More than 200 acres near Ann Arbor’s Briarwood Mall are now zoned for high-density development


ANN ARBOR, MI – The largest property rezoning in recent Ann Arbor history is now complete.

City Council voted 8-3 on Monday night, April 5, to reclassify more than 200 acres around the Briarwood Shopping Center into the city’s new TC1 Transit Corridor zoning category to pave the way for downtown-style development -town on the south side of town.

“I am very pleased with this milestone we are taking today,” said Mayor Christopher Taylor. “Supply and demand is no joke, it’s the law, and what we’re doing is allowing the market to create many more – maybe thousands more – housing units in the city of Ann Arbor to house future neighbors.”

A total of 68 properties in the State Street and Eisenhower Parkway commercial area are now rezoned.

A map of the 68 properties proposed to be rezoned for a downtown-style development around Briarwood Mall near State Street and Eisenhower Parkway in Ann Arbor.City of Ann Arbor

The properties total 222 acres, while the entire neighborhood, including portions of public streets, measures 270 acres. The properties currently include office buildings, mall-style stores, large parking lots, restaurants, hotels, banks and a gas station.

City-initiated rezoning is intended to encourage high-density, mixed-use development with building height limits ranging from 55 to 300 feet depending on the sites proximity to residential areas. City officials supporting it hope it will lead to more developments with a mix of housing and commercial space, and they see the state and Eisenhower area as the first of several areas where the new zoning could be applied.

Other corridors such as Washtenaw Avenue, Plymouth Road, West Stadium Boulevard and Maple Road could be next.

Height TC1

Proposed building height limits for the State and Eisenhower rezoning area in Ann Arbor, allowing new buildings to be taller the farther they are from residential areas, rising up to 300 feet.City of Ann Arbor

The three council members opposed to the proposal were Kathy Griswold, Jeff Hayner and Ali Ramlawi, who see the rezoning as a gift to developers and landowners.

They are disappointed that the majority of council did not want to put incentives in zoning bylaws to compel developers to include affordable housing or environmental sustainability features consistent with the city’s A2Zero carbon neutral goals, such as fully electric buildings with solar on the roof, in exchange for denser zoning allowing taller buildings.

Ann Arbor council divided on inquiry who wins financially from major rezoning

Other city officials who support TC1 zoning have defended their lack of inclusion of such measures by saying they believe new housing along transit corridors will naturally be more affordable than housing in the center. of the city and give people the opportunity to live less carbon-intensive. lifestyles by being able to drive to shops and work without a car, including people who now drive to work from out of town.

“How this proposal supports our climate action goals has been articulated many times,” said Jen Eyer, Board Member, D-4th Ward, reiterating those points.

Council’s decision came after a public hearing in which several residents argued for and against the proposal.

“This rezoning project is as exciting as many who spoke at the public hearing felt it was,” said Lisa Disch, council member, D-1st Ward. “It has the potential to turn State and Eisenhower into downtown on the outskirts – it’s a destination area away from the heart of the city that offers places to live, work and shop.”

The Council heard many people ask developers to offer all-electric buildings or include affordable housing in order to gain approval for taller buildings, but demand that this could make projects more difficult and more expensive, Disch said, fearing that would discourage development.

To make the case that housing in the State and Eisenhower area will naturally be more affordable than downtown, Disch cited monthly rents for The Standard, a new student building at the University of Michigan in the works. completion at Main and William streets. It advertises a monthly price of $2,920 for a 696-square-foot, double-occupancy, one-bedroom apartment with two beds in a room separated by a divider, and $2,650 for a 537-square-foot, single-occupancy apartment. , one-bedroom apartment.

“If you compare this to Hidden Valley Club Apartments or State Street Village Apartments in South State, you get privacy and more square footage for half the price,” Disch said.

“Hidden Valley, this place is about 50 years old – of course it’s cheap,” replied Hayner, D-1st Ward.

Citing a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Hayner said cities can play a positive role in reducing carbon emissions through building codes and the choice of building materials. If the city wants carbon-neutral buildings in the future, they need to be built that way now, he argued.

“We can’t let them keep building non-carbon-neutral buildings,” he said.

“All we’re doing is rezoning a bunch of properties and putting on our dream hat and saying, hey, if there’s more, maybe they’ll all cost less in 50 years like Hidden Valley Apartments,” Hayner added. “We choose to do this in the face of a climate catastrophe? We choose to let development go unabashedly in these areas, unhindered? It’s the wrong choice. »

Ramlawi, D-5th Ward, said city officials often tell residents there is little they can do about the lack of affordability and gentrification in the community.

“But here we have an opportunity to make change, to set policy, to get out of bed with corporate America and to lead to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves, and here we are saying that this is not necessary, the market will wave its invisible hand and we will get there,” he said, expressing his disappointment.

Council member Erica Briggs, D-5th Ward, said she thinks council members all share the same values ​​when it comes to affordable housing and sustainability, but the question is what is the best way to achieve it. The city could use zoning bonuses to try to encourage these things, but it has expressed doubts about their effectiveness, citing advice from city planning staff.

“If we don’t do anything here and don’t have TC1, we won’t have more affordable housing. What we get is something like the Outback Steakhouse project with 148 parking spaces,” said Julie Grand, Board Member, D-3rd Ward. “It’s not necessarily what I want to see, and not just because I’m a vegetarian. That’s because that’s not the best use of that space.

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