South State Corridor Study Gets Started

At their Oct. 11, 2011 working session, Ann Arbor planning commissioners were briefed on city staff’s efforts to conduct a study of the South State Street corridor, a 2.15-mile section from Ellsworth to Stimson. The corridor is the city’s main gateway from the south. The stretch includes an I-94 interchange, entrances to Briarwood Mall, and other retail, commercial and office complexes. Although there is one large apartment complex along the corridor, it is not a densely residential area.

A previous proposal called for an outside consultant to conduct the study, and about $150,000 had been set aside for that purpose. However, some city councilmembers were reluctant to make the expenditure, and the project was put on hold until now.

Rather than use a consultant, city planner Jill Thacher is taking the lead on the study, which has been the topic of recent discussion in light of two rezoning requests on the street. As recently as the council’s Oct. 3 meeting, a request to rezone property at 1712 S. State – now used by Treecity Health Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary – had prompted calls by Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) to resurrect the corridor study. Derezinski also serves on the planning commission.

Rezoning of another site along that stretch of South State – where Biercamp Artisan Sausage & Jerky is located – had recently been requested to allow for expansion of the business. That request has not yet been acted on by the city council, but the planning commission recommended denial at its Sept. 8 meeting.

Thacher and a new planning intern – Maria Ryen, an urban planning graduate student at the University of Michigan – will be starting a series of interviews with stakeholders along South State. At Tuesday’s meeting, planning commissioners brainstormed a broad list of possible people and entities to talk with in the coming months. Stakeholders would include business and property owners, residents of Hidden Valley Club Apartments and other residential properties, the Ann Arbor airport, Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor Public Schools, and the University of Michigan, which owns several properties on South State, including a large park-and-ride lot.

An analysis and draft plan will be developed by August 2012, followed by review by the planning commissioner, public hearings, and a vote by city council.

For additional background, see previous Chronicle coverage: “State Street Corridor Study Planned.”