Ann Arbor envisions higher-density redevelopment of downtown federal site

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ANN ARBOR, MI — With an interest in seeing more high-density development downtown, Ann Arbor officials are envisioning a redevelopment of the Federal Building site.

The 1977 building at 200 E. Liberty St.—between Fourth and Five Avenues—includes a U.S. Post Office, U.S. District Court, and offices for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The site also includes ample parking for postal vehicles and federal workers behind the building.

The Federal Building in downtown Ann Arbor, which includes a U.S. Post Office, U.S. District Court, and FBI and ATF offices, at 200 E. Liberty St. on November 21, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

In an 11-0 vote Monday night, Nov. 21, the new Ann Arbor City Council asked City Administrator Milton Dohoney to engage with federal officials in exploratory conversations to see if there is had an interest in changing the use of the property.

“The current building does not provide sufficient density of office space, nor housing, nor is it configured to promote a pedestrian-activated retail corridor like much of the rest downtown,” says the resolution sponsored by Council members. Erica Briggs and Lisa Disch.

federal building

The Federal Building in downtown Ann Arbor, which includes a U.S. Post Office, U.S. District Court, and FBI and ATF offices, at 200 E. Liberty St. on November 21, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

The site could better serve the interests of the community if the buildings therein were built to current downtown zoning standards and enabled with a denser footprint of jobs, housing and public spaces, says the council resolution, suggesting that such changes could support downtown economic development, contribute to the health of the downtown retail sector, and potentially move a large centrally located parcel onto the roles of city ​​tax.

“I’m very, very excited about this,” Linh Song council member D-2nd Ward said, calling the federal property a “pretty dead zone” in the evening.

federal building

The Federal Building in downtown Ann Arbor, which includes a U.S. Post Office, U.S. District Court, and FBI and ATF offices, at 200 E. Liberty St. on November 21, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

“So if we can think about how to liven up this space beyond the 8-5, I would really like that to happen,” she said, noting that it’s near the library. downtown.

It also sits across from the Library Lane car park where city voters approved a downtown central park concept in 2018 that has yet to happen.

The elevated plaza in front of the Federal Building, which leads to steps, has been the scene of countless public protests on many issues over the years.

The way the site is set up, it’s not very inviting for pedestrians and it’s kind of a tripping hazard, said Disch, D-1st Ward.

federal building

The Federal Building in downtown Ann Arbor, which includes a U.S. Post Office, U.S. District Court, and FBI and ATF offices, at 200 E. Liberty St. on November 21, 2022.ryan stanton | Ann Arbor News

“If there are going to be serious conversations about taking this building and redesigning it, the staff should be at the forefront of those conversations,” Disch said.

Mayor Christopher Taylor said there have been thoughts for years about the utility of the Federal Building.

“It of course provides a set of important services to residents and others, but it is also structurally and geometrically perhaps put together in a way that does not meet all of our aspirations,” he said. . “And I would appreciate having a full conversation with the federal government about how maybe we can square the circle and use this space in a way that meets all of our purposes.”

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