Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (March 4, 2014): A gym addition at Concordia University in Ann Arbor is moving forward, following action by planning commissioners to recommend approval of the project’s site plan.
The project signals a larger effort to double the size of the current institution’s enrollment of 740 students and return Concordia – which was near bankruptcy in recent years – to financial stability.
Curt Gielow, Concordia University Ann Arbor’s CEO, told commissioners that because of its distressed financial state, the Ann Arbor campus was absorbed by Concordia University Wisconsin last year. Plans are in place to invest between $10 million to $20 million in the coming years on a variety of improvements, he said.
Gielow estimated Concordia’s economic impact on Ann Arbor is in excess of $10 million annually. “I don’t think anybody wants this university to close.”
The 187-acre campus is located at 4090 Geddes Road, just west of US-23 and north of the Huron River. The Ann Arbor campus is one of the smallest of the 10 Concordias nationwide, which all are owned by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The LCMS Michigan district offices are located near the Ann Arbor campus, at 3773 Geddes.
The site plan will now be forwarded to the city council for consideration. Planning commissioners also granted a special exception use for the project, because the private university is located on a site zoned R1B (single-family residential district). No additional city council approval is required for that.
In other action, commissioners voted to support a resolution passed by the city’s energy commission and environmental commission, recommending that the city fill a vacant full-time position to focus on implementing Ann Arbor’s climate action plan.
During the March 4 meeting, energy commission chair Wayne Appleyard explained the rationale behind the recommendation, noting that one of two positions in the energy office has been vacant for about two years. While the office has been short-staffed, he said, climate change continues. “Greenhouse gases are cumulative, so the faster we can move to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the better off everybody’s going to be.”
Near the end of the meeting, planning commissioner Diane Giannola announced that she and Bonnie Bona would be bringing a resolution forward on March 18 related to the Library Lane site. At recent city council meetings, she noted, there has been discussion about potentially selling the air rights for the Library Lane underground parking structure to a developer. So the resolution would describe the kinds of uses that the planning commission would like to see on top of that site, she said. Giannola likened it to a similar resolution that the planning commission passed prior to the sale of the former Y lot.