Students and faculty looking for a more pedestrian-friendly pathway near the Law School may have to wait a little longer.
The University’s plan to create a pedestrian mall on Monroe Street between State Street and Oakland Avenue still awaits approval by the city of Ann Arbor.
Originally proposed in 2008, the pedestrian mall would connect Weill Hall and South Hall — a new Law School building slated to open in January — of the University’s Law School and reduce traffic.
The project, expected to cost about $3 million, would result in a pedestrian mall similar to existing ones on campus such as Ingalls Mall.
Jim Kosteva, the University’s director of community relations, said though there aren’t any updates on the construction plans, the University is still “very interested” in the Monroe Street space. He said conversations are continuing between Ann Arbor and University officials.
The University’s desire to convert the 700 block of Monroe Street into a pedestrian mall is due to the heavy amount of foot and vehicle traffic between the two Law School buildings, Kosteva said.
Some students, like Law School student Frank Buda, said they support the University’s plan so that traffic doesn’t congest the block of Monroe Street.
“Most schools don’t have cars running between their buildings,” Buda said. “It’d be nice if we didn’t either.”
However, Kosteva acknowledged that there have been “some concerns from neighbors” regarding the proposed pedestrian mall, and city officials are taking them into consideration.
Some of these concerns were raised in a petition that collected more than 1,700 signatures in opposition to the construction. Richard DeVarti, owner of Dominick’s bar and restaurant on Monroe Street, started the petition due to his concerns about how the closure of Monroe Street to traffic will affect his bar, which is located on the 800 block of the street.
The petition, which DeVarti circulated last December, shows there are “a lot more people opposed to the closure than for it,” he said. He added that among the concerns is that the street would be under University ownership instead of the city.
“The University and community are integrated,” said DeVarti, adding that he believes it would be “more beneficial to both if the street remained open.”
DeVarti added that if the University’s plan to convert Monroe Street is approved by the city, it would “cut (Dominick’s) off from a major traffic artery,” making his business less accessible. In addition, Monroe Street reduces State Street traffic during rush hour, and building a pedestrian mall would worsen the traffic situation, he said.
DeVarti suggested several alternatives to the creation of a pedestrian mall on the block of Monroe Street. One idea he has is to build an above ground connector between the two Law School buildings — similar to the connector at the University’s School of Public Health.
“(The University could) put in a crosswalk, blinking lights or a tunnel underground,” DeVarti suggested.