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Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines

Chapter 4: Case Studies

This chapter presents a series of case study developments that illustrate
how the Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines combine to promote the
city’s site planning, massing and architectural objectives. Each case study
demonstrates how the design guidelines included within Chapters 2 and 3
would be applied within different zoning and physical contexts for various
building types. It is important to note that each case study provides one
example of an appropriate response to the Design Guidelines. However, a
range of other, flexible, design responses could also be appropriate.

Understanding Context
The case studies presented in this chapter respond to an existing con-
text defined by past planning efforts, current regulations, historic re-
sources and the existing physical framework of downtown streets and
lots while also seeking to demonstrate positive growth and change.
The case studies illustrate how the
Downtown Planning Context. As described in the Introduction to the Guidelines provide qualitative direction
Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines, visions for downtown have for various types of buildings in different
been expressed in several planning documents for the area. The 1988
Downtown Plan and the 2006 Vision and Policy Framework for Down-
town are both relevant documents which provide some context for In This Chapter
downtown planning objectives.
The Vision and Policy Framework for Downtown Ann Arbor, includes over- Context 4-1
all goals for downtown with a focus on diversifying uses and increasing Illustrative Case
densities (particularly residential uses) in a way that improves pedestrian Studies Map 4-2
friendliness and supports the use of transit. The case studies demonstrate Building Types 4-4
several examples of how to meet these overall planning objectives.

Historic Resources Context. Ann Arbor has a strong history and tra-
dition of protecting historic buildings and neighborhoods. The Guide-
lines complement preservation objectives and design review process.
The case studies assume that new investment respects historic re-
sources as an important part of the future, even as the vision for down-
town includes increasing densities.

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Case Studies Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines

Illustrative Case Studies Map

The case studies are presented within a map of blocks and streets
designed to illustrate typical relationships found downtown and in ad-
jacent residential neighborhoods. Although the map shown below is
based on downtown’s existing conditions including block size, street
width and typical existing building dimensions, it does not show actual
streets and blocks within downtown Ann Arbor and the case studies
illustrated do not represent proposals for any specific site.
The map identifies “opportunity sites” such as existing surface parking
lots, vacant sites or under utilized properties that demonstrate com-
mercial, traditional neighborhood and interface contexts for the case
studies. The context shown on the map also illustrates design issues
facing downtown, such as:
• Growing and intensifying mixed-use storefront districts
• Pedestrian continuity between activity areas
• A diverse range of site configurations and sizes
Case studies are located in urban shop- • Scale relationships to existing historic buildings and neighborhoods
ping locations, traditional residential
• A variety of design character contexts
blocks and in between.

Shopping Street Opportunity to
Expand Shopping
and Create a Place

to Add
to Add

Opportunity Existing Traditional

Sites Neighborhood
Opportunity sites are locations most likely to develop including parking lots, vacant sites or under utilized properties.

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Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines Case Studies

Illustrative Map Zoning

Zoning Assumptions. The illustrative
case study context map assumes
The Core Area pro-
Core Area the zoning criteria established
through the Ann Arbor Discovering
vides the greatest Downtown (A2D2) process. This
density and is as- includes regulations for:
sumed to have an
• Density and height (how big
urban character.
and how tall)
The Interface Area is • Massing (the shape of build-
transitional in scale
and character be- ings)
tween downtown and • Frontage (a building’s relation-
traditional neighbor- ship to the street)

Districts S District
S Districts have
storefronts and

R Districts have site

and massing stan-
dards that reflect
the characteristics
of existing traditional

R District
residential neighbor-

Primary Frontages are
shopping streets with
Multi-use alley
Multi-use alley

buildings set at the

sidewalk edge.

Secondary Frontages
allow residential and
commercial uses with
small setbacks.

Front Yard Frontages

require a front setback.

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Case Studies Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines

Building Types
Ann Arbor’s Downtown Design Guidelines provide examples of how
they would shape investment in a variety of site contexts and densi-
Building Types Context ties. These examples demonstrate how site planning and building
The context map for the Case Studies
designs respond to their context making downtown neighborhoods
illustrates opportunity sites for a variety
of building types. more walkable, social and aesthetically pleasing.

Street and alley-oriented

Mixed-use residential
infill townhouses
and urban apartments
F oriented towards the
street with stoops,
porches and store-

H Mixed-use




Expanding shopping
streets with a com-
bination of commer-
H cial and residential
Infill duplex, tri-plex I mixed-use buildings
and four-plex Mix of urban housing types all
projects on smaller oriented towards the street with
opportunity sites stoops, porches and storefronts

Commercial Mixed-use Building Types Zoning Massing District Frontage

A Office Tower Core S District Primary
B Mid-rise Office Core S District Primary
C Nhd. Commercial Interface R or other Secondary
Residential Mixed-use D Residential Tower Core S District Primary
E Mid-rise Mixed-use Core or Interface S District or other Primary or Secondary
Urban Residential F Apartment Flats Interface Other Secondary
G Condominium Flats Interface Other Secondary
Neighborhood Residential H Townhouse Interface R District Residential/Front Yard
I Duplex Interface R District Residential/Front Yard

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Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines Case Studies

Commercial Mixed-use Building Types

Commercial mixed-use buildings have retail or storefront uses on
the ground floor and office uses on upper floors. This could include
high-rise office development in the commercial core of downtown;
mid-rise professional office buildings; or smaller neighborhood-scale
shopfront buildings. Ann Arbor’s skyline

12-Story Office Tower, Primary Frontage

A Split tower massing to

reduce bulk

Articulated tower top

Upper tower massing

Office Towers
The Core Area allows up to a
400% FAR for development.
Streetwall 3-4 stories
With premiums, this can be
increased. On a 120'x240' half
4 block, this would result in towers
from five to 12 stories.
Design Issues:
• Bulky, squat building propor-
1 3 • Street-level scale much larger
This case study office tower assumes
than traditional storefront pat-
1. Commercial office entry tern
the project has an entire half block. Only
larger sites will support development of
2. Major retail tenant entry • Location of office lobby
tall buildings with 400% to 700% FARs. 3. Storefront retail • Services for building
The tower placement should consider 4. Streetwall offset • Tower location
impacts on sun access to open space,
spacing between towers, views to and
from the building, and services. Design Response:
• Vertical articulation to break bulk
into narrower, better propor-
tioned elements (see: Ch.2 Sec.
• Vertical articulation and bay
spacing of streetwall reflecting
traditional scale of blockfront
Massing standards and guidelines provide flexibility to shape and position of tow- (see: Ch.2 Sec. 9)
ers. They can be shifted towards corners, stepped back, or U or L shaped as long • Corner orientation for stores,
as the tower maintains the definition of the streetwall. mid-block for office lobby
• Alley access for parking and ser-
vices (see: Ch.2 Sec. 6 and 7)

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Case Studies Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines

Four-Story Commercial Mixed-use, Primary Frontage

Mid-Rise Professional
Mid-rise professional build-
ings are developed to support 3
smaller tenants or single users.
Mid-rise office buildings are two
to four-stories with ground floor 1 2
commercial uses. These would Streetwall split into bays
include retail as ground floor use similar to traditional
on downtown’s primary frontage commercial blocks
1. Office lobby 2
streets. 2. Storefronts Streetwall height aligns
3. Alley access for services with adjacent historic
Design Issues: buildings
• Streetwall buildings
• Street-level scale can be larg- Design Response:
er than traditional storefront • Vertical articulation and bay spacing of streetwall reflecting tradi-
pattern tional scale of blockfront. (See: Ch.2 Sec. 9)
• Location of office lobby • Corner orientation for stores, mid-block for office lobby.
• Design of storefronts • Alley or side street access for parking and services. (See: Ch.2
• Services for building Sec. 6 and 7)
• Corner vs. mid-block location
Two-Story Commercial Mixed-use, Secondary Frontage
Neighborhood Shopfront
In the residential neighborhoods,
there may be opportunities to
develop shopfront buildings
two to three-stories in height on
small infill parcels in or adjacent 3
to storefront districts or at corner
locations. These would have one
to two ground floor tenants and
small office users on the upper 2 1
floors. Parking would be off-site.
Design Issues: 1. Upper floor lobby entry
• Storefront buildings 2. Storefronts
• Fitting into existing line of 3. Alley access for services
shops or in residential context
Design Response:
• Location of office lobby
• Bay spacing and storefront design of streetwall reflecting tradi-
• Design of storefronts
tional scale of blockfront (see: Ch.2 Sec. 9 and 10)
• Services for building
• Corner orientation for stores, mid-block for upper story lobbies
• Corner vs. mid-block location
• Alley access for services (see: Ch.2 Sec. 6 and 7)

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Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines Case Studies

Residential Mixed-use Building Types

The second type of building examined as a case study is the resi-
dential mixed-use type. These types of buildings include commercial
and residential uses. In the downtown core this could include taller
buildings with ground floor retail with some combination of com-
mercial office, hotel, rental or ownership residential uses above. In
interface or neighborhood settings, residential mixed-use develop-
ment could include mid-rise (2+ stories) residential development with
commercial uses on the ground floor. Residential Mixed-use
Tower Buildings
15-Story Residential Mixed-use, Primary Frontage The Vision and Policy Framework
encourages development of high-
density residential buildings in
downtown. The zoning provides
premiums (up to a 900% FAR) for
D including housing that could result
in buildings up to 20 stories.

Design Issues:
• Bulky, slab-like building pro-
1 2 • Street-level scale much larger
than traditional storefront pat-
• Location of residential lobby
• Services for building
• Parking design and location
1. Commercial lobby
2. Residential lobby • Corner orientation
3. Storefront retail • Balcony design
4. Service alley
Design Response:
• Vertical articulation to break
bulk into narrower, better pro-
portioned elements (see: Ch.2
Sec. 9)
• Vertical articulation and bay
spacing of streetwall reflecting
traditional scale of blockfront
(see: Ch.2 Sec. 9)
4 • Corner orientation for stores,
mid-block on secondary
3 streets for residential lobby
• Alley access for parking and
This case study assumes the project has received premiums and has between a services (see: Ch.2 Sec. 6 and
700% and 900% FAR. The massing assumes the lower three floors are commercial 7)
uses. The residential floor plans are stepped back to taper the tower. Balconies are
an integral part of the massing and elevation design. • Integrating balcony and deck
design into building massing
(see: Ch.2 Sec. 9)

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Case Studies Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines

Six-Story Residential Mixed-use, Two Story Context

E integral part of
facade design

Mid-rise Residential Mixed-

2 1
use Shopfront Buildings
Mid-rise (three to four stories)
mixed-use residential build-
ings are projects that would fit 3 1. Commercial lobby
into a streetwall block on sites 3 2. Residential lobby
at least a quarter block in size 3. Storefront retail
(120'x120'). They would have 4. Service alley
rental or ownership units and
some on-site parking.
Four-Story Residential Mixed-use, Three Story Context
Design Issues:
• Streetwall buildings larger than E
traditional commercial build-
• Street-level scale larger than
traditional storefront pattern
• Location of residential lobby
• Services for building 3
• Parking design and location
• Corner orientation
• Balcony design

Design Response:
• Vertical articulation and bay 2
spacing of streetwall reflecting 2
traditional scale of blockfront 1. Residential lobby
(see: Ch.2 Sec. 9) 2. Storefront retail
• Corner orientation for stores, 3. Service alley
mid-block on secondary These two case studies illustrate some potential variations of mid-rise residential
streets for residential lobby mixed-use projects. The top case study is a six-story building with four levels of
• Alley access for parking and residential over two levels of commercial uses in a two-story context. The streetwall
services (see: Ch.2 Sec. 6 and aligns with adjacent buildings and then steps back to a an articulated four-story
7) top. The lower case study has three levels of residential over retail and fits into a
three or four-story streetwall. It has a strong corner-oriented design feature. Both
• Integrating balcony and deck case studies have active and transparent ground floors, integrate balconies into the
design into building massing facade design, and hide parking under the building.

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Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines Case Studies

Urban Residential Building Types

Urban residential buildings include multi-story buildings with shared
corridors and elevators. These include rental apartments, condo-
miniums, live-work lofts or other types of units. These residential-
only projects could NOT be located on shopping streets that require
ground floor commercial uses.
Stoop entry to flats

Three-story Apartment Building, Secondary Frontage Apartment Flats

Rental apartments in down-
Unit bays Parapet roofline town typically require flexible
F expressed/stepped approaches to parking, where
on-site structured parking costs
are an economic challenge.
Tuck-under or surface parking
is most likely. Design consider-
ations include other cost-related
3 issues such as the need to be
repetitive and efficient, limit
2 maintenance costs and lower
construction costs.
Design Issues:
eet • Parking and site planning
2 Str • Simple, repetitive building
1. Building lobby plans
2. Stoop/front yard • Low maintenance materials
3. Parking access and landscaping
• Security-driven design
• Materials
Three-story Apartment Building, Front Yard Frontage • Unit orientation
Unit bays Gabled roof forms • Common space design/social
F expressed/stepped purpose

Design Response:
• Hide parking, access off alley
• Break-up massing, express
Porches and yards for
ground floor units individual units, bays (see:
Ch.2 Sec. 9)
• Focus use of design flourishes
and quality materials (see:
Ch.2 Sec. 15)
2 • Eyes-on-the-street security
2 • Street-oriented ground floor
1 units, porch and stoop design.
• Common and private space
2 Stre central feature, orientation and
1. Building lobby visual access (see: Ch.2 Sec.
2 2. Porch/front yard 5)
3. Parking access
• Balcony design integral to
massing/architectural concepts

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Case Studies Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines

Condominium Flats Four-Story Residential Flats, Secondary Frontage

Condominiums in secure cor-
ridor/elevator buildings that are
purely residential developments
G Unit bays
Parapet roof forms

have many of the same design expressed/

issues as apartments but with
greater opportunity for quality
due to market expectations and 4
larger construction budgets.
Generally, parking is secure and
on-site (with some exceptions)
and budgets allow for quality
materials and landscaping of 2
common areas. Emphasis on 1
the individual design of units and 3 2
2 et
incentives for adding greater
variety to the design generally 1. Residential lobby S
appeals to the market. 2. Shared stoop
3. Side yard setback at R-Massing District Stoops and shallow yards
4. Service alley/parking access for ground floor units
Design Issues:
• Parking (near units) and site
planning (parking under build- Four-Story Residential Flats, Front Yard Frontage
ing–dead edge)
• Variety, choice in units
• Security-driven design
G Unit bays
expressed/ Gabled roof
• Materials, quality, low mainte- stepped forms
• Unit orientation, sense of com-
• Common space design/social 4

Design Response: 1
• Hide parking, access off alley 2
• Break-up massing, express
individual units, bays (see: 3 et
2 2 tre
Ch.2 Sec. 9) S
• Focus use of design flourishes 1. Residential lobby
and quality materials (see: 2. Shared porch Porches and yards for
Ch.2 Sec. 15) 3. Side yard setback at R-Massing District ground floor units
• Eyes-on-the-street security 4. Service alley/parking access
• Street-oriented ground floor ­ hese case studies are of residential flat buildings located adjacent to a R Massing
units, porch and stoop design District requiring a side yard setback and offset at the streetwall. The top version
• Common and private space is a parapet building on a (Secondary Frontage) block with stoops. This could be
central feature, orientation and a site between a commercial block and traditional residential building. The lower
version is the same building with residential roof forms and porches (Residential
visual access (see: Ch.2 Sec.
Frontage) potentially more in character in a traditional residential setting.
• Balcony design integral to
massing/architectural concepts

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Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines Case Studies

Neighborhood Residential Building Types

Neighborhood residential development includes projects on smaller
lots within a traditional neighborhood context. This could include
small apartment buildings, townhouses/rowhouses, duplex/triplex/
four-plexs, or infill single family.

Three-Story Townhouses, Front Yard Frontage

Step down roof next to existing residential Two-story streetwall Townhouses/Rowhouses
and single-story porch Townhouses can provide an own-
2 elements ership building type that delivers
market and financially feasible
projects at the scale of traditional
neighborhoods. They are flex-
ible format buildings that can be
inserted on small parcels, take
advantage of alley access (even
as a front door to the units) and
3 provide a variety of unit types.
1 Design Issues:
• Parking in/under unit
1 t
1 Stree • Driveways and garage doors
• Variety, choice in units, repeti-
1. Residential porches tive
1 2. Shared alley access to parking court
H 3. Passage pedestrian entry from street
• Materials, quality, low mainte-
• Unit orientation, sense of com-
Three-Story Townhouses, Alley Frontage munity
• Private space design/social ori-
Gabled roof forms reflecting individual units entation
Two-story streetwall • Roof and massing in traditional

Design Response:
• Tuck-under parking, access
3 from alley or side street with
shared driveway
• Express individual units, bays in
module of neighborhood build-
1 2 ings (see: Ch.2 Sec. 9)
1 • Focus use of design flourishes
1 1 and quality materials
1 • Eyes-on-the-street security,
1. Residential alley stoops 1
2. Shared alley access to parking court street-oriented units
H 3. Passage pedestrian entry from street • Common and private space
central feature, orientation and
Zero step entries are also possible in these scenarios.
visual access (see: Ch.2 Sec.
• Porch design integral to mass-
ing/architectural concepts
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Case Studies Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines

Mid-Block Duplex, Alley Access

Two-story streetwall with single-story porches

Developing multiple attached 1
units with independent entries

on a single parcel provides an

opportunity to increase density
at a scale compatible with the 1. Front porch/yard
neighborhood. Either as owner- 2. Alley access garages
ship or rental housing, doubling-
up or tripling-up on lots is a
common method of infill devel- Corner Lot Duplex, Shared Drive Side Street Access
opment. Parking access and unit
orientation are important con- Two-story streetwall with single-story porches
siderations for design and site I

Design Issues:
• Parking access and garage
• Street pedestrian access
• Privacy 2
• Massing/scale within a tradi-
tional single-family block
Design Response: et
• Shared parking access

• Internal parking courts/alley 1. Front porch/yard


• Street-oriented units 2. Shared driveway

• Porches and private yards from side street
• Expressing individual units/
These two case studies illustrate ways of “doubling up” on existing single lots
buildings as module of neigh- with duplex buildings. The top case study is a mid-block lot with alley access. The
borhood housing lower case study is a corner lot with side street access from a shared driveway.
Both duplex case studies have street-oriented units with porches and two-story
streetwalls with upper stories tucked under the rafters as half stories to reduce their
visual height in relation to the two-story context.

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Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines Case Studies

Other Urban Building Types

Many more types of development opportunities will exist in down-
town Ann Arbor in the future. These could include a continuation of
Ann Arbor’s successful track record of adaptive reuse of existing
buildings, additional institutional and public facilities, and develop-
ment of parking structures.

Adaptive Reuse
Adaptive reuse of existing commercial, industrial and residential
structures is a common activity in downtown Ann Arbor. Adaptive
reuse could also be combined with new construction where the
development combination and the uniqueness of the design make
each aspect more interesting and feasible.

New institutional projects such as city facilities, libraries and church-
es, have unique programs and site contexts. It is important for
the design of these projects to fulfill similar neighborhood-building
and social objectives as private sector development. These types
of buildings are also often viewed “in-the-round” requiring serious
architectural design solutions for each elevation.

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Case Studies Downtown Ann Arbor Design Guidelines

Parking Structures
Downtown Ann Arbor has a variety of parking structures. With one
exception, the garages have been built as stand-alone structures
and have not included ground floor commercial uses, office or resi-
dential liner buildings or wraps. Downtown Ann Arbor’s small historic
blocks make it difficult to line parking garages with other uses; how-
ever, this is still the preferred strategy.

The market demand and economic development opportunities for
live-work is a growing trend. Live-work is land use and unit type
discussion, rather than a building type. It can be located in lower or
ground floor units in apartment and condo flat buildings providing an
accessible street-oriented use. They can be included in townhouse
development on higher traffic streets and as alley units in a variety
of building types. Lofts/live-work is also highly appropriate for adap-
tive reuse of high-bay spaces in commercial and industrial buildings.

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