Integroup Realty Trust, a private developer based in Jacksonville, Fla., is seeking to build a private residence hall on Broadway Street no later than the fall of 2005. The $35 million complex, which will be named “North Quad,” has quickly sparked the drawing of battle lines between its developers and the Broadway Street community. The building is intended for students on North Campus who want the freedoms of off-campus living and the amenities of dorm life.
“The single biggest attraction is what students want – their own bedroom and bathroom,” said Wayne Senacal, chief executive officer of Integroup. He added the building will be divided into units that share a common kitchen. Each bedroom in the unit will have its own bathroom, and also boasts state-of-the-art security. “You will enter the building and your unit with a card and your room with a key,” Senacal said, adding that the unique setup and location will make North Quad a profitable enterprise for Integroup, which has similar housing complexes in other college towns, including East Lansing.
“Ann Arbor is a major University market,” Senacal said. “You only have to look at the aerial to see that this is a great location and a much needed product in the area.”
But some feel that the project will do more harm than good.
“What so many neighbors are concerned about is that their driveway exits on to Broadway,” said Norm Kerr, a five-year resident of the area who voiced his opinions to the Ann Arbor City Council. “We’ve got North Quad going on in one end and on the other, a mall, so a lot us are concerned about increased traffic in the area.”
“If you’ve ever tried to pull on to Broadway, especially during rush hour, you can’t even make a left turn, and they want to put this thousand-person dorm right at the end of it,” Kerr added. “Broadway has a history of traffic problems. There are three houses I know of that have actually been struck by cars. I don’t have children but I know many of my neighbors do. It’s surprising the speed with which the cars go up and down that hill.”
Local developer Bill Conlin is helping Integroup get its site plan approval. His spokesman, Bonnewit Marcel, said traffic in the area will not be affected drastically.
“You get two forms of mass transit, the University bus line and the city bus line,” Marcel said. “The proximity to mass transit will encourage the use of buses.” Marcel added that North Quad will have far less parking than a typical apartment complex, so the area will not experience a huge increase in traffic.
But many residents aren’t convinced that this is a solution.
“If you don’t provide enough parking spaces, the students will try to park all up and down our street,” Kerr said. “Having fewer parking spaces doesn’t change human nature. This is America, everyone wants their own car.”
The City Council will vote on the project early this year, and many members are unsure about which sides they will take on the issue.
“It should have a favorable impact on the market for single-family housing,” Mayor pro-tem Jean Carlberg (D-3rd Ward) said. “But there is another area of concern, which is the neighborhood around the area.”
Councilwoman Kim Groome (D-1st Ward) said that, on the one hand, she supports the construction of North Quad because it will give a boost to the city’s tax base, while on the other hand, she understands the concerns of the residents in her ward.
The community, however, is willing to compromise. “We all agree that change and development is inevitable, but we are worried that we’ll loose what is appealing about living here,” Kerr said. “I don’t think anyone is saying, ‘No, don’t build it,’ we’re just saying, ‘Work with us when you do.'”