Strolling through Ann Arbor within the next year, you may notice the renovation of the vacant lot on the corner of S. State and Washington streets. Previously occupied by an Olga”s Kitchen restaurant, the building has been empty for about 14 years. Big plans for the space emerged last Monday with a decision by Ann Arbor City Council in favor of the development of a new apartment building.
Upon completion, the structure will add a tidy new apartment tower to Ann Arbor”s list of housing options and eliminate the drafty vacancy and eyesore currently taking up the corner.
This eight-story addition to the University”s downtown area will feature retail on the first level and apartments on levels two through eight. The new apartments will provide a welcome option for many students who have been unable to find close living quarters in the past. With some students walking 15 or 20 minutes to get to class, the spread of basic campus housing can be extreme. These new apartments will increase options for close campus housing but because of their newness, it may not be the most affordable for students. However, it will draw more people to the downtown area as well as students, and perhaps free up other housing within reasonable proximity.
Despite the novelty of the building, the rent for the apartments needs to remain reasonable. As such a close part of campus, students shouldn”t be driven out by exorbitant prices because it is they who would benefit the most from the location. Besides, why would the University want such a large structure so close to campus that is full of people who aren”t strong supporters of their cause?
Furthermore, businesses that aren”t multi-million dollar corporations should also have the opportunity to taste and survive the market of Ann Arbor. The independently owned restaurants and retail stores that are freckled throughout this town are treasured for their uniqueness. People come to Ann Arbor to search for items not sold in the generic shopping centers. State Street should not become so exclusive that only wealthy chain stores can afford to do business there a day of exploring and socializing on State Street should be an experience unlike anything one could do at every shopping mall in the country.
Another concern about the new apartments is that this will be the beginning of a trend to transform Ann Arbor into a land of sky-rises. Surrounded by two-story neighbors, the eight-story building may appear out of place. The Planning Commission voted not to recommend it because Ann Arbor prides itself on its small city traditions traditions that make it special and attractive. Despite the new building”s landmark appearance, it still far surpasses the current ghost-town building and makes good use of the lot. The only other recent offer for the lot was for a one-story building it was rejected because the Commission felt it didn”t use its space wisely. Although eight stories is tall for Ann Arbor, the new building is an good, economical choice for the corner.
Overall, the apartment building will add a healthier tone to downtown State Street. It will bring students to the heartland area making it a strong asset to the unity of the community. Best of all, it will fill the run-down void that currently occupies the corner. Provided that rent is kept reasonable in the new building, it will be a healthy addition to the downtown scene.