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.
Zaragon Place 2 – Preliminary Design
The purpose of Monday’s citizen participation meeting was to comply with an ordinance that the city council passed in 2008 – taking effect at the start of 2009 – which requires that the developer hold a meeting about the proposed project prior to submitting it to the planning department. Property owners, residents and neighborhood groups within 1,000 feet of the project must be informed of the meeting – for Monday’s event, notices were mailed to about 1,500 addresses. The number is high in part because Zaragon Place 2 is just down the block from Tower Plaza, a 26-story condo building.
There was no formal presentation at the two-hour open house. Rather, developer Rick Perlman – a UM alumnus who lives in Chicago – was on hand to answer questions, as were architects with Neumann/Smith Architects of Southfield, which also designed Zaragon Place on East University. Initial floor plans and renderings of the 14-story building were displayed on easels.
Zaragon Place 2 – called ZP2 – is a sister building to the original Zaragon Place, Perlman told The Chronicle, with many of the same attributes. Like the first Zaragon, ZP2 will have first-floor retail, which will front Thompson and William streets. The 99 apartments will have 10-foot-high ceilings, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and floors made of rubber from recycled tires. Both Zaragons have fitness rooms. Rent will likely be in the same price-range for both complexes, around $1,000 per tenant – “or whatever the market will bear,” Perlman said.
The mix of apartment sizes hasn’t been set, but there will be one-, two- and four-bedroom units housing between 200-350 residents. There are 248 tenants at Zaragon Place on East University, which Perlman said is serving mostly undergraduate students. ZP2′s location on the opposite side of campus will likely attract a higher percentage of graduate students – from the law school and business school, for example – as well as young professionals, he said.
About 40 parking spots will be included on the second and third levels of the building – in contrast to the other Zaragon, which has underground parking. And being on a corner lot with no tall buildings on either side allows for windows on all sides of the structure – every bedroom will have a window. Cottage Inn is a two-story building to the east of the proposed apartment complex. To the south is a University of Michigan surface parking lot.
The location on a corner lot – former site of a long-vacant bank building – should make it easier to build, Perlman said. He’ll be using the same team that worked on Zaragon Place, including Neumann/Smith Architects, O’Neal Construction as general contractor, and Midwestern Consulting for civil engineering work.
This project could be the first one approved under the city’s new A2D2 zoning – the site is zoned for D1, which allows for the densest development. Unlike The Moravian and Heritage Row, which are planned unit developments (PUDs), ZP2 is intended to be a “by right” development, meaning that it conforms to the site’s existing zoning codes.
The final piece of the A2D2 effort – the A2D2 design guidelines – haven’t yet been approved by the city council, but architect Scott Bonney said they’ve looked through the draft guidelines and are comfortable that the project will comply.
Plans for ZP2 will likely be submitted to the city’s planning department within a few weeks, with the hope it will come before planning commission in June and to the city council by August. If approvals are secured and construction can start this year, the project could be completed by 2012.
Monday’s Citizen Participation Meeting: Who Showed Up?
Most of the people who attended Monday’s meeting came during the first hour, and included a mix of residents, students, business owners and people associated with other developments.
Several residents from the nearby South Fifth Avenue neighborhood dropped by, including some vocal opponents of The Moravian and Heritage Row projects. Feedback indicated that they would be supportive of Zaragon Place 2, given its location in the D1 zoning district. [Heritage Row on South Fifth Avenue is located in an area zoned for multi-family residential, or R4C. The Moravian's site, on Madison between Fourth and Fifth avenues, was a combination of R4C and M1 zoning, for light industrial uses.]
Tom Heywood, executive director of the State Street Area Association, showed up, as did John Splitt, one of the association’s board members and chair of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board. Also attending was Ed Davidson, owner of Bivouac, a clothing and outdoor gear retailer on South State Street. He said he supports the Zaragon project: “We need more density – period.”
More residents mean more potential customers to keep stores in business, Davidson said. The State Street/East Liberty district has been hard hit by the economic downturn, losing long-time retailers Shaman Drum Bookshop and the John Leidy gift shop within the past year. Shaman Drum closed last summer after nearly 30 years in business. John Leidy, which opened in 1951, went out of business this February.
Peter Allen was one of several developers who came to the open house. Alex de Parry, developer of Heritage Row, attended as well. And Brad Moore, the architect for Heritage Row, had been one of the earliest to arrive. [Moore also does work for Cottage Inn, next door to the ZP2 project.] De Parry said his project will likely be coming before the city council for first reading on May 3. It was approved by planning commission at their March 16 meeting by a 6-2 vote.
Newcombe Clark, a partner in The Moravian project, showed up toward the end of Monday’s open house for ZP2. Several people on the Zaragon team – including Neumann/Smith Architects and Scott Betzoldt of Midwestern Consulting – had worked on The Moravian as well.
Yet another connection to Clark had nothing to do with development, however. Tim Stout of O’Neal Construction, the general contractor for ZP2, was heading to a marketing class later that evening for the UM Ross School of Business MBA program – Clark is taking the same class.