City Place, Heritage Row Both Get Action

At its Oct. 17, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council considered three items related to two different proposed developments at the same site on South Fifth Avenue just south of William Street: City Place and Heritage Row.

It’s still an open question as to which of the two projects, owned by the same developer, will be built. The council approved two requests related to alterations to the City Place project. The council also gave initial approval for the Heritage Row proposal, which will receive a second and final vote at a council meeting scheduled for Oct. 24.

The plan for the matter-of-right project called City Place would demolish seven houses and construct two apartment buildings separated by a parking lot. The two City Place buildings would comprise 144 bedrooms in 24 6-bedroom units.

As revised from an earlier proposal rejected by the council 14 months ago, the planned unit development (PUD) Heritage Row project would provide for some manner of reconstruction of the seven existing houses, and construct three additional buildings behind the houses. The project, as revised, would not be required to provide any on-site parking for a total of 85 dwelling units containing up to 180 bedrooms on the 1.23-acre property. The previous proposal would have constructed underground parking, for a total of 60 spaces on site.

Two of the council’s agenda items concerned City Place; the third concerned  Heritage Row.

For City Place, the council approved a request from the developer to waive a landscape buffer requirement that was introduced through an ordinance change made after the project was initially approved. Also for City Place, the council approved a request for changes to the buildings that included a new window on the upper floors of the north and south-facing sides and a change from horizontal siding to simulated shingle siding on the dormer.

For Heritage Row, the council advanced a revised proposal of the PUD to a second reading, which will be held at an extra meeting scheduled on Oct. 24. The vote was 8-3. Voting against the proposal were Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

The project has a long and controversial history dating back four years. The city council voted at its Oct. 3 meeting to reconsider the project, which it had previously rejected around 14 months ago. The council then voted to postpone a decision on the project so that negotiations could take place between the developer, city staff and councilmembers about  possible revisions. By offering concessions that could make the project more financially viable, the council hopes to induce the developer to divert from his imminent intention to construct City Place.

At the council’s Oct. 3 meeting, a letter was discussed which councilmembers had received from the developer, Jeff Helminski. That letter outlined his requirements for concessions that he would need in order to build Heritage Row instead of City Place. At the Oct. 3 meeting, councilmembers expressed clear dissatisfaction with elements of Helminski’s letter. However, all the key points from the letter appear to have been incorporated into the revised proposal.

[.pdf of marked up Heritage Row supplemental regulations as presented on Oct. 17][.pdf of comparison chart between original Heritage Row and revised proposal as presented on Oct. 17] [.pdf of Oct. 3 letter from developer]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]