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Posted on Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

Glen Ann developer Joseph Freed & Associates asks for 5-year site plan extension tonight

By Paula Gardner


The Glen Ann property, looking northwest from the corner of Ann and Glen.

Angela Cesere |

Update: City Council, with little discussion, postponed a vote until Oct. 18. It will appear in front of the HDC on Oct. 14.

A decade-long effort to build Glen Ann Place on the edge of the University of Michigan Medical Campus faces a defining vote on its future at tonight’s City Council meeting.

Developer Joseph Freed & Associates is asking the city to extend the project’s site plan for 5 years.

Staff is recommending a 2-year extension, based on other extensions awarded in the city as the economy turned.

But the Glen Ann request also could be denied, according to a staff memo.

The project, approved as a consent judgment in 2007 after litigation between Freed and the city, calls for 9 stories of apartments and lower level commercial space. It’s located on a half-acre of property assembled by Freed at least a decade ago on Glen, spanning the block from Catherine to Ann streets.

According to a memo from Ann Arbor Planning Manager Wendy Rampson, “Because the approval of this project was a consent judgment, it is within the City Council and HDC’s discretion to grant this approval if they would like to provide an opportunity for this development to be completed. Whether or not this extension is granted, the lawsuit between the two parties will remain settled.”

That litigation stemmed from years of battling by Freed to build the project, which was revised to go taller after initial incarnations called for office and parking space, too.

The property is in a city historic district — and it once held two historic homes — and the Historic District Commission didn't allow the homes to be demolished for the site plans to be finalized, prompting the lawsuit.

However, Freed demolished both houses after the consent judgment.

Among the considerations facing council as it votes on the extension, according to the staff memo:

• There’s a $1.008 million contribution to the city’s affordable housing trust fund if the project is built.

• The proposed project is “still appropriate” for the location due to its efficient land use and mixed uses.

• Private development on the property would “reduce the likelihood of the site being acquired by the University of Michigan.”

The site plan extension request comes as the economy has stalled development across the U.S., and many other projects have sought similar extensions in Ann Arbor and surrounding townships.

Yet of particular concern on this project is the situation facing Freed. The Illinois-based developer is battling with one of its lenders, sending some of its projects — including Ashley Terrace in Ann Arbor — into uncertainty over future ownership.

Dennis Harder, a senior vice president at Freed, said this afternoon that representatives would be at tonight’s meeting.

He would not comment on whether the Glen Ann property is for sale. It is not mentioned on the company's web site.

City Attorney Kevin McDonald said that despite an Aug. 11 letter from Harder to McDonald mentioning potential site compliance issues, the city found that wasn't the case.

Since the HDC was part of the settlement, it also would have to vote to approve an extension, officials said.



Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 7:25 p.m.

Give it to Freed or give to UM... Do we need the tax base or not?

Somewhat Concerned

Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 5:56 p.m.

We have a developer who cost we, the taxpayers, a lot of money when he sued the City because they wouldn't approve its plans. A developer who bullied the City into a settlement and tried to bully lenders who just wanted to get paid what they were owed. A developer with a failed project downtown. A developer who now wants another five - that's right, five years to put up its development. (Unless it sues the City again to get something it wants or asks for another extension under the threat of suing and running up our legal bills.) I say we get it over with. Give the developer a giant tax handout and float some bonds so it can build whatever it wants to build whenever it wants to build whatever it is. Mr. Developer from Illinois: would that make you happy?


Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 5:55 p.m.

In this economy I think it appropriate to give developers some slack. Five years is a bit long. I would prefer an extension but with a time table where he should be required to show particular stages of progress.


Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 5:31 p.m.

I'd like to know how much property tax was being collected annually at this location prior to the site being cleared and put into purgatory, and how much has been collected annually since then. I seem to recall two rental houses, a service station and perhaps another store or restaurant behind that. Surely these were contributing far more to the City's coffers than a vacant lot. We shouldn't allow developers to come in and clear a site of all active, tax-paying uses just so they can establish an indefinite place-holder vacant lot, with very low taxes. By lowering the taxes, the City is rewarding this blight. Now they want to keep paying low taxes for five more years? The Glen-Ann project that was approved at the height of the real-estate bubble hysteria is clearly no longer viable. Time to scrap it, propose something more in line with today's market realities, and get something built that will generate some decent tax revenues again. Council should be reminded that State law allows them to require performance guarantees (like a performance bond) from developers. We have quite enough vacant lots where tax-paying homes and businesses once stood.

Jim Mulchay

Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 5:03 p.m.

I don't have any strong feelings on this - it just seems to me that the only building / development really going on in Ann Arbor is by the University (and city hall and library projects). How many projected "developments" are there in the city that are stalled either for funding, legal hassles or trying to get approvals to continue - and how many are actively proceeding? The one that I notice is the plot on Washtenaw across from the Whole Food shopping center.


Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 4:33 p.m.

I commented on another poll, agreeing with someone else's comment about how badly written's polls are worded. Ditto. Again.


Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 4:25 p.m.

Why does insist on offering polls where each option consists of two or more possibly contradictory parts? "Give it to Freed. Five years isn't long in the development world." A respondent may feel that five years is a long time, but that the request is reasonable on another basis, such as having no confidence that another developer will be found in this market. "Modify it for less time. Two years is about right." Perhaps the respondent thinks that three years is about right, or one year. "Deny it and drop it. Glen Ann was never right for Ann Arbor." The respondent may feel that the project is acceptable, but have no confidence that this developer will ever pull it off and want someone else to have a go. Really,, creating cognitive dissonance with your answer options is clumsy, unnecessary, and a sign of poor editing. Please do better.


Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 3:37 p.m.

The fencing should not have been up for all these years. Make them remove the fencing and make the grounds safe (i.e. no pits or anything else in them). Based on the history with this developer, cut and run.


Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.

I say give him a couple of more years to hash out the lender problems then move forward with a viable plan for this area. I am personally tired of seeing this fenced off blight, and substituting that with some kind of restaurant/retail endeavor would be welcome. Not sure about the 9 stories, that seems a bit tall, but given its location juxtaposed to a large UM parking structure, apartment building (which you can see in the picture), Angelo's, and the foot of the medical campus, maybe that's justified. FYI, the two 'historical' homes that were razed were poorly-maintained eyesores, so not missing them at all. My main concern is, as usuald, traffic congestion, which is ridiculous in that area during morning and evening rush hours. Any plan that moves forward will have to address improving this intersection as well.