Despite the fact that construction on the Law School’s new South Hall continues, the University’s proposal to create a pedestrian mall on Monroe Street — between the current Law Quadrangle and the new building — remains stalled before the Ann Arbor Planning Commission.
If approved, control of the pedestrian mall, originally proposed in December 2008, would be transferred to the University as a public right-of-way, meaning the general public would have the right to access and travel in the space under the University’s jurisdiction.
Other public rights-of-way on campus include the pedestrian mall along the east side of the Diag and Ingalls Mall, both of which used to be city streets.
In an interview, Jim Kosteva, the University’s director of community relations, said the pedestrian mall would provide a physical and programmatic connection between the existing Law Quadrangle and South Hall.
“They’ve designed and thought through their uses of South Hall and it’s going to have a lot of extensive, daily traffic of faculty, students and staff members going back and forth between the facilities,” he said.
The project, according to Kosteva, is budgeted at $3 million.
Nevertheless, city officials need to be assured of a few things before the proposal can be approved, Kosteva said.
“The city has identified a number of items…that they want to make sure we complete before they would give unconditional title, before they would formally vacate the road,” Kosteva said. “They primarily have to do with the utilities in the area.”
Most notably, city officials have identified issues with the water main currently underneath Monroe Street. Sue McCormick, Ann Arbor public services administrator, said interview the water system would need to be upgraded.
“We had identified a need to upsize some water main in the area and to provide some looping of water main in the area,” she said. “So, the University has been advised that that’s one of the things that would need to occur for the change in use.”
Presently, the water line servicing the properties surrounding Monroe Street is six inches in diameter. If the road is vacated, however, those surrounding properties will be cut off from the water system. To avoid this, the city is requiring that the University install a new water main to circumvent the pedestrian mall.
The University has agreed to install a new, 12-inch water main that would be placed beneath Oakland Avenue, perpendicular to Monroe Sreet, and provide better service and water pressure to the surrounding residents.
Kosteva said the cost for performing this utility upgrade is included in the project’s $3 million budget.
Another concern for city officials, Kosteva said, is the necessity for emergency vehicles to be able to access the pedestrian mall. He said the space would need to be free of barriers that would prevent police cars or fire trucks from passing through in case of an emergency.
McCormick also added that city vehicles would need to be able to access the various utilities to perform maintenance.
“In addition to making sure that if we’re creating a pedestrian mall area here, the city still has an adequate way to access and provide future maintenance and service to the water mains that are there,” she said.
Other issues currently being hashed out, Kosteva said, include the relocation of several parking spaces on Monroe Street and potential traffic issues that could arise.
Still, Kosteva said these requirements were not deterring the University from completing the pedestrian mall.
“They’re not posing a significant obstacle,” he said of the issues with the city. “There hasn’t been any condition outlined that seems insurmountable. We’re evaluating the costs associated with doing a number of these things and then beginning to look at the legal language.”
The University hopes to present the finalized plan to the Ann Arbor Planning Commission by the end of this year. If approved by the planning commission, the proposal would then be brought before the Ann Arbor City Council for a final vote on approval.
Kosteva said that ideally, the University would like to have the pedestrian mall completed by the time the new South Hall is completed in 2012.
—Alex Lane contributed to this report