Over 200 acres at Briarwood Mall can be rezoned for downtown development

ANN ARBOR, MI – With a new high-density zoning category now on the books, Ann Arbor officials are reviewing over 200 acres for downtown-style development on the south side of the city.

City planners have identified several dozen lots along State Street and Eisenhower Parkway near Briarwood Mall that could be rezoned into the city’s new TC1 zoning classification, the buildings up to 90 meters high along key transit corridors enables.

Urban planner Alexis DiLeo presented a map of the planned rededication area to the planning commission on the night of July 27th during a meeting of the ordinance review committee.

The map shows 66 properties that could be rezoned, and DiLeo has provided a corresponding list with addresses, owners, cultivation areas and current zones. The commissioners suggested adding a handful of more properties near Briarwood Mall, including two more near State Street and one owned by the University of Michigan on Eisenhower Parkway.

While most of the land is privately owned, Commissioner Sarah Mills noted that several are owned by UM.

The proposed zone is generally bordered by Oakbrook Drive to the north, Interstate 94 to the south, west of South Main Street to the west, and the railroad tracks to the east, including the properties on Boardwalk Drive and Victors Way off the State and Eisenhower Corridors.

Many of the properties are currently designated for office and commercial use, and the rededication in TC1 is intended to encourage more high-density housing and mixed-use settlements with pedestrian-friendly designs.

The State / Eisenhower area is the first of several areas of the city that could be rezoned in TC1. Other corridors that have been discussed are Washtenaw Avenue, West Stadium Boulevard, Maple Road, and Plymouth Road.

New buildings in TC1 zones must be at least two stories high with a height limit of 55 feet if within 25 feet of a residential zone, 75 feet if they are within 100 feet of a residential zone, 120 feet if they are located within 1,000 feet of a residential area and 300 feet if more than 300 feet from a residential area.

Ann Arbor advocates high-density zoning for transit corridors, but not without drama

The state / Eisenhower area rezoning process initiated by the city is pretty straightforward, DiLeo said.

The first phase involves data collection and is expected to last through September, with plans to notify owners, DiLeo said. The second phase, which lasts through October, will include more communication and engagement with property owners and other stakeholders about the rezoning process, including meetings and workshops.

For the third and final phase, the employees will prepare a formal application for reallocation, which will be examined by the planning committee with a public hearing in November. After that, he could go to the city council for a first reading in January and then another public hearing and final approval by council in February, DiLeo said.

To ensure that stakeholders are informed and able to provide feedback, the commissioners expressed their interest in ensuring that notifications are sent to neighbors, owners and tenants of land to be rezoned, and detailed information is posted on the city’s website .

Commissioner Lisa Sauve noted that a change to the TC1 height restrictions was being discussed and she wondered if this should be clarified before the city holds workshops. DiLeo suggested discussing this further in August.

DiLeo asked if there were any real estate agents believed to be removed from the proposed zone, and the agents were not inclined to remove any, although Commissioner Ellie Abrons noted that some properties were in the southeastern portion of the proposed zone Are “quite far” from the state and Eisenhower.

“I’m just wondering if I should extend this distance in other directions if that ever made sense,” she said, although she admitted, “Briarwood is an animal of its own.”

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City officials have been talking about creating new regulations to encourage downtown development outside of downtown for years, and the State / Eisenhower area has been in constant conversation. Concentrate magazine explored the idea in a May 2019 article titled “Could the South Ann Arbor Office District Become a Second Downtown?”

In addition to the rededication proposal, commissioners spent part of their meeting on Tuesday discussing possible changes to the city’s parking requirements for new developments.

There is interest in rethinking them and potentially reducing the amount of parking space required for cars to encourage more efficient and sustainable land use, said city planner Jeff Kahan.

The TC1 zoning eliminates minimum parking requirements and instead defines maximum parking levels. There is now talk of broader changes to the city’s parking requirements as the city hopes to get more people out of cars and use alternative modes of transport.

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