CWA develops design guidelines to ReImagine Washtenaw Avenue

Washtenaw Avenue (M-17) is a busy hodgepodge of sprawling, congested land uses, designed for cars. It passes through four communities – Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti Township and Ypsilanti – and, in 2012, those communities came together to ReImagine Washtenaw. The team contracted with Carlisle/Wortman Associates and another planning firm to create design guidelines for Pittsfield and Ypsilanti townships, which controlled the middle and most developed and congested section of Washtenaw Avenue.

The design guidelines mean that future development will

  • Make it easier for pedestrians to get around and make pedestrian spaces more inviting
  • Encourage a mix of uses
  • Incorporate functional public spaces and decorative public art
  • Ensure transportation choices
  • Provide “complete streets” for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians of all abilities, and
  • Offer varied housing options

“The guidelines recommend incentives to get the kinds of development envisioned in the plan,” said CWA’s Ben Carlisle. “For example, Pittsfield Township used the guidelines to create a zoning ordinance that doesn’t allow a drive-through without an offsetting public benefit. The result is a win/win for the developer and the community.”

reimagine-washtenaw-web

The design guidelines try to make it easier for people to ride the bus and bring riders to the system. It puts buildings closer to the bus and street. Developers will be rewarded for incorporating bus stops into their projects with features like lighting, shelters, benches or real time route updates.

“One of the things we had to overcome with land owners was their pessimism,” Carlisle said. “We had to convince them that the high standards of the design guidelines could work and would bring better development. There had been so little investment in the area over the years. This is a true public-private partnership and it’s going to pay off, because all the data show that every dollar of public investment brings multiple dollars in private investment.”