Downtown Development Strategies Project

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October 2003
Downtown Residential Task Force Created
As a means to relieve development pressures on valuable open space, the City sought a Smart Growth approach to land use that would direct development where it could provide the most benefit, namely in the Ann Arbor city core. To this end, in October 2003 City Council approved a “Resolution Establishing a City Taskforce to Foster New Downtown Residential Development” and directed a taskforce to discover barriers to residential development and provide recommendations.  In July 2004, City Council accepted the task force report, which outlined recommendations to address barriers to residential development in the downtown. 

May 2005
Downtown Development Strategies Project Initiated
In its final report to City Council, the Downtown Residential Task Force stated that existing downtown zoning favored office development over residential, encouraged suburban-style projects such as drive through businesses, and restricted development in downtown districts well suited to residents, such as the South University area. The task force recommended that the City modify the zoning code, and in May 2005 Calthorpe Associates was hired by the City to work with the community to develop a vision for the downtown, as well as recommendations to realize this vision.

December 2005  
Final Report Completed
After six months’ work, including three public workshops which drew more than 600 people (see sidebar); a series of stakeholder meetings and public hearings with residents, housing advocates, planners, and real estate brokers; and an analysis of downtown economic drivers to understand current and future demand, Calthorpe Associates completed its work with a 76-page final report.   The report provides a recommended vision and policy framework for downtown Ann Arbor.  On December 5, 2005, City Council accepted the report and directed staff to identify a strategy for implementing the recommendations.

March 2006
Implementation Plan Passed
On March 20, 2006, City Council passed a resolution approving the Downtown Development Strategies Final Report Implementation Plan. The plan contains a comprehensive set of actions in the areas of urban design, office/industrial/retail development, housing, public space and mobility.  Council directed staff to begin work on four key implementation plan priorities: 

  • Create a special overlay zoning for the downtown that identifies areas of similar character.
  • Streamline the development proposal process (process mapping and technology improvements)
  • Incorporate a set of essential design guidelines
  • Pursue a comprehensive parking strategy for the downtown.

Council also established a steering committee to work with staff to ensure ongoing communication between City Council, Planning Commission and the Downtown Development Authority regarding the implementation plan. 

July 2006

Priority Work Plans Approved

With guidance from the Steering Committee, staff developed work plans for the Implementation Plan priorities.  A work plan was also developed to clarify criteria for development within downtown historic districts.  This action was added because it is a key work item for the recently hired historic preservation coordinator.


September 2006

Implementation Plan Named

On September 5, 2006, City Council approved the A2D2: Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown name to refer to the next steps in the Downtown Development Strategies Project. Track progress reports involving A2D2 work plans and implementation steps at www.a2gov.org/a2d2/.


Updated September 3, 2008