ANN ARBOR, MI — Plans for a four-story, 79-unit apartment building on Ann Arbor’s west side are awaiting City Council approval, and planning officials are singing its praises.

As the Planning Commission voted 7-0 to move the North Maple Road apartments development forward to council on September 20, the commissioners expressed their appreciation for the developer’s willingness to include features in line with A2Zero carbon neutral targets. from the city.

This includes rooftop solar panels to help power what is expected to be an all-electric building with no gas appliances, possibly also with geothermal heating and cooling, as well as reduced parking and features to encourage walking and cycling.

“You’re really doing this for sustainability – it’s really good for us to have someone leading the way with this,” said commission chair Shannan Gibb-Randall.

A2 Collaborative LLC’s proposal, led by founding partner Jeff Wilkerson, aims to combine four parcels of land along the west side of Maple Road, just south of the M-14 highway.

“We wanted to design a resilient, forward-looking community that was fully electric and also provided for less reliance on automobiles,” Wilkerson said. “We wanted to aim for sustainability in our design, and to that end we have included photovoltaics and are currently exploring geothermal options.”

Plans for the four-story, 79-unit North Maple Road Apartments development along the west side of Maple Road, just south of M-14 in Ann Arbor.A2 Collaborative LLC and Architects Design Group

The proposal also includes designating 15% of the apartments — 12 units — as affordable housing for people earning up to 60% of the region’s median income.

The developer is seeking City approval for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning designation. Three of the parcels must first be annexed to the city from Scio Township.

Plans show a total of 95 bedrooms and 65 parking spaces, several of which would have electric vehicle chargers, with dozens more set to add chargers in the future. There would also be at least one bicycle parking space per unit, with options for charging e-bikes.

The solar panels would not fully power the building, which would still be connected to the electricity grid. Plans include allocating 430 square feet of basement space for energy storage batteries to provide backup power during grid outages.

“I want to thank you,” Commissioner Sarah Mills told the promoter. “You may have read in the paper that we often have to bring in developers, and it’s really encouraging to see a project come before us that didn’t just consider electrical appliances, but an all-electric HVAC system. .”

Mills asked Wilkerson why he considers this viable when some developers argue that it is not.

“Each developer probably approaches their project with a different pro forma and set of goals, and we just felt it was doable with our current pro forma and we could make it work,” he said, adding that he had heard that utility bills could be higher with all-electric appliances, but renewables can help offset that. “Over a long enough period, finances work.”

The only possible connection to natural gas would be for a pump for the fire suppression system if a water flow test was not sufficient, as a battery cannot be used for the pump, per the requirements of the code, Wilkerson said.

It looks like the code needs to change, Mills said.

Commissioner Lisa Sauve suggested the developer also consider solar carports for additional renewable energy.

For the geothermal option, there are 25 possible well sites where wells could be drilled up to 500 feet deep to tap energy from the earth, Wilkerson said, adding that could offset a substantial amount of healing and cooling use and be a good long term solution for durability.

North Maple Road Apartments

Plans for the four-story, 79-unit North Maple Road Apartments development along the west side of Maple Road, just south of M-14 in Ann Arbor.A2 Collaborative LLC and Architects Design Group

The project aims to preserve the natural features of the site and minimize impervious surfaces, according to the proponent. The plan preserves 16 of the 38 iconic trees, as well as 72 of the other 101 trees, which should help dampen highway noise.

Plans also include filling a large gap in the city’s sidewalk network along Maple Road and incorporating a crosswalk with pedestrian-activated flashing signals.

The 75,217 square foot apartment building would feature a mix of 15 studios, 48 ​​one-bedroom units and 16 two-bedroom units. Additionally, there would be a 1,560 square foot clubhouse in front of the parking lot, with a fitness area and restrooms for tenants and bicycle repair and storage space.

A handful of residents raised concerns about the project at the September 20 meeting, including concerns about traffic and the possibility of parking spilling onto neighborhood streets if there isn’t enough parking. on site for tenants.

Planning officials have responded by suggesting that the project may actually help alleviate traffic as it provides more accommodation in the city for people currently commuting to the city.

“What we’re learning is that Ann Arbor is a job-creating community that translates to a remarkable number of people who can’t afford to live here and commute from other places,” said urban planner Jeff Kahan. “We obviously produce over 1,000 new jobs a year and we’re not creating that kind of housing supply.”

North Maple Road Apartments

Plans for the four-story, 79-unit North Maple Road Apartments development along the west side of Maple Road, just south of M-14 in Ann Arbor.A2 Collaborative LLC and Architects Design Group

Sites near highway interchanges will likely experience a substantial increase in commuter traffic over time, but a housing development with 65 parking spaces is unlikely to contribute much to traffic, officials said.

Commissioner Donnell Wyche said his question on the parking situation was why so many parking spaces were included. He suggested another 40 homes could be built on the parking portion of the site.

Change is often difficult and growth is not easy, Commissioner Wonwoo Lee told residents, thanking them for sharing their thoughts.

The city needs to build more housing to keep Ann Arbor affordable for a wide range of people, Water Hill neighborhood resident Daniel Adams told the commissioners, speaking in support of the development. He expressed concern about rising housing prices forcing people out of town and what were once affordable homes being demolished to build what he described as mansions.

“I’m a corporate lawyer and I increasingly live surrounded by other corporate lawyers, and that’s not normal,” he said. “I’m not denigrating my profession, but Ann Arbor can’t be a place where only corporate lawyers, tech professionals and MBAs can afford to live.”

Annexation of parcels for the project is expected to be submitted to city council in late November or early December, with site plan and zoning to follow after state approval of the annexation, said Brett Lenart, head of the town planning.

Read more Ann Arbor development stories.

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