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Posted on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

Up to 400 new residents, 900 jobs envisioned with redevelopment of 5 downtown Ann Arbor sites

By Ryan J. Stanton


The Library Lot, atop where the city just built a new underground parking garage, is one of five nearby sites the Ann Arbor DDA is looking at for redevelopment opportunities.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Downtown Development Authority leaders released new figures on Monday showing the potential economic impact of redeveloping five city-owned properties in downtown Ann Arbor.

If the city were to go forward with the highest-density scenario — including a mix of residential, business and cultural uses — the DDA predicts there could be 350 to 400 new residents downtown, bringing $7.5 million to $8 million in new annual spending to the local economy.

In addition, there could be 800 to 900 new jobs downtown, increasing annual employee spending in the local economy by $5.4 million to $6 million. Looking at the broader regional impact, the DDA projects there would be an additional $33 million in total annual sales.

With the help of a land use economist, the DDA has come up with three different development scenarios for five city properties — Scenario A with buildings three to five stories tall, Scenario B with buildings three to eight stories tall, and Scenario C with buildings 10 to 14 stories tall.


Scenario C leaves open the possibility of a 330-room, 13-story hotel — plus 74 residential units and ground-floor retail — on the old Y Lot at Fifth and William.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The economic impact figures were presented Monday to a group of about a dozen residents who attended the DDA's latest public forum as part of the Connecting William Street initiative.

At the request of the City Council, the DDA is leading the planning process for the five sites: The Library Lot atop the new underground parking garage off Fifth Avenue, the old Y Lot at Fifth and William, the ground floor of the Fourth and William parking garage, the Palio Lot at Main and William, and the Kline Lot at Ashley and William.

DDA board member Joan Lowenstein, a member of the Connecting William Street leadership and outreach committee, said the DDA board could vote on a set of recommendations as soon as November, with the City Council deciding how to move forward after that.

"We think that it probably will be in November or December," she said. "I think it would go to council around that time."

Under Scenario A, the DDA predicts there could be 100 to 150 new residents downtown, contributing $2.5 million to $3 million to the local economy — plus another 500 to 600 jobs, bringing $3.4 million to $4 million in new spending. The broader regional impact predicted is $6 million in total sales.

Under Scenario B, the DDA predicts there could be 50 to 100 new residents, contributing $1.5 million to $2 million to the local economy — plus another 900 to 1,000 jobs, bringing $6 million to $6.7 million in new spending. The broader regional impact predicted is $12 million in total sales.

Amber Miller, the DDA's planning and research specialist, said the three scenarios aren't suggestions — just possibilities to tease out public feedback.

Scenario C leaves open the possibility of a 330-room, 13-story hotel — plus 74 residential units and ground-floor retail — on the old Y Lot at Fifth and William.

It also envisions a 14-story mix of office space and 72 residential units, plus an anchor retail component, on the Library Lot, with some plaza space.

Over at the Kline Lot, under Scenario C, 15 stories of office, retail, entertainment and residential (95 units) are envisioned along with a cultural venue of some kind, and plaza space.

As for the smaller Palio Lot, Scenario C shows office space and ground-floor retail with 24 residential units and potentially some plaza space. The ground floor of the adjacent Fourth and William parking garage would include a small business incubator space under Scenario C.

The other two scenarios are less ambitious, but even Scenario B leaves open the possibility of a 180-room, seven-story hotel with ground-floor retail on the Library Lot, with additional office space and ground-floor retail at the other sites along William Street.

Scenario A envisions a three-story, 68-unit townhouse project on the Kline Lot, possible design improvements at the Palio Lot, facade improvements at the Fourth and William parking garage, and four stories of office and retail at both the Y Lot and the Library Lot.

Miller said the Blake Transit Center and downtown library — both of which are poised to undergo demolition and reconstruction — already draw significant traffic along William Street, but DDA officials believe the pedestrian experience could be improved.

"What we're hearing is there isn't really an interesting sidewalk experience," Miller said. "It's not very pleasant. There's not a lot that draws you down William Street. And there certainly is a lot of parking here, and what we've heard is the community wants something different. They want a more active, exciting sidewalk experience — something like Main Street or Liberty."

Miller pointed to Washington Street in front of Arbor Brewing Co., where there's outdoor dining, as one example of a great sidewalk.

"What we've done is highlight Ashley, Fourth and William," she said. "And as a baseline for any scenario moving, we would recommend some improvements to those streets. This would include things like wider sidewalks, additional lighting, street trees to make it feel more comfortable."


Scenario B leaves open the possibility of a 180-room, seven-story hotel with ground-floor retail on the Library Lot.

Ryan J. Stanton |

As for plaza space in the downtown, Miller said the DDA will be recommending making an investment in renewing and redesigning Liberty Plaza.

"We have heard that, for a downtown park, it really doesn't draw the numbers of people that should," she said. "One thing would be to increase the visibility so people feel more comfortable moving in and out of this space, and then also improving connectivity to the sites adjacent to it."

Though some have called for a downtown central park atop the Library Lot, Miller noted even under the most dense development scenario, there still would be an open space component.

She said there's a "no-build zone" contained on the southwest corner of the site that always was intended to accommodate a public plaza. She estimated it'd be about 5,130 square feet — or 1.25 times the size of Sculpture Plaza at the corner of Fourth and Catherine in Kerrytown.

Miller said it's important that the DDA understand what the community is comfortable with and that's why it's been soliciting feedback in various ways for several months now.

"The other pretty critical thing is project viability — so can a developer make it happen," she said. "Without that piece, you're not going to see a project come to fruition."

Miller cited statistics from a recent market analysis showing 1,300 new apartments could be captured in downtown Ann Arbor by 2016, as well as 500,000 square feet of office. She said that's in addition to what's under construction downtown at the moment.

"Demand for housing in our downtown is really strong," she said.

The market analysis found any retail generally should be small in scale, with the exception of recruiting an anchor retail tenant like Apple. As for a new downtown hotel, Miller's presentation stated: "Interviews and initial data analysis indicate lodging is supportable."

Kirk Westphal, a member of the Connecting William Street leadership and outreach committee, said he's not ready to suggest what the DDA or the city should do. But as a city planning commissioner, he knows the D1 zoning for the five sites calls for buildings up to 180 feet tall.

"All of these parcels are in the core D1 area, which calls for the highest density of land use in the city," he said. "Anything up to that is possible, and this is designed to explore the public's level of comfort with different scenarios. And not necessarily a distinct scenario of A, B, or C, but maybe a mix."

The city has made attempts before to seek development proposals for downtown properties that it owns, but by most accounts those have been largely unsuccessful.

"It wasn't always working. The developer and the community weren't always finding alignment," Miller said, hopeful the DDA's approach can prove successful.

"We're having a dialogue about what we want to see on these sites so we can be very clear with the development community," she said. "The second thing that we're doing differently is we're looking at five sites at once so we can understand how these sites work together to accomplish our goals."

Miller said the addition of 700-plus underground parking spaces with the new Library Lane garage brought capacity into the system to allow the DDA to talk about more residents and businesses downtown, but she acknowledged more parking is envisioned with more dense development.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Mitch Ganian

Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

It's not the quantity of lives downtown, it's the quality of lives downtown. Why do we love our downtown? Because it's great. If anything, what we need is a Downtown Preservation Authority to protect it from the DDA, whose plans always seem to dovetail with those of developers.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Downtown is extremely short on hotel space. If we use this space for lodging, then more people traveling to meetings at the U of M campus will be able to stay downtown, and spend more of their time and money will be spent there. The Ann Arbor area already has plenty of parks. Is saving the need to walk a few blogs to the diag or the Arb really worth turning down such a prime opportunity to expand downtown ammenities?

Joe Dohm

Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 8:40 p.m.

Yes! This park will be for adults as well as college students!


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 10:20 a.m.

Living downtown I have been frequently asked for input by the DDA (I give them credit for this) on what I think would be a good use of the different parcels they own, particularly the Library Lot. The issue I have with the DDA however, is that they don't seem to want to incorporate any serious discussion and study on the suggestion I have made, along with many other citizens toward considering a park going on the surface of the Library Lot. They are very quick to put the "park idea" down without any serious study of benefits or measure of citizen interest in a park. On the other hand the DDA eagerly incorporates "non-park" development concepts. The development scenarios in the above survey totally excluded the concept of a park which I know a rather large group of citizens very much support. It's one thing to ask for input, it's another to actually hear it and incorporate it.

Joe Dohm

Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

Mr. Orwell, there surely could not be a more appropriate person to make that point.

G. Orwell

Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 10:32 a.m.

"The issue I have with the DDA however, is that they don't seem to want to incorporate any serious discussion and study on the suggestion I have made, along with many other citizens toward considering a park going on the surface of the Library Lot." That method is called the Delfi Technique. Google it. They want public input to give the impression that public input is important but the agenda has already been been determined. Same technique is used by the AATA for their grand vision.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 4:10 a.m.

there's a hypothetical that bus service and frequency will be increased. As it is, the transit traffic in that vicinity is the general "theme" one understands when on foot and in a car in those immediate blocks. Which means,heightened attention in safety terms for vehicles hidden by buses,the buses themselves. As I waited for the Metro Transit "Flyer" myself, recenty, the sidewalk"experience" I hoped for was to complete the activity of getting to a destination and nothing else. I really think living around this area would be undesirable. Is this going to be wealthy parents buying apartments for their college age offspring?


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 2:17 a.m.

The price of real estate in downtown A2 is going up up up.... The height of the buildings is going up in proportion. I'm glad the DDA is entertaining different scenarios and weighing their potential economic impact. Project viability? That's not just important it's PARAMOUNT!


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 1:41 a.m.

I am a little fuzzy why the city is doing anything but selling the land? Zoning exists for these sites so sell and then let the developer build.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

Lack of planning leads to unmet expectations, offended neighbors, and poor access, security, and safety setups. This is planning, not design and architecture.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 1:29 a.m.

how about some housing downtown where people making 50 g's a year can live instead of everything built for wealthy people like it is now


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 1:58 a.m.

Building a building downtown is really expensive, especially if they build parking.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 1:08 a.m.

This all sounds promising. Now let's get Romney-Ryan elected to get the national economy moving again.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

Vote Romney Ryan! We can balance the budget by giving millionaires like Romney the 0.38% tax rate he would get under Ryan's plan. We can lower gas prices by taking energy policy away from those commie greens and turning it over to oil companies. We can fix our financial sector by getting rid of the over-regulation that led to the Lehman Brother's collapse.

G. Orwell

Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 10:36 a.m.

Obama = Romney. No difference. For example, Romneycare is Obamacare.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

Sorry Townie, hit the wrong button and voted down on your comment. I agree with you completely.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 1:41 a.m.

I dont know where you've been but my 401k went Way down and I lost half of it when Bush was in there but I got all that back plus 30 grand more in the last 4 years.Thats what I vote for.Romney has no chance anyway.Oh yeah I forgot give breaks to corporations and rich people and it will trickle down to the common man.Same tired stuff.It didnt work when actor Ronnie said it in the early 80's and it didnt work with georgie and it aint gonna happen now.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 1:28 a.m.

Yeah, 4 more years for the W clones (clowns).


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

If you folks want parks, don't live downtown. It's really that simple. Why should the rest of us subsidize your lifestyle choice?


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 4:10 a.m.

Some folks, me included, would be more likely to come downtown and shop if there is a city green. (Seems we all subsidize things we don't use, eat, or agree with, to a point)


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 12:26 a.m.

"Up to 400 new residents, 900 jobs envisioned with redevelopment of 5 downtown Ann Arbor sites" There have been LOTS of things "envisioned" that did not come to fruition around here!


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 11:58 p.m.

NYC found out big time about unexpectedly increased tax income when parks are opened in an urban environment. Properties adjacent to Union Square, Washington Square etc. proved long ago how property value increases when located near a park. They re congregating foci, mutual "back yards" for urban dwellers, and offer the balance of nature in a buildings landscape. Most recently the High Line, a 14-block long, 3 year old park along 10th Ave. innovatively emerged from a decrepit, elevated railroad track. It has boosted values for 3 blocks east and west of it. Communities value parks and will always be drawn to them in urban settings. The same people give life to the community, shop downtown, and provide an ambiance that cannot be expected without such urban space.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 11:44 p.m.

for 400 people (their MAXIMUM projection of people) to spend 7.5 million (their MINIMUM projection of spent money) a year, each person would need to spend $18,750 per year in Ann Arbor. Is that realistic? Are they including rent, or mortgage payments (which would most likely not be local). Is $19,000 a close num ber to what the average person spends downtown? Will these 400 include the affordable housing recipients?


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

Also, there could be a market for additional downtown condos and rentals IF they are middle-income affordable (if not, case en point, Ashley Terrace units, which had difficulty selling), but how could they be with the high property taxes the DDA is striving for?


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

Open, green space for congregating, eating lunch, and outdoor events could increase property values, too, DDA.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.

The detail missing from the discussion portrayed in the article is the flow of money. Who will pay, and who will benefit? Density, jobs and tax revenues are all fine as far as they go, but is there real market demand for this density? If so, at what price? Would the residents of the hypothetical condos over-gentrify downtown? And equally, at what cost? Would Ann Arbor sacrifice any hope of green space or parks downtown with this plan? What else isn't being said here?

Dog Guy

Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

Potentially, this could be the most vision in Ann Arbor since peyote and acid were cheap. Are public subsidies, tax abatements, and free addict housing also envisioned for these chateaux en espagne?

David Cahill

Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

Get set for "Conference Center - The Sequel".

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

I was there and I estimate the attendance of actual citizens was only about 6 people. The rest were DDA board members, reporters, and staff. One of the interesting aspects of the presentation was the heavy emphasis on obtaining top dollar value for all the properties, rather than many other possible priorities (which they listed) for downtown use. I asked a question about how that coincided with the recent discussion at DDA and to come at council that would put all those dollar yields into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It seems odd to me that two different qualities of priority are being set against each other. One is to get top dollar for the properties (presumably in aid of general city needs). The other is to divert all such proceeds into affordable housing, which is only one of the several priorities that were listed. (Those were cultural/performance venue; anchor/destination retail; public park/plaza space; business incubator space; affordable housing; green building practices.) In response to my question, Joan Lowenstein stated that getting a higher taxable value was also an objective (collecting more taxes). But of course, all of those taxes would go to the DDA, not to general city services (other than increases in later years due to inflation). It seems to me that we need to be talking about what uses would most benefit the citizens of Ann Arbor, not the maximum sales yield for our public properties.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

Dear Ann Arbor, Please build downtown parks at these five sites. Co-signed, fake-crutches, my-car-broke-down-can-you-spare-bus-money & camp-take-notice


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 9 p.m.

I agree about the size of the needed green space. The old Y lot looks like a better candidate than the library lot, because the latter is now broken up with various concrete structures (entrance and exit points to the underground lot). The size of the old Y lot is perfect for an urban park that the new nearby residents (and visitors to downtown) could actually use, rather than just pass through (which is all the proposed plaza on the library lot is big enough for). Cities from Plymouth to NYC benefit from urban GREEN space (not just more paving).

Joe Dohm

Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

One other comment: The sculpture plaza is tiny. I don't want a park 25% larger, I want one quadruple the size of the sculpture park.

Joe Dohm

Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

I think that both sellers and Eaton have good points. I was in Plymouth last weekend and thought Kellogg Park was a great example of what is possible on the library lot. I know that we love to eat in Ann Arbor, but it is nice to have a space that you can congregate for free instead of a bar or a restaurant. The DDA is also very bullish on attracting young professionals to Ann Arbor. The thing is that young professionals are a short lived bunch. They soon mutate into a species known as "parents." and are particularly keen to have a place to go with their kids. That said, a park on one property does not preclude high density development on the others.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

There is nothing wrong with your thought - and it's a good balanced view.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

A few pieces of additional info (in pictures): 1. Summary sheet from today's forum 2. A closer look at what's envisioned at Fifth and William 3. What's envisioned further west along William Note: Scenario C shows 280 residential units bringing 350-400 new residents, so units with 1.25 to 1.4 beds on average.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

Seems the DDA and current administration are determined to make Ann Arbor a mini version of Birmingham. They seem to favbor high density, incovenience, congestion, and more crime. It's clear their push is not in the residents interest only the developers. It's time for them to be disbanded.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

This remains a great development; the stretch of land in question is, for all intents and purposes, a dead zone within the city.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

If it comes out of the mouth of the DDA, like french fries it's best taken with a liberal dose of salt......

Jack Eaton

Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

In March of this year, the DDA conducted an on-line survey regarding the five City owned properties in the Connecting William Street initiative. That survey was formulated to guide respondents to predetermined conclusions. Yet overwhelmingly participants in that survey used the open-ended comment sections to communicate a desire for downtown parkland and green space. The current public outreach process includes a similarly slanted survey that fails to include any plan for the parks and green space that had so much support in the on-line survey. These properties are public assets and should be subject to the desires of the taxpayers, not the DDA. Any public process that fails to provide an option with considerable green space and park land will result in a plan that lacks public support. The City government and the DDA do not have a good record on requests for proposals (RFPs) precisely because they fail to engage the public in a meaningful manner. The Connecting William Street initiative cannot claim to be the "robust public process" the City Council asked the DDA to conduct, unless it includes options with significant park or green space on each of the five properties.


Tue, Sep 11, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

This is exactly true. I stopped going to the meetings after seeing the way the survey results were summarized. There was a clear and strong desire on the part of residents who took the survey for some sort of downtown open space where people could gather - to sit, to stroll, to gather for free events, perhaps even including a small recreation space (an ice rink, or children's fountain playground). Eateries and small businesses built around this space will do much more business. A "plaza" 1.25 times the size of Sculpture Plaza is hardly what people were talking about. Also, why not think beyond the sites in isolation? Why not expand public park space to include walkways between the spaces with places to sit, arbors, and so forth? Why not make the Blake Transit Center an appealing destination that is integrated into this public space, thus perhaps increasing its safety and generating more public transportation users? The A,B,C plans the city is presenting are all generic, have no site-specificity, and no interconnection with their surrounding areas.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

Why is it that a new parking lot has planting grates around the trees that are heavily rusted? Saw that at the new building on the corner by Cottage Inn too. Not to mention a very steep drop off on their sidewalk... Are you sure this is the library lot? Why aren't there wild weeds and rusty metal everywhere like at Traverwood...?


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

Traverwood is disgraceful looking, isn't it? 'Rustbucket' indeed.


Mon, Sep 10, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

14 stories is not tall. I say take advantage of the space and use it wisely. Space out the buildings properly, and do it with care, and it will look good and not destroy the small city feel. Keep in mind we are surrounded by rust-belt and if we are not careful, that will impact the city. The U and the innovative and young crowd is important toward sustaining the success we have as much as the older and wiser crowd is as stimulating that growth. If we are not careful, you will see growth sprawl, and you could see a Troy ( or Southfield ( spring up in Pittsfield or Scio township. Pick two (growth, sprawl, density)