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Posted on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

South State Street corridor study: Residents propose aesthetic, transportation, land use improvements

By Lizzy Alfs

Plant trees. Develop parks, Install bike paths and maybe a few pieces of art.

Those were some of the ideas put forth Wednesday night at the City of Ann Arbor’s second public input session for its South State Street corridor study.


City Planner Jeff Kahan shows attendees land use potential in the South State Street corridor.

Lizzy Alfs |

The planning study, launched last year, is examining the potential for future development and land use on the 2.15-mile stretch of State Street from Stimson south to Ellsworth Road. The study’s director, Kristin Baja, said the end result likely would be a new chapter added to the city’s master plan.

About 20 Ann Arbor residents, workers and business owners came to Wednesday’s public input session, and most attendees agreed: South State Street is a critical gateway into Ann Arbor.

“I think most of what I’ve noticed with the State Street corridor is the aesthetics,” said Ann Arbor resident Jason Morgan, who lives near the South State and Granger intersection. “It’s a great area and a great part of the city, but we need to make it a little more welcoming.”

Prior to the public input sessions, the planning process 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.

Baja said a lot of the feedback the city has received has been focused on the aesthetics of the corridor.

Some of the suggestions proposed at the meeting on Wednesday included planting more trees, creating parks, making the area more bike-friendly and installing some sort of art or signage.


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

“We need some sort of gateway or welcome art or public signage; something that is a symbolic welcome to the city,” said Andrew Selinger, a market analyst for Ann Arbor-based real estate company Oxford Cos. Oxford owns or manages about 400,000 square feet of office space near the State Street corridor area.

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.

Matt Toschlog, who lives near Ann Arbor's Burns Park neighborhood, said he thinks there is room for commercial development in the Stimson and South State area.

"There's a lot of housing in that area right at the southern end of Burns Park, and I think it's a good spot for more commercial," he said. "There's Produce Station, a CVS pharmacy and Biercamp, but there's room for more."

He added: "I think it's good walking access for a lot of people in that area."

He also expressed interest in non-motorized enhancements along South State Street.

"I'm interested in better bike access, especially going over (I-94) where I feel like I'm taking my life in my hands anytime I bike over it. There could be better bike and pedestrian access by the mall and the Interstate," he said.

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.”

She said the study is in its third phase. Once the draft recommendations are developed, the fourth phase includes public hearings with Ann Arbor's Planning Commission and City Council. The final phase is implementation.

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



Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Maybe something like this?

Alex Swary

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

Let's just leave it the way it is so I don't have to deal with driving through the construction.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

How about a serious road and light (upgrade lights for "timing") renovation AND a bike/walk path, with some trees and art? With that said, maybe the freeway crossing could be renovated to become more pedestrian friendly; and maybe a pedetrian bridge across State Street between the Mall and Boardwalk could be contructed? A "welcome to A2" sign could go on the bridge. (possibly, another pedestrian bridge between the old 777 building and Boardwalk?) Addt'l: A trolley system between the UM athletic campus and Boardwalk area, using the track that's already in place. Just ideas. Not trying to "push" anything. Sorry I wasn't at the meeting.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

And where does the funding come from? Seems to me that a bike path is in place, except it stops south of Eisenhower, as it should. Once again, unneeded bike paths for the few who will use them to get from Elsworth to Eisenhower. Thanks for including the a2gov link and a contact person.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Fix the Briarwood exit turning right onto State. Traffic in the right lane needs to enter I-94 westbound as directed instead of sideswiping the cars in the second lane.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Getting into and out of Briarwood is definitely a hassle. I think part of the problem is that every entrance is also an exit. That was a problem at the Ann Arbor/Saline Target and they reconfigured the parking lot to create a one-way entrance and a one-way exit off of Waters Rd. Didn't completely solve the problem, but it's much better than it was because traffic doesn't criss-cross as much.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Agree 100 percent. The sign is visible, people simply ignore it.

Angry Sasquatch

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

The reconfiguration of the State St/Research Park Dr/Airport Blvd intersection is not working. People frequently follow tho old traffic patterns to where you could turn northbound on State from Airport Blvd and southbound on State from Research Park. I work on Research Park and see this happen every day. It is dangerous and needs to be addressed a.s.a.p. The city has provided ample signage to show the new traffic patterns, perhaps having the A.A.P.D. ticket offenders would help.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Why not have express lanes that lead to downtown Ann Arbor and have one local lane for those who are shopping, etc. On big travel days, i.e. Football, Move in or Move out they need to get cars in and out quickly. These people don't want to stop, with the local lanes you have the lookers and throw in some bike lanes and walking paths to keep the Enviro-Whacko's happy. We have smart city planners who Maybe a little too "GREEN" but should be able to design something that is enviro-friendly and keeps the Traffic & Money flowing.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

The city planners are only doing what people, who are ACTIVELY involved and knowledgeable with the process, have outlined as their goals. Accusing dedicated and intelligent petite bureaucrats of allowing a personal agenda to guide their work is not only not true, it's an unnecessary and mistaken slam on hard working public servants.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

So I'm sure all the people who are outraged about the proposed improvements showed up to the public input session with their own ideas, right? Of course not. That would involve actually leaving the house.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

That would completely pointless, since public input is always 100% ignored.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

And braving the ruthless Ann Arbor traffic. The horror!

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Just to clarify: There are dozens of community recommendations and the city drafted an outline of those. Traffic is mentioned more than once. Here are some items from that outline: Assess and improve high crash areas along the corridor, ensure diverse and affordable housing options are included, utilize lighting and signage to help define the character of the corridor, improve lighting, enhance overall mobility and manage congestion, resurface the corridor, improve stormwater management, and many more


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

The road itself from 94 to just past Eisenhower is in terrible shape, that should be the first thing that is fixed. Second, the light system at State and Eisenhower is awful and the back up during the rush hours is unreal. But it is Ann arbor and of course bike lanes and artistic beautification will always be priority number one. Orangecrush, you are right! Getting across town is becoming as bad as a major city like Chicago, specially at rush hour.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

And State STREET isn't the only nor is it the overriding aspect of this project. It has to be considered as whole and not just for the use of cars.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Sorry, but the streets were made primarily for cars, and cars are still far and away the primary source of transportation in Ann Arbor. You don't have to like it. Public transportation doesn't meet my needs, not even close. And my car is hardly a "living room", it's just a 10 year old car.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

As a former Chicagoan and frequent visitor there, I have to say that Ann Arbor, at its worst, is not like Chicago. I have seen our town grow over the last twenty-five years, and traffic problems have grown, too. However, when all the road construction is done, we can go back to having choices about how we move around town.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1 p.m.

Ann Arbor's "rush hour" is just that, one hour long. Maybe if people got out of their rolling living rooms and used public transportation, the "traffic" might be reduced. It's all about the car, isn't it?


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

Use to work in the "777" building, long before it was 777. Also, have worked on Ellsworth. And, I have family who currently work on Eisenhower. Have been dealing with that corridor since the '70's. Was stunned, to say the least, to read not one comment about the risky traffic conditions and poor traffic flow, except for the bycicle comment about it being "life threatening" (with respect to "making a point") to ride a bike across the I94 freeway bridge. There needs to be a "road plan" for traffic, first. When you're looking for "quality of life," the ability to move around, to get from point A to point B, is probably one of the most fundamental aspects of it; not a piece of art, a welcome sign or a tree. For a town that takes 30 minutes to travel 3 miles, that's not a high quality of life. It just makes me want to "get away." I would be more likely to stop and patronize businesses if the traffic flow was safer and easier.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

That last comment is emblematic of the troubles our country faces right now (and led Greece into the abyss). We are no longer taxpayers; we are tax revenue.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

you aren't stuck in traffic, you ARE traffic.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

It's all about the cars... NOT!


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

M has it right. Beautify the view for the folks stuck in rush-hour gridlock? The long-term goals are great, but it starts with the basics....

Jojo B

Tue, Nov 13, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.

@Mixmaster: Very few people walk from campus to Briarwood Mall. Very few people walk from I94 to downtown. So if you're looking at aesthetic improvements, most of us think they should be traffic related. You sound like you're a city planner who doesn't want to hear what anybody thinks because you're too smart for us.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 6 p.m.

At least those people in their cars, yes.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

Yes, seeing as nearly everyone who lives, works, or commutes through that area DRIVES.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Of course the "basics" have only to do with cars.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 11:05 a.m.

"Plant trees. Develop parks, Install bike paths and maybe a few pieces of art." Notice it's never "Smooth traffic. Work on light timing, and maybe fix the crummy 94 on/off ramps."

Jojo B

Tue, Nov 13, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

@mixmaster--While I would love to believe you and agree with you, many of us can attest to the fact that most of the lights aren't timed properly. Or they're timed deliberately to make drivers miserable and spend the most time waiting (in an evil conspiracy to get everybody to walk and ride their scooters to work instead). While I don't have anything against any city planners personally, the fact that somebody is well paid doesn't prove that they're actually taking care of simple problems like the timing of the lights. Sometimes it takes us stupid armchair generals to kick officials in the arse to get stuff done.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

The highway on and off ramps are part of the federal highway system. The City has no control over them. Furthermore, your suggestions only have to do with cars. There's more to this than just how quickly people can get on and off the highway


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

Did it occur to you that the other items you list are regular bullet point issues in any development of this nature? And that the planners are keenly aware that these simple items are already integrated into the process? And that these things are done at the end of the process? CIty planners are every bit as intelligent, if not more so, than the commenters here. We play them well, to know these things and they know that they're doing even with all the armchair generals out here.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 11:01 a.m.

What we DON'T need is a 'special' district where tax dollars are skimmed off the top and six figure positions are created without pubic control to 'manage' the process ala the Washtenaw Corridor and Downtown DDA. Keep that in mind as we move forward on this effort that should have happened ten years ago, but didn't.