A number of projects wrapped up construction or are close to doing so:
Other construction news includes:
Updates on projects in the approval pipeline:
And new projects on the horizon:
Quick summary of Spring 2019
One large project was formally completed: the University's new Trotter Multicultural Center.
Numerous projects look set to be completed and start construction in the summer.
Notable city council actions included:
New and possibly revived projects include:
One project recently completed: the new LA Fitness at Maple Village. This replaced the English Gardens building.
A number of projects look like they will likely be beginning construction in the near future:
Additionally one project was recently approved by the city council, but the timeframe for construction is not clear: Mallets Woods 2 - a development of single family homes in the southeast of Ann Arbor.
The following projects are likely to come to city council for approval soon:
These projects are new propoals that have been filed recently:
Additionally there are a few new concepts, projects that are still in early stages, added to the map:
The Lockwood of Ann Arbor senior housing development off of Jackson past I-94 has been rejected by the city council. This development would have included a significant number of affordable units.
A new project is being proposed at the site of the Plymouth Road Red Roof Inn near US-23. One of the Red Roof Inn buildings would be demolished and replaced with a more modern six story hotel (maybe a Hyatt Place based on the design?). The attached Big Boy restaurant would also be rebuilt. Based on the designs it would become a Panera (with the new Panera branding style), but there is already one of those just down the road. The design is possibly just a placeholder, or perhaps the existing location would close once this new one opened.
North of Plymouth the Rainbow Childcare Center proposal next to Clague Middle School has been effectively blocked by Ann Arbor Public Schools purchasing the property. The land was purchased using the sinking fund for upgrades at school buildings approved by voters in 2017. The district has no plans for the property - the main justification for the purchase was concerns about traffic the daycare center would bring. Possible future plans include selling the property for a profit or building more classroom space.
The old Kiwani's Building in downtown is being converted to office space. There looks to be the possibility of a fairly extensive rebuild, including new space above the current top of the building. Nothing concrete is being proposed so far.
South of 94 on State St there is the conceptual Atwell Retail Project. This would consist of new single story retail spaces adjacent to the new Holiday Inn Express currently going up. So far nothing formal has been proposed to the city.
The Treeline project along the North-South railroad through Ann Arbor now has land between Miller and Felch set aside for it. An old abandoned shed was demolished and the property sold to the Treeline Conservancy. While no construction is planned in the immediate future as far as I know, with this land and the space set aside for the Treeline alongside the under construction Kingsley Condominiums it might be possible to have a public trail running alongside the train tracks from Miller to Felch later this year. This would only be a small step towards the overall vision of the urban trail, but the acquisition of the land here is a good indication that the larger project has solid support and decent chance of becoming reality.
To the north of Ann Arbor the city denied the expenditure of funds to purchase open land to add to the greenbelt program. The greenbelt program, modeled after similar programs in other cities including Portland OR, Toronto, and London, is intended to acquire the development rights to undeveloped land such as farms surrounding the city in order to prevent new construction there, and by extension stop suburban sprawl. The objections raised by the city council came from two sides. First, some were opposed to spending Ann Arbor city money outside of the city, in a such a way that city residents would not see a tangible benefit. The argument here is: if Northfield Township wants to stop sprawl from happening in their community, Northfield Township should pay to stop it. On the other, more pro-urban, side of council the objection was that the greenbelt is not an effective solution to the problem of sprawl if the city is not adding housing units fast enough within its boundaries. Even if a perfect five mile wide greenbelt that prevented all new housing development surrounded Ann Arbor, until the city is meeting the high housing demand with new supply that demand has to go somewhere, and so it will just 'jump' over the greenbelt leading to even farther out sprawl and longer commutes in cars into Ann Arbor. It is unclear what the future of the greenbelt program will be now, it was established in 2003 by voters for a 30 year period.
Interesting infrastructure projects that look set to move forward in 2019 include the Willam Street Bikeway, Huron Streetscape Improvements, the opening in the railroad berm behind Depot St for a path to the river, and the filling in of sidewalk gaps around Northside school.
The space just north of the downtown library, above the Library Lane parking structure and best known as the Library Lot continues to have an uncertain future. The sale of the lot to a private developer was all set to be finalized, but a proposal on the November ballot passed that arguably voids the sale and the new city council is also opposed to it. Instead a civic commons is envisioned on the site, though specific details and funding are lacking. The city is pulling out of the planned deal with the developer and there is likely to be a lawsuit against the city surrounding the property and the proposed sale.
What happens next with this site? As a result of the decisions to cancel the deal the city has already lost out on a significant amount of money from both the sale and annual taxes from the land being developed privately, much of which was to be dedicated to affordable housing programs. I expect the likely lawsuit will drag on for a while, costing the city a good amount in legal fees. Given the current council's opinions on this issue I think a compromise with the developer (e.g. build the private development but with an expanded civic commons element) is unlikely. One way or another the property will probably remain publicly owned. Meanwhile the next steps towards creating the proposed park on the site are unclear. My best guess is there will be a long series of committees and reviews but little concrete action, and five years from now the site will still be a parking lot that is occasionally closed for special events.
The big news for development in Ann Arbor over the next few years is the new city council that took over in November. Broadly speaking the city council is divided into pro-development and anti-development factions. This is somewhat of an over-generalization, but accurate for the most part. Before this fall's primary and general election the council was balanced 7 to 4 in favor of the pro-development group. After this year's elections the balance is now 7 to 4 in favor of the anti-development councilors, with the asterisk that the mayor has veto power and is part of the pro-development faction. Some of the new councilors may end up as swing votes in close votes as a couple seem more moderate overall so far, but it will be hard to say for sure until those controversial votes start happening.
What does this mean for big construction projects in Ann Arbor going forward? I would guess that anything that is not "by-right" development, that is 100% in line with existing zoning, will be shot down. The mayor's veto will keep any significant changes to the zoning code (specifically down-zoning) from happening. The interesting votes will be those on by-right developments. Blocking these opens the city up to very justified lawsuits - someone buys land with the understanding that the city code permits them to build x y or z, and then the city council denies the landowner the right to build what was outlined in the zoning code. Despite this some of the anti-development party have shown willingness to block more and more by-right proposals. (The city council as a whole has blocked two projects like this recently - see below). Overall I expect only by-right projects to be approved in the next couple of years, and if even those projects are getting denied the city is probably going to be fighting ever more lawsuits.
The first of the two by-right developments that was shot down by the previous city council is 2857 Packard, a proposed 51 home subdivision on the southeast side of the city near Buhr Park off of Packard. The grounds for denying this project was that it would impact existing natural features more than necessary for a reasonable use of the land. The developer argues that the rejection was unreasonable and denies them of their right to develop their property as specified in the zoning code. The developer is now suing the city, with the next steps set to occur in May.
The other case is the city's rejection of the site plan for the Cottages at Barton Green off of Pontiac Trail on the north side. The main point of contention for neighbors and councilors, underlying most of the more specific complaints, was that this would be an undergraduate university student focused development. However the city certainly cannot reject a project on the grounds of who is going to live in it. Ultimately the proposal was denied based on its future impact to traffic in the area. The developer is now suing the city to have the project approved. My subjective non-expert opinion on the issue: this is a bad proposal. University student oriented developments should be closer to the two campuses and there would be a real impact to the immediate area. Despite that, this project meets all zoning requirements, and the behavior of hypothetical future residents cannot come into play when deciding whether to approve the project. The future traffic impact is real, but I worry that this concern is vague enough that it could be used as justification to shut down virtually any proposal in the city. The neighboring North Sky condo project was approved despite being similar in scope and likely having more or less the same impact on traffic in the area. I don't like it, but I think the city may lose this lawsuit.
In non-by-right development news: the planning commission is recommending rejecting the site plan for Brightdawn Village near Packard and US-23. The main point of contention seems to be that the proposed apartment building exceeds the zoning for the area, and that no infrastructure improvements are being put in place to support the denser zoning. In particular the commission is concerned that the road the development would be on, Burton, would continue to be a dead end rather than connecting through to the neighboring subdivision. This creates challenges for emergency vehicles and school buses (apparently Ann Arbor school buses are not allowed to go in reverse at any point on their routes) and forces all local traffic onto Packard, even if its just going to the school in the neighborhood a few hundred yards away. The existing residents in the area don't want the connection though to Burton to be put into place, as it could mean additional traffic for them. Given that this is a request for rezoning and the usually pro-development planning commission is stating the rezoning isn't warranted without significant changes I expect the project is likely to stall out.
Here is a quick rundown of Ann Arbor development news in October - December 2018.
The University of Michigan began initial construction on the expansion to the Dental School, released the designs for the new Central Campus Classroom Building attached to the soon to be renovated Ruthven Building, and proposed a new Transportation Operations Facility on Dean Rd east of North Campus. The University also purchased Fingerle Lumber's land for future development.
Forward progress was made for several developments. Construction started at the very large residential project at 1140 Broadway in Lower Town. The fairly large Midtown Condominiums off of Maple in the southwest of the city was approved by the outgoing City Council, as was the much smaller 132 Hill St to the southwest of Central Campus.
The most interesting new proposal to come out in the past few months is for 600 E Washington. This would be a 19 story apartment building off of Washington St behind the Michigan Theater. It would include a significant affordable housing component, ground floor retail and pedestrian plazas, and from looking at the site plans apparently new bathrooms for the Michigan Theater? I am very curious to see how the new mostly anti-development city council responds to this.
On Central Campus the University in planning to tear down the existing CCRB and build a New Central Campus Recreation Building. This will be possible once the Kinesiology department moves into currently under renovation Kraus building (made possible by Biology departments moving to the new Biological Sciences Building) and the Dance department moves to a yet to be finalized addition to the Music School on North Campus. The new CCRB is likely a few years away from even starting construction.
At the south end of the Main St area downtown there is a proposal to replace the existing DTE building and parking lot (southeast corner of William and Main) with a new apartment building: Standard at Ann Arbor. Not much information is available but judging from the bedroom counts and sizes of the units, this one will be aimed at university students.
The Cottages at Barton Green was formally shot down by the city council. This large student focused project on the north side of the city along Pontiac Trail was pretty clearly not going to be a good fit for the area in any form, but is technically permissible under the zoning code. There may be legal action surrounding this in the future.
To the south of downtown the Hoover and Greene development was approved by the city council.
The large project Veridian at County Farm Park continues to slowly move forward, with the county close to finalizing the purchase agreement with the developers. Site plans for the city planning staff would then follow.
On Central Campus the Biological Sciences Building has opened to students and staff. The Museum of Natural History will reopen in the new building sometime in 2019. With the Biology departments out of the Kraus Building work is starting up for its multi-year renovation and expansion before coming the new home for the Kinesiology Department. Also possibly starting construction soon are the additions and rehabs at the Dental School and the old home of the Natural History Museum: the Ruthven Building.
With the start of the school year several large new university student focused projects have just opened their doors or are about to within a few days. On East University Six11 has risen on the site of the old Za's and Lucky Kitchen. On Huron St the Hub on Campus fills out a row of mid-rises between the Graduate Hotel and the Sloan Plaza Condos. The Yard on South Main is opening to the southwest of Central Campus where the South Main Market used to be, and the smaller 143 Hill St development is a little south of that. Combined these projects have just added nearly 1300 University of Michigan student targeted bedrooms to the rental market. This may seem like a lot, but it's mostly just what needs to built in order to keep up with the University's even increasing enrollment.
Approval of another development marketed at students was postponed by the city council: the Cottages at Barton Green off of Pontiac Trail in the north of the city. This project continues to be very unpopular as it is the first large student apartment complex far from either campus. The city council is to take up this topic again in September, by which point the developer is supposed to have made progress on improving the proposal in the eyes of the city. That may be impossible as the entire premise of the project is the issue here. However the proposal is allowed under the zoning code, so if the council ultimately denies approval this one could be heading to court.
Around the city a number of new projects have recently been proposed. Along Pontiac Trail Bristol Ridge would be a townhome subdivision across from North Sky. 611 S Ashley is a possible addition of sorts to the 618 S Main apartment building that opened a few years ago. 814 Henry is a student oriented townhome proposal off of Stadium south of Central Campus. Finally the city seems to be getting slightly more serious about finally doing something with the abandoned building at 415 W Washington.
First up are two major parcels of land downtown that continue to generate controversy. The Old YMCA Lot was the subject of a lawsuit between the city and the developer who had agreed to build on the land by this year. In the end the city purchased back the land and the development cycle for the old Y lot begins anew, possibly with more of a focus on affordable housing this time. The Library Lot development is also the subject of a lawsuit, filed by two city council members against the city. There will be a referendum on preventing the city from selling this land in November, though it is unclear if that could be enforced as the sale is already in progress.
Several projects are moving forward on the north side of downtown. Elroy's Place, a six floor mixed used building on Main St just north of Miller, was approved by the city council. The Ann Ashley Garage Expansion is nearing a formal approval. Most recently architectural modifications to the garage were removed from the scope of the project. On the river DTE is proposing to redevelop their long vacant land near the train station as Broadway Park, a mix of condos, retail, a hotel, and open space.
On South University the three story addition to Espresso Royale was approved after it was slightly downsized in order to avoid a requirement to provide a parking space. I'd expect construction to begin before long, while the Collegian North next to it is underway as well.
The University is planning a new School of Dance Building as an addition to the Music building on North Campus. No renderings or timeline for construction are available yet, but the addition will be to the south of the recently completed Brehm Pavilion.
Updates on the south side of the city include the approval of Game Day Condos across from the stadium, the possible revival of plans for Meadowview Condominiums near Busch's, the beginning of construction on Balfour Senior Housing across from Briarwood, and the approval of a new Homewood Suites on S State near the new university athletic complex.
To the west, the 2050 Commerce development has been approved. This will be a fairly large new apartment building behind the post office on Stadium.
Finally, on the north side of the city the proposal for the Cottages at Barton Green was rejected by the planning commission. This would be the first large university student focused development far from campus. It is unclear what, if anything, will happen next with this project. I believe it is technically permitted by the zoning code, but I'm not sure the developer will want to put up that fight.
The George (formerly known as Packard Square) is sort of complete! It looks like temporary certificate of occupancy permits have been issued and the first apartment tenants will soon move if they haven't already. Construction for this project has been in progress for something like three years - it is great to see the finish line in sight. Portions of the building will open as they are completed. The final end of construction is expected late this year.
Downtown the old YMCA lot has become the subject of much attention the past month. The current owner of the property failed to build on it within the time frame specified by the city as part of the agreement when the city sold the lot. The city council is now facing the question of whether the city can (and should) buy back the property at the now bargain price the contract permits.
The unending Packard Square construction project has a new name: The George. This development seems to finally be nearing completion - word is apartment leases are starting to be signed. Hopefully the retail spaces find tenants sooner than later too.
South of I-94 on Ellsworth the Summit Townhomes project that was approved a few years ago but appeared to be stale may be coming back. What I think is a petition to extend the site plan approval timeframe has been filed with the city. Not many details are available but it looks like the two dozen townhomes would be small (relative to most new construction) in floor area, possibly making this a fairly affordable development.
To the southwest of Central Campus a small apartment building is being proposed for 132 Hill St. This would consist of 5 units of 4-6 bedrooms and would replace a house that looks boarded up (in the August 2017 Google Street View image at least). This development is pretty similar to the project under construction across the street at 143 Hill St.
Renderings of the Ann Ashley parking garage expansion proposal have been released and can be seen on MLive. This project primarily adds three more levels to the existing garage, but the renderings also show possible architectural changes and the potential redevelopment of some ground level space into retail or offices. This is good news for making the structure a little more friendly to pedestrians, though this garage has never struck me as bad in this area as some of the others downtown. I'd be curious to see what retail moves into these spaces (and the vacant former Be Hair Now space across Miller) given all of the residential development happening in the area.
The Cottages at Barton Green project continues to get significant pushback in planning commission meetings. A dedicated student complex so far from either campus doesn't seem like a good fit for Ann Arbor, these sorts of developments should at least be close to North Campus where they can tie into the existing transport system. However this development may be permissible as is under zoning rules, so it could move forward in the end.
There are at least three more new developments planned for the area north of downtown, west of Kerrytown and east of Water Hill (does this neighborhood have a name?). First a new mid sized condo building is being proposed at 309 N Ashley. This project would wrap around the currently vacant retail building on the northwest corner of Ashley and Miller, stand 5 floors tall, and consist of 19 condos with two to three bedrooms each. From the floor plans available and the presence of 36 parking spaces I assume project is targeting a similar market (i.e. the top of the market) as the other condos that have been recently completed or are under construction in the area such as 410 N First.
Next there is a new project proposed at 208 W Ann, basically across Ashley from the parking structure. The designs show a three story building consisting of 12 apartments for rent. What makes this development interesting for new construction in the downtown area is that is not obviously aimed at high income individuals. Each unit consists of three bedrooms and one bathroom and is simple in layout. The target market here is probably groups of graduate students looking for quieter / cheaper / nicer accommodations, or groups of downtown workers who don't command the high salaries needed at some of the other new apartment buildings in the area.
Rounding out the news in the north Downtown area is an update to the Elroy's Place proposal on North Main. The project looks to have grown a little taller, now at 6 floors, and has added more apartments. It is now shown as having 18 units, mostly one bedrooms with some two bedrooms. The first three floors are a mix of retail and office space.
Over on the east side the South Pond Village development may be getting replaced. Instead of a new subdivision the new proposal is an expansion of Arborland with significant new single story retail. This news is somewhat surprising as I thought site prep work for South Pond Village was underway, and adding more big box stores here conflicts with the narrative that physical retail stores are in trouble throughout the country. Additionally there are concerns that this area cannot handle the increase in traffic a new power center development would bring. Finally this proposal is more or less the opposite of the direction planners want to move new development in the city in: instead of a mixed use / pedestrian and transit friendly environment we are looking at more automobile dependent strip malls with large impermeable surfaces for acres of parking. I don't see this proposal moving forward in its current form.
South of Arborland the Brightdawn Village has been proposed for the strip of land between US-23 and Burton Rd. This project would consist of 4 four floor apartment buildings with a total of 160 residential units. The apartments are set to be a mix of one, two, and three bedroom units.
A three floor addition to the Espresso Royale Building at the intersection of South U and East U is being proposed. The new floors are to be residential units, likely targeting the very high end of the undergraduate rental market. The larger building surrounding this one is being replaced by the Collegian North project.
The Glen mixed use project at Glen and Ann just west of the university medical complex was approved by the city council last night. Construction is expected to start in 2018.
This site has been waiting for redevelopment for a long while. The old structures on the site were knocked down in the late 2000s for the Glen Ann Place project. That development never materialized largely due to the recession.
This location is a little further from campus than most student oriented developments so it will be interesting to see what mix of students vs non-students the building ends up attracting if it is ultimately built. The student housing market seems to continue to be very tight despite the decent number of new student focused buildings going up around Central Campus, largely due to the ever increasing university enrollment.
After several delays in the approval process and some minor last minute changes to the site plan the residential focused development at 1140 Broadway received the formal go ahead from the city council last night.
Just across the street from the Broadway project: the university is formally proposing the second Wall Street parking structure at this week's regents meeting.
Also in the regents meeting agenda is a note that the South Athletic Complex is now considered complete (ahead of schedule).
Two new major upcoming projects are mentioned in current university planning documents: an addition to the Beyster (computer science) Building on North Campus, and a clinical inpatient tower on the site of the old Kresge buildings at the Medical Campus.