Lower Town Project

It’s easy to get discouraged with national trends of auto-based suburban sprawl if even Ann Arbor is forgetting how to build pleasant urban spaces. Especially if, like me, you agree that certain diverse, mixed-use, mixed-age are most conducive to the type of urban communities attractive to the Creative Class. However, Ann Arbor residents can take heart at least a bit: there’s a large project scheduled to break ground sometime this spring and be open within two years that I think is a step in the right direction. Local developer Peter Allen‘s $120 million Lower Town project includes seven buildings, ground-level retail space, an open square with performance stages (which will be free to rent), office space, and retail. All of this in 3 to 7 story buildings. Although I’ve heard about the difficulties, as hard as it may be to believe, but this thing has passed the city’s Planning Commission – all that remains is finding tenants and building.

The company describes the project this way: “Located in the heart of Ann Arbor, this innovative revival of a historic commercial center combines the best architecture and site planning to create a sustainable commercial and residential environment where people can live, work & play” Yes, this is a New Urbanism wet dream: it’s replacing a strip mall and parking lot, and exemplifies to me the type of development that leads to the type of city I’d like to live in. Sure, the project is not without it’s flaws (I prefer to see finer-grained development, but I think the only way to get brownfield redevelopment funding from the state for the entire site is if it is being developed by one corporation) and it includes the inevitable parking garage (tentatively slated at 640 spaces), but the parking garage is “wrapped” with a building filled with housing units and retail. This is something I have advocated ad nauseam: building mixed-use parking garages – there’s no need for them to destroy the vitality of our streets.

Where exactly is all this happening? Just about exactly 1 mile from State Street, and 1.5 miles (on streets) from Bursley Residence Hall. Here’s a mapquest map of the location of the project.

Sound interesting? Maybe you or someone you know can be part of it – I’ve been told they’re currently looking for tenants for the project interested in retail spaces ranging from 500 to 12,000 square feet.

Author: Rob