From South University Avenue to East Huron Street, the sounds of bulldozers and jackhammers have flooded Ann Arbor for the past few months. Construction projects include renovating old apartments and building new student housing, as well as a sidewalk renovation project.
Glen Dempsey, the building official for the City of Ann Arbor Construction and Building Department — which is responsible for overseeing and managing all construction permits issued, as well as for monitoring these projects to assure compliance with the Michigan Residential Building Code — said college towns are known for having ongoing construction projects.
“The difference between a college town and a non-university town is we generally have constant remodeling, renovation and new buildings coming in that will take care of the population of students that are going to the University of Michigan,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey explained much of the construction is surrounding building and renovating housing projects for students.
“Not only do we have properties being added for housing and such, but the existing properties are being cleaned up and remodeled and updated so that the students will have locations and nice places to stay at,” Dempsey said. “There are also these older properties that are being remodeled or trying to keep up with the trends of industry and be able to compete with the new buildings that have been built over the last couple years and coming in on a regular basis.”
In addition to other construction throughout the year, Dempsey said the city conducted a sidewalk renovation program on East Huron Street near the city offices going down towards Jackson Road.
“(The sidewalks are) all being renovated and cleaned up and we’ll have a nice look to the city of Ann Arbor,” Dempsey said. “That’s usually a summer type of renovation that cannot be done during the wintertime.”
Dempsey said it is always tough to deal with construction projects as the results can benefit many different people, but they do not always please everybody while the construction is happening.
“It doesn’t always benefit everybody because of the noise and the fact that it’s causing higher volume of traffic and so-forth from contractors,” Dempsey said.
LSA senior Sarah Stone said the construction was a hassle for her as a student and research assistant during the spring and summer terms. as it disrupted her direct path to class every day.
“They took over the plaza right in front of Espresso (Royale), a lot of places were shut down, cars couldn’t get through,” Stone said. “I was walking from Zaragon to the Chem Building every day and every single day there were cranes and police and tape. I never even knew if I was going to be able to get through to my class.”
Stone said the disruptive noises continued during her class, which was located in a floor level lecture hall and the construction was right outside.
“Sometimes you couldn’t even hear our professor and he would get extremely aggravated,” Stone said. “There would be jackhammers going off during exams… and I have OCD (so) that was extremely hard for me.”
Stone said the University would not move their lecture.
“There was not much we could do,” Stone said. “It was like they were not aware that students were taking classes.”
Stone claimed the constant construction around and inside of East Hall has been an issue all year for the research lab she works in as well.
“It was brought up every week during our lab meetings, like ‘How is the construction this week?’” Stone said.
Stone said major construction took place during all hours of the day so there would be disruptive noises while they were running experiments.
“We would have to forfeit data because the participants would get so distracted by jackhammer noises,” Stone said.
Ann Arbor’s housing shortage has been an issue for many U-M students who are struggling to find affordable housing.
However, Stone said she doesn’t fully understand why all of these buildings are going up at once.
“I don’t love what’s happening with all the new apartment buildings going up because it’s making businesses go out of business,” Stone said. “Hopefully more students will be able to live closer to campus, but it’s also still going to be so expensive so I’m not sure if I understand fully why it all happened at once.”
On the other hand, Nursing sophomore Donovan Berg said the traffic has bothered her more than the noise.
“The fact that (the road) has been completely closed down and I hardly have ever seen anybody working on it is kind of frustrating,” Berg said.
Berg lives in Foundry Lofts, which is located on East Huron Street and South Division Street where the sidewalk renovation is taking place. She said the construction causes backed up traffic right outside of the building.
“Right outside our building, there is one entire lane closed down so that makes it pretty hard to have Ubers turn in and people dropping you off,” Berg said. “I had a friend drop me off last night and she couldn’t turn in because the line was so long due to the lane closure.”
Overall, though, Dempsey said the construction will have a positive impact on U-M student life, the public and everybody involved upon completion.
“(The purpose) is to improve the accommodations of students,” Dempsey said. “It’s creating a positive effect to the public and to the student life with these remodeled projects and new places to stay at,” Dempsey said.