William Street Station in downtown Ann Arbor to start construction in new year

Ann Arbor has long been known as a pioneer of urban development and the city will have one more notch in its belt of innovations when construction starts on the William Street Station in downtown in January.

HDC companies will raze the old YMCA building between William, Fourth and Fifth streets and build a 14-story skyscraper in its place. It will feature space for a high-end hotel, retail, affordable housing, office space and the new downtown hub for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

"It's really one of the most dynamic affordable housing developments in the nation," says Bob Jacobson, vice president of planning and development for HDC Companies, the project's developer. "There is nothing else that has combined affordable housing, public transportation, high-end hotel space and office space into one building."

The site sits on a prime piece of real estate on the south side of downtown near the Ann Arbor Public Library, one block from Main Street. The Ann Arbor YMCA occupied the location from 1959 until 2005 when it moved to its new home on 400 W Washington.

William Street Station will feature two towers in a modern, contemporary design. The taller tower, facing Fifth, will house 219 hotel rooms from a brand-name hotel. The developer is currently in negotiations and declined to provide a name.

The shorter tower, 12 stories tall, will face Fourth and feature 100 affordable high-rise apartments that range in size between 325 and 650 square feet. The apartments will replace the 100 rooms of affordable housing that were available when the old YMCA was in service.

The second through fifth floors of the building, which serve as the base of the two towers, will be dedicated to 55,000 square feet of Class A office space and 25,000 square feet of banquet hall space for the hotel. The ground floor facing William will be occupied by entrances to the hotel, affordable housing and 2,500 square feet of retail space.

The new AATA downtown bus station will be at the ground floor of the building, behind the retail space and hotel/housing entrances. The facility, which will be built where the current transit terminal stands, will accomodate 15 buses and provide complete cover for riders. The existing station can only accommodate six buses under partial shelter.

The approximately 200 parking spaces needed for the development will be housed in nearby facilities, such as the parking garage at William and Fourth, within two blocks of the building.

Jacobson says this project will provide Ann Arbor's growing downtown with much needed updates, such as affordable housing and a new bus terminal. The hotel will also be a welcome addition to the central business district since most of the brand-name hotels are on the city's outskirts and only a few smaller ones are located in the city's center. There is also a dearth of banquet facility space downtown, a need Jacobson hopes the William Street Station satisfies.

"It's an aspect of downtown that is sorely missing," Jacobson says.

The plan is to begin demolition of the old YMCA building by January or February, once the City Council approves some site-plan changes this fall, and begin actual construction within 45 to 60 days after that. Building the structure is expected to take 18 to 22 months, finishing up by the fall or winter of 2009.

Source: Bob Jacobson, vice president of planning and development for HDC Companies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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