The Ann Arbor Chronicle » historic buildings it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A2: Local History Tue, 29 Jul 2014 04:02:01 +0000 Chronicle Staff A post in the Local in Ann Arbor blog reflects on the importance of historic buildings in creating a city’s sense of place. It includes a review of “Historic Ann Arbor,” a new book by local authors Susan Wineberg and Patrick McCauley: ”This book should be on the bookshelf of everyone who lives in Ann Arbor and values any sense of our history and architectural diversity. As Grace Shackman says in her introduction to the book, ‘Susan and Patrick’s love of Ann Arbor shines through every page.’” [Source]

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UM: Moving Arthur Miller House? Mon, 04 Nov 2013 23:15:17 +0000 Chronicle Staff The University of Michigan’s Architecture, Engineering and Construction website now includes a notice seeking proposals for the “sale and removal of the house located at 439 S. Division, Ann Arbor, Michigan.” The house was once home to Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Arthur Miller. For anyone who’s interested in purchasing and moving the house to a different location, proposals are due Dec. 10, 2013. A tour will be offered of the site on Nov. 19, 2013, starting promptly at 4 p.m. [Source]

The moving of historically significant houses has relatively recent local precedent in the Albert Polhemus House, which was moved in 2006 from Washington Street in downtown Ann Arbor to a location on Pontiac Trail. The Albert Polhemus House now serves as home to the African American Cultural History Museum.

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Zingerman’s: Making It Right for the HDC Sat, 13 Mar 2010 23:38:03 +0000 Dave Askins Employees at Zingerman’s Deli – or any of the Zingerman’s family of businesses – are trained to handle complaints from customers with a five-step process. The third step: Make it right.

Zingerman's Deli Building

Plans to build an addition behind the brick Zingerman’s Deli building will ultimately require approval from the city’s historic district commission. (Photos by the writer.)

Zingerman’s itself is “handling a complaint” from the city’s Historic District Commission (HDC) – one that can be traced back to a June 2008 Zingerman’s request to demolish two houses, which are located in the city’s Old Fourth Ward historic district.

Now Zingerman’s is bringing back another proposal, but this time they’re not starting formally with the HDC. Instead, they’ll begin by seeking approvals from the city’s planning commission and the city council.

The site plan calls for a two-story, 9,500-square-foot structure to be added to the rear of the deli building, which will carry a price tag of around $4 million. The new building would replace the house at 322 E. Kingsley St. and extend lengthwise towards Community High School.

Zingerman’s started satisfying the formal steps for getting approval of their expansion project this week, on Monday, March 8, by holding a citizens participation meeting.

But Zingerman’s has also met informally with the HDC at two separate work sessions since the start of the year – one in January and the other on Thursday, March 11. Based on a significant change in design between those two meetings, which integrates “the orange house” into the project instead of demolishing it, Zingerman’s is trying to “make it right” for the HDC.

Still, at Thursday’s HDC work session, the Zingerman’s team stressed how great the challenges were – financial and logistical – to preserving the orange house as part of the project design. It seemed apparent that Zingerman’s was making an implicit pitch for members of the HDC to give a green light for the previously proposed project – the one minus both houses.

It was clear enough, in any case, that Jill Thacher – the city planning department’s historic preservation specialist – finally said towards the end of the meeting: “We’ve been over that. I want to keep you from going back to that.”

Background: Certificates, Notices, Zoning Change

In June 2008, the first step Zingerman’s took with their project was to request permission to demolish the two houses from the city’s historic district commission. This time around, Zingerman’s will first seek approval from the city’s planning commission and city council, and then ask for approval from the historic district commission.

Understanding the reason for ordering things differently this time requires a clear understanding of the difference between two notions: (i) a certificate of appropriateness; and (ii) a notice to proceed.

It’s also useful to understand how the zoning code has changed for part of the land since June 2008.

Background:  Certificates of Appropriateness

The minutes from the historic district commission’s June 12, 2008 meeting show that the commission considered Zingerman’s application to demolish two houses – along with a garage – as an application for a certificate of appropriateness. This is one “flavor” of the kind of permission that the HDC can grant.

That application was brought before the HDC without a site plan or drawings to show what Zingerman’s planned to build there. What Zingerman’s had planned at that point was a 3-story new building, compared to the 2-story building that is now being proposed.

During the June 12, 2008 HDC public hearing on the matter, the lack of a presentation on their actual plans was a point on which  Zingerman’s drew criticism. Responding to that criticism, Ken Clein, an architect with Quinn Evans who is working on the project, explained the absence of a specific site plan. From the HDC minutes of that meeting:

Applicant Rebuttal: Mr. Clein – [...] the fact that they are not presenting plans or designs to replace these structures with. It was at the suggestion of staff that we separate that issue from the issue for request for demolition.

The issuance of a certificate of appropriateness for work in an historic district depends in part on whether the building in question is a “contributing” or  a “non-contributing” resource. A building that’s determined to be “non-contributing” is more easily altered than a building that’s “contributing,” under the Secretary of the Interior standards governing historic renovation.

A recent case of requested demolition in the Old West Side historic district – unrelated to Zingerman’s proposal in the Old Fourth Ward – highlighted the same issue of “contributing” versus “non-contributing” buildings. Permission to demolish two houses and a gas station on Second Street was sought by the developer of the Liberty Lofts project, to make it possible to construct additional parking spaces. He’d hoped that the potential for adding parking spaces would help attract a retail tenant for the still-vacant space in the greenhouse structure at First & Washington. [Chronicle coverage: "Demolition in Historic District?" and "Historic Commission: No Approval for Demolition"]

The HDC found the gas station – at the corner of Liberty & Second – to be non-contributing, but found the houses to be contributing. Commissioners voted to issue a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the garage, but wound up splitting 3-3 on all possible resolutions on the two houses.

Similarly, in June 2008 the HDC voted to issue a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition of the Zingerman’s non-contributing garage, but voted to deny the request to demolish the two houses, which commissioners found to be contributing to the Old Fourth Ward. While the HDC vote on the house at 420 Detroit St. was unanimously against demolition, the vote on the fire-damaged 322 E. Kingsley St. house was only 4-3 against demolition.

Background: Notices to Proceed

It seems impossible to reconcile Secretary of Interior standards for appropriate work in an historic district – one of which concerns “reversibility” of the work – with demolition of a building that the commission has determined to be a contributing resource.

However, another option to contemplate – a second “flavor” of permission – is that the HDC could issue a “notice to proceed.” The criteria for issuance of such a notice, from the city code, are as follows:

8:416. Notice to proceed.
(1) Work within a historic district shall be permitted through the issuance of a notice to proceed by the commission if any of the following conditions prevail and if the proposed work can be demonstrated by a finding of the commission to be necessary to substantially improve or correct any of the following conditions:
(a) The resource constitutes a hazard to the safety of the public or to the structure’s occupants.
(b) The resource is a deterrent to a major improvement program that will be of substantial benefit to the community and the applicant proposing the work has obtained all necessary planning and zoning approvals, financing, and environmental clearances.
(c) Retaining the resource will cause undue financial hardship to the owner when a governmental action, an act of God, or other events beyond the owner’s control created the hardship, and all feasible alternatives to eliminate the financial hardship, which may include offering the resource for sale at its fair market value or moving the resource to a vacant site within the historic district, have been attempted and exhausted by the owner.
(d) Retaining the resource is not in the interest of the majority of the community.

In the case of the recent request in the Old West Side for demolition, the Liberty Lofts developer argued that all of the criteria might apply, including (b). However, the commission – in consultation with the city attorney’s office – seemed ultimately to reject (b) as a possibility, citing the fact that the developer had no “planning and zoning approvals, financing, and environmental clearances” as required by (b).

And when Zingerman’s went before the HDC in June 2008, they also did not have planning commission or city council approval for the project.

With their current plan to obtain permissions from the planning commission and the city council first, before returning to the HDC, Zingerman’s would be in a position to make a case for alteration of contributing structures, based on criterion (b).

At the earlier public hearing in June 2008, Peter Pollack, a landscape architect who also lives near Zingerman’s Deli, laid out the case based on exactly that criterion. From the summary of Pollack’s remarks in the HDC minutes of that meeting:

[...] I ask you to put in context with the historic development of what has occurred on this property. Buildings have been  relocated, reoriented and adjusted. This is in the same spirit of that reorientation and adjustment. If you look at the “Notice to Proceed,’ this is a major deterrent to an  improvement program, and I say that this is exactly the case.

Background: Zoning

The Zingerman’s project that will be brought before the planning commission – probably in May – will be intended to meet all applicable zoning codes. That will make it a so-called “matter of right” project. That is possible due in part to a rezoning of the 322 E. Kingsley St. parcel, which took place last summer as part of the Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown (A2D2) rezoning project for all of downtown.

The previous zoning for 322 E. Kingsley St. was R4C, which is designated for residential, not commercial use. The new D2 zoning classification allows for various commercial uses, including restaurants and offices.

The rezoning of 322 Kingsley St. was given preliminary approval by the city council in April 2009 as part of a comprehensive rezoning of downtown Ann Arbor. That required review of the change by the planning commission, which ultimately approved it, in connection with its revision of the city’s downtown plan.

The 322 E. Kingsley St. rezoning was controversial for the planning commission, passing on a 4-3 vote. From The Chronicle’s report of the May 19, 2009 planning commission meeting, when the revision was approved.

During the public hearing, the  planning commission heard from several speakers who objected to the assignment of the D2 designation to the property, on the grounds of  “fairness” and “favoritism” – everyone loves Zingerman’s, themselves included, they said. But that didn’t translate into changing the zoning, just because Zingerman’s asked for it.

They also heard from representatives of Zingerman’s about why the D2 zoning was requested, as well as from a speaker who noted that he’d just witnessed two hours of “serious participation” by citizens who were engaged, and had been properly noticed, and concluded that the notion of fairness had not been violated.

The vote on the commission was 4-3 for following council’s lead in assigning D2 zoning to the parcel. Voting for the D2 designation were: Eric Mahler, Tony Derezinski, Jean Carlberg, and Wendy Woods. Voting against it were: Bonnie Bona, Kirk Westphal, and Ethel Potts. Mahler, responding to an argument made by Peter Pollack at the previous week’s work session, said that the option of pursuing a PUD for a particular project (as an alternative to having the D2 zoning) would, in his opinion, be difficult. For a PUD, Mahler said, a public benefit would have to be demonstrated – and from what he could tell, the kind of project Zingerman’s was contemplating would most likely be for Zingerman’s benefit.

Westphal did not cite “fairness” in voting against the D2 designation, but rather a respect for the long, extended process of community participation that had extended over a few years – none of which had included discussion of the 322 E. Kingsley parcel.

Background: Timeline Overview

  • June 12, 2008: Historic district commission denies request for demolition of 322 E. Kingsley St. and 420 Detroit St. [Rocco Disderide's former residence, aka "the orange house."]
  • Feb. 19, 2009: Planning commission adopts downtown plan with various revisions but no change to existing R4C zoning of 322 E. Kingsley St.
  • April 6, 2009: City council gives initial approval to zoning revisions to downtown requiring alterations to the downtown plan adopted by the planning commission; major alterations include changes in South University area, but also included a rezoning of 322 E. Kingsley St. from R4C to the new D2 classification. The amendment on 322 E. Kingsley St. is introduced by Sandi Smith (Ward 1) and passes with dissent only from Sabra Briere (Ward 1). [link]
  • May 19, 2009: Planning commission approves revisions to the downtown plan to accommodate part of the city council’s South University zoning revisions, an East Huron zoning revision, and the 322 E. Kingsley St. revision. [link]
  • June 15, 2009: City council adopts downtown plan as revised by the planning commission. [link]
  • Nov. 16, 2009: City council gives final approval to downtown zoning revisions, including the D2 designation to 322 E. Kingsley St.
  • Jan. 14, 2010: At an HDC work session, Zingerman’s presents plan showing demolition of two houses.
  • March 8, 2010: Zingerman’s holds a public participation open house on its proposed expansion.
  • March 11, 2010: At an HDC work session, Zingerman’s presents a plan showing demolition of one house only.

Zingerman’s Expansion: January 2010 HDC Work Session

The city’s historic district commission typically conducts its work sessions just after its regular meetings conclude – in the city council workroom, which adjoins the council chambers where the commission holds its regular meetings.

At the Jan. 14, 2010 HDC work session, Ken Clein of Quinn Evans Architects was joined by Gary Bruder, Zingerman’s legal counsel, and Nancy Rucker, who works in Zingerman’s Deli operations.

Clein presented the project with conceptual drawings and a study model – which at that time showed the removal of both the 322 E. Kingsley St. house and the 420 Detroit St. house.

Clein explained that the proposal to expand was related to an interest in preserving the original historic deli building. The current cooking and dishwashing operations in the building, he explained, generated moisture that escaped through the exterior brick, and caused deterioration of the wall. The evidence of the toll that it takes, he said, can be seen on the exterior of the wall facing Kingsley in the form of efflorescence – white salt deposits.

Clein also outlined a number of challenges associated with the Zingerman’s campus, one of them the seven-inch elevation change, which has an impact on what’s required to meet ADA accessibility standards, as well as the tight quarters, which has an impact on where stormwater detention can be undertaken.

The key issue for commissioners, naturally, was the question of removing both houses. Generally, commissioners did not seem wed to the idea of preserving the 322 E. Kingsley St. house.

[The June 2008 vote on that house had been close: 4-3 against demolition. One of the votes against demolition was Michael Bruner, who has since been replaced on the HDC with Patrick McCauley. McCauley's comments at the work session suggest he could be supportive of removing the 322 E. Kingsley St. house.]

On the 420 Detroit St. house, however, McCauley was unambiguous: “I’ll just come out and say it. I don’t think you should tear that house down.”

What McCauley pointed to was the fact that the proposed new building seemed to impinge on just one corner of the house, and for that reason, he did not think the condition was met that the removal of the house be “necessary.”

Clein countered by saying that there was more to it than just the small corner of the house. Among the specific issues he enumerated were: the impact on accessibility and the need to construct ramps; plus proximity of the house to the new structure triggering a requirement of fire-proof sheathing, which added to the expense; and the need to temporarily move the house to accommodate the actual construction of the new building.

Key for Clein was the idea that if cost were no object, then anything was possible – but it was a matter of how much cost was reasonable to ask of someone in order to rehabilitate an historic property.

On the question of expense, commissioner Diane Giannola wondered what the cut-off was for rehabilitation being “too expensive.” She allowed that it was “something to think about.” On the cost question, McCauley contended that it was only a small part of the overall project budget. Clein countered that in ballpark numbers, the rehabilitation of the house would likely be $0.5 million out of a project budget of $3.5 million to $4 million – or 1/7 of the budget, which he did not consider to be a small part of it.

Giannola raised the question of whether the 420 Detroit St. house could be seen from the street, to which McCauley responded: “You can totally see it from the street!” Giannola maintained that it was not a part of the streetscape, but noted that it was still a part of going to Zingerman’s Deli.

On the topic of location, Jill Thacher, the city planning department’s specialist in historic preservation, addressed the topic of the house’s history. It had been moved from the corner where the brick deli building now stands, she said, but that was during the district’s period of significance. This meant the fact that it had been moved was not an argument that it wasn’t a contributing structure. “Let me get the ‘it’s been moved’ argument off the table,” she said. [The same issue had been discussed fairly thoroughly at the HDC's June 2008 meeting.]

Commissioners discussed how far the notion of “necessity” in the criteria for a notice to proceed extended – was it “necessary” that Zingerman’s undertake the expansion at that location?

Commissioner Ellen Ramsburgh wondered if the expansion was more than the site could take. She noted that the Zingerman’s Creamery and Bake House had moved to peripheral locations. “Do you need to be there?”

In her remarks, Ramsburgh was echoing sentiments expressed by then-commissioner Michael Bruner back in June 2008, when he had made the suggestion that Zingerman’s think of moving their operations. The specific location he had in mind was the Old West Side structure adjoining the Liberty Lofts development:

Commissioner Bruner – [...] This may be less than what they need, but there stands today, a project that we reviewed and was approved, a development that includes a 20,000 square foot commercial retail area with parking that is begging to be occupied. [An apparent allusion to the Liberty Lofts greenhouse building.] As preservationists that want to encourage the success of economic projects in the city, perhaps Zingerman’s should consider moving their location as they have with their Creamery, which is at a satellite location, their Bakery which is at a satellite location, their Roadhouse that is a satellite location – this could be relocated as a satellite component at another location, nevertheless retaining this location as it is.

Clein responded to Ramsburgh at the January 2010 HDC working session by wondering if there were another historic district in another town where Zingerman’s could contemplate locating their operations. Ramsburgh: “That’s a threat!”

Zingerman’s Expansion: March Public Meeting, HDC Work Session

At the open house event held on March 8 to introduce the new project to the public, a key difference in the plan was apparent, made since the January HDC work session: The 420 Detroit St. house – “the orange house” –  is now incorporated into the design, both in the drawings and the study model.

Historic District Commission Ann Arbor Working Session

HDC work session, March 11, 2010. From the far end of the table, at right, going clockwise: Paul Saginaw, Lori Saginaw, Lesa Rozmarek, Kristina Glusac, Diane Giannola, Ellen Ramsburgh, Nancy Rucker, Gary Bruder, Bill Kinley, Deb Cooper, Ken Clein, Jill Thacher, Patrick McCauley, Rick Strutz, Grace Singleton.

At the open house, Ray Detter, president of the city’s downtown citizen’s advisory council, responded to a mention that the plan now included “the orange house” with the clarification: “You mean the Disderide house?”

Rocco Disderide was the proprietor of a grocery in the brick deli building, who moved the house from the corner to make way for that building.

Detter had told the board of the Downtown Development Authority at their last meeting, on March 3, 2010, that the advisory council was concerned about Zingerman’s plan to expand:

Zingerman’s plan generated “heated discussion” at DCAC, said Detter. The deli is located in the Old Fourth Ward historic district. He said they agreed that Zingerman’s is an essential part of the community, but that they needed to make sure there’s not a precedent set that would undermine planning. The decision needed to be oriented around the city’s planning documents: the downtown plan, the central area plan, and the historic district.

At the March 11, 2010 HDC work session, Ken Clein mentioned that some of the attendees of their March 8 open house were puzzled as to why they were keeping the 420 Detroit St. house as a part of the design.

As a designer and an architect, Clein said, he did have some concern for the judgment of history – would people look back 50 or 100 years from now and wonder why that house was incorporated into the design? “Will they look back and say, ‘What the …? Stupid preservationists!’” Patrick McCauley joked in response: “They’re going to say that anyway!”

Paul Saginaw Zingerman's

At the March 8 open house, Paul Saginaw, a founding partner of Zingerman’s, is not explaining how he fought his way through the curds, swimming to the surface after falling into a vat of cheese. He’s explaining to a neighbor how the Zingerman’s project is going to look.

The question of how much the preservation of the 420 Detroit St. house would cost arose again, just as it had at the January work session. In the interim, some more concrete numbers had been attached to the cost of rehabilitating the house for integration into the design. The house is shown in the design to be attached to the building at the rear via a glass connector.

Bill Kinley, who owns Phoenix Contractors Inc., was at the work session on Zingerman’s behalf to provide comment on some of the construction costs. McCauley was skeptical of the costs shown for electrical upgrades to the structure, citing some familiarity with the cost of a complete electrical replacement of a house. Kinley pointed out that there’s a rule of thumb for residential rewiring of $30-$35 per opening (switch plate or plug) versus a $120-$140 rule of thumb for work to bring things up to commercial code.

The code requirements that the 420 Detroit St. house would need to meet are commercial standards.

Clein reported that the kind of work that would be necessary, and which Zingerman’s had now had estimated in more detail, included a rebuild of the foundation, new floor framing for the first floor, new joist hangers for the second floor and the addition of exterior sheathing. [The house is built with the balloon-frame construction technique.]

The additional cost of the project attributable to the rehabilitation of the 420 Detroit St. house would be between $600,000-$750,000. In terms of cost per square foot, Clein said, it came out to $572/sq. ft.  By comparison, the new construction cost of a laboratory building at the University of Michigan – the Biomedical Sciences Research Building – was $100/sq. ft. less, at $480/sq. ft., Clein said. Kinley added that the new construction of a recent project that Phoenix had completed – the Towsley Children’s Center at Forest & Willard – came in at only $300/sq. ft.

Commissioners pointed to the importance of retaining the spatial relationships between the 420 Detroit St. house and the other buildings in the compound. At their regular meeting just before the work session, they’d turned down a request to add a second story to a 1-story garage, partly on the basis of those spatial relationships.

Picking up on this need to preserve the spatial relationships, Kinley suggested that they could simply rebuild the 420 Detroit St. house anew and replace it with new construction that would have the same shape and massing of the old house. Clein pointed out to the commissioners that with all of the work that would be required on the house to bring it up to code, there would likely be little of the original “fabric” of the house remaining.

Commissioners seemed cool to the implicit pitch that the Zingerman’s team was making to go back to a scenario where both houses would be demolished. Said Jill Thacher: “We’ve been over that. I want to keep you from going back to that.”

Commissioners also took care to stress that they were really happy with the proposal that removed the 322 E. Kingsley St. house but integrated the 420 Detroit St. house into the design, characterizing it as a good compromise. “I really like this,” said McCauley, allowing that he had been “the most strident person about the preservation of the orange house.”

On the fact that Zingerman’s had taken their feedback and incorporated it into their new proposal, McCauley summed it the contrast between the HDC’s experience with some applicants: “This is much preferable to getting yelled at.”

The current schedule calls for the proposal to come before the city’s planning commission in May. In the meantime, the Zingerman’s team will meet with the city’s building inspector on code issues related to the 420 Detroit St. house.


A rough study model of the area as it currently stands. The view is from the north. Detroit Street runs from front to back. Kingsley runs left and right. The Zingerman’s Deli brick building is on the corner of Detroit and Kingsley.

Zingerman's study model

A study model of the Zingerman’s expansion viewed from Detroit Street, looking east. The finger is pointing at the screening for mechanicals on the roof of the proposed new building.

Zingerman's Deli

The Zingerman’s Deli building viewed from Detroit Street. The 420 Detroit St. property is the orange house to the right of the brick deli building.


Nancy Rucker and Gary Bruder with the Zingerman’s team at the January 2010 HDC working session.

Looking at Zingerman's study model

City planner Jill Thacher and Rick Strutz, a partner in Zingerman’s Deli, inspect the current study model at the March 11 HDC work session. In the backround is Grace Singleton, another Zingerman’s Deli partner.

Zingermans brick

Efflorescence on the spawled brick of the Zingerman’s Deli building on the wall facing Kingsley Street.

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Fifth Ave. Project to Meet Historic Standards Tue, 15 Dec 2009 20:15:48 +0000 Dave Askins Monday evening on the third floor of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, developer Alex de Parry gave residents and neighbors an update on a project he’s been proposing in one form or another since early 2008.

Alex De Parry poining

Alex de Parry describes how the rear of the existing seven homes would in some cases be modified consistent with their period of historical significance. (Photo by the writer.)

The housing development would be located on the east side of Fifth Avenue, just south of William Street.

Previously known as “City Place,” the proposal has been newly baptized as “Heritage Row.” The new nomenclature reflects in part the expressed intent of de Parry’s development team to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for historic preservation for a row of seven old houses. Behind the row of houses, three new buildings would be constructed. Underground parking would be constructed under the three new buildings.

Previous versions of the project would have either demolished the seven houses or preserved them only in part. Now, the plan is to rehabilitate those houses to historic district standards.

To achieve the tax credits necessary to help fund the project, the area would need to be declared an historic district. In August, the Ann Arbor city council established a study committee to explore the question of whether an historic district would be appropriate for an area along Fourth and Fifth avenues. The area of study includes the proposed Heritage Row.

Given the tax credits that would be available to help fund Heritage Row, it would now work to de Parry’s advantage if the study committee recommended to city council that the area be established as an historic district.

two men laughing about hats

Resident Tom Luczak (left) and architect Bradley Moore (right) were not arguing about whose hat was more historic. (Photo by the writer.)

Based on two meetings of the historic district study committee attended by The Chronicle – most recently on Dec. 1 – that committee’s challenge is not so much whether to recommend their assigned area of study as an historic district. Rather, the conundrum they face is whether to recommend as an historic district a region that’s larger than the study area.

The next step to bring the Heritage Row project forward appears to be for de Parry and his team to formally notice a meeting in order to meet the requirements of Ann Arbor’s citizen participation ordinance. The question arose during Monday’s meeting as to whether the meeting was a continuation of the August public participation meeting.

Tom Whitaker, formerly president of the Germantown Neighborhood Association, pointed out the proposal had been altered from the previous public participation meeting. [The recently elected president of the neighborhood association is Beverly Strassmann, who also attended Monday's meeting.] And saying that he’d come to the meeting “armed with ordinance,” Whitaker read aloud the relevant section of the citizen participation ordinance [emphasis added]:

Before the Planning and Development Services Unit may accept a petition for a new or amended planned project, a new or amended planned unit development zoning district, or amendments to the zoning map, the following requirements shall be completed by the petitioner: …

Background on Heritage Row (formerly City Place)

Some of the dozen residents who attended the Monday presentation did not embrace the new name of the project, Heritage Row, saying it was too ironic. “Is it /ro/ or /rau/?”asked one resident pointedly.

Alex de Parry’s wife, Betsy, chimed in, saying the “blame” for the name change belonged to her – the name “City Place” just had to go, she said. Residents allowed that the name “City Place” had a lot of “baggage” attached to it.  The two years of baggage includes the following:

  • Jan. 15, 2008: Conditional rezoning – Ann Arbor Planning Commission recommended denial.
    YES: None. NO: Bonnie Bona, Craig Borum, Jean Carlberg, Ron Emaus, Joan Lowenstein, Eric Mahler, Ethel Potts, Evan Pratt, Kirk Westphal.
  • May 20, 2008: PUD (planned unit development) – Planning Commission recommended denial.
    YES: Emaus. NO: Bona, Borum, Carlberg, Lowenstein, Mahler, Potts, Westphal. ABSENT: Pratt.
  • Sept. 4, 2008: PUD – Ann Arbor Planning Commission recommended denial.
    YES: Borum, Lowenstein. NO: Bona, Carlberg, Potts, Pratt, Westphal, Woods.
  • Dec. 15, 2008: City Council rejects resolution to establish a Historic District Study Committee for Germantown.
  • Jan. 5, 2009: PUD – City Council denied on a unanimous 0-10 vote.
    NO: John Hieftje, Sabra Briere, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Rapundalo, Leigh Greden, Christopher Taylor, Margie Teall, Marcia Higgins, Carsten Hohnke, Mike Anglin. ABSENT: Sandi Smith.
  • April 21, 2009: MOR (matter of right) – Planning Commission recommends approval on 6-3 vote.
    YES: Bona, Carlberg, Derezinski, Mahler, Westphal, Woods. NO: Potts, Borum, Pratt.
  • June 1, 2009: MOR – City Council postponed it due to inconsistencies in drawings provided on city’s website. [Errors attributed to city staff.]
  • June 15, 2009: MOR – City Council sent it back to Planning Commission due to technical errors with drawings provided at the Planning Commission April meeting. [Errors attributed to city staff.]
  • July 7, 2009: MOR – Planning Commission recommended denial on 5-1 vote to approve (needed 6).
  • July 20, 2009: MOR – City Council postpones until January 2010, to give the developer the opportunity to pursue a revised PUD. A condition was that the developer could bring back the matter of right project with 35-days notice.
  • Aug. 6, 2009: City Council establishes an Historic District Study Committee and moratorium on demolition for a two-block area, including the proposed site of City Place.
  • Aug. 11, 2009: “Streetscape PUD,” a revised version of de Parry’s project, receives planning staff initial review.
  • Aug. 12, 2009: “Streetscape PUD” introduced to neighbors to comply with the neighbor participation ordinance.
  • Aug. 17, 2009: City Council revises language of moratorium to include all forms of work, including demolition.
  • Aug. 30, 2009: Application for “Streetscape PUD” was not accepted by city planning staff.
  • Sept 21, 2009: City council approves MOR project, but it cannot move forward because of the moratorium on demolition passed together with the historic district study committee.
  • Oct. 12, 2009: Update given by de Parry on “Streetscape PUD” at Conor O’Neill’s.
  • Dec. 14, 2009: Update given on “Streetscape PUD” – now called “Heritage Row” – at Ann Arbor District Library.

Heritage Row

At the time of the Monday meeting, only bird’s-eye view schematics were provided, but the development team said that street level elevation drawings would be available soon.

The presentation of Heritage Row was made by John Dziurman, an architect specializing in historic preservation.  He introduced himself as a member of the Rochester Hills historic district commission, having also served on the historic district study committee to establish a district in Rochester Hills. He cautioned that he was not out to turn Ann Arbor into Rochester Hills.

man holding pictures

Architect John Dziurman shows residents the kinds of buildings he'll be drawing inspiration from in designing three new buildings for Heritage Row. (Photo by the writer.)

The three buildings to be constructed behind the row of houses, said Dziurman, would not be designed to mimic historic buildings – Secretary of the Interior standards require that new buildings and additions be “differentiated” from the old buildings so that the historical record is not confused.

Instead of trying to create buildings that could pass for old, Dziurman said that he would design contemporary buildings to be suitable “background buildings” that were complementary to the houses. “The Washtenaw” is a brick apartment building in the area that he’d draw inspiration from.

Each of the old houses would have a new foundation built, and some would be brought forward to form an even 19-foot front setback.

The space between the three new buildings to the rear and the row of seven houses would become a paved plaza area. Residents of the seven houses would have access from the rear of their houses to that common plaza area. Some people attending Monday’s meeting complained that a similar plaza-type arrangement at Ashley Mews had not resulted in people actually using it – it was a dead zone, they said. One resident couple, however, said they enjoyed walking their dog through Ashley Mews.

The paving material for the plaza, Dziurman said, would be permeable. One resident questioned how that might work, given that underneath the plaza there’d be an underground parking structure. Architect Bradley Moore, who’s also working on this project, gave assurance that it could work.

The underground parking, said Dziurman, with its 60 spaces, would relieve some of the parking burden in the area. But whether it would relieve the burden, said one resident, would depend on how many units were being built. De Parry broke down the units in the new buildings like this: 34 2-bedroom units and 10 3-bedroom units, for a total of 98 beds in new construction. Including the seven houses, that would put the total number of beds at 163.

Residents wanted to know how large the bedrooms would be – were they large enough to accommodate two people? Moore said that they were mostly 10 feet by 11 feet. De Parry concluded that they were not intended to be doubled up.

Dziurman expressed some puzzlement at the calculations based on beds instead of units. [In recent Ann Arbor development history, a number of projects have been proposed that targeted student renters, so projects tend to be evaluated by neighbors according to the number of potential beds.]

For attendees, Ashley Mews was also a standard of comparison for the height of the three new proposed buildings. Moore reported that the current height proposed would be no taller than the tallest point of any of the seven houses – 38.875 feet.

One resident said she’d be a lot happier if one story could be lopped off those buildings. Sabra Briere, who represents Ward 1 on Ann Arbor’s city council, asked, “What about four feet?” She pointed out that sometimes a difference of as little as four feet could make a difference in how a building was perceived. Moore replied, somewhat wistfully, that making the building four feet shorter would require him to specify 6-foot ceilings.

The rear access to the plaza from the houses, said Dziurman, would be made possible by modifying the rear of the houses. Some of those houses had had additions put on over the years. De Parry described a variety of modifications that would be made to the rear of each house.

Moving Through Approval Process

The restoration of the rear of the houses, Tom Whitaker pointed out to Dziurman, would need to be made according to the period of historical significance for each house. Dziurman agreed, and said that to some extent they’d need to wait until the historic district study committee returned its report and recommendations.  Whitaker serves on that committee, which has met at least four times this fall and is on course to submit a report sometime in February.

That study committee was established by the city council on Aug. 6, 2009, and includes a moratorium on all work, including demolition, in the area of study, which includes the site of Heritage Row.

man with blueprint

At their October meeting, Tom Whitaker shows his colleagues on the historic district study committee some specifications for casement windows at the E.E. Schmid residence dating back to 1924. From left clockwise are Sarah Shotwell, Kristi Gilbert, Rebecca Lopez Kriss, Ina Hanel-Gerdenich, and Kristine Kidorf. (Photo by the writer.)

The question was raised about next steps, and how the project would move through the city’s planning process. The only certainties, based on Tom Whitaker’s citation of the public participation ordinance, seemed to be that an official public participation meeting would be held and that the project would be brought forward as a planned unit development (PUD). [Update: "Heritage Row Redux: Process Clarified"]

Sabra Briere, Ward 1 councilmember, said that she could not say for certain what would happen, but could say what ought to happen.  The project should move through the process up to the point where the planning commission and the city council gave their verdict on it. The danger, she said, in having the planning commission and the city council give approval before the historic district commission weighed in was that the historic district commission might still deny the project.

Briere alluded to a fairly recent project where that had happened – Glen Ann Place. The project won approval from the planning commission and city council but was denied by the historic district commission.  [The situation ended in a lawsuit, settled in summer of 2007 in way that allowed the project to move ahead. The lot just north of Ann Street on the west side of Glen Avenue is now denuded of the two houses that previously stood there, but nothing has yet been built.]

De Parry’s development team is proceeding on the assumption that there will be an historic district established that includes the area where Heritage Row would be built. In any case, said Dziurman, “I’m not afraid of it.”

Whether there is an historic district established will depend in part on what recommendation is made by the historic district study committee. And based on the two meetings of that committee that The Chronicle has attended, it’s not clearcut what recommendation will be made.

Historic District Study Committee

In the city council’s Aug. 6 resolution, the area specified to be studied for potential establishment of an historic district is as follows:

… the area encompassing properties that abut the east and west sides of South Fourth Avenue and South Fifth Avenue, bounded by the East William Historic District on the north, and Packard Street on the south, and also including 209, 215, and 219 Packard Street;

The committee, which was appointed by the council at its Sept. 8, 2009 meeting, consists of Ina Hanel-Gerdenich, Susan Wineberg, Sarah Shotwell, Patrick McCauley, Rebecca Lopez Kriss, Tom Whitaker and Kristi Gilbert.

By their mid-October meeting, the committee had already made significant headway in researching the properties in the study area. They’re using a combination of digital and analog tools to complete the work. On the digital side, some of the old city directories are available on Google Books. [List of Ann Arbor city directories available on Google Books] The committee is also using a shared Google spreadsheet to compile all the information they’re gathering.

woman pointing at slide

Ina Hanel-Gerdenich points out relevant features on a house as the historic district study committee slogged through the study area parcel by parcel during their December meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

On the analog side, they’re using hard-copy city directories and Sanborn maps. They’re also walking the area and taking new photographs of each property from multiple angles.

At the October committee meeting, there was discussion of researching properties outside the mandated area of study. They eventually decided to look at properties south of Packard Street – outside their mandated area of study – acknowledging that this would represent a fair amount of work. That decision was based in part on the idea that it was impossible to make a recommendation of a boundary without knowing what was on the other side.

Regarding boundaries and how they’re to be determined, Michigan’s Local Historic District Manual cites National Register Bulletin 15 [emphasis added]:

A district must be a definable geographic area that can be distinguished from surrounding properties by changes such as density, scale, type, age, style of sites, buildings, structures, and objects or by documented differences in patterns of historic development or associations. It is seldom defined, however, by the limits of current parcels of ownership, management or planning boundaries. The boundaries must be based upon a shared relationship among the properties constituting the district. (p. 6)

By their Dec. 1 meeting, the committee’s research on Fourth and Fifth avenues extending down south of Packard to Madison Street was in large part complete.

However, at that meeting, the historic district consultant for the city, Kristine Kidorf, asked the group to go through the properties in the expanded area parcel-by-parcel to confirm that those they’d designated as potentially contributing to an historic district really fit that description.

So that they did, house by house.

As their discussion of individual properties wound down, Patrick McCauley, who also serves on the city’s historic district commission, expressed concerns about recommending an historic  district to the city council that stretched the boundaries of the area they’d been asked to study.

McCauley indicated that Ward 5 representative to the council, Carsten Hohnke, had said the council had approved the study committee because it included a study area smaller than the one they’d rejected for study in late 2008. [Chronicle coverage: "No Formal Study Committee for Germantown"]

Committee member Rebecca Lopez Kriss indicated that she’d talked to a number of councilmembers about the possibility of expanding the district. What she’d heard, she said, was for the most part “wishy-washy political speak.” But councilmember Sandi Smith and mayor John Hieftje had said, according to Lopez Kriss, that they would not support an expanded district. Lopez Kriss at one point suggested submitting a recommendation for an expanded district and “letting the politicos fight it out.”

For her part, Ina Hanel-Gerdenich said that in conversation with Ward 1 councilmember Sabra Briere, Briere had stressed that it was important to define boundaries “that make sense.” [Briere worked on the study committee that eventually recommended establishment of the Broadway historic district.]

Some of that “fighting it out” would involve a second development in the area. A district expanded down to Madison street would include the area of a development now named “The Moravian.” [Chronicle coverage: "The Madison Redux"].

Whitaker noted that there was support for homeowners on both sides of Packard for inclusion in an historic district. He was concerned, however, about the committee’s obligation to those who lived north of Packard. He worried that if they recommended an expanded district, that the city council, faced with a choice of voting it up or down, would vote it down. That, he said, put those to the north of Packard at risk.

The general understanding of the committee is that council would likely approve a recommendation that was limited to the orginal study area.  That view is supported by councilmember comments that were made at the meeting when council established the study committee.

Said committee member Kristi Gilbert at one point, “If they [the city council] were inclined to vote for it [expanded area], they’d have made the study area bigger.” She encouraged the committee to recommend the smaller area as an historic district.

Susan Wineberg said that her assumption all along in doing the research on the area south of Packard was that they were going to recommend that area for inclusion in an historic district.

Patrick McCauley noted that the key was to meet the definition of the boundaries, and that to him, the original boundaries made as much sense as the boundaries of the expansion they were considering.

At the committee’s December meeting, when they voted on the question of recommending an expanded district, it was a 3-3 split, with Sarah Shotwell absent from the meeting. Voting for the larger district: Ina Hanel-Gerdenich, Susan Wineberg, Tom Whitaker.  Voting for the smaller district: Kristi Gilbert, Patrick McCauley, Rebecca Lopez Kriss.

The committee will meet again in January and try to resolve the issue of recommending a district larger than the study area, plus report out on additional reasearch that needs to be completed. The consultant, Kristine Kidorf, will then complile the report for comment by the state office of historic presevation.

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Picking Paint Tue, 09 Jun 2009 20:11:33 +0000 Mary Morgan Four swatches of paint on the building at 113 S. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor.

Four patches of paint on the building at 113 S. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor, which houses Mitchell and Mouat Architects.

“When a group is choosing paint colors, there’s lots of thought about hue, intensity, neutrals, accents, etc. But, it usually comes down to emotion. Just like buying new clothes, you have to try it on before you know if it’s a fit or not.” – Dick Mitchell, in an email to The Chronicle

About a week ago, The Chronicle spotted four fairly uniform rectangles of paint – in four distinctly different colors, but not wildly so – on the front of a downtown brick building that houses Mitchell and Mouat Architects. It seemed clear that a paint job was in the offing, so we decided to ask a simple question: What color?

The short answer is Bunker Hill. The long answer, as is often the case, turns out to be much more interesting.

There are actually two adjacent buildings that will be painted, at 111 and 113 S. Fourth Ave., between Washington and Huron on the east side of Fourth. The buildings contain six condos – four residential, and two owned by businesses: Mitchell and Mouat, and Circumference, which sells high-end bicycles. Dick Mitchell – known as “Mitch,” who’s a partner in the architecture firm – describes the people who inhabit these buildings, for work or their home, as “a real assortment of downtown oddballs, ourselves included.”

That means decision-making for major projects like this is … interesting.

The decision to paint stems from a need to do some maintenance on the structures. The building to the north is the Heinrich Building, constructed in 1870 and originally a saloon. (We reported on one small bit of the building’s history last year.) The building at 113 S. Fourth was built about 10 years later, Mitchell said, and was a blacksmith shop – iron rings are still in the walls where customers tied up their horses. Its lineage also includes a period when it served as a Studebaker sales & service shop.

These buildings are made of Chicago common brick, a soft red brick that was a popular construction material in the last half of the 19th century. This type of masonry requires more maintenance than other materials, Mitchell said. The lime-based mortar that was used on the building is soft, and has started to erode. If stronger mortar were used to repair it, like the Portland cement mortar that workmen began using in the early 1900s, then in the brick vs. mortar face-off, “the one with the greatest strength wins,” Mitchell explained. That is, as the soft brick absorbs water and expands, the mortar doesn’t budge and causes the face of the brick to shear off.

So first, the buildings need to be repointed – a process of applying new mortar. That made it a logical time to paint, too. Plus, everyone in the buildings hates the current color – no one can remember who picked it when they painted about eight years ago, Mitchell said.

Close-up of a runner-up paint choice. This swatch was in the alley on the north side of 111 S. Fourth.

This patch was in the alley on the north side of 111 S. Fourth. The light green is the building's current color. The blue-gray is a runner-up color choice that didn't make the final cut.

After some discussion, the condo owners narrowed down the color choices to four, out of a possible 2,000 offered by ICI Paints. Next, they decided to paint sample patches on all sides of the buildings – north, south, east and west – to see how the colors looked in different light. The north side, for example, faces a narrow alley and is mostly in shadow. On the east and west sides, the light changes dramatically as the sun rises and sets.

And then they lived with it for a few weeks.

The response to color is emotional and subjective, Mitchell notes. One couple actually moved out of their condo in part because their distaste of the building’s current color was so strong. (He pointed out that the couple even went so far as to paint the back wall a slightly different shade of green. Apparently it didn’t help enough to keep them in the condo.)

He also said that on the Saturday when he was painting sample colors on the building, passers-by on their way to and from the Ann Arbor Farmers Market overwhelmingly favored the light blue color. And everyone had an opinion.

Mitchell said that despite having way too many choices and many people with strong opinions, the owners were able to reach consensus and choose Bunker Hill – a color that those of us who aren’t in the paint-naming business would call dark green.

But they aren’t finished yet. The next task is to pick accent colors for the trim – they’ve narrowed it to four color groups, with three colors in each group. Names like Unicorn White, Inheritance (“That would have to be green, wouldn’t it?” Mitchell said) and Prickly Pear. The Chronicle was unable to view these colors firsthand: The cards used to display the hues had been left outside – hung up next to the patches of paint on the front of the building – and had gone missing sometime over the weekend, Mitchell reported on Monday. The other color choice to be made is for entry doors. In that case, everyone gets to pick whatever color they want for their own door. Those being considered include The Color Purple, Juliet’s Potion, Sun God and Algonquin Red.

For accents, one way or another the owners will come to a decision at a meeting Tuesday night devoted exclusively to that topic. They’re on a timeline – the man hired to do the work, Bill Gaul of Grass Lake, is starting the job on June 15. It’ll take him about a month to do the repointing plus two coats of the elastomeric paint – a type chosen because it “stretches” to cover cracks yet allows the brick to breathe, Mitchell said.

He didn’t want the cost of the project disclosed, but said that owners pay a share based on the amount of square footage they have. His business, owning 30% of the total space, will pay the most.

Color swatches on a desk at Mitchell and Mouat Architects. The four cards at the bottom left are being considered for entry doors.

Color swatches on a desk at Mitchell and Mouat Architects. The four cards at the bottom left are being considered for entry doors.

As far as we know, none of the colors on this door in the alley of 113 S. Fourth are being considered as paint choices for the building.

As far as we know, none of the colors on this door in the alley of 113 S. Fourth are being considered as paint choices for the building.

111 and 113 S. Fourth Ave.

111 and 113 S. Fourth Ave.

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Ann Arbor City, Place for Knitting Wed, 24 Sep 2008 14:09:31 +0000 Dave Askins caption here

A dishrag knitted up in less than the time it took for planning commission to meet.

At the Sept. 4 planning commission meeting, the resolution to recommend City Place project – proposed along South Fifth Avenue as a PUD by Alex de Parry – failed with only two votes for it.

Under-reported generally, and specifically about that meeting, is the volume of knitted material that is produced during Ann Arbor public meetings by folks in the audience. And knitting is a great metaphor for framing some of the general issues laid out at the planning commission meeting with respect to the specific project.

First though, who was knitting and what were they working on? Sabra Briere was working on a complex cape-collar cardigan for her daughter-in-law. The back and the left front were finished, and she had cast on for the right front (i.e., set up the initial row on the needles). Note that this was a planning commission meeting, so Briere was not attending in an official capacity as councilmember representing Ward 1. At the most recent caucus, she reported that she had moved on to the sleeves.

In terms of difficulty, at the other end of the knitting scale from a cape-collar cardigan is a square dishrag. That’s what Eva started and finished in less than the time it took planning commission to conduct its business. Eva moved to Ann Arbor from Birmingham – because Birmingham just seemed to have no real soul – and now she doesn’t have to make the drive all the way from Birmingham to Ann Arbor for the Tuesday night German speakers stammtisch at Grizzly Peak.

What a square dish rag might lack in complexity, Eva is making up for in sheer volume. She’s knitting them for all her friends, which is a number somewhere between 50 and 100. As The Chronicle was leaving the meeting (early), Eva quickly bound off the last stitch, folded the rag, and gifted it to us. So ‘ne unerwartete Freundlichkeit! Das haben wir nicht erwartet. Wir möchten uns bei Eva für dieses Geschenk bedanken, und werden wohl jedes Mal, wenn’s zum Geschirrspülen kommt, daran denken, wie unsere Gemeinschaft auch zusammengestrickt ist.

Just as the fabric of physical community can be knit together by spontaneously gifting a piece of handwork to a new acquaintance, it can also be tied together through the words of people speaking on basically opposite sides of an issue. That’s what we’ve tried to do below. Each thread, labeled with the naming pattern of [X].Nonymous, corresponds to a speaking turn from the public hearing on City Place at the Sept. 4 meeting.

The speakers, of course, are not anonymous, as the labels suggest. They are people who had the gumption to stand at the podium and say their piece publicly. We’ve chosen not to attach their names to the words below for two reasons. First, some of them are “usual suspects” who frequently speak and write on these topics, and we’d like to give Chronicle readers the chance to focus on what they had to say, instead of thinking, “Oh, I already know what they’re going to say.” Second, we’ve redacted fairly dramatically these three-minute speaking turns (for length and clarity), and they are in some sense taken out of their full context. And to the extent that this redaction might change the meaning of a speaker’s remarks, we don’t wish to saddle the original speaker with that unintended meaning. We hope that the lack of quotation marks is conspicuous. Note also, that we made no attempt to be exhaustive by including something from every speaker.

So here they are – some purls of wisdom on both sides of City Place. As this project comes before council (which is an option the developer will be pursuing, despite its rejection by planning commission), perhaps these bits can be knit together into a satisfactory outcome for the community – which includes the developer.


When we demolish buildings we do everything we can to recycle as much of the building as possible. Under this scenario we plan to work with three groups to salvage building materials from the structure before demolition takes place. We will work with Habitat for Humanity, Ann Arbor Recycle, and Materials Unlimited of Ypsilanti to salvage all doors, windows, wood trim, wood flooring, cabinets, bathroom and plumbing fixtures.


Just hearing him talk about the demolition gives me a stomach ache. I know that some people just say that they are old buildings. But these are truly historic buildings. They are connected with several of our mayors. We have streets named after the people who live in these houses: two of the Beakes mayors and also Mayor Hamilton, after which Hamilton Street is named.


The small changes to the project don’t change, in my estimation, the aesthetic problem of a big blob taking the place of historic buildings and the whole ambiance of the panorama. Not just the historical nature of the panorama, but also its significance as a cornerstone of this area.


I think the buildings have an inherent environmental value in the materials that were used to build them many years ago.


The most pressing concern is the lack of modern, clean, affordable housing in the downtown area. This problem has caused me to consider living outside of downtown.


As far as the salvage plan, I think there is a financial advantage to salvage the very valuable wood and glass windows and other things that are in these houses. They don’t have to be doing this for anybody else to do anybody else a favor. All of these materials are far more valuable in the houses that are standing there.


I think in general, the cheapest kind of housing is older housing, not newer housing, I think that’s very clear. And as to the concerns about modernity within these buildings, since these buildings are owned by the developer, I would propose that concerns about lack of modernity in his kitchen or wherever be addressed to the owner.


It’s hard for me to understand how any developer would want to incur the derision of this community for such short-sighted greed. When so much can be done by either selling the houses, and investing in areas where more density is permitted, or by rehabbing them as single-family houses, so that we could have a healthier and more balanced mix in the downtown. We need families. We need students. We need young professionals. We need all of them, that’s what the city is … also there is no guarantee what the price on these will be. How many times have we seen developments predicted at such and such a price per unit, only to skyrocket at the very end. There is also no guarantee as to who will live there. Who will live there will be who can afford the rent.


I enjoy the downtown and I think that it’s one of our major assets as a community and as a business environment. And I’m very concerned about our downtown remaining a place that is a viable business environment. Historic structures actually have economic benefit. Having a block of structures this close to downtown, the structures themselves are an asset to the whole community.


I am here because I love this city. I think we are all here because we love the city. We love it for the friends that we’ve made, the times we’ve had, and the dreams that we have realized here. I think we all love this city for the memories it has afforded us. Unfortunately, as it stands Ann Arbor cannot provide a lifestyle that will cultivate the memories that some of its residents desire. The city is full of young professionals – scientists, medical professionals, small-business owners, teachers and graduate students who need affordable downtown avenues to pursue their dreams. For each of us here today there are hundreds with the same story. We’re all dressed up with nowhere to go.


I really love living in Ann Arbor and hopefully once I get a job, once I graduate, I won’t have to live in the awful place I live right now with the noise going through the walls and the loud music. I want a place where I can live. And City Place is the type of place you want to live in.


Overwhelmingly what I think you’re hearing from the community is that there is no clear public benefit, and I hope that that would give you the confidence to be able to deny the developer the opportunity to destroy this neighborhood and build something that is not compatible with the surrounding area.


Listening to all the stories, they are all heartfelt and I appreciate listening to you guys talk about the history of the city. But realistically right now the city needs more places to live. A year and half ago when I was graduating college I was actually considering moving from the city out of state. Actually I moved out of the city because I could no longer afford it. The only things that I could afford were rundown, destroyed, crappy housing. And to be honest with you, something like this would bring more young professionals in. Just because it’s historic, people aren’t going to come here because of that.


The price of steel doesn’t change, whatever you want the building to cost. The price of concrete doesn’t change. And both of those have continuously gone up in the last decade. You cannot build a relatively high-rise structure, with expensive elevators, in a very expensive part of town, and have anything but an expensive building. You cannot make this building any less per square foot than Ashley Terrace.


I did not plan to speak for or against City Place, but I like what I see. It’s four stories tall, it’s got 97 underground parking spaces, for 90 units. It reminds me a little bit of the architecture on South University between Observatory and Washtenaw. Basically I like what I see. And would like to see it on the corner of Forest and South University. [Ed. note: this is a punch-line; it drew lots of laughs; it would be a mistake to chalk it up as support for City Place.]


While its form may be different from several individual multiple family structures, City Place is compatible in character and appearance with its neighborhood. The 1992 central area plan contains over 40 pages of problems – their correct application is in the context of the whole city as a living, evolving mechanism.


With respect to the embodied energy in these buildings, I have reviewed the literature and it’s difficult to find something that is a rigorous analysis of what exactly that means. I did do a rough calculation – you have a payback within 5-7 years. The important thing about that is that you are thinking big. SEMCOG says that by the year 2015 Ann Arbor will have 5,000 more jobs and 100 more residents. If we want to save the planet we’re going to have to have more compact development and redevelop the urban cores. If we’re not willing to do it in Ann Arbor, who’s going to? Frankly I think it’s a great project. It’s got excellent architecture, it’s in a great location.


I want density downtown. And that’s what all of our plans are committed to. That’s where the density should be, and that’s where diversity should be. Protecting those neighborhoods around the downtown is what we should be doing. And let’s face it, in terms of what you’ve heard, I’ve said this before, this proposal gives the finger to every one of us.

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