Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Sept. 17, 2013): A major new apartment project in northeast Ann Arbor was discussed but ultimately postponed by planning commissioners, pending unresolved issues that the planning staff did not have sufficient time to review.
Traverwood Apartments is a proposed complex of 16 two-story buildings and 216 one- and two-bedroom units on nearly 22 acres off of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. It’s one of the first large residential developments in the last few years that’s come forward outside of downtown Ann Arbor. For part of the site, a rezoning would be required – from ORL (office, research and light industrial) to R4D (multi-family residential).
Developer First Martin Corp. is making the proposal. In response to a query from commissioner Bonnie Bona, Mike Martin explained that although the site would allow for denser development – taller buildings and more units – the cost of construction would have been high, and they didn’t think they’d be able to charge the amount of rent necessary to make a larger project feasible.
The site is east of the city’s Leslie Park golf course, and south of Stapp Nature Area – created on land that First Martin sold to the city in 2003. Some of the discussion on Sept. 17 centered on pedestrian connections between those parks and the apartment complex, which will include a path running along the west side of the site, next to Leslie Park.
During a public hearing on the project, resident Paul Bruss supported the concept of that kind of public trail. He described a vision he shares with others, of a trail that would start at Stapp and loop south then west around the Leslie Park golf course, going north all the way to the Dhu Varren Woods Nature Area. “If we could figure out a way to connect all that as a necklace around Leslie golf course, this would be one of the premium trails in Ann Arbor,” Bruss said.
Commissioners Bona and Ken Clein advocated for more of a pedestrian focus within the complex. Calling First Martin and the architect firm Hobbes + Black “kind of the dream team for developing in Ann Arbor,” Clein – a principal with Quinn Evans Architects – expressed disappointment at the “cookie cutter” site design.
Depending the outcome of a staff review, the apartment project might be on the planning commission’s agenda for consideration as early as Oct. 1.
The other action item on Sept. 17 was authorizing two planning commissioners – Paras Parekh and Sabra Briere, who also serves on city council – to attend the Michigan Association of Planning annual conference, held this year from Oct. 2-4 in Kalamazoo. Their expenses will be paid for out of the city’s training budget for planning staff and related commissions.
Also during the meeting, planning manager Wendy Rampson gave a brief update on the work of consultants who are developing recommendations as part of a downtown zoning review. The consultants – Erin Perdu and Megan Masson-Minock – plan to present their report at the planning commission’s Oct. 8 working session, with commissioners considering the recommendations at their Oct. 15 regular meeting.