ANN ARBOR, MI — A 120-unit condo development awaits City Council approval Monday night, Dec. 7, and the developer promises they’ll be “some of the least expensive new condos to come to market in recent years.”
“Our goal throughout this process has been to try and make sure these homes are available to as broad a range of buyers as possible,” said Iddo Schwartz of GloryCrest Burton Road Inc., which is proposing the Brightdawn Village development on Burton Road in southeast Ann Arbor.
The condos would be priced between $300,000 and $400,000 and include a mix of 90 two-bedroom units and 30 three-bedroom units, ranging from 1,345 to 1,745 square feet, according to plans submitted in June.
While that’s still out of reach for many people, it’s a lot cheaper than new condos being built in the downtown area.
The first 23 sales at the new Kingsley Condominiums near downtown showed an average price of more than $713,000, with the average unit just under 1,400 square feet, The Ann Arbor News/MLive reported earlier this year.
They sold for $510 per square foot on average and four sold for over $1 million, while the cheapest was about $500,000.
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The Gallery, a new condo building rising on the edge of downtown, is marketing two-bedroom units (1,154 to 1,340 square feet) starting at $514,000 and three-bedroom units (1,482 to 1,895 square feet) starting at $708,000.
The biggest Ann Arbor condo development outside of the downtown in recent years is North Oaks off Nixon Road. When over 470 units there started being marketed a couple years ago, townhomes were priced from the upper $300,000s to $600,000s, while larger villas went from the mid-$400,000s to $700,000s.
Current marketing for North Oaks, a Toll Brothers development, shows 1,913-square-foot units priced from $406,995 and 2,041-square-foot units priced from $519,995.
The new 120-condo development planned for the vacant Burton Road site comes after City Council previously voted down a plan for 160 apartments with 40 affordable housing units.
What was rejected before required a rezoning and was too dense for city officials’ liking, and what’s proposed now is a by-right project allowed under existing zoning.
“From the very beginning of this process, we’ve been focused on doing our part to help address Ann Arbor’s housing challenges, which is why we initially offered to build affordable housing on this site,” Schwartz said.
“With that proposal denied, we believe that the next best way we have to achieve that goal is to make homeownership possible for a broader segment of the community.”
The entire development has been designed with wheelchair-accessibility in mind, Schwartz said, adding all units would be wheelchair accessible, every building would have elevator service and site amenities have been designed to be accessible. In addition to four condo buildings and surrounding parking lots, the site plan includes a playground, outdoor gathering space, dog run, woods, community garden and stormwater detention area.
Council members discussed the project at their Sunday night caucus session.
Jeff Hayner, D-1st Ward, said he supported the last version of the project, despite neighborhood outcry, because it included affordable apartments, which would have been for people earning up to 60% and 80% of area median income, and he’s disappointed that’s not included now. He wishes there was a way to bring back the rejected development, he said.
There are 284 parking spaces proposed, including 140 beneath the buildings in underground garages and the remainder in surrounding surface spaces.
Multiple council members said single-family neighbors are concerned about increased traffic from the development with Burton Road proposed to be connected to Eli Drive.
There’s a strong desire among city transportation engineers to have a connected grid, said Council Member Erica Briggs, D-5th Ward. She agrees that’s healthier for the community, but she also recognizes why neighbors are concerned.
She suggested the city should prioritize funds from a new city sidewalk tax to fill sidewalk gaps in the neighborhood.
Briggs also raised concerns about having condos next to the U.S. 23 highway and what it means for air quality for those who will live there. She questioned whether the city should consider more buffer requirements for housing next to highways.
“One ordinance change that I think merits discussion out of this is — is that something that we’re comfortable with as a community, that we don’t have any sort of vegetative buffer that’s required in between a highway and a residential area?” she said. “And you notice on this there is a community garden that’s adjacent to the highway. “
Council Member Kathy Griswold, D-2nd Ward, echoed Briggs on that idea.
“I’m familiar with a number of properties adjacent to freeways, and it’s less desirable, and so we may end up having low-income housing,” she said. “And we need to decide as a community if we’re going to do that knowing that it’s going to negatively impact the children.”
The development meets all buffer and setback requirements and buildings would be set back from the southbound lane of U.S. 23 by over 150 feet, Schwartz said.
“Between our parking drive aisle and our property line is a 25-foot yard, or buffer area. That is proposed to be planted with landscape materials that include over 100 shrubs and 50 trees,” Schwartz said.
“There is a modest opportunity for gardening in an area located on the southern portion of the site that is nestled between on-site natural features which include trees and wetlands,” he added. “This garden is intended to be an area to be used by the residents to grow plants. We see this as a unique opportunity and amenity for the residents of Brightdawn.”
Denser zoning for the site was established in 2007 when another development was proposed. Juliet Pressel, a neighbor of the development site, said the land probably shouldn’t have been up-zoned back then and it’s not the ideal spot for 120 housing units.
“That said, we recognize that this proposal is going to be passed, it should be passed, because otherwise I think you’ll be facing a lawsuit,” she told council members.
Neighbors aren’t thrilled about living by four-story condo buildings, she said.
“At the same time, the developer did everything right this time,” she said. “They pretty much have a bullet-proof solution to the challenges that they faced last time.”
The neighborhood’s concern has been traffic safety, particularly in the Eli-Burton connection area, Pressel said, arguing it’s not an ideal spot to open a traffic connection.
“This is an area where we do have pedestrians — a lot of children in the summertime, because of an adjacent pool, which is very frequented, very popular,” she said. “We have people bicycling there. It’s not a place where you want to have a potential 250 vehicles pouring from what is now currently a quiet cul-de-sac and turning it into a throughway.”
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