it, so we took a stand and won. Can Ann Arbor do the same, or are there so many defeatists out there that it can't be done?

Dog Guy

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 10:39 a.m.

The city hall gang continues its war on cars and people from its tin shed fortress.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 10:22 a.m.

@glacialerratic I've added a Google map to the story.

Peter Baker

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

So much doom and gloom over losing a handful of parking spaces. There were never enough to consider driving to Dominick's to begin with. Putting a pedestrian mall in front of an outdoor seating bar sounds a boon to business to me. And apologies to the commuters looking for a way to avoid red lights. But you know what the BEST way to avoid them is? Walking, biking and public transit. You want to drive everywhere; move to Livonia.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

The University of Michigan has the money just look at the high amounts of pay that the workers are getting that are not Medical Doctors at the University of Michigan Medical Center. They should offer the people around that area a good amount of money and I am sure they would go away happy and that will be the end of it.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

The intersection of Hill and State is already one of the worst in my book. Everyone knows that Monroe is a great cut through street to avoid Hill and State. Also when driving by Dominick's one is reminded that the place still exists after all these years and beckons your return for a drink out back. Remove that street and the traffic in that area will become even worse and Dominick's becomes harder to find.

Ron Granger

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

This seems like another attempt at a property grab by the U of M. How ironic that the University with a law school considers itself above the local laws. They want to seize control of Main during football games. Now Monroe, permanently. What's next? Normally they do whatever they want, but in this case they have to ask. How shrewd of them to try and get that real estate for "free". In the future, they'll probably try and build closer to the edge of the street, and they'll use the no-traffic as part of their justification. Monroe *is* a great alternative to the traffic backups on State and Hill streets. It is bad enough that another ugly U of M building will blot out the sunsets for anyone sitting at Dominick's Let them build a tunnel. They are an engineering school, right? Yes, it would cost more than taking our street. Tough beans.

Brian M.

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

The conspiracy theorists on here wringing their hands about the University's plot to take over Ann Arbor without paying property taxes crack me up. Bravo!

David Briegel

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:37 a.m.

Tunnels and Bridges would seem to be the answer. I love the newer bridge by Palmer Commons! But remember, The U owns the town, we just get to live here! Good Luck David.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:29 a.m.

"There also has been talk of having an arch over the street. Again, that poses a lot of problems as well. They were looked at by the university planners as an alternative, but they came to the conclusion that vacation of Monroe Street would be the best bet." "Best" for whom? Certainly the esteemed University could come up with more intelligent-sounding BS than this? Their intentions are so transparent an idiot could see through them. I hope the planning commission and council show some guts on this one.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:20 a.m.

How about a map?

Matt Irelan

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:20 a.m.

Way to go Dominick's. Keep fighting


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:20 a.m.

This is unconscionable... I hope Dominick's wins the battle against UM to keep the street open. It's a real David v Goliath... but I'm pulling for them.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor is a company town. UM gets whatever UM wants. Stop acting like we have a choice or there is a decision to be made. God has spoken. Bye bye Dave.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

So, Its not enough that the U buys up every bit of property near the campus that it can. Now it wants the city to give it a street. What's good for the U is not always good for the city!

Go Blue

Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

Uh Andy? Just to clarify on your comment 'drunk kids wandering out in the dark from this place at all hours?' Dominick's closes at 10 pm, Mon-Sat. Kids are probably coming home from GTC's if its later than that. And to comment on the UM's position - they have installed pedestrian over the road connectors - school of public health comes to mind - and it works well. That road is still open and useable. No reason they cannot do the same with Monroe. Of course, one can see the 'hidden' agenda UM seems to have which sure looks like since one end of Monroe is already closed off, get the other end closed off and then go in for the final piece, close off the last section of Monroe between Tappan and Oakland. Wow! Isn't that just clever or what. The city should not roll over on this and keep the street open. UM already gets enough of free rides just by not paying any property taxes for what they own! The street is an important connector and the parking offered by having that street open is just as important to the public and the city.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 8:36 a.m.

I'll bet a large portion of Dominick's clientele are from the Business or Law Schools. When I worked at the B-School we never got in our cars to drive to Dominicks.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

What's good for UM is good for Ann Arbor! Stop the moaning. Offer Domininck's a deal for a land transfer and lets move on. Sheeeeesh!


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

That street should be closed for safetys sake. Have you seen the drunk kids wandering out in the dark from this place at all hours? It's a good idea that cars won't be driving by.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

Business as usual for the U of M. Disregard the Ann Arbor community and with the usual arrogance bully your way into getting what you want. The arrogance of this educational institution never ceases to amaze.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 8:10 a.m.

So where are all those people who park along Monroe Street going to go? Closing it will exacerbate the parking problem in that area even further, which I suspect would be the real problem for Dominick's, and not access per se. I would wager that only a small percentage of the clientele actually walks there and that most need to find parking nearby, which is already hard to do.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 7:52 a.m.

I really appreciate the fight here. Seems like this is going to happen like it or not. So, its seems to me that the U and City better put a really big hunk of cash together.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 7:24 a.m.

Let's answer this question: Would the street closure benefit the city of Ann Arbor to any appreciable degree? If not, that should be the end of the discussion. I like the rationale as well. How about an underground tunnel? Well, you know "there's lots of stuff underground now". Yep, that's how all underground projects start - they're FILLED WITH DIRT. Plus those grade level issues there, being that Monroe is in such a hilly area. Is this the same spokesperson they were using to try to sell the S. Main closure during football games? They don't even care enough to come up with non-BS excuses. And they're already building, just to grind their thumb into the eye of the city yet again.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 7:06 a.m.

Might be worth it if Dominick's took a poll as to how many people actually drove their car to get to the restaurant. In all the years I've been in A2, it's always been a walking destination. Dominick's is a great restaurant - a student favorite - and I would hate to see its business hurt by a road closure.


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 6:42 a.m.

The University is going ahead with construction without approval for blocking traffic. Either this means that it is not so important to block traffic or they assume the City will approve their plan. What arrogance!


Fri, Dec 24, 2010 : 6:31 a.m.

Too many streets have been closed in the campus area. The footbridge seems to be a better idea even if it costs the U more money.