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Planners Protest Federal Building But OK Rezoning

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Planners Protest
Federal Building
But OK Rezoning

The Planning Commission recom-
mended Tuesday night that City Council
reject a construction plan for Ann Ar-
hor's proposed federal of ing.

" Support for the project came from
newly elected commission Chairman El-
wood Holman. He said it is a "fairly
good" site plan proposing a handsome
building that fits into the planning
scheme for that section of the downtown.
The project would be "a "u * 'n the arm
for Ann Arrbor," he saic;

Cmsr. John L. Laird also ' d it,
and questioned if local oppo^ , ;,ight
kill the project. If the commission
doesn't like certain aspects of ^he plan it
should adopt a resolution saying so,
Laird said.

H this building project fails all we
tan say is, 'I'm sorry.' I'm not willing to
take that chance," he added.
\ The commissioners did ; '' i»1}y
agree that the best hope for the
changes would be to send the mayor to
Washington, D.C. to speak with the GSA,
and to enlist the support of Michigan

A public hearing before the commis-
sion discussion drew mixed reviews of
the proposed federal building. Local
architect Richard Ahearn accused the
GSA of not following federal require-
ments in its environmental impact state-
ment. He said the building design was of
a "warehouse type character."

The demolition of the Masonic Temple
was applauded by attorney Clan Craw-
ford. He called li "the biggest white ele-
phant ever built in this town. The sooner
we get rid of it the better."

But Robert Murphy, 1217 Prospect,
said the temple is a historic structure
and "a lot in it is worth saving."

Support for the ?' building came
from Richard BH!! ^ecutive secre-
tary of the naw Contractors
Association-gci ; nd subcontractors,
and Charles Thomas Jr., from the Black
Economic Development League, both of
whom said the project would create
much needed construction jobs. J

The denial recommendaiiui^ ^aine on a
5-4 vote. with five commissioners favor-
ing a site plan for the $4 million building
and four opposing. Commission rules re-
quire six votes for an approval recom-

The decision to oppose the site plan
was more of a protest against the
ffovernment's unwiilingness to make
city-favored changes in the plan than a
desire to stop construction.

Even the four commissioners who vot-
ed against the project said they wanted it
built, but hoped an" adverse vote w make the Genera! Service Administra-
tion, which is handling constrr
more amenable to alterations.

Even if City Council should also deny
the site plan, which is not likpiv the im-
pact is dubious. Tl ill does
not need the city's appi^nai iwi construc-
tion and is going through the site" plan
process only at Ann Arbor's request.

No construction schedule for the build-
ing has been announced, but ground
breaking is expected to be in March.
Demolition of existing buildir not
yet started.

While rejecting the site plan, the com-
mission unanimously approved rezoning
the land involved, two acres in the 300
block, between Fifth and Fourth
Avenues, to a public latid use.

Unlike past commission sessions
where attempts to save the Masonic
Temple gained the spotlight, Tuesday
night the commissioners directed their
concerns more specifically at potential
parking problems the building would

These include objections that a ground
level, parking lot planned for Fifth
Avenip " - *-1 be unattractive and wast-
ed^ sp rs that it would cause a
"traffic bottleneck and a potential down-
town parking space shortage.

The denial was recommended by the
.planning staff. It listed eight reasons,
'» mostly technical, why the site plan does
; not meet city requirements, the most |2

serious being that the site is not now v
^adequately served with water mains.
|l The Masonic Temple was hardly men-
Utioned by commissioners. However, they 1
|feceived a letter from a regional GSA of-
J|Rcial saying the building could not be
Itsaved without endangering the entire


i Public Buildings Service Commission-
||cr W. B. Morrison said "the time delay
f could very " °i1 prevent GSA from fund-
•^ ing this pr

t Morriso' site plan alterations
Icould boo^ st of the project, limit-
ing funds for construction.

The dei of the Temple is re- -
{quired, Morrison, said, because it inter-
feres with the southern exposure needed
Ifco use solar heating for the building.
'^ Planners had writtw Morrison asking
if tt would be possii lete the tem-
' pie from the site and use another vacant
,parcel for the parking lot which would
replace the Temple. Morrison said al- .1
though this might be legally possible, I
"we sincerely believe that it is in the
best interests of both Ann Arbor and the
federal government that no change in the |
rnrrpnt (

(oituTnt»an»n support for the denials
'recommendation came from Cmsr.'ll
Franz Mogdis, who said he was "ap-
'• palled at the arrogance of the GSA." He
said the city would be kidding " ' '
thinking it could get the desired t „ s
(by simply requesting them.
< It was suggested that the commission g
(could vote approval but with a list of^j
contingencies. But Cmsr. Robert Potts^
rejected this. "To use the word approval I
,is a symbol o" ^pscence," he said.
Joining Mor i Potts in voting -
against f lan were Cmsrs. Nancy^
White am; ' i; K. Meade. 1