Ann Arbor Council OKs 624 Church St.

A 14-story apartment building at 624 Church St. will be built now that the Ann Arbor city council has given the site plan unanimous approval. The site plan approval for the project came at the council’s March 4, 2013 meeting. The planning commission had given the project a unanimous recommendation of approval at its Jan. 15, 2013 meeting.

624 Church, Pizza House, Ann Arbor planning commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Image from the planning commission’s meeting packet shows the front facade of the 624 Church proposal, in relation to an adjacent house.

The action came despite objections from representatives of the adjacent Zaragon Place apartments, who had previously raised concerns about how Zaragon – located at 619 E. University – will be impacted by construction at 624 Church. Zaragon opened a few years ago and is marketed to University of Michigan students. The developers of 624 Church intend to market their apartments to the same demographic. [.pdf of Feb. 28, 2013 letter from Zaragon attorney] [.pdf of Jan. 7, 2013 letter from Zaragon attorney] [.pdf of Jan. 10, 2013 response from 624 Church developers]

At the planning commission’s public hearing, residents had raised concerns about parking and the building’s size. There were also residents who supported the project.

The 83,807-square-foot, $17 million project is located next to Pizza House restaurant, on the west side of Church between South University and Willard. The building would include 75 apartments with a total of about 175 bedrooms, ranging in size from 490 to 1,100 square feet. About 70% of the units are to be 1-2 bedroom units. Other features include an enclosed room to store up to 60 bikes and a rooftop plaza with benches and a grilling area. It is located in the D1 zoning district, which allows for the highest level of density of any zoning district in the city.

For buildings with floor area ratios (FARs) up to 400% in D1 areas, the zoning code does not impose any parking requirements. But under the system of by-right premiums available in the zoning code, a building can have an FAR up to 700%. That’s a premium based on residential use: For each square foot of floor area that is used for multiple-family dwellings, an additional 0.75 square foot of floor area is allowed. For buildings that are larger due to this residential use, the zoning code does impose a parking requirement.

However, there will be no vehicle parking spaces on site at 624 Church St. The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, at its Oct. 3, 2012 meeting, authorized the project to purchase up to 42 monthly parking permits as part of the city’s contribution in lieu (CIL) program. The CIL provides an option to purchase monthly permits to fulfill the city’s parking requirement for a project, but the cost is at a rate 20% higher than standard pricing.

The developer hoped that those permits would be for spaces located at the nearby Forest Avenue parking structure. The DDA board has struggled with that decision on location, as an operations committee meeting on Dec. 19, 2012 was inconclusive. However, at a March 1, 2013 meeting of that committee, a clear indication of support came from the committee for all 40 requested permits to be provided in the Forest parking structure. Local attorney Scott Munzel, who represents the developer Opus, attended that committee meeting.

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]