Ann Arbor launches South State Street corridor plan with staff instead of consultant
A year-long study of the South State Street corridor in Ann Arbor is officially under way, City Planner Jill Thacher announced Tuesday night at a Planning Commission meeting.
But instead of hiring a consultant to help develop a comprehensive corridor plan, as was the idea back in April, the study is being done in house now.
Planning Manager Wendy Rampson said earlier this year about $150,000 was available for the corridor study project. She said at Tuesday's meeting that money has reverted back to the general fund due to concerns expressed by members of the Ann Arbor City Council.
File photo | AnnArbor.com
Part of the thinking behind the corridor study is that State Street’s relationship with I-94 presents opportunities for an improved "urban gateway into the city."
The study area is defined as the 2.15-mile stretch of State Street from Stimson south to Ellsworth, an automobile-oriented thoroughfare with mixed office, retail, research and limited industrial uses, as well as a small number of residential properties.
City planning officials say a master plan for the corridor is needed to address a range of issues, including future growth demands and the ability of the corridor to accommodate that growth, as well as the merits of introducing land uses not currently found along the corridor.
A draft request for proposals the city previously planned to send out to consulting firms made note of the "vast future potential" of the corridor, which serves a key role in connecting downtown and the University of Michigan to I-94 and Pittsfield Township.
Ann Arbor officials say recent area, height and placement amendments to the city’s zoning ordinance allow new opportunities to expand or redevelop at higher densities.
The planning process is expected to include conversations with various stakeholders, including businesses along State Street, and the public in order to develop a shared vision of the corridor's future. Community meetings plus up to 25 targeted individual or small group interviews are planned to help gather public opinion.
The timeline laid out by Thacher shows the community input phase runs now through February, after which the city's planning staff will analyze the data collected and draft the corridor plan by next August. Public hearings and approvals by the Planning Commission and City Council are expected to follow, with implementation of the plan by the end of 2012.
Thacher said she's not expecting to get strong neighborhood input since State Street is not a residential corridor. She said there's one apartment complex and a few rental houses.
"There's a business community certainly," she said, "and we will be seeking their input heavily, but in order to reach the broader community we're going to see what we can come up with."
A preliminary list of stakeholders the city plans to interview includes the University of Michigan, which owns several properties along the corridor, including tennis courts and a commuter parking lot surrounding Edwards Brothers and Wolverine Towers at State and Eisenhower, and leases several sites around the Briarwood Mall area. Any effort to connect Oakbrook Drive to State Street will depend on the cooperation of the university, Thacher said.
Hidden Valley Club Apartments, the main residential presence in the area, also is on the stakeholder list, as is the Michigan Department of Transportation, which controls the interchange at State and I-94. Thacher said a new association of businesses between I-94 and Ellsworth, known as the Southside Business District, also will be consulted.
The city also plans to reach out to McMullen Properties, which owns several office complexes in the area, including the Eisenhower Commerce Center and the Atrium Office Center. Other stakeholders include Briarwood Mall, Edwards Brothers, the Produce Station and the Ann Arbor Commerce Bank building at State and Eisenhower.
Thacher said the city's transportation program coordinator is interested in helping to apply for transportation enhancement funding for aesthetic and environmental improvements along the corridor. There's also talk of tapping into the Elizabeth Dean Fund for median landscaping.
Thacher said Jerry Hancock, the city's stormwater and floodplain coordinator, is available to help develop recommendations for improved stormwater management, and Troy Baughman, a systems planning engineer, has developed a model to examine the capacity of the sanitary sewers along the corridor given different development scenarios.
Rampson said it's too early in the process to say whether the city might establish a corridor improvement authority, like the one being considered for Washtenaw Avenue, to use tax-increment financing to incentivize redevelopment along the corridor.
The city already has focused on traffic issues from I-94 to Ellsworth in the past year in conjunction with Pittsfield Township. They're collaborating with the Washtenaw County Road Commission on an effort to build a roundabout at State and Ellsworth as Costco plans to build a new store on Ellsworth in the township.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.