AATA’s Transit Center Gets Planning Review

At its July 17, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission reviewed the plan for a new Blake Transit Center, the main downtown hub for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Commissioners voted to affirm that the project meets city requirements for private development, with two exceptions involving landscaping and driveway width.

The new transit center will be constructed on the same site as the existing center, midblock between Fourth and Fifth avenues, north of William and south of the federal building. However, the new center will be built on the opposite side of that site.

Currently a one-story building, built in 1986, is located on the northwest corner of the site, near Fourth Avenue. Buses enter the facility from Fifth Avenue into a one-way, westbound lane that exits onto Fourth. The project entails demolishing the existing building and constructing a new two-story 12,019-square-foot transit center on the southeast corner of the site, near Fifth Avenue. The direction of the bus lane would be reversed, with buses entering Fourth Avenue into an eastbound lane that exits onto Fifth. [.jpg showing new building and lane orientation]

The new building will include space for a main customer service lobby, restrooms, offices for AATA and getDowntown staff, conference rooms, a staff break room, and a basement for storage and mechanical equipment. A high canopy of tinted glass and steel will run along the northern side of the building. Bike parking and benches would be included on the site, and bus stops along Fourth Avenue will be redesigned as part of the project.

AATA hopes to get gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and the project has several sustainability features. For example, roof stormwater run-off will be collected for “gray water” use, such as flushing toilets. Materials from the existing building will be recycled, and recycled materials will be used in the new building.

The project was considered by the city’s design review board at an April 18, 2012 meeting. According to a memo from the planning staff, suggestions from some design review board members included: (1) keeping the building in its current location; (2) softening the design of the new building’s facade; and (3) enhancing an outdoor plaza with art and landscaping. In addition, planning staff recommended that AATA plant trees along Fourth and Fifth avenues.

As a public entity, AATA does not have to follow the process for site plan approval that is required of private-sector property owners. The process is being conducted for review and input only. However, the planning commission did take a vote, affirming that the project does meet city requirements for private development, except for interior landscaping and driveway width. It will next be reviewed by the city council.

The current transit center would remain in use during construction of the new one.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall at 301 E. Huron, where the planning commission meetings are held. A more detailed report will follow.