BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Published January 31, 2013
In the fall, The Varsity, a new luxury high-rise apartment complex geared toward students, will be opening its doors to the community. Located on East Washington Street, The Varsity will be the sixth high-rise built in Ann Arbor in recent years. With new high-rises being planned in different parts of Ann Arbor as part of City Council’s commitment to city development, there's concern about changing the culture and spirit of Ann Arbor. That being said, these high-rises have the potential to greatly benefit the city’s economy.
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The Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown project, or A2D2, was established in September 2006. The goal of the project is to give Ann Arbor a more city-like atmosphere, and has received a positive response from the public in a survey. As a result, at least two more high-rises are in the proposal stages of development: one above Pizza House on Church Street and one in the spot of the Papa John’s on East Huron and North Division streets. While the commission approved the high-rise above Pizza House, the East Huron high-rise was indefinitely postponed. However, these high-rises are the inevitable outcome of A2D2’s push for a bigger-city features.
High-rises will make off-campus housing for students more affordable and efficient for the University’s student body of approximately 43,000. With high and constant demand for housing closer to campus, the increased supply will drive down the price — which is often over $1,000 per month for complexes like Landmark and Zaragon Place — of these apartments. The induced competition with the added high-rises will likely allow the average student to live near campus for a more reasonable price.
There are two aspects of these developments, however, that the City Council should consider while approving these new apartments: sustainability and a balance between luxurious and affordable. The city and the University have a dedication to environmentally-friendly policies and programs, and these new high-rises should remain true to the trend. These apartments should all meet LEED standards. The University has made steps to ensure that their buildings are LEED certified; the city of Ann Arbor should follow suit. City Council should not approve all high-rises; they should set specific criteria when they approve these buildings that will benefit students and the city alike.
Students and residents should accept and encourage the growth and development of Ann Arbor. The quirky spirit of Ann Arbor won’t diminish because that spirit comes from the people who live there, not from the height of apartment buildings. With more people living in the heart of the city, there's more opportunity to enjoy what the downtown has to offer.