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Posted on Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Planning Commission has until Oct. 1 to review Ann Arbor's downtown zoning

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor City Council delayed consideration of a proposed 14-story high-rise Monday night, but took further action on a review of the downtown zoning.

At the developer's request, the 413 E. Huron St. project will appear back on the council's agenda April 15 after revised plans have been carefully reviewed.


Representatives of the 413 E. Huron high-rise project approach city hall March 18 with the Varsity student high-rise taking shape in the background across the street, immediately adjacent to the already built 411 Lofts student high-rise.

Ryan J. Stanton |

A public hearing on the project will take place at that meeting.

The council adopted a resolution Monday night that provides specific directions to the city's Planning Commission regarding an upcoming review of the D1 downtown zoning — a process that got started in response to the highly controversial 413 E. Huron project.

The council decided against a moratorium on downtown development last month, but city officials believe at least a review of the D1 zoning is in order.

The City Council is asking the Planning Commission to specifically address whether D1 zoning is appropriately located on the north side of Huron Street between Division and South State (the area of the 413 E. Huron project) and on the south side of William Street between South Main and Fourth Avenue. The council also is asking the commission to consider whether the D1 residential floor area ratio (FAR) premiums effectively encourage a diverse downtown population.

Mayor John Hieftje and other council members have said they'd like to see fewer five- and six-bedroom apartments that cater to University of Michigan students and more workforce housing built for young professionals and others who want to live downtown.

The council also is asking the Planning Commission to consider rezoning a parcel on the south side of Ann Street — adjacent to the north side of city hall — that is zoned D1. The Planning Commission has until Oct. 1 to complete its review and report to the City Council.

The resolution was sponsored by Council Members Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward; Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward; and Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward.

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.


John Floyd

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 5:45 a.m.

Ryan, Love the shot of The Varsity over the old A2 News building. Would also love to see a shot of The Varsity from the east, looking west, over the Douglas House and First Baptist Church. Was anyone absent from the meeting Monday night?

Ryan Munson

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

I am one of those that would love to live downtown because I work downtown. I would rather own than rent. The high prices are definitely something that makes it very challenging to achieve this goal. It is very interesting to note that one of the owners of NeoPapalis stated that 25% of the renters in Zaragon West are surprisingly not students. Anybody else want to live downtown?


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

D1 zoning should be reviewed. However, the present Planning Commission which will be tasked with this responsibility is largely populated by the same individuals who approved the present D1 zoning ordinance. The intention of the original D1 zoning, of course, is to encourage massive construction with few restrictions. Attitudes have not changed for some members of the Planning Commission, of City Council and the Mayor, who appoints members to the Planning Commission. A special commission broadly based and constituted with some urban planning experts and including members familiar and sensitive to Ann Arbor history and culture is needed to provide a just and thorough analysis of the zoning laws.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

The Mayor believes that pent-up demand exists for "more workforce housing built for young professionals and others who want to live downtown." However, those hoping to live downtown in a newly constructed apartment building will have to pay very expensive leases due to the sustained high costs of construction. The developers of Ashley-Terrace a few years ago could not sell units as condos due to the high price dictated by building costs. Even converting units to apartments did not help because the leasing rates had to be high also. Only after Ashley-Terrace went bankrupt allowing a new owner to purchase the property at 30% on the dollar were apartment rental rates able to be reduced to market competitive levels but still allow a profit.

Ryan Munson

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

I personally would probably not want to live in that building, but I think the economy certainly played a role.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

Wait so is the 413 Huron project happening or not?


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

"Mayor John Hieftje and other council members have said they'd like to see fewer five- and six-bedroom apartments that cater to University of Michigan students and more workforce housing built for young professionals and others who want to live downtown." Well, yes, that would be nice, but out-of-town developers appear to just want to make the fastest buck they can make now.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

So, are we going to have another City Place built? Lovely.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

Do you realize this property is on Huron? (business 94) It is also on another fast moving busy street, and is across the street from a chicken shack. One block away from the Fire and Police stations. Downtown.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

In this case a City Place scaled building would be an improvement to the current proposal. Of course, City Place is pretty cheap looking, and I would hate to see another anywhere in the city.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

Adjusting the D-1 zone has merits, but without making the design guidelines mandatory or coming up with some other technique for creating a better transition between adjacent zoning districts, so as to not enable "walls", the effort will not achieve the desired results.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

I am still in favor of a moratorium. While this resolution addresses some important issues, it is not comprehensive enough. If I read this correctly, important parcels are left out of this study.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

Clearly this is the right action for City Council to take. It would have been better if they had done it a year ago (or more). But better late that never. The moratorium was a poorly thought-out attempt to close the barn door when the horse was half way out of of it.