Last night, the Ann Arbor City Council voted 9 to 1 to approve a
plan to redevelop the old YMCA site, guaranteeing affordable
housing on the premises for low-income individuals.

Laura Wong
Lori Pemberton is a resident of the Ann Arbor YMCA, who pays $380 a month for rent. She has lived there for two years and would have had to move if the YMCA building was torn down. The current building is located at 350 S. Fifth Ave, near the Ann Arbor D

The proposal, drawn up by the Downtown Development Authority
committee — a partnership between the City Council and other
city staff — contains a number of goals and strategies the
committee suggests developers keep in mind as they begin to develop
the site of the old YMCA at 350 S. Fifth Ave.

The YMCA offices will move out once the new building is
completed in spring 2005. The City Council approved the purchase of
the site in December. Chief among these goals is keeping 100 units
of “very affordable” housing available at the site
— the number currently provided by the YMCA, said City
Councilwoman Kim Groome, a member of the DDA.

These apartments can be used as either permanent living spaces,
or can be “transient” — used as temporary
housing, much like a hotel.

Currently, the YMCA only offers temporary housing. Originally,
the DDA considered distributing the housing throughout the city.
But during the meeting, DDA head Susan Pollay said the units should
not be moved elsewhere because of the site’s
“central” location.

By last fall, the YMCA had raised $6 million to construct a new
facility at the corner of Washington Street, Third Street and Huron
Road. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority originally planned to
buy the land to expand the neighboring Blake Transit Center, but
the council rejected that motion on the count that AATA would not
be able to provide housing.

With the plan approved, developers will now submit proposals for
the construction of the housing units and other, mixed-use
buildings — such as the transit center — which may end
up being included in the redevelopment.

Councilmember Joan Lowenstein said the building should add
appeal to the city.

“I hope that the DDA looks into a project with some kind
of innovative architecture — something that both serves the
community with housing and is aesthetic,” Lowenstein
said.

The plan also offers the option that the AATA develop an
expansion to the neighboring transit center on the land.

Council members Robert Johnson, Leigh Greden and Margie Teall
voiced their support for the plan.

“The proposal and recommendation is very well done, clear
and a wonderful vision,” Greden said.

But Mike Reid, the sole dissenting councilman, said he believed
the site was not the best use of the costly real estate on which
the YMCA now stands.

“It is not good policy to commit what is arguably some of
the most valuable property in Ann Arbor to very affordable
housing,” Reid said.

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