By Steve Zoski, Daily News Editor
Published June 18, 2012
Another new, residential building high above the streets of Ann Arbor will soon be available.
More like this
Last night, Ann Arbor City Council approved development of a high-rise housing complex at 618 S. Main St. by Omena Real Estate. All councilmembers voted in favor aside from Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) and Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) who dissented. Councilmember Sandi Smith (D–Ward 1) was absent.
The development was recommended for approval by the city’s planning commission at City Council’s Jan. 19 meeting. Since then, three town hall sessions were held by the developers for residents who live near the location, where — according to Shannan Gibb-Randall, landscape architect for the approved building — residents vocalized their concerns to developers and architects.
Construction is planned to begin early next year for the 85-foot tall, 7-story building that will feature 231 bedrooms and underground parking.
The project is the second project approved under the city’s D2 classification, which encompasses buildings that meet standards the Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown initiative considers necessary for improving and diversifying development in the city’s downtown area.
The only other project deemed D2 since City Council created the term in 2007 was the 2011 expansion and renovation of Zingerman’s Delicatessen.
To meet D2 classification, a building needs to be under 60 feet tall, though the 618 S. Main St. plans are for an 85-foot tall structure. The project sought zoning approval as a “planned project” per City Code Chapter 57, which will allow the project to be an exception to the height restriction.
Specifically, the development was considered D2-worthy because its aesthetically industrial architectural design will hopefully bring young professionals to Ann Arbor, according to Gibb-Randall.
Council also approved the 618 S. Main St. development to receive Brownfield status — which allows projects that meet “blighted” status, or other requirements, to receive tax increment financing help from the city and possibly tax credits from the state when the site’s taxable value increases with development.
This measure passed despite Anglin and Kunselman’s dissenting. Kunselman voted against granting the development Brownfield status, but he had encouraged City Council to give the site this status when he and two other councilmembers comprised the Brownfield Plan Review Committee.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and several councilmembers recounted living in the neighborhood near the site — where a derelict Fox Tent & Awning and still-running Ivory Photo, Delux Drapery & Shade Co. and Overture Audio businesses still stand — at some point in their lives.
Hieftje said his family was friends with the family who owned Fox Tent & Awning, adding that he knew the area well.
“It has been pretty much the same way for decades … and (is) now mostly a parking lot circled by a fence,” Hieftje said. “I am not normally a fan of planned projects, but I appreciate the way the developer has worked with the community.”
Hieftje added that he spoke with members of the Old West Side Association who neighbor the site and said they were supportive.
Carsten Hohnke (D–Ward 5) said he once worked at the nearby Washtenaw Milk & Ice Cream shop and recognized the neighborhood the project will be in as having extra character being close to the a historic district.
“This is in our official downtown, and this is in the place as a community we’ve said we wanted higher-density development. This is not a site that would have to remove resources.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the vote, Gibb-Randall said it was beneficial to communicate with members of the community months beforehand rather than at the City Council meeting, adding that neighboring residents’ concerns impacted the design.