Plans released for new student housing on East University

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 10:03pm

Contractors of a new 14-story high-rise near the University of Michigan campus have submitted an updated site plan for a residential building designed for future students and faculty within the coming years. The building would replace three residential homes, as well as restaurants Lucky Kitchen, Mia Za's Italian Cafe and Pita Pit, all of whom have agreed to sell their properties.

The building developers, Collegiate Development Group, along with Ann Arbor architecture firm J Bradley Moore & Associates Architects, Inc. said at a Citizens’ Participation Meeting last month that they hope for a August 2018 opening date.

Similar to other student apartment complexes near campus, the building is planned to feature a study lounge, fitness room, sky lounge and outdoor sky terrace. Similar to other apartment buildings such as ArborBlu, Landmark and Zaragon, it will have micro-apartments, studio and multi-bedroom units available for rent with prices ranging from $900 to $4,770. There will also be 53 off-street parking spaces, as well as a Zipcar, which will be offered to residents according to the updated site plan. Additional bedrooms were also proposed in the updated site, bringing the total to 343 beds.

The space, located at 611 E. University Ave., next to Zaragon Place Apartments, is proposed to have entrances on both East University Avenue and on Church Street according to the updated site plan. The site was originally multiple properties on both East University Avenue and Church Street, but will be combined into one property should the plan be approved by the city of Ann Arbor.

City Planner Alexis DiLeo said she sees this project as one of several that will remove properties and redevelop the area, instead of the more common development of green underdeveloped spaces.

“This proposal, as well as most of the recent development throughout the city, would indicate that the city is no longer just being developed and is now being redeveloped,” DiLeo said. “Redevelopment often takes people by surprise. Most expect that a vacant lot will be developed some day, but they do not often anticipate an existing one- or two-story building, or a house, will be demolished to make way for a larger development.”

Councilmember Kirk Westphal (D–Ward 2) said he understands the reasoning behind another student high-rise being built so close to campus.

“From my standpoint, I’d sure rather folks be able to live near where they need to go rather than drive there,” Westphal said. “If there still is in fact a healthy market for this type of housing, most people I speak with agree that close to campus is the best place for it.”

The Ann Arbor Design Review Board, which consists of two landscape architects, two architects, one planner, one developer and one contractor, reviewed the site in February and offered feedback to the developers. Their main reservations of the proposal were the excess private vehicle entrance space as well as the consistency between this building and the local area.

“The proposed development is not consistent with the tower tops of the block or the South University character area,” a statement written by the Design Review Board reads. “The South University area has the greatest concentration of pedestrians anywhere in the city, their comfort, safety and needs must be prioritized over private parking.”

There have also been some public concerns about the rapid pace of neighborhood growth in Ann Arbor in general over the past few years, but Westphal said he believes that the public will also see that if the high rises are needed, this location is the best option.

“In general, the public has said over and over that they believe downtown is the best place for high-density residential and commercial buildings, so in terms of the scale of the project, it fits with what the public expects,” Westphal said. “Of course Ann Arbor’s landscape has changed downtown quite a bit in the past decade, so there is certainly concern about the pace of that change.”