Heritage Row Redux: Again

Process for reconsideration by city council to begin Dec. 6

Based on its Dec. 6, 2010 agenda, on that evening the Ann Arbor city council will begin a multiple-meeting reconsideration of the Heritage Row proposal from Alex de Parry. The Heritage Row project was previously presented to the city council as a residential project for South Fifth Avenue that would renovate seven houses and construct three new 3.5-story apartment buildings behind those houses, with an underground parking garage and a maximum 82 apartments, with no more than 163 bedrooms.

The proposal to be reconsidered includes the following revisions: (1) The top floor the new south building would be removed from the design; (2) The density is reduced from 79 units to 76 units and the number of bedrooms is reduced from 154 to 147; (3) The project will include five affordable units at the 50% AMI (average median income) level, in addition to six affordable units at the 80% AMI level; and (4) The three new buildings will be LEED certified [.pdf of current proposal] Except for the removal of a top floor from one of the newly designed buildings, de Parry had in principle indicated agreement with the other revisions at a Sunday evening council caucus on Sept. 19.

The council has already reconsidered the Heritage Row proposal once before – at its July 6, 2010 meeting. That reconsideration came after the council had initially rejected it on June 21 with a 7-4 vote . At the Sept. 19 caucus,  de Parry had seemed to indicate that he’d begin the process to start construction of a different project at the same location – City Place. The following evening at council’s Sept. 20, 2010 meeting, Betsy de Parry addressed the city council, stressing that they vastly preferred the Heritage Row proposal over City Place. Though the de Parrys apparently had hoped for council action that night, none was forthcoming.

The reconsideration to start on Dec. 6 will require three separate motions [.pdf of the set of parliamentary motions]. The first would suspend the rules, the second would put the Heritage Row proposal before the council, and the third would postpone the issue to Dec. 20. The postponement would be in the interest of providing additional opportunity for public input, and the project would be brought to the council on Dec. 20 as a first reading agenda item. Assuming Heritage Row is approved on Dec. 20 – the council’s last meeting of the year – it would require a second, additional reading and approval by the council, presumably in January 2011.


  1. By Juliew
    December 1, 2010 at 5:36 pm | permalink

    A bit of entertaining reading from August of 2007. [link]

  2. December 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm | permalink

    Wow, I’m impressed there’s still action being done on Heritage Row. Impressed and relieved! Here’s hoping they all work out their issues and get Heritage Row approved before the trigger is pulled on City Place. What a disaster that would be.

  3. By John Floyd
    December 1, 2010 at 11:10 pm | permalink

    I gather that a majority on council are eager to re-define R4C zoning to allow for project scales not now permitted in R4C’s current incarnation. Mr DeParry proposes to do much catch-up maintenance/renovation on the old homes, work that will help them exist another 100 years. This scaled-back Heritage Row is much better than what we are likely to get when council finishes changing R4C. I would rather see the renovations without the buildings out back, and with Historic District designation, but it does not seem like this council majority cares at all about historic preservation. Frankly, it seems hostile to it, despite its many economic-development virtues.

    I support this revised Heritage row as better than the likely options, even as I understand why many neighbors do not support it. If we had a council that supported historic preservation, I might well take a different stand.

  4. December 2, 2010 at 2:46 pm | permalink

    Phew. Thank goodness for compromise. Let’s hope it happens Monday…and that future housing projects don’t instigate a three-year war of attrition.

    Korea was quicker (1950-53), though I guess the “peace” remains a little strained.

  5. December 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm | permalink

    Actually, since the second reading will be in January, perhaps that should be a “four-year war of attrition,” putting us in the American Civil War ballpark.

  6. December 3, 2010 at 8:44 am | permalink

    One common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. 8-)

  7. By Jan Barney Newman
    December 6, 2010 at 9:26 am | permalink

    I’ve supported Heritage Row in its former iterations and certainly support the revisions. It provides the dual asset for the city of increasing population density in the near downtown and preserving historic homes which would otherwise go to rack and ruin and eventually be lost to us. I hope that the Council sees fit to accept these plans without putting DeParry through more contortions.

  8. December 7, 2010 at 8:33 am | permalink

    Re: Cahill’s “one common definition of insanity” Yes, well, there you go: [link] The council didn’t get past the first vote — on whether to reconsider their previous decision.

    I don’t think that councilmembers Derezinski and Smith would have sponsored the resolution and asked the attorney’s office to expend the energy to vet the revised proposal and to make sure that it was properly ensconced in a development agreement unless they had a clear indication that the outcome would be different — specifically that Carsten Hohnke would support Heritage Row with the revisions that had been made. It’s worth recalling that back on July 6, 2010 — the same meeting when Heritage Row was previously reconsidered — Hohnke himself was in the midst of bringing back Heritage Row for a second reconsideration on the same evening, when Mayor Hieftje called for a recess. On returning from the recess, Hohnke apologized to his colleagues, withdrew the motion and chalked it up to conflicting advice from the attorney’s office.

  9. December 7, 2010 at 9:15 am | permalink

    Re #8: This has the unfortunate effect of hinting that some councilmember(s) did not follow through on a commitment to vote for the reconsideration. I don’t believe that any proof of such an allegation has been presented. Further, I don’t agree that it is the inevitable conclusion from CM Derezinski and Smith’s action; rather, they may have hoped to push the issue by bringing it back up.

    I’m glad that CM Hohnke held fast to his prior position and especially grateful to CM Higgins for voting against a measure that would have been an affront to Council’s prerogatives and responsibility. Council made a difficult decision previously and its decisions should not be revisited continually until someone gets a desired result. (CM Anglin, Briere, and Kunselman, thanks to you too.)

    It would have been especially galling to see Council change direction because of the game of chicken the developer has been playing. We’ll hope that he doesn’t cut off his property’s nose to spite the city’s face.