Ann Arbor City Council approved resolutions for two new construction projects, one for the Maple Shoppes retail center and the other on locations for a new Amtrak station, during their Monday meeting.
The council unanimously approved a new building addition to the Maple Shoppes center on North Maple Road and Dexter Avenue, though some attendees raised concerns about the location of the building.
Kathy Griswold, Ann Arbor citizen and former member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Transportation Committee, said erecting the building on this corner would obstruct visibility for drivers in the area.
“What the city is doing now is they are putting buildings very close to the roadway to try and have a more vibrant sidewalk, so you don’t have large setback,” Griswold said. “Some of that makes sense, but they are going overboard in terms of putting buildings right up to the corner, so you can’t see around the corner.”
The plan for the building was originally approved in April 2008, but the project managers have since requested a modification to the distance between the building and property line, which would make the building closer to the sidewalk.
Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) echoed the concerns over smaller sidewalks.
“Is it good practice to make our sidewalk areas smaller when we are trying to encourage bicycling and pedestrian safety?” Eaton asked.
Derek Delacourt, community services area administrator, is leading the shopping center construction. He said the proposed building meets all the city’s minimum requirements despite being closer to the sidewalk.
Councilmember Chip Smith (D–Ward 5) also expressed concern about the lack of windows on the side facing Maple Road.
“We want a good building that encourages walkability by being interesting, by being able to see into the building, feeling that there are eyes on the sidewalk there,” Smith said.
The council added an amendment to the resolution requiring that the building’s developer add an additional window to the west side of the building, and voted unanimously to approve the resolution with the amendment.
During their meeting, council also voted on a resolution to approve an amendment to the city’s professional services agreement with AECOM, an engineering firm, which would provide additional funding to perform further studies on the proposed new Amtrak station.
Before the vote, however, many councilmembers expressed frustration over how much money has already been spent on studies related to the new Amtrak station. Close to a million dollars has already been spent on studies and environmental reviews. The city began the search process for a station location in 2012, and released several options for locations earlier this month.
“This additional money is necessary because we have not narrowed it down to one site. The original agreement included the environment review for one preferred alternative. If we were able to narrow it down to one alternative we would not have to spend this extra $196,000,” Eaton said.
Public Services Administrator Craig Hupy and Transportation Manager Eli Cooper affirmed the need for funding additional studies on the four potential sites for the station. They said the project’s current funding grant from the Federal Railroad Association did not cover the money for studies of additional station locations.
Nine councilmembers voted to approve the resolution, with Eaton the sole no vote.