Heritage Row Proposal Withdrawn

Latest in years-long saga for South Fifth development

According to a city council source, developer Jeff Helminski has withdrawn the revised proposal for Heritage Row, a planned unit development on South Fifth Avenue. A different project, City Place, is now expected to be built on the same site by the same developer, though some possibility exists to contest the City Place project via the city’s zoning board of appeals.

The plan for the matter-of-right 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. By contrast, Heritage Row would have constructed three buildings behind the row of seven houses and either rehabilitated or reconstructed the seven houses. That project would have included up to 85 units with 180 bedrooms.

At its Oct. 17 meeting, the city council gave initial approval to a version of the Heritage Row PUD that was considerably revised from a version it had rejected in June 2010. The second and final vote on the revised Heritage Row project would have been taken place at an extra meeting scheduled for Oct. 24. That meeting is still scheduled to take place. The vote on Oct. 17 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 Heritage Row, which it had previously rejected about 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 hoped 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, including the elimination of any on-site parking requirement, appeared to have been incorporated into the revised proposal considered at the council’s Oct. 17 meeting.

[.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]


  1. October 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm | permalink

    This saga is getting confusing. Maybe some clever graphic designer could come up with an infographic that clearly explains what has happened.

  2. By Michael Benson
    October 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm | permalink

    Well now this is an interesting twist…. I wonder if the City Council will go through with its meeting on Monday the 24th.

  3. By kittybkahn
    October 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm | permalink


  4. October 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm | permalink

    Sure thing Ben: [link]

  5. By Bob Martel
    October 21, 2011 at 2:07 pm | permalink

    According to the article on AnnArbor.com (sorry, Mary & Dave, I am an omnivorous reader!) Heritage Row basically succumbed to a spreadsheet error.

  6. By TJ
    October 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm | permalink

    Ben (comment #1), I suspect it would have lots of hoops for jumping through and hurdles for jumping over! Maybe instead of calling the project “City Place,” it could incorporate Anglin and Hohnke’s names in a sort of ironic tribute to their initial stands against Heritage Row…

  7. October 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm | permalink

    I think we should demolish all buildings over 20 years old, like they do in Vegas.

  8. October 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm | permalink

    Re: [2]


    As indicated, at time of the the filing of this brief, the meeting for Oct. 24 was still scheduled, though it wasn’t clear what the council might do at the meeting. Now, it’s apparent that they will do something:

    A resolution has been added (today) on crosswalks, sponsored by the mayor, which would make it the only “substantive” item remaining on the agenda other than the usual slots for public comment and for council communications:

    RESOLVED, That staff be directed to make recommendations for improvements to the crosswalks throughout the City when advanced technologies are available and where appropriate;
    RESOLVED, That staff be directed to begin the process to engage MDOT for pedestrian crossing improvements at Washtenaw Avenue near Tappan Middle School;
    RESOLVED, That staff be directed to explore new alternatives for pedestrian crossing improvements at Plymouth Road near the intersection of Beal Avenue; and
    RESOLVED, That on or about December 12, 2011 staff presents its findings and recommendations for implementation to the City Council for pedestrian crossing improvements at Plymouth Road near Beal Avenue.
    Sponsored by: John Hieftje, Mayor

  9. October 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm | permalink

    “When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.”

  10. October 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm | permalink

    Re: [8]

    “Advanced technologies” are what got us into the current trouble with pedestrian crossings. Pedestrian signals worked fine until staff started playing with absurd timings and demand actuated signals.

  11. October 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm | permalink

    Re: [10]

    Had Rees waited two days to write that comment, it would have marked the exact three-year anniversary of a column he wrote on pedestrian walk light timing: [link]. Fortunately, it’s not required to wait for a talk signal, in order to write a comment.

  12. October 24, 2011 at 9:23 am | permalink

    This is probably not the right place for a followup, but the City did re-time the signals at State and Liberty after that piece ran. So let me offer thanks and congratulations to the Chronicle.

    Now if only we could get the City to re-time all the other signals we’d be in good shape. Good signal timing should be a matter of policy, not a one-off reaction to complaints about a particular intersection.

  13. October 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm | permalink

    Re: [1] “info graphic”

    Not exactly a graphic. But here’s a draft timeline with most of the raw material: [link]

  14. October 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm | permalink

    News: Mike Anglin is bringing forth two resolutions tonight, one for a demolition moratorium and one for a new historic district study committee. Thoughts here: [link]

  15. By Barbara
    October 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm | permalink

    Re [1] (and conveniently ignoring the timeline in favor of a teeter-totter). I’m not a graphic designer, but here’s a word-picture:

    A sign says “All shirts must be solid-colored.”
    A black-with-white-stripes Heritage Row is on one end of a teeter-totter.
    A solid-puce City Place is on the other.
    City Council stands in the middle on top of the board.
    In the background is New Developer.

    City Council leans toward Heritage Row and says, “I like you better, but you need to change your stripes.”

    Make any number of panels where the stripes change color, but they are still stripes.

    New Developer jumps on the City Place end of the board, and City Council and Heritage Row go flying off.

    The End.