Plan for hotel, offices, bus stop at old YMCA move forward

BY DANIEL STRAUSS
Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 24, 2007

A plan to build a hotel, office space, a new Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus stop and a low-cost residential tower at the corner of Fifth Avenue and William Street advanced last night.

The Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved a resolution that gives HDC, a real estate developer, the option to buy the former YMCA building and develop it according to a site plan submitted by the company.

The developer will pay the city $1.1 million for the right to buy the building - money the city says it needs to cover the costs of moving the old residents of the YMCA.

The company already has a lease with the city that allows HDC to enter the building to prepare development plans.

Developers have grappled with what to put on the site. They had considered different mixes of housing, hotels and office space.

"Initially we were going to build exactly what we're building but for the hotel," said Michael Jacobson, the project manager employed by XY LLC, the firm set up by development firm HDC to develop the site.

In late August, the developer submitted a revised plan, which included the hotel, the commercial space and the housing.

At last night's meeting, some council members were hesitant about approving the resolution because they said the city has had trouble working with HDC in the past. But others pushed for approval of the plan, saying the project would benefit Ann Arbor.

City Council member Stephen Kunselman (D-Ward 3) was one of the most supportive council members.

"The option doesn't cost much to the taxpayers and it increases the number of residential houses," he said. "We want more residential housing for the city."

Jacobson also pointed out to council members that the plan would benefit Ann Arbor bus riders.

He said the new transit center would have an indoor bus station that would allow for more comfortable waiting and easier transfer between buses.

Jacobson also stressed that one of the core objectives of the project was affordable housing.

"It's designed for the people with the same needs," he said. "Predominately it is for the people with the same income."