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Posted on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

South State Street corridor study: Public input session to evaluate city's 'critical gateway'

By Lizzy Alfs

What’s the potential for future development and land use on the 2.15-mile stretch of State Street from Stimson south to Ellsworth Road?

That’s the question at the center of the City of Ann Arbor’s first major planning study of the South State Street corridor in 22 years.


The Produce Station, 1629 South State St., is among the business stakeholders located along a stretch of South State Street that's being studied by the city. file photo

The study, launched last year, will identify ways to preserve existing land uses and ensure future uses are compatible and complementary. The study’s director, Kristin Baja, said the end result likely would be a new chapter added to the city’s master plan.

As part of the study, the city is hosting its second public input session from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Sheraton Hotel at 3200 Boardwalk Drive.

Baja said this session will focus on land use, transportation and aesthetics of the corridor.

“(This meeting) we’re actually doing more of an open house format,” she said. “We’re going to have people going around to different maps and actually being able to outline what changes they’d like to see in some of the different areas.”

The planning process has included conversations and surveys with various “stakeholders” in the corridor. Among them: University of Michigan, which owns several properties along the corridor, Briarwood Mall, Research Park, Produce Station, McMullen Properties, and Hidden Valley Club apartments.

Andrew Gorsuch, general manager of The Produce Station, located at 1629 S. State St., participated in some of those conversations. He called South State Street a “critical gateway” to the city.

“A lot of people definitely come into town that way, and I think the presentation probably could be improved somewhat,” he said.

He said he has no “major long-term concerns” about the area, but said there are a few things he supports: making the street more walkable and bicycle friendly, and developing more mixed-use properties being among them.

“I was surveyed about mixed-use versus office-use, and I guess, as a retail person, mixed-use is attractive because there will be more people in the area.”

Baja said it’s this type of input from the public and stakeholders that will drive the plan’s recommendations.

“What we’re trying to do is take all the recommendations and feedback and draft our recommendations based on that feedback,” she said. “We’re continuing to try and gather community input and make sure we’re following along the path of what people want along this corridor.”

According to city documents, South State Street is Ann Arbor’s “primary office, research and light industrial corridor.” The area has about 900,000 square feet of office space and 580,000 square feet of industrial and light manufacturing space — more than any other area of Ann Arbor.

Commercial and residential uses also are present in the corridor, but constitute a smaller percentage of land use.

As the corridor study moves along, the city's planning staff plans to post all materials, reports, maps and plan drafts on a new city webpage at

Anyone interested in providing feedback and unable to attend Wednesday's input session can contact Kristin Baja at or 734-794-6000 ext. 42653.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

How about the North Main slum gateway???


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:17 a.m.

Why not invite various groups to help plan portions of it, like the native plant group Wild Ones, the Native Plant Nursery, or a permaculture group? WCC has both permaculture and organic gardenic classes, perhaps a class could do some planning as a project. Or UM's Matthei Botanical Gardens. What is beautiful and sustainable-low maintenance? There could be demonstration plantings that are educational. There are many similar groups in the area.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

Why not have an electronic input option? More opinions and suggestions should be welcome and encouraged.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:07 a.m.

Great idea.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:03 a.m.

Getting in and out of the Produce Station is impossible, especially if trying to head south on State Street from the store. Their parking lot is jammed much of the time, with those mercedes double parking, not wanting to walk from a parking space to the store like the rest of us plebes. Anyway, whatever plans are developed for this corridor should include better and safer access to the Produce Station from State. And the Produce Station needs to enforce their double parking....which creates traffic jams for everyone not driving a fancy car and breaking the rules....

Tom Whitaker

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 9:33 p.m.

Here we have yet more piecemeal planning when what we need is staff, planning commission and council focused on fixing the relatively simple, yet multiple weaknesses in our current zoning ordinance.

Andrew R. Gorsuch

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

Glad to see so many comments!! I hope everyone can make it to the meetings about this project hosted by the City of Ann Arbor.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

In response to 15crown00 who suggests building more apartments: Population growth in Ann Arbor is projected to be FLAT over the next five years and longer. Building apartment buildings on speculation and having them remain mostly empty will not enhance State Street. Furthermore, with readily available housing much nearer downtown and the U of M apartments on State Street will attract less residents. Then there is the question of where you build it as all the land along South State Street is fully developed with mature businesses which are likely to remain indefinitely.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

How about a climbing gym along this corridor?


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

How about a commuter lot at Eisenhower and make State Street a bike /walk way into town to encourage health, fitness and saving the planet? This will divert traffic and eliminate all of those traffic jams on State Street during U of M games.

Jim Mulchay

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

It would seem to me that unless the traffic flow from Stimson north to the U-M athletic complex is addressed any improvements south of Stimson will not be significant as far as "downtown" Ann Arbor. It could improve activity in the corridor specifically addressed - But you will find the same traffic patterns north of the Stadium bridge - bottlenecks, awkward to cross for pedestrians / bikes and a series of stoplights from Hoover to Packard - and no good way to get to Stadium from State Street. One possible (fairly radical, I'd think) possibility - shut automobile traffic at Stimson - build a "commuter" lot in the corridor and develop a trolley (yes, a trolley!) or regular shuttle bus that goes up from the Stadium bridge to downtown. I can think of a lot of practical arguments against this, but would make State Street along the U-M athletic complex pedestrian and bike-friendly - and (in theory) reduce the automobile traffic downtown.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

It's the logical successor to the "road diet". It's called "road starvation" and you just close all the lanes. Brilliant.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

I think a key issue that the planning effort should consider is non-motorized connectivity. There is a lot of connectivity that could be added with close collaboration with the university, railroad, and private property owners that would significantly aid commuters into the area. Specifically: There should be a E/W non-motorized connection between Scio Church and South State along the southern edge of the golf courses or hooking into one of those dead end streets. There should be a non-motorized connection between S. State/Stimson and Boardwalk to avoid the hill for folks going NW/SE. There should be a non-motorized connection along the railroad ROW between S. State / Stimson and Kipke (or better yet, E. Hoover). There should be a better non-motorized connection across I-94.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

"Presentation probably could be improved somewhat." No kidding? How could it get worse, with that weed filled median disaster in front of Briarwood, the convoluted mess in front of the I-94 interchange, etc.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

Interesting input everyone! I'm enjoying reading your thoughts on that corridor.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

Honestly, that is a pretty correct version of what people can expect when visiting Ann Arbor. It represents a city that does not take care of the details. Parks are overgrown with weeds, schools are beginning to look unkempt and abandoned, coming down Main street from M14 has how many boarded up homes? Really, the administrators of the city have really abandoned some of the core elements that beautify a city. Instead, we get a $50 million parking structure for 500 ish spaces, a $60 million dollar city hall upgrade, a Stadium Bridge for $23 million that could easily be replaced by stop lights and crossings. That is over $100 million in projects that provide ZERO value add to me as a taxpayer. I receive no improved services and no improvements in public beauty. So, my point is, these requests for public hearings are a joke. They give the impression the city is listening, but my opinion is they will just move on with the status quo of their own ego driving a decision, and nothing the public says.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

Unfortunately, the City planners don't likely agree with Mr. Gorsuch's assessment. Attention to the City's 'gateways' has never been given in any demonstrable way. S. State (and Eisenhower in either direction) are poorly paved and benefit from no beautification, other than by some adjacent businesses. And State northbound never connects directly with Stadium, making it easy for visitors to get lost. Ann Arbor-Saline suffers the same poor pavement; the Jackson Rd. gateway is both ugly and congested; N. Maple is just fairly ugly. Plymouth Rd. might be the "best of the bunch," though there, again, congestion is a significant problem. Finally, the long-suffering Washtenaw corridor is finally seeing incremental improvement, but has a long way to go. @JimmyD has it right: first impressions count, and Ann Arbor provides fairly sad ones.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

Before any grand plans are developed how about some simple housekeeping. Specifically, between 94 & Eisenhower. The concrete median islands overgrown with weeds a couple feet high. That alone will do more to enhance the image than pie in the sky plans. Come on Mayor and Council get your garden gloves, some rakes, and a couple gallons of Round Up. Whoops that will prompt a union grievance.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.

Nix the Roundup.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Speaking of "pedestrian friendly", on State near Stimpson where the RR tracks cross the road, they installed a pedestrian walk/wait signal on the sidewalk to signal when it is OK to make the 8 foot journey across the tracks. Does anyone besides me think that is an unnecessary waste of money? Are there really people who would rely on that instead of looking for trains?


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 4:07 a.m.

The visually impaired or otherwise disabled ?


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

If im not mistaken trains very rarely come thru during the day its mostly over night so id like to know the reason for putting one there. One would think they would put up the RR crossing guards that block the intersection rather that waste money on something 99% of the people probably wont use.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

No, the one I'm talking about is across the tracks on the west side of State. It's new.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

The signal is for those crossing State. I use it several times a week.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

Its a huge waste of money.

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

Just please, don't let that same committee pick any public art to "enhance" the "gateway".


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.


Ron Granger

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

We need ways for pedestrians and bikes to safely cross over I-94 on State Street, and get to businesses in the area north and south of I-94.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Here we go me where there is a plan anywhere in the USA where a road intersects an interstate highway.

Basic Bob

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

This a great point. Other than the rusty pedestrian bridge near Stone School Rd., there aren't any decent routes across I-94. A bicycle/pedestrian bridge connecting to Lohr Rd. would be a valuable addition. The city just put one up on Geddes for bikes to bypass the roundabouts.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

The corridor should represent the real Ann Arbor, a mix of business and residential. Sorry, but the residental homes are going and making room for more commercial buildings. Too much attention is being payed for this impression. Only a few tweaks are needed. This corridor was doing well in the past. The University has acquired a lot of property over the decade on this stretch of road and has plans to buy a lot more so the face of this stretch of road will no doubt change in the years to come.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Actually, Brad, I totally agree with your point about impressions coming first and I did not make that point very clear in my post. I did not address the medians in road and have no comment since there are no specific plans on that, yet.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

Again, there's a lot of concern about "impressions". This town cares way too much about what outsiders think. You really think people are paying that much attention to what the medians look like on the way in/out of town? Doubtful.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

The large, unappealing concrete medians provide a great opportunity for something green and welcoming and perhaps a project for the public art committee. Pedestrian-friendly and bikable sounds good. It wouldn't take a lot.

Eric S

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

JimmyD, I think the concrete islands are a symptom of a larger problem. State is not any more friendly north of Eisenhower where it is undivided, even though we get a lot of trees and greenspace from Oakbrook to Stadium. The whole experience has the feel of suburban Detroit, where most primary roads are uninteresting straight pavement flanked with haphazard utilitarian buildings and signs asking for attention among spotty patches of parking. State is actually a lot better than most of suburban Detroit, but we in Ann Arbor expect better and we have an ability to improve it. Carpenter has much the same problem but would be hard to fix. Stadium/Maple from Pauline to Dexter was worse, but incremental improvements there are beginning to have an effect despite the continuing visual chaos.

Will Warner

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 11:18 a.m.

The stretch of S. State from Ellsworth to the highway is the only part that is really unappealing. Near the highway things are what you expect and will find anywhere near a highway. Starting at Eisenhower (going north), it gets appealing enough. The 777 building is nice and the bank (NW corner) is gorgeous. The next stretch north is quirky but not bad. The odd thing about it is that there are no crossroads, no way to go west or east. Starting at Stadium you're definitely in Ann Arbor: sports cathedrals on the left, and student ghetto on the right.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

why not build a couple more apasrtment buildings.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 10:50 a.m.

First impressions count for visitors and potential residents. And day-to-day experiences count for residents. And the impression of South State makes is woeful compared to other cities. My opinion is that it's mostly the impact of the massive concrete traffic divider, but I'm no urban planner / green-thumb. We don't need it to look like a French palace garden but we can do better than what we have today.