The Ann Arbor News details a growing debate in Ann Arbor about whether the city should approve the construction of taller buildings in the city in their story today “How tall is too tall for Ann Arbor?”. I think that taller buildings, appropriately placed at certain places in the city, could increase the vitality of the downtown area. It would also have the effect of allowing more people to live in the downtown area, and perhaps help reduce rent.
The mayor has created a task force to examine the issue, although it doesn’t include a representative of either current downtown residents or the student population, perhaps most effected by downtown development: “Hieftje said the task force, which will include members of the City Council, Downtown Development Authority and local developers, will look for ways to build housing in the $230,000 to $380,000 range.”
The article also discusses the “Corner House Lofts” now under construction at the corner of Washington and State. Although the major thinks the building too tall, I think while it may take some time for lifetime Ann Arborites to get used to, it’s an appropriately dense use of a piece of prime real estate. The building’s height is offset by its location at the corner, and the open space across the intersection on the grounds of the Methodist church. I also sometimes wonder why so much hand-wringing is involved when a developer wants to build a 8 or 10 story building, but nobody blinks an eye when giant new parking garages are proposed. After all, the parking garage behind new building by the MLB is itself seven stories tall, but nobody is complaining that the area seems too much like a “canyon.” Five to ten story parking structures have popped up all over Ann Arbor without nary a peep from the sprawl-builders or the bourgeois Ann Arbor denizens who control city politics, few of whom actually live “downtown,” while reasonably sized buildings, like a 10-story plan for the Olga’s site, are rejected by the city council. All the more reason to vote for some of the alternative candidates running for city council, like my friend Scott in the 4th Ward who has said he would support appropriately placed tall buildings downtown.
The ‘Corner House Lofts’ will also include at least a few units available for low income residents, as I found this in a city report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:
“The City is working with private developers of market-rate housing for moderate and high-income households to include some units for low-income households to integrate a mixture of incomes into one development. The City made an agreement in 2001 with a private developer to provide three affordable rental units to households at <80% AMI or less in a development called Corner House Lofts. The Corner House Lofts is ideally located in the heart of downtown with easy access to public transportation, hospitals and many social services. Construction began in the spring of 2003 and occupancy is expected in the spring of 2004."