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September 08, 1988 - Image 66

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-09-08

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Page 10- The Michigan Daily -Thursday, September 8, 1988
ANN ARBOR ISSUES

evelopment

4

BY PETER MOONEY
The Ann Arbor building boom
that began in the early '80s trans-
formed the appearance of downtown
and spurred the local economy, but
some city residents argue the chan-
ges have left downtown congested
and unattractive.
Ann Arbor Planning Commis-
sioner Edward Surovell said devel-
opment was needed after decades
without major downtown construc-
tion. But opponents of development
now say it's time to direct and re-
strict new construction to preserve
the quaint, college town atmosphere
that characterizes Ann Arbor.
L O C AL homeowners won a
victory over a developer last April
when the Ann Arbor City Council
rejdected a proposed mini-mall to be
b It on Plymouth Road near the
University's North Campus. Resi-
dents of tree-lined Broadway Street,
inr the mall's proposed site, told
council that increased traffic on Ply-
mouth would speed the road's de-
terioration.
:But the developer's attorney,
Robert Harris, said the project would
have little affect on traffic and a
scheduled widening of Plymouth
would adequately address the traffic
problem.

Harris is asking the Washtenaw
Circuit Court to order the city to ac-
cept the project. If a project meets
zoning restrictions - and cannot be
shown to have a negative impact on
its surrounding area - Harris said
the council is obligated to approve
it.
"A private person has said 'this is
my land, and this is what I plan to
do.' It doesn't matter if it's popular,"
Harris said.
THIS BATTLE is typical of
many between developers and city
residents in past years.
Rapid changes in the city land-
scape have provoked initiatives in-
tended to control and direct devel-
opment, including the Historic
Landmarks Ordinance, which pre-
vents owners of buildings with his-
toric and architectural significance
from altering their properties with-
out city approval.
Owners of several historic build-
ings opposed the ordinance, arguing
that it infringes on their property
rights.
But local architect Norm Tyler
defends the guidelines. "We want to
make sure you don't alter the build-
ing's historic character," Tyler said.
ANOTHER PROPOSAL to
manage development is the Down-

in

decoration.
LIBERTY Square merchants
believe a new decor and efforts by
the building's management to attract
a major retail store will improve its
poor reputation among Ann Arbor
shoppers.
Developer Lou Belcher, who was
Ann Arbor's mayor when Tally Hall
was approved, said it was a mistake.
"The glitter and glitz of Tally Hall
don't go well in Ann Arbor; once
you make an error it takes a long
time to recover," Belcher said.
Controversial changes also are
taking place along South University
Street, frequented by student shop-
pers.
The modern-looking 1220 South
University building, which contains
restaurants and shops, was con-
structed two years ago. City council
approved the Galleria - containing
both shopping and apartments -
last year, but construction has not
yet begun.
THE VILLAGE Corner
grocery and liquor store on South
University also will receive an
addition at a future date, a second
level similar to the metallic facade at
neighboring Bagel Factory..
While students have complained
the new look makes Ann Arbor
seem more like an anonymous sub-
urb than a hip college town, few ef-
forts have been made to oppose the
changes.
Surovell says there is little the
city can do to address objections to
changes taking place along South
University. As a member of the
planning commission, -Surovell
cannot reject a project that complies

with zoning laws, and city council is
restricted by state law which says
zoning laws mwst be "reasonable."
"It would be unreasonable to zone
South University for agriculture,"
Surovell said.
DESPITE complaints front
students and Ann Arbor citizens,
some merchants believe the
development will help revitalize
business districts near campus.
George Perrin, head of the South
University Merchants' Association,
said he thinks the modem appearance
of buildings like the Galleria will
appeal to customers.
James Dean, manager of the Cat's
Meow - a vintage clothing store
typical of the city's unique shopping
- thinks people drawn to Ann
Arbor by larger shops will help his
business.
Other merchants, however, fear
that development will push out
small businesses and destroy Ana
Arbor's image.
SANDI DISANTI, who works
at the Wildflour health food bakery
on Fourth Street, said she fears
development will make rents too
high for local small-business owners
who can't compete with national
chains.
"I just wish development would
stop," DiSanti said. "We've lost
good little businesses and I think
that's going to continue."
Joe's Star Lounge and The Sua
Bakery, both local businesses, wer®
razed several years ago to make room
for an office building.
-Daily reporter Cathrine Steen-
-strup contributed to this story.

ROBIN LOZNAK/Daily
"The fastest growing high-tech corridor in the U.S. is... a 40
mile strip in Michigan stretchihg west from Detroit to the
leafy college town of Ann Arbor." (The Economist, 1988)

town Plan. The 100-page document
sets forth guidelines for downtown
development that aim to achieve a
balance between housing, office

space, and stores.
The plan also encourages the city
to add design review to its planning
process to prevent the construction
of buildings that are architecturally
incompatible with their sur-
roundings.
Though city Republicans have
traditionally criticized the Democrats
for imposing high standards on
developers, they won't necessarily
support every proposal brought
before council, Raid Councilmember
Terry Mast in (,11-2nd Ward.)
Several of Ann Arbor's newest
buildings have been attacked by local
architecture aficionados. Most
frequently denigrated is the Liberty
Square parking structure and shop-
ping center. Originally called Tally
Hall, the building's central food
court sported a flashy, neon roof

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