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 Wed, May 19, 2010 : 6:09 a.m.

Developers eye Kline's lot for 12-story downtown Ann Arbor mixed-use project

By Paula Gardner

klines lot.jpg

The city-owned property known as the Kline's lot in downtown Ann Arbor is operated as a parking lot with entrances from William and Ashley streets. A developer who has a mixed-use concept for the property hope the city will open it to development proposals this year.

Lon Horwedel |

A concept for a 500,000-square-foot, mixed-use development in downtown Ann Arbor would incorporate two city-owned lots and a public-private partnership to bring a hotel, conference center and new retail space to South Ashley Street.

No proposal has been submitted to the city, but developer Ron Jona said he hopes to finalize the concept and present it to the community by mid-summer.

As envisioned by Jona and his development team, the project - called “Ashley Promenade” - would be centered on Kline’s lot, now operated as a 140-space parking lot on the east side of South Ashley between Liberty and William streets.

The city lot at First and William streets also would be a part of the project, developers said, since they’re trying to incorporate new downtown parks into the conceptual plans. So would nearby properties on Ashley, with the various sites united in the single planning vision.

“We’re moving towards a mixed-use development that would incorporate retail, office, hotel, conference center and parking, with lots of parks and public improvements,” said Jona.

The “anchor” of the concept is a 12-story hotel. Other components include a conference center of about 80,000 square feet and underground parking, both of which could involve a public partnership, Jona said.

Further details were not available, Jona said, until the plans gel.

Jona, a Southfield-based architect, said he’s planner and developer for the concept. He and Ann Arbor-based real estate consultant William Eddy have been working on it for about two years, they said.

The pair continues to work on their feasibility study for the project, they said. Part of that includes procuring undisclosed nearby property.

They also seek commitments from potential tenants, and have a letter of intent from Hyatt Corp., Jona said.

As they finalize the vision for the property, they hope to see Ann Arbor start a “request for proposals” process for a developer to acquire the city-owned properties in their plan this year.

Over the last few months, Jona and Eddy have presented conceptual drawings and their vision for the property to some of the city’s business and government leaders.

Among them was City Councilman Stephen Rapundalo, who said he saw early versions of the concept.

“Clearly it’s predicated on them acquiring the lot of the city,” Rapundalo said. To do that, he said, there “would have to be some sort of public bid process.”

The city has three pending projects for city-owned land: The Library Lot on South Fifth Avenue, property at 415 W. Washington St. and the site of a demolished parking deck at First and Washington streets.

City Administrator Roger Fraser said officials will re-engage with the two finalists for the library lot development - Valiant and Acquest, both of which seek to build a hotel on the site - by June after the city's annual budget is finalized.

Site plans for First and Washington, approved for an apartment project by Village Green, will expire June 30. And no decision has been made on 415 W. Washington.

Meanwhile, in 2005, the Kline’s lot and the property at First and William were identified by the Downtown Development Authority as two parts of a “3-site plan” to encourage downtown development on city-owned property. The vision for the Kline’s lot called for “ground floor retail, small amount of office, market-rate housing, and underground parking to support the project.” It was not pursued.

Yet city officials say they’re ready to hear ideas for city-owned sites.

“We’re always looking for the opportunities to do development in the downtown,” said Fraser, who talked with the Ashley Promenade developers in 2009. “We’ve been talking for years about increased density. We’re willing to explore different ideas.”

Rapundalo stressed that the process needs to be open as any development proceeds. But he also said the Ashley Promenade effort - which he described as the product of “a considerable amount of thought” and analysis - appeared to be worth the city’s consideration.

“It’s an intriguing idea, and we’re just going to have to wait and see what they (present),” Rapundalo said.

Mayor John Hieftje, who said he hasn’t seen Jona’s plans, said moving forward on the Kline’s lot “would involve extensive community conversation.”

Part of that, he said, would be controlling the risk factors for the city in any potential development.

“I have no ideas about the wisdom of (building) a conference center,” Hieftje said. “As we’ve said in the past about proposals for the Library Lot, (we’re) not interested in putting the city at any risk for that.

“If something is going to happen on city property, I think cty taxpayers deserve a good return for that.”

That fits with the vision of Jona and Eddy, they said. As the details of the concept turn into specific plans, they said they’ll look for community input and emphasize citywide benefits to downtown development.

“This is a community project,” Eddy said. “… We hope to make this a draw to
Ann Arbor.”

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by email. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.



Fri, May 21, 2010 : 5:02 p.m.

If the city wants to sell a lot to make money, raise tax revenue, why not sell the parking lot that is one block north on Ashley between Washington and Huron? It's an entire city block; would fit a hotel/conference/shopping space and still have space for a park.


Fri, May 21, 2010 : 4:12 p.m.

There's a Pottery Barn at the mall. So, it would close, leaving an empty space at the mall. Is it even doing well? The entire Kline's lot would take up a Pottery Barn. How can it be big enough for a hotel/Pottery Barn/and enough enticing large rooms for a conference space? UM has plenty of space-the new Palmer Commons is excellent, along with space in the Unions, League, and all over campus. Everyone's forgetting that we have plenty of conference space in A2-Webers, Sheraton, Kensington Court-and others have space. There are conferences in A2 all the time. The Klines lot isn't ugly at all.


Fri, May 21, 2010 : 3:56 p.m.

I thought the library lot study said a hotel downtown-which also had a hotel/conference in its plan-would have many vacancies; that there wouldn't be enough business to support a need. Why then still build a downtown hotel? Or if one is going to be at the library spot, why then build another one? More empty office buildings; more empty retail space? That's what we need? More money for the city in property taxes at least unless the owners foreclose as they have on Ashley. And that little lot is so convenient to get to and just behind many nice places on Main. I would hate to see it go. What other parking downtown is there except the structure on Washington?


Thu, May 20, 2010 : 8:09 p.m.

I don't miss the Kline's era of downtown Ann Arbor at all...except for Whiffletree (ah old farm implements as decoration!), and the bad opera music at Oyster-Bar-Spaghetti-Machine. Downtown was: DEAD, RUNDOWN, DREARY, UGH. Main St. was a horrific eyesore - from the dangling streetlight fixtures to the 1970's fashions in the windows. A2 was way more Flint in the 80's and early 90s. That awful space where the Olga's was on State St sat empty for 10 fricken' years! I get so tired of the hand-wringing and moaning about how great yesteryear was - the downtown has never looked better! Unfortunately we're suffering from Royal Oak syndrome...the malady striking any cool or moderately hip place sooner or later. Artists and alternative folk move into an area, make it interesting, then in comes everyone else with more money, and soon the rent is astronomical - and Voila, the creative element moves on to the proverbial Ferndale where they can afford the rent, and one is left with corporate chains and "Panera Breads" *sorry, already one downtown* Outside of artificial rent controls, or kicking out anyone who makes under 100K/year, you can't support quaint, old-tymey, unique businesses with thin profit margins...or, you let things broil to a head and stand empty (as they were in the 80s) until the price comes down and the creative element rolls back in. I knew A2 was in for it when I noticed the modest tri-level 1950s home across the street from us sold for $345,000 in 2001...we about laughed ourselves sick.

John Floyd

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 4:26 p.m.

The graphic shown on the web site looks interesting, and certainly is a major departure from the updated 19th century look downtown Ann Arbor has now. The graphic does not include the 12 story tower, only 4 story structures that mimic downtowns current height. The devil is always in the details, and a more-detailed, more-final version of the plans must appear before any reasonable comment pro or con - can be made on the specifics. This could be a mess, but it also could be a great thing. Let's keep open minds. Note that because the project sits in the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) district, this and all other downtown projects will generate little new city tax revenue, because under the DDA charter, all new revenues from development go to the DDA, not the city (this is called Tax Increment Financing). Taxation of growth in the propertys value will, over the years, accrue to the city, but the initial revenue increase and the lions share of new taxes in your lifetime will go to the DDA. Dont expect relief from your taxes based on this, or any other, project in the DDA area. Two visceral reactions: 1) Relief: This development is proposed at Ground Zero of Downtown Ann Arbor, not on South U or State St., nor in an historic residential neighborhood. In addition, the proposed 12 stories is much lower than Carsten Hohnkes 18 (really, 25) story height limit. Still, why does the rendering exclude the 12 story tower? 2) Nervousness: The phrase, Public-private partnership makes me reflexively put my hand over my wallet, and slowly back out towards the door. Changes in draft A2D2 legislation that appeared to circumvent both public process and public opinion make me wonder if some other shoe will drop regarding this city-land proposal, as well. All this said, we need to keep open minds and look at the mature, detailed plans. This could be a really good thing. John Floyd Republican Council Candidate, 5th Ward

Alice Ralph

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 3:20 p.m.

I hereby post the 60th comment(s). The drawings are pure marketing, to be expected. The Kline's lot has few friends these days. Most people seem to expect and desire something more active and productive than a surface parking lot. A bit faurther into economic recovery, good time and good place for public UG parking and some resonable private infill development on top. [Not same as the Library Lot.] The latest and seemingly soonest-forgotten study suggested a funky[?] or industrial character for infill in the downtown part of First Street that is already trending that way, north a block. The exisiting residential retail buildings are another reasonable way to provide lower rents for local small businesses and maybe even some work-live arrangements. First and William is 98% in the floodway and all but designated for parkland as a greenway destination. On this last, at least I fervently hope so.

say it plain

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 1 p.m.

Who were the architects for the Traverwood Library Branch btw?! They did a fantastic job, and that's sorta the style I think would work well in that space...some blonde (but not too blonde, plus, they incorporated some of the dying ash trees they needed to cut down to clear the site, brilliant) woods, some white-space canvass, some silver-y aluminum-y elements, lots of nooks and crannies but with great sunlight, through varied windows. I think you can do some public meeting space if need-be, some small-scale loft-y hotel-space (don't make them suites, please, this is gonna be a single-person occupany model if it really will be attached to some conference-y space, d'oh!) with a mod kind of flavor, and a *lot* of frontage left open onto ashley, preserving the open feel of what now is the klines lot. No huge atria 'pouring' onto Main Street, but sure keep all the 'pouring' onto the main street side of the thing. But really all conference-y stuff would be better off over by the library, if we really and truly need to have a conference center. I can envision small-scale hotel space over on the kline's space if someone felt new beds were needed to accomodate a new conference center, but keep all individual structures--library lot and kline's lot--to smaller-scale! More height would be more acceptable to me in the library lot area than in the kline's one. Keep the height towering closer to the U and the new city hall, leave some air by the downtown near the OWS and it would all be prettier and make more sense given who tends to live in the towers in such an economy (students/grad students) and leave our little remaining funky space to breathe and attract new residents and dollars! A very small scale hotel or conference-space on/near the kline lot might improve the picture for funky retail down in that still-cool-and-nooky area, seems to me. But something huge and corporate would merely take victims I think.

say it plain

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

funny comments @speechless! I guess the developer 'broke it' with Ashley Terrace, ugh. Then the bank 'owns' it, and we all have this eyesore building with some screwed (I presume) residential tenants and no retail lesees. Still, much better than *us* owning it indeed! I agree with those who argue that the Kline lot is prime space just sitting there (tax revenue is important, I know!, but I do find that sort of surface-and-alley-scape appealing at some level, mock me for it if you must;-) it's well situated for feeling like a bit of human-scaleness in that area, particularly now that some of those taller buildings have gone in around it), but I'd prefer some kind of development that allows for the funky-ness --and viable interesting cool tax-revenue-generating retail space that it is too you know!--of the block lying behind it, to remain. I haven't seen the 'Radisson Plaza" in downtown kalamazoo, so will reserve judgment, but somehow just the name to me implies it would be sorta corporate-feeling and not so interesting. Ashley Terrace is a great example of Ann Arbor pretending to be Chicago (except with really terrible architecture...looks sorta like 1960s public housing). It didn't fly. Let's try to limit those type of 'tax-revenue'-generating developments, is my preference. Our appeal as a place comes from being funky but sophisticated and rather *human-scaled* I'd argue, kinda cozy but not "small", and we can't even rent out the retail space at the funky liberty lofts down the street there. As Dan points out, that would be a great place for a produce market/foods shop. My preference for the Kline Lot would be to create a short, small, human-scale space that would allow for additional funky retail to match that across the street and the nearby presence of the Blind Pig and the Fleetwood and the tattoo parlors etc and would have some spaces for sitting outside with your food bought from cafes/ nearby eateries/small produce markets (ah! for a bakery that's more like the ol' doughboys but more sophisticated! that would be so nice,and smell so good there no? *not* a cupcake shop please!). Something that would *not* tower over the area, that part of town's appeal is in its nookiness...leave angles, and nooks and crannies, and *sky*, and keep it seeming slightly industrial, not brick-y like kerrytown (let that be sorta unique), but not all burnished copper like the ashley mews and that whatever big pseudo-boston/chicago-y looking thing with marnee thai in the lobby is down the end of s. main street and william. Funky, to stay in keeping with the vicinity. And after all, it's near the train tracks, right? Maybe a little wrought-irony, but not too much, some aluminum, but not too much. Glass is nice, I liked that about the drawings on this Jona/Eddy site, but I don't understand the perspective or what is going on there. From those drawings it looks like they've built out in a 3 block radius all directions?! So, that's giant-sized. And I still don't get what *kind* of conference center people believe we need. For conferences of how many people? Are we talking about needing to accomodate more people than can easily be taking rooms at the existing hotels in town? I would like to see this area, Ashley, remain a sort of a buffer-zone architecturally between the taller buildings of central downtown and the sweet old archictecture of the Old West Side. I think that a transition-y feel would be fine, not a big old building that lies boom right in front of those cool older residential places and marks the border like a big nasty sentinel. I think that this is something of the feel that the massive building at Main and William creates--even though it is not that tall. It's not too too terrible because it boom! marks the sort of 'end' of downtown proper on the South end of Main Street, but I wouldn't want to see that theme play out also on Ashley and Liberty, that would not merely 'block' out the sun but be aesthetically icky, I think--and thusly less productive for the city all around.


Thu, May 20, 2010 : 7:50 a.m.

Quoted from above: "Paula, what is your source for this story? Did the developers make an announcement? Did you trap Rapundalo coming out of a secret meeting? Did you find secret plans in a dumpster outside City Hall?" Well, in the article above, 'say it' and Paula provided us with this link: No doubt it's plumbed from the depths of the world wide virtual dumpster. (On a side note, when looking at the colorful architectural illustration near the top of that linked page, I can't help but wonder why Ypsi's Thompson bldg. is displayed so prominently at center-left and why it's still on fire.) A few random responses to other comments: Regarding a possible conference center, Kate Boyd is right about the annoyance of having to drive to the Detroit area so often, but Moose is likely correct that internet conferencing will reduce the number of in-person events over time. On a vaguely related matter, maybe Alan Haber's community commons concept will turn up someday as part of one of these development proposals. The Kline's lot might look boring, yet for now it still provides useful downtown parking. Other than that, blndpg's (Blind Pig's?) assessment sounds reasonable to me. If the lot does get developed at some point, something smaller than the Promenade should work better on that spot. It would be worthwhile for Pottery Barn to lease retail space downtown just to see Colin Powell cut the ribbon on grand opening day. No public-private partnership, please. Financially speaking, if the developer breaks it, they own it.


Thu, May 20, 2010 : 7:48 a.m.

Anyone been to Kalamazoo lately? The Radisson Plaza downtown is incredible. Will this project succeed in Ann Arbor? As long as the taxpayers aren't on the hook, welcome to capitalism where private investment is free to be put at risk. (I think the developers will do their homework before breaking ground.) This site is where this type of development should be located. The height issue will be scrutinized along with other designs aspects as the process unfolds. People whine about paying high property taxes. Projects like this bring in a huge increase in the tax base, instead of us facing cuts in services or increased taxes. Scrutinize projects like these, yes, but let them come.


Thu, May 20, 2010 : 6:09 a.m.

The City owns 19% of the land within the limits. Most is parkland. Turning a small portion of the land into a huge addition to the tax base is a win-win. There should be no public funding, however. If the developer/businesses involved are confident of making money without public funds it will probably succeed. The drawing looks great!

Dan Rubenstein

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 10:15 p.m.

It is hard to believe the high end retailers envisioned could survive. No one has bitten on the Liberty Lofts retail space, which would be beautiful for a produce market. While those downtown (like me) may welcome these retail options (which, nostalgia-prone, are not so different from what Kline's, the old pharmacy, theaters, etc., have offered through the years), this feels out of scale for a city the size of Ann Arbor. Chicago, maybe. This just sounds like too much for that space to support in terms of foot traffic (customers). Anyway, how is all of this supposed to fit into that single lot -- atriums, walkways (connecting to Main how?), parking, gobs of retail, hotel, conference center, condos, and restaurants? Anything's possible, I suppose. But can anyone tell from what perspective that drawing is supposed to be? It looks like a town in itself. Are there other graphics available? Regarding houses west of Ashley, I agree it would be a shame to ruin this funky retail row. But, how realistic, or pleasing, is it to have as the boundary between Main and Ashley a surface lot? In other words, Ashley has been lucky to be spared development simply because til now no one has had a plan for Kline's lot. But it was inevitable. If you look at where downtown is strong, vibrant, and pressing out, a surface lot there is not natural or sensible. But what kind of project would you like to see instead? Just shorter? This is what the city will be discussing, so just as well to get your ideas out now.


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 4:41 p.m.

i've always felt the western edge of downtown was underdeveloped. it felt similar to main street royal oak or michigan ave in dearborn where there are storefronts along the main drag and surface lots in the back. ann arbor has a nice little downtown. they should max out the development wherever reasonably possible. develop westward until you hit the railroad tracks and that's a pretty good demarcation for downtown versus the residential westside. you can use the ymca, whatever civic project is going to built across from the y, and west park as buffer zones between the residential houses on the westside and the downtown highrises. my suggestion would be to build the 12 story structures and taller along huron. there are many preexisting large buildings up and down huron and the traffic and width of huron doesn't lend itself to the strolling type of activity you would find down main or liberty or washington so it would be perfect for the larger projects like condos and hotels. i think that kline's lot and the commercial houses across the street from that lot would be better suited to individual slivers of buildings that you see down main...just make them taller, 6 or 7 stories. the ashley promenade concept doesn't seem promising or likeable for that matter and i doubt it'll make it far in discussions with the council or dda. but, yeah, i'd like to see something better going on with the kline's lot and also the one bordered by huron, 1st, washington, and ashley.

David Cahill

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 3:56 p.m.

Paula, what is your source for this story? Did the developers make an announcement? Did you trap Rapundalo coming out of a secret meeting? Did you find secret plans in a dumpster outside City Hall?


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 1:44 p.m.

"well, seriously, you two, the UM doesn't need conference space? Then why are we even considering building some?!" "We" (at least me) are disussing that for the City of Ann Arbor, not the University of Michigan.

say it plain

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 1:31 p.m.

well, seriously, you two, the UM doesn't need conference space? Then why are we even considering building some?! Surely then there isn't a need for a new conference center in ann arbor and this is truly all moot? I give up, back to the usual suspects...cheers....

say it plain

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 1:27 p.m.

@rusty shakelford, hey great, thanks for settling that all for us, I guess we can all go home now and stop discussing. :-) I feel like I'm playing andie macdowell to your bill murray;-) Don't you like the shiny windows on the promenade plans? Why are you so sure it wouldn't get approved, Councilman Rapundulo likes it, it sounds like? And don't you like that it offers a supermarket/produce market? Don't we need shops like that? And about rents, thanks for the rent-price supply/demand lesson;-) Yes, I realize that higher rents are bad for independents, I wasn't arguing that I want to see no downtown development because it would be bad for independent shopkeepers. I was arguing that *certain kinds* of new developments wouldn't lower rents much if at all (at least not if the tenants were worked out beforehand, with corporate HQs and so on), at least not initially...were you somehow arguing with my contention or was I unclear? never mind, that was rather a rhetorical question;-)


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 1:23 p.m.

Yes not in anyway does UofM lack conference space. Don't know where that idea came from.

rusty shackelford

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 1:17 p.m.

hahahahaha. UM does NOT lack conference space.

Brian Kuehn

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 1:09 p.m.

The Courthouse Square Apartment building was once a 10 story Sheraton hotel. That worked out real well, didn't it. If a developer wants to build a highrise hotel downtown, go for it. Just don't ask me to pay taxes to support the project with publicly financed parking or conference buildings. If a conference center is important to the area, maybe the University should partner with a developer. Certainly the University has a need for conference space. If it is a good idea for the City it should be an equally good idea for U of M.

rusty shackelford

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 1:02 p.m.

However, I will say that there is no way that the specific proposal to which Paula links will pass (and probably shouldn't), so we can all rest easy on that front.

rusty shackelford

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 12:58 p.m.

Say it plain, I'll let you in on a secret: higher rents are bad for independent stores. They are comparatively good for chains/franchises for 2 reasons: 1. they are a higher barrier to entry for small-time entrepreneurs, while chains can afford higher upfront costs like rent and 2. many times chains don't pay the same rent that independents would have to, because they have huge legal and logistical teams to negotiate prices down for them--resources unmatched by small-time entrepreneurs. Your hyperbole is a bit tiresome. No one is talking about tearing down any of your beloved places (I like them too). The only thing being considered here is sale of land that is right now functioning literally as an empty lot. Almost any kind of business is more desirable than that. And if one argues there is are some empty of housing and commercial rental properties downtown, one has to admit that there is an even greater over-supply of parking lots. And even if there were some chain businesses in that space (which would not be my desired outcome either) I guess I have more faith in our local entrepreneurs than you do. There is a Starbucks on Main, yet Mighty Good thrives, as do at least 2 competing roasteries. Bar Louie can exist a stone's throw away, and Ashley's, ABC, Grizzly Peak, and Old Town have yet to burn to the ground. Heck, the city could even take the money from the sale and and earmark it for SPARK or some kind of local retailer venture fund. Finally, as has been noted in the article itself, this is only ONE proposal, by law the city must essentially auction off the land, not just give it to the first person who expresses an interest.


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 12:56 p.m.

"My point is merely this: Ann Arbor's downtown has had charm, to me anyway, because of its quirky and unique retail and eateries." I can understand this point, but I do not agree with it. Ann Arbor needs to grow. "...that our strip malls contain the same stuff from sea to shining sea, and our fancy malls contain the same stuff from sea to shining sea..." Yes well strip malls mainly exsist because there isn't enough space to open up shops downtown, so all the rents are too high, because people don't want new buildings built "downtown."

say it plain

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 12:44 p.m.

Ah groundhog's day, one of my favorite movies! So, what happens is that we all realize the day we have to live over and over and are terribly bored by is *actually* one we *get* to live over and over, and learn new things, and come to consider everything more deeply, and then get the gorgeous girl on a sunny new day?! Cool, lovely sentiment @blahblahblah;-)


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 12:41 p.m.

This all reminds me of Groundhogs Day the movie. The same old story, the same old comments, over and over and over again.... We all know the ending as well.

say it plain

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 12:40 p.m.

@Lokalisierung, I don't have any problem with 'competition'...and I don't work for the Michigan Theater. My point is merely this: Ann Arbor's downtown has had charm, to me anyway, because of its quirky and unique retail and eateries. And its historic art theater (which was almost torn down itself years ago, right, for a more 'profitable' mall, haha). Would a great big panera bread be popular on Main Street? Probably! Would a Pottery Barn be able to beat out small start-up furniture shops on Main Street? Probably! Would a quality-16 do better than an art house shop on Main Street? Maybe (there is seating capacity to worry about there I'm guessing)! Would I want pottery barns and panera breads and such to pop up downtown? No. God no. But, my suspicion is that if we let 'development' happen under certain circumstances, like a generally over-expensive time to be developing wherein only deep-pocketed folks can play, that's what we'll end up with. But hey, as @rusty shakelford points out, if we allow rental units to proliferate, then it will cause rents everywhere to come down, and once the corporate shops vacate it might then be open once again to more interesting stuff? Where can I move to in the meantime;-) It's depressing enough to me, I guess not to everyone here of course, that our strip malls contain the same stuff from sea to shining sea, and our fancy malls contain the same stuff from sea to shining sea... it gets extra sad to see our downtowns containing the same stuff from sea to shining sea is all. oh well, I'll have to sing a revised joni mitchell then..."they dug up the parking lot, and built a catalog-shopper's paradise!"...ooh, but with pretty glass walls;-) and underground parking;-)


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 12:29 p.m.

Should be "I Don't understand...." Whoops


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.

"check out the list of proposed retailers in this plan...pottery barn! have the independent furniture stores nearby already folded?" This is America ya know. "And they're proposing a movie theater too?! Wow, the Michigan Theater must be thrilled about that." I understand why people are so afriad opf competition. Also, this town shouldn't revolve around what the Michigan Theater thinks is good or not.

say it plain

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 12:14 p.m.

you're welcome Paula;-) check out the list of proposed retailers in this plan...pottery barn! have the independent furniture stores nearby already folded? three chairs still there or have they gone under yet? It sure helps to have a huge corporate bankroll behind you to keep strollers buying a pillow or vase here and there and adding a little here and there to your bottomline til the economy improves or corp HQ fires your 'associates' and shuts down your branch, no?;-) And they're proposing a movie theater too?! Wow, the Michigan Theater must be thrilled about that. Well, I'm sure there are people who hate 'art films' and are going to be happy to catch Transformers 8 downtown instead of having to head to the Quality, that'll be so cool! And in any case, people who live on ashley shouldn't be expected to drive all the way to state street, especially in the cold and especially given how hard it is to park in downtown Ann Arbor;-) Oh, walking?! They'd be too tired to walk that far, after spinning or pilate-ing or whatever they'd be doing for a fee at the exercise shop down the block! Or has that gone under too? No worries! At least there'll be a pharmacy (woohoo! services!) at the new promenade for those who live in the housing units there, because prozac helps with those blues one gets from lack of walking! I can't help but be less than thrilled about this transformation of Ann Arbor here envisioned, but whatever...


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 11:52 a.m.

"I guess everyone living west of this monstrosity would never see the sun rise again, especially on that hill." Different development, same tears. Everyone said this about the Olga's site downtown...last time I was down there I still saw the sun.

Paula Gardner

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

Say It Plain, Thanks for finding & sending along the link with the online project description. Anyone who wants to read/see more should go to this link: I'll add it to the first reference of Ashley Promenade in the story, too.

rusty shackelford

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

I should also note that a surface parking lot is pretty much the least desirable form of commercial activity from multiple standpoints. I think we should welcome all reasonable proposals (not just this one) that involve giving the city much needed income for land that is not contributed a whole lot to the economy, and then developing it into something good for the economy.

rusty shackelford

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 11:38 a.m.

say it plain: your point is well noted. There are several store fronts empty in and around downtown. this is true in even the densest cities and those with the most booming economies. there will never be perfect meet up of supply and demand. however, increasing overall supply of both residential and commercial space eventually brings rental prices down, which is good for potential small businesses as well as residents. Doing it close to other businesses (i.e. downtown) helps to create a critical mass of potential customers and raises property values for nearby homeowners. the more appealing downtown ann arbor is, the more those old homes on the OWS are worth. i don't think anyone is worried about some kind of huge development west of third.

say it plain

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

Ooh, check it out, Ashley Promenade is already online, cool! I love the budwieser billboard, is that one way to fund the project?! And the guy's website tells us his ideas are "outside the box", extra cool;-) I see also that he's a buddy of Berriz and the McKinley crowd, so no surprise that first they had to get that pesky extra school millage defeated first, can't afford any extra property taxes on a prop that would be very tight margin-wise, is that it;-)?!


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

Mr. Jona, I have one word for you: RUN. Run as fast as you possibly can away from this. You may have the perfect idea for that area, you might even have a beautiful design in mind that would complement its surroundings. But you will spend 2-3 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to get this project approved, only to fall on the deaf ears of a city council who can't make up their mind which shoe to put on first, much less what is good for our city and what is not. I repeat: RUN!

say it plain

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 10:59 a.m.

let's not get caught up on a hard-to-parse post fellas lol.. and in any case, parking lots *are* charming compared to that thing on ashley in foreclosure, my deepest apologies to people who bought in that development on the promises made by the developers, truly. We just have to accept, folks, that for now, parking lots are places where people can park to shop at existing stores and at possible future stores/eateries/entertainment venues that could fill the many existing vacancies. Am I missing something, or are there actual businesses clamoring to fill the spaces sitting empty? Are they just too 'wrong' to fill, indicating that we've somehow misjudged what would otherwise send a cascade of people to shop and live and rent retail/office space downtown? I think pricing might be relevant, and as critics of the Ashley Terrace development pointed out, there was just no way to build condos/big buildings downtown at the time that would allow pricing to be attractive to buyers. Perhaps hotels (especially chains with deep pockets and the ability to secure loans in this tough credit environment) are the last appealing development idea (that, and anything supported by municipalities silly enough to consider it) because when folks are in from out of town for football games and conferences they're not spending 'rationally'. I suspect that this is all that big-scale developers have left to offer us, this and student housing because that too is 'funny money' with parents paying the bill and grad students running up credit card debt just til they get their sheepskins. Hey, I know, what about a casino;-)?! Now that would be such a draw, people from all the nearby little(r) towns would come! They wouldn't have to drive all the way to Detroit for slots anymore!


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

Oh no! If this project is approved, will the tree in the picture disappear? If so, I'm adamantly opposed to this! You're also telling me that I'll have to park in a different location? No way! My Dodge Stratus will NOT be left elsewhere! This project is an absolute disaster!!!!

Mumbambu, Esq.

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 10:40 a.m.

Did someone actually write that parking lots are charming?

rusty shackelford

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

for a town that has a historic commission that doesn't want zingermans to expand they sure are letting all the charm go downtown, the library lot and klines lot are charming/historic and some highrise? do we need another highrise? I literally have no idea what you are talking about. How are empty lots charming or historic?


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 10:18 a.m.

They can also go 3-4 stories under ground and get more square footage without compromising the skyline. I think it would be cool if they could mak that an under ground garage with an entrance off the parking lot on First St.


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

and we are forgetting, wwill there be 1% of the budget going for art? oh boy! I can't wait to see what kind of crap they come up with.

say it plain

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 9:47 a.m.

I gotta say it's amusing to hear from people who find it 'a drag' to have to drive to conferences in Detroit lol. Yeah, we should build a center here to prevent them from suffering that hassle. Um, can people please tell me why we'd expect rents to be 'reasonable' in the lobby space of a conference center? What kind of retail would one expect there? Why is this even being bandied about for retail and office...isn't it as clear as the noses on our collective faces that vacancy rates are up, that retail isn't surviving? Right across the street on Ashley is an ugly facade of partly sold condos now in foreclosure that couldn't sell 'market-rate' condos and couldn't lease retail/office space! Are developers sure they can make a 'prettier' property that will be successful instead, and we'll just have to figure out what to do with the horror down the street? Is that why a hotel there is appealing, because it'll be a sort of self-contained meeting machine somehow, and keep monied bottoms in restuarant and bar seats and strolling with wallets? Down the street at liberty and first is Liberty Lofts with lots of retail/gallery/whatever space sitting vacant too, no? Seriously folks.... please, everyone, what is the motivation here? The whole nation is reeling from the 'build it and they will come' mentality and the overbuilding that this has caused. We're supposed to be all smart here in AA. Why don't we seem to get it? Arguments about development where there isn't absolutely demonstrated need should be hung up to wait til the recession truly ends, no? Because developers have shown that--okay I'll try to be generous lol--they don't really know what the future holds and can be a little, um, over-optimistic of late, no?


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 9:41 a.m.

for a town that has a historic commission that doesn't want zingermans to expand they sure are letting all the charm go downtown, the library lot and klines lot are charming/historic and some highrise? do we need another highrise? we don't need this, like we don't need a million dollar urinal at city hall


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

It won't or shouldn't happen simply because we already have so many vacancies in downtown! Ashley Terrace Condominiums has just entered foreclosure (do to lack of occupancy), so building more when there is no need for additional housing or office space is not a bright idea. Do we want to look like Detroit in 10 years?


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 9:20 a.m.

Another downtown hotel does not seem wise at this point. Maybe in 10-15 years. Campus Inn and Bell Tower still have a lot vacancy except during Art Fair, etc.

Ben Mitchell

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 9:14 a.m.

I would associate myself with local guy's comments. Reflexive opposition to any new development really seems destructive. I am sympathetic towards people for whom change is difficult, and of course I have my own nostalgic memories for what Ann Arbor was 30 and 40 years ago. But lets be careful not to windowdress the past too much. We should be cognizant that Ann Arbor needs to pursue development and maintain its reputation as a community that is forward looking and attractive to potential new residents. I miss Kline's and some of the funky stores as much as anyone, but I try to be careful not to let this turn into provincialism and opposition to any change and new development.


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 8:57 a.m.

Even though we all *know* where the various cited locations are, it would be great if you all could include MAPS that show locations - I suggest this be a policy for all articles that refer to addresses or locations as a central part of the article. I agree that a downtown A2 conference center would be terrific - as another commenter noted, it's a drag to have to drive to Plymouth, Birmingham, Detroit (etc.) for conferences, and it would be nice (a) to have conferences here, plus (b) keep the business in Ann Arbor.

Sloppy Joe

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 8:56 a.m.

Without seeing the rough plan it is probably premature to rant, although we do! Personally, I am not sure that the city needs a conference center, so I would prefer if that component was not built with public funds. Given the occupancy rates at hotels, would this drive existing ones out of business? Finally, in view of the fact that retail is being driven from the are, as long as rents were not as exorbitant as on Main street, this may be a plus. These might be an unintended consequence of bringing more people from out of town to Main St.: the inexcusably almost uniform bad quality of the restaurants, which locals often refuse to face and "reviewers" shamelessly boost, would be revealed to all. People who travel would know that only the side-street restaurants downtown vaguely conform to national standards.

Pete Warburton

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 8:55 a.m.

For people that moved to Ann Arbor after 1985..It is called the Kline's Lot because Klines Department Store faced Main street at that location. Many townies bought their blue jeans where beer is served now....Main Street used to be a place people purchased day to day items. It now seems to be a large food court with high prices and poor parking. is still alive and feels like Ann do we want mess that up with 12 stories of vacant space...

local guy

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 8:40 a.m.

Let's not jump to conclusions. I've actually seen part of this plan and it has considerable appeal. Having a high quality hotel in town is needed, and the guests at the hotel/convention will be right downtown which will make the downtown even more vibrant. This will be an economic asset. There will also be lots of parking. The "monstosity" will be off the main drag (connected to the Main/Liberty districts), will be multi-leveled and will blend in well with the downtown. It does not alter the flavor of the west side at all. In fact, the west side will get the benefit of a true park buffering it from the business district by the conversion of the parking lot along First and the train tracks to a legitimate park. The conference center will show of the town via great views. This is a much better location than the library lot. Major hotels will prefer being off of Main Street rather than being in a more isolated center of the block location than the library lot. Let's wait and see before we make final judgment. The risk of success should be borne by the developer, but having this magnet off of Main Street should be a real asset.


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 7:34 a.m.

Plans for a multi level parking structure on the Klines exist lot somewhere within city hall. They were drawn many years ago. Engineering studies have already been done. Multi story mixed use with underground parking is a good idea at that location as long as the developers are realistic in their plans and do NOT rely on public money for their for profit development. If there is any kind of residential at that location is should be designed and directed towards YP's and single working people. Unlike the Moravian, this IS a true downtown location. The concept of conference centers surrounded by parking lots is outmoded. Build it and they will come is unproven. Hotels are not the kind of long term residential housing the city needs. With a clear future of teleconferencing and rising transportation costs, conference centers will be dinosaurs or should I say albatrosses in the not too distant future.

rusty shackelford

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 7:24 a.m.

In a normal city, most people would be in favor of someone buying an empty lot from the taxpayers and turning it into something economically productive. In Ann Arbor... I guess we'll have to wait and see, but I'm not hopeful.


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 7:09 a.m.

It would be nice to have a more traditional conference center downtown, the Eagle Crest is the only significant conference center in the area that I know of, the rest of hotel rooms which are okay for some things.


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 7:06 a.m.

Wow a hotel and conference center development that is shared public/private ownership. I feel like I've seen this movie before.


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 6:46 a.m.

At least it's not another proposal for $1.5 million condos. *eye roll* Ann Arbor DOES need a conference center...I hate driving to Troy or Novi for every design seminar, software, or comic convention - and you can bet your boots those cities are reaping the benefits of their outdatted, outmoded, hot/stuffy, smelly 1980's conference centers as there aren't many in the state. However, not sure a convention center would work downtown as parking would be an issue - need tons of it, unless there was a viable park-n-ride or shuttle system in place.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 6:26 a.m.

"I guess everyone living west of this monstrosity would never see the sun rise again," seeing the sun rise or set is relative to your immediate horizon. I can't see the sun rise either. There is a two story house and a Walnut tree blocking my view.

say it plain

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 5:56 a.m.

You have *got* to be kidding?! Did these jokers check out the recent story about Ashley Terrace across the street there being in foreclosure?! What in heck is *anybody* thinking?! Please leave that section of town to be a little funky still or I tell you for sure there will be exodus from Ann Arbor, because clearly it is losing anything resembling its former fun self. That street is one of the only left in town that has some funky. The Fleetwood and the little houses containing some shops and services and the kind of retail that couldn't afford the rents these silly people would would be filled with chains or at best expensive gallery type retail for ladies who used to hang in southfield to drive to. A *hotel* and conference center of 12 stories across the street?! If any of this flies with any body I would have to be convinced that no lessons at all have been learned in this economy, and the outlook is bad bad bad, because the people who have money to chase return have no clue at all what they're doing, pathetic!!!

Richard C

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 5:53 a.m.

They want to take another of my favorite parking lots. First, the library surface lot and now this one. I think that area is a very nice part of downtown and putting a 12 story building(monstrosity) there would ruin it. I am still not convinced that downtown Ann Arbor needs a hotel and conference center.


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 5:52 a.m.

Do we need a hotel downtown??...we have Campus Inn. There is alot of empty office space and retail space available. No, at this time it does not sound like a viable idea.

Paula Gardner

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 5:49 a.m.

The developers did say two things about the height - paraphrasing here, but essentially that the property slopes there, so it won't appear to be 12 stories when compared to the other buildings that front Main Street. And also that they expect the design to incorporate varying heights as the building reaches 12 stories so it's "not all one mass."

J. Sorensen

Wed, May 19, 2010 : 5:10 a.m.

I used to live in one of those houses across from this lot near the Fleetwood. 12 stories?!? I guess everyone living west of this monstrosity would never see the sun rise again, especially on that hill. Bad idea.