The University is currently in the process of asking Ann Arbor city officials for permission to close a section of Monroe Street between South State Street and Oakland Avenue and transform it into a pedestrian mall.

The car-free zone would connect the Law Quad and the future site of the Law School’s 100,000-square-foot expansion across the street. If approved, control of the public right-of-way — a status in which the public has the right to travel on a space — in the area would be turned over to the University.

Jim Kosteva, director of community relations for the University, said the pedestrian mall would “strengthen the continuity of the Law Quad.”
Thus far, there is no specific layout or budget plan, but Kosteva said the money would likely come from University resources and fundraising.
Many students and area residents are split over the University’s proposal.

First-year law student Carl Chaker, who lives in Ann Arbor and commutes to the Law School, said he thinks that blocking Monroe Street would only be beneficial to only the select few who live in the Law Quad and a hindrance to everyone else.

“Any blockage of streets could make my commute potentially harder,” Chaker said.

On the other hand, second-year law student Ryan Fuoss, who lives close to the Law Quad, said he thinks the proposal would be helpful for pedestrians.

“It will be very convenient,” Fuoss said. “Once the new building is up, a lot of law students will be walking between the buildings.”

A neighborhood meeting held on Dec. 2 was the first of the three-step process that the University must undergo in order for City Council to reach a decision on the proposal. After a formal public hearing to be held at a later date, the City Planning Commission will make a recommendation to City Council, at which time a final decision will be made.

At the neighborhood meeting, some people expressed apprehension about the proposal’s effects on the intersection of Hill Street and Tappan Avenue, as well as other nearby intersections nearby.

Kosteva said in considering the project the University hired a traffic consultant who told the University that the construction of the pedestrian mall wouldn’t significantly impede traffic flow in the area.

In an interview last night, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said he has no opinion on the University’s proposal because it’s still up in the air.

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