Landmark Properties has built a number of rental properties throughout Ann Arbor, and has plans to construct another one at 217 South University Ave. The problem that they have discovered with that plan is that that would mean building over Pinball Pete’s, a n Ann Arbor institution that drew a fair deal of objection at a recent public meeting at the Ann Arbor Public Library’s main branch.
We emailed a number of follow up questions to the developers in addition to their initial statement. They are working with the architectural firm John Myefski, which deferred comment to Landmark. Landmark Properties responded to the questions poised by us after that article’s initial publication, forming an interview, here:
Have you been in direct talks with the owners of Pinball Pete’s, Panchero’s, the post office, and the other businesses?
Landmark Properties: We have spoken directly with the owners of Pinball Pete’s and are working on solutions. As discussed, we are at the beginning of a very long process and will use the next two years to work with all tenants on potential relocation solutions.
As Current has previously reported, Landmark has had one zoom meeting with the owner of Pinball Pete’s, but no other meetings so far. The Post Office has not received any communications. Attempts by Current to other businesses, to see if Landmark has been in touch with them, did not result in any formal responses.
Were you surprised by the number of people who came out so strongly in support of the businesses who are already tenants at the site?
Landmark Properties: We value the community’s feedback, and we look forward to working together to reach a solution that brings additional housing to Ann Arbor while also finding suitable homes for the businesses.
Could you realistically incorporate space in the building for Pinball Pete’s and the post office into your design?
Landmark Properties: We’re at the beginning of a multi-year process, and discussions on plans and architecture are in the first stages. As we outline uses for commercial space in the new building facing South University, we are working on potential solutions to allow existing tenants to come back.
If you can, could they remain open as they are while the building you’ve designed is built around them, or would they have to move or shut down temporarily?
Landmark Properties: Safety is paramount for our projects, and the protective measures necessary to ensure safe construction require tenants to move during that time. For example, the proposed building design is 17 stories and surrounded on two sides by existing buildings. The foundation requirements to support the additional height do not allow for the tenants to stay in place during construction.
I understand the argument that in order to get control of the cost of living, your industry is going to have to build more housing units to have the market meet demand. But there were some people in the meeting who are of the opinion that the only thing that market rate rental apartments are going to bring to the community is more wealthy residents and out-of-state students, and that this project will only make housing affordability worse. What would you say to those people?
Landmark Properties: The University of Michigan’s unprecedented growth over the past few years is contributing to a city-wide housing shortage for both students and residents alike. In order to level out this supply and demand issue, Ann Arbor needs more housing options. Projects like the development at Galleria Mall – those executed thoughtfully and responsibly – can create sustainable and inclusive growth from which the existing community and any new neighbors will benefit. Since we are at the beginning of a multi-year process, we plan to listen and learn from community members as we move forward with the project.
Were there any points that the people who attended the meeting made that you agree with, or people who had a good idea that you would like to pursue?
Landmark Properties: We value the community’s feedback and want to thank everyone who came to learn about the project. Right now, we’re only at the beginning of a multi-year process, and as we refine plans and architecture for the development, we promise to work closely with the city and the community to create a space that’s sustainable, walkable and enjoyable for all.
This project is years from completion. If there are members of the community who want to preserve as much of the culture that makes South U unique as possible, is there a way that they could work collaboratively with you to make changes to the project that meets your stated market and financial goals, but also helps the locals preserve what makes their community theirs?
Landmark Properties: We will work closely with the community and the city to create a space that the neighborhood can enjoy. As you said, we’re only at the beginning of a multi-year process, and these conversations have just started. We plan to have more citizen participation meetings as design progresses in order to gather additional feedback.