Stories indexed with the term ‘The Moravian’

S. Fifth Ave: Historic District, Development

On May 17, 2010 the Ann Arbor city council gave final approval to the city’s FY 2011 budget.

Also that same evening, at a different public meeting away from the glitz and glamour of budget deliberations, an historic district study committee – appointed by the council in August 2009 – adopted its final report. The report recommends creation of an historic district along South Fifth and Fourth avenues, from William Street down to Packard Avenue, including the south side of Packard.


The colored overlays indicate existing Ann Arbor historic districts. The question mark indicates the general vicinity of the proposed new historic district. (Image links to .kmz file from the city's data catalog, which will open in GoogleEarth, displaying all the current historic districts in the city.)

The council would still need to approve the creation of the district. The issue is currently scheduled to come before the council for a first reading on June 21, followed by a second reading on July 5. A moratorium on all construction work in the area of the study will expire on Aug. 6.

If the historic district is approved, then the Heritage Row project – a planned unit development (PUD) proposed along the east side of Fifth Avenue south of William Street – would need to win approval not just from the city council, but also from the city’s historic district commission (HDC).

Heritage Row is due to come before the city council for its second reading on June 7. It received its first reading approval from the city council on May 3 – with no discussion, but with one dissenting vote from Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

This article takes a look at the recommendation of the historic district study committee, primarily through the lens of the public hearing held on May 5 in city council chambers. The conclusion of the hearing found Scott Munzel and Alex de Parry kidding back and forth with Beverly Strassmann – over their respective remarks at the public hearing. Munzel and de Parry are legal counsel and developer for the Heritage Row project, respectively, while Strassmann is president of the Germantown Neighborhood Association.

In his public hearing remarks, Munzel had – somewhat unexpectedly – presented a case that the area recommended as an historic district should, if anything, be larger than the study committee is recommending. The issue of the possible district’s size was already controversial at the point when the committee was appointed, and continues to be a bit of a chaffing point among residents. [Full Story]

Zaragon, Heritage Row and The Moravian

Scott Bonney, Newcombe Clark, Tim Stout

Scott Bonney, left, of Neumann/Smith Architects, talks with Newcombe Clark, a partner in The Moravian development. Neumann/Smith is the architect for both The Moravian and Zaragon Place 2. At right is Tim Stout of O'Neal Construction.

Monday afternoon’s public forum for Zaragon Place 2 – a proposed 14-story apartment building at the southeast corner of Thompson and William, next to Cottage Inn – was held by the developer and his team to comply with the city’s citizen participation ordinance.

But among those attending the two-hour open house at the Michigan Union were developers for both The Moravian and Heritage Row – two residential projects that have been vigorously opposed by some residents in the city’s near-south side.

There are significant differences among the three projects, but some connections as well, especially among the project teams. And all are at different stages of the process: plans for Zaragon Place 2 haven’t yet been submitted to the city’s planning department, while Heritage Row has been recommended by the planning commission and is expected to come before the city council in May. Meanwhile, in a grueling April 5 city council meeting that lasted well past 1 a.m., The Moravian failed to get the eight votes it needed for approval. Nearly 90 people – both supporters and opponents – spoke during a 3.5-hour public commentary on the project.

Based on reactions at Monday’s open house for Zaragon Place 2, it seems unlikely this latest project will arouse similar passions. [Full Story]

Six-Vote Majority Leaves The Moravian Short

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (April 5, 2010) Part 1: In a six-to-four vote on Monday night, the Ann Arbor city council did not give The Moravian development the required 8-vote super-majority it needed for approval. A petition signed by greater than 20% of adjoining property owners meant that the project needed eight instead of the six votes it actually received to win the council’s endorsement.

The pen of Tom Luczak

On an architect's scale model of the neighborhood, Tom Luczak points to a house on Fourth Avenue, next to the proposed project, The Moravian. The view is roughly from the northwest. Luczak spoke in opposition to the project. (Photos by the writer.)

The five-story, 62-unit building proposed for the section of East Madison Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues near downtown Ann Arbor had come before the council with the recommendation of the city’s planning staff and a 7-1 vote recommendation from the city’s planning commission.

The public hearing on The Moravian included remarks from around 90 people on both sides of the issue. The Moravian alone – counting the public hearing, plus the deliberations by the council – took up over four hours of the meeting, which lasted well past 1 a.m.

Besides The Moravian, the council’s business included an item that would have reconsidered its recent decision to replace the entire Ann Arbor housing commission board. The motion for reconsideration was voted down, with no support, not even from its two sponsors – Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). Kunselman cited the late hour as part of the reason for his lack of enthusiasm for pursuing the matter.

The council also tabled a proposed city ordinance that would ban cell phone use while driving. The council had postponed the measure to a specific date a few times previously. The tabling means that the ordinance can be brought back for consideration by the council, but by council rule it will die unless it is brought back within six months.

Also receiving brief discussion was a possible council rule on email that the council is now forced to  consider publicly at its next meeting under terms of a recent lawsuit settlement.

In Part 1 of this report, we focus exclusively on The Moravian. [Full Story]

City Council’s Directive: 3% Cut for Workers

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (March 1, 2010) Part 1: Having postponed a resolution at its last meeting – which directed the city administrator to reduce wages of non-union workers by 3% – on Monday the council passed a revised version of it.

Tony Derezinski talking on a cell phone

Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), who co-sponsored a new ordinance banning use of cell phones while driving or bicycling. The ban does not apply to driving one's council chair before the meeting starts. (Photos by the writer.)

But it was approved without the support of the measure’s two sponsors, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2). The version adopted by council specified a 3% minimum cut in compensation packages, taken over the aggregate of non-union workers. By the time the resolution was passed, it had also shed a “whereas” clause that Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) called “self-laudatory.”

In development news, The Moravian – a planned unit development (PUD) proposed on East Madison Street – received unanimous council support at its first reading. Approval at two readings is required for final approval. But Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) responded to a resident request made at the previous night’s caucus to give some clue at the first reading as to how councilmembers were thinking about the project: “I’ll be voting against it at second reading – so there’s no question in the community’s mind.”

Based on the Sunday caucus, The Moravian will face a protest petition, which raises the bar for approval from six to eight votes.

The council also wrangled through a proposed ban on cell phone use while driving and bicycling – at a level of detail unusual for a first reading. The measure had undergone enough revisions since it was approved at the council’s previous meeting that its status Monday was reset to a first reading. Dissent on the ban came from Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who questioned whether it should be undertaken at the local level – as opposed to the state. Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) also dissented, pointing to the fact that the ban did not include hands-free phones.

The council also transacted a variety of other business, including a repeal of the city’s bicycle registration program, which is to be replaced with a new system after further consultation with stakeholders. The bicycle registration program, as well as other business and announcements, will be wrapped up in Part 2 of this report. [Full Story]

The Moravian Goes Before City Council

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday night caucus (Feb. 28, 2010): The notion of a “first reading” permeated discussion in council chambers Sunday night among the five councilmembers and the half dozen residents who attended. Ordinances must be approved at two readings by the city council before they are enacted.

Tony Derezinski Stephen Kunselman Sabra Briere

At the Sunday Ann Arbor city council caucus, from left: Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1). Also attending the caucus from the city council were Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and John Hieftje (mayor). (Photo by the writer.)

Due to receive its first reading on Monday night at the council’s regular meeting is The Moravian – a  five-story residential and work/live space planned unit development (PUD) along the 500 block of Fifth Avenue and the 200 block of East Madison. The project was given a recommendation for approval from the city’s planning commission on a 7-1 vote in January 2010. [Chronicle coverage: "Moravian Moves Forward Despite Protests"]

At Sunday’s caucus, some residents said they were keen to see a substantive discussion at The Moravian’s first reading, but councilmembers cautioned that the first reading was typically not the time when they argued a particular position. Residents indicated that they’d gathered enough signatures from surrounding land owners to meet a city code threshold that would force an 8-vote super-majority – out of 11 votes – at a second reading of the PUD proposal.

Also receiving a first reading on Monday will be a proposed ban on cell phone use while driving. The ban had already received approval on first reading at the council’s last meeting, but due to subsequent significant revisions to the ordinance language, it will be heard again Monday as a first reading. The council’s agenda indicates that the public hearing, generally held along with an ordinance’s second reading, has been canceled. That will be rescheduled to coincide with the second reading.

A budget directive – reducing all non-union staff salaries by 3% – had been postponed from the last council meeting and will be considered by the council on Monday in a slightly revised form. As a council resolution – as opposed to an ordinance – it will require just one reading. A key revision in the intervening postponement: It’s now a minimum 3% cut that’s specified, which leaves the door open for even greater cuts. [Full Story]

Moravian Moves Forward, Despite Protests

Ann Arbor Planning Commission meeting (Jan. 5, 2010): During a four-hour meeting that ended with some residents shouting in anger, the Ann Arbor planning commission approved the site plan and special zoning for The Moravian, a proposed housing complex at East Madison, between Fourth and Fifth avenues.

Developer Jeff Helminski speaks to Ann Arbor planning commissioners about his project, The Moravian. In the background are commissioners Wendy Woods and Diane Giannola. (Photos by the writer.)

Developer Jeff Helminski speaks to Ann Arbor planning commissioners about his project, The Moravian. In the background are commissioners Wendy Woods and Diane Giannola. (Photos by the writer.)

About two dozen residents attended the meeting. All but one of the 16 people who spoke during time for public commentary opposed the project, some vehemently.

Opponents’ main concern is that the five-story, 62-unit building is out of scale and out of character with the neighborhood, which has older homes, but is not protected by an historic district. [The neighborhood also is on the edge of an industrial area – The Moravian is planned on a lot across the street from the Fingerle Lumber complex.]

But in approving the requested planned unit development (PUD) zoning, commissioners cited a range of public benefits, including the 12 units of affordable housing within the building – a benefit that neighbors dispute. The project will now be considered by city council at an upcoming meeting.

Residents vow to continue fighting it. “We’re going to redouble our efforts,” Beverly Strassmann, president of the Germantown Neighborhood Association, told commissioners after their vote.

Separately, planning commissioners approved a rezoning request for a gas station on Packard Road, with some stipulations. [Full Story]