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Old Posted May 21, 2014, 11:01 AM
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6-story hotel in downtown Ann Arbor wins approval from Planning Commission
By Ryan Stanton

Plans for a new 110-room, extended-stay hotel in downtown Ann Arbor won support from the city's Planning Commission in an 8-0 vote Tuesday night.

The Residence Inn by Marriott proposed at the northeast corner of Huron and Ashley streets now heads to the City Council for final approval.

Ann Arbor-based First Martin Corp. wants to demolish two buildings on the 0.48-acre site — the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau building and the Greyhound bus depot — and construct an 88,570-square-foot, six-story hotel with a main entrance facing Ashley Street and a ground-floor restaurant along Huron Street.

First Martin plans to use the city's historic preservation premium for a proposed 4,352-square-foot floor area bonus.

Three people representing owners of residential and commercial condominiums in the adjacent One North Main building, just east of the hotel site, spoke during a public hearing on the project Tuesday night. They said they're pleased to see a hotel development on the corner, but one of the concerns raised was that some lower-level commercial spaces could have their west-facing views blocked.

Speakers mentioned they had asked First Martin to shift the building 12 to 15 feet to the west, away from One North Main, to alleviate some of those concerns, but First Martin says that doesn't work for a number of reasons.

First Martin also notes the approved site plan for One North Main recognized many years ago that some of the west-facing windows might have to be closed off someday when the bus depot site is redeveloped, and that day appears to have come.

The city's Building Board of Appeals granted a variance allowing the west-facing windows in 1984, with this stipulation: "In the event there is any development on adjacent locations with the construction of buildings, at that time the openings shall be totally closed up with the required fire-rated materials."


The estimated hotel construction cost is $13 million.

City Planner Alexis DiLeo described the proposed design as a blend of classic downtown Ann Arbor and the art moderne style of the bus depot.

The building is expected to rise 55 feet, far shorter than the 180 feet allowed in the D1 zoning district in which it's located. The square footage also is significantly smaller than the 147,378-square-foot maximum that's allowed.


Should the city of Ann Arbor spend $4.4M to give city hall a new look?
By Ryan Stanton

Should the city of Ann Arbor put more than $4.4 million toward "re-skinning" the exterior of city hall, giving it a fresh new look?

That's a question the City Council eventually might have to answer.

For now, the council has postponed action on a resolution from Council Members Jack Eaton, Sumi Kailasapathy and Jane Lumm that would indefinitely postpone the project and urge its removal from the city's Capital Improvement Plan.

The resolution came up for discussion at Monday night's council meeting. It's expected to be back on the agenda June 2.

The resolution's co-sponsors argue there are other significant, unmet capital and infrastructure needs in the city — including in the areas of streets, water, sewer and parks — that are higher priorities and should come first.

Re-skinning the 1963-era city hall would entail replacing the exterior walls and windows with a new squared-off exterior, eliminating the inverted pyramid features of the building. The new exterior would hang vertically from the sixth floor and would be supported at each floor, eliminating the "stepping" at each floor.

The project was originally proposed as a second phase of the $50 million Ann Arbor Municipal Center project, which included renovations to city hall and the addition of a new police-courts building — the Justice Center — directly next to city hall a few years ago. The idea was that city hall's exterior would be refitted with new materials to better blend with the Justice Center, giving the two buildings a consistent appearance.

According to a city staff memo, the re-skinning also would offer energy efficiency benefits through replacement of windows.

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