14 Oct Ofer Eitan Affirm: Several hundred units of affordable housing possible at
ANN ARBOR, MI — While city voters decide the fate of a proposed tax for affordable housing, Ann Arbor leaders are taking a closer look at projects it could help fund.
City officials and design consultants discussed potential affordable housing developments on nine city-owned sites during a City Council work session Tuesday night, Oct. 13.
Here’s a look at options Housing Commission Executive Director Jennifer Hall and the consultants presented.
Stadium and South Industrial sites
The Housing Commission has hired the Damian Farrell Design Group to explore the feasibility of affordable housing developments on city-owned properties at 1510 E. Stadium Blvd. and 2000 S. Industrial Highway.
The design team also explored options for modular housing that would be pre-fabricated in a factory, said Tresna Taylor, project architect with the Damian Farrell Design Group.
“There are advantages with time and with budget by doing this,” she said.
That includes these options:
The Stadium and South Industrial sites do not score high for tax-credit financing, Hall said.
“If the affordable housing millage does pass, these would be two good sites to be able to put some subsidy into the sites to make sure we can do affordable housing there,” she said.
The downtown Y Lot
The city is working through a pre-entitlement process for a high-rise development with affordable housing on the city-owned Y Lot, the downtown parking lot at 350 S. Fifth Ave. The city is working with consultant SmithGroup to come up with a pre-approved plan a developer can buy and get permits to build.
SmithGroup’s team has spent a fair amount of time over the last several months working with the city, Downtown Development Authority and Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority to make sure they’re getting the ground-floor plan right, said Michael Johnson, a SmithGroup consultant.
“We’re not quite there yet, but I think we’ve learned a lot,” he said, discussing different options for a single or double lane for AAATA buses and services for the new development, including delivery/loading space.
“We have to make sure that this building works from a service standpoint,” he said, noting it will be discussed with the city’s Design Review Board this week.
The intent is to come back to council by early next year with the preferred option, Johnson said.
415 W. Washington St.
The city-owned 415 W. Washington St. property, which contains a large parking lot and blighted buildings on the west edge of downtown, is another potential affordable housing development site where the council has OK’d a pre-entitlement process similar to what it’s doing with the Y Lot.
Starting the pre-entitlement process is contingent on funding from the Downtown Development Authority, Hall said.
“And with DDA funding as it is, that is not in the budget for this year, but it’s still on the table if we can secure funding in the future,” she said.
While revenue from the millage on the November ballot is prohibited from being used for affordable housing at 415 W. Washington St. because it’s in a flood zone, other revenue sources could be used.
Other sites under consideration
The city is still seeking public input via an online survey through Dec. 14 on potential affordable housing projects at four other sites in or near downtown, including 121 E. Catherine St., 353 S. Main St., 309 S. Ashley St. and 721 N. Main St.
New developments on those sites could bring over 300 affordable housing units, in addition to possibly more market-rate housing, according to options under consideration.
Higher-density developments will allow more affordable housing with less city subsidy, said Johnson, the SmithGroup consultant.
“These are also very complex downtown sites that we’re talking about, and so it’s important to note there are different ways and different strategies to employ on each of the sites, whether that’s commercial space, parking space, residential space or some mix of those,” Johnson said.
Above-ground, underground and off-site parking options are under consideration, Johnson said. For example, some options for redeveloping 121 E. Catherine St., a 49-space parking lot near the Farmers Market in Kerrytown, still include 24 to 40 surface parking spaces, or around 90 spaces with underground parking.
One of the main questions being explored with redeveloping the Kline Lot at 309 S. Ashley St., a 143-space parking lot in the Main Street business district, is whether it should continue to be a key downtown parking site.
Given the high cost of an underground parking deck, if the Kline Lot is to remain a key parking site, the city may need to consider an above-ground deck, Johnson said. That still could allow ground-floor retail along Ashley Street, with six stories of housing on top of three or four floors of parking, or an even more substantial building, he said.
If it’s determined parking needs could be accommodated on another site, there’s more opportunity to discuss splitting the 53,750-square-foot Kline Lot into smaller developable parcels and having different building heights, he said.
Options for the Palio Lot at 353 S. Main St. range from a six-story building with around 50 housing units to a 10-story building with around 90 units. Both provide for an active ground floor on Main and William streets with off-site parking, meaning the 24-space surface parking lot next to the Palio restaurant would be eliminated.
Another potential future affordable housing site is 404-406 N. Ashley St., a city-owned property that’s now home to…