By Tom Perkins | Special to The Ann Arbor News
on July 02, 2015 at 5:35 AM
Plans are moving forward for a 2,700-square-foot Ann Arbor State Bank branch with a drive-thru proposed for the Ellsworth and State roads intersection.
The plans have been in front of the Pittsfield Township Planning Commission several times since February as planners and architects worked to find a more “urban” and pedestrian-friendly design to satisfy the township’s vision for the corridor.
At its June meeting, the Planning Commission approved preliminary site plans and a conditional use permit. Final site plans will likely be back before the commission at its July meeting.
Peter Schork, co-founder and president of Ann Arbor State Bank, said the 7-year-old company selected the corner because it’s in an area with a high level of business activity that’s also experiencing strong growth.
“Those are both very good things for banks,” he said.
The company’s emphasis on local small and medium businesses and direct customer contact that’s typically missing from bigger banks’ equation is what has driven its growth, Schork said.
The bank has one branch in downtown Ann Arbor around 95 percent of its customers are in Washtenaw and Jackson counties.
“A lot of banks are contracting their branch presence because they have too many, but for us, we have an opportunity to get our name out there even more. We’re bucking the trend with big banks closing offices,” Schork said. “The Ann Arbor market is good, especially south Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township, which previously wasn’t growing at all, but is growing now.
“This corridor on State Street has a lot of good activity going on.”
The property, at 3930 S. State St., is zoned Form-Based and a part of the township master plan’s State Road Mixed Use District that calls for more pedestrian friendly and urban developments.
“The Mixed-Use I designation … will exhibit an urban feel. The designation further promotes easy pedestrian and vehicular access between uses,” Ben Carlisle, a planning consultant for the township with Carlisle-Wortman previously wrote in a memo to the commission. “The master plan envisions new development along State Street will evolve from an auto-dominated corridor to one that offers multiple transportation options and mixed-use opportunities.”
The township originally asked for a pedestrian plaza with a bench and public art, but that was made difficult by the presence of stormwater drainage along State and Ellsworth.
Instead Ann Arbor State Bank would build a brick retaining wall with metal planters and the township logo on the wall. According to a township memo, changes to the building’s design will also help provide the urban feel that the township seeks. Among those features are a standing seam metal roof instead of shingles, decorative lighting, stone accents in the façade and aluminum frames around the windows.
Carlisle stressed that he doesn’t speak for the Planning Commission as a whole, but said the commission “was satisfied with the design changes to give the building a more urban feel.”
He added that the parcel is unique because of the drainage along State and Ellsworth which makes developing it within the vision of the State Street corridor more difficult.
“However, they were satisfied that the redevelopment of this highly visible corner will set the stage for redevelopment in the surrounding area that meets the vision of the Master Plan,” Carlisle said.
Township records show the property is current on its taxes and has an assessed value of $280,000. The 1.6-acre parcel currently holds a vacant greenhouse, nursery and parking lot, all of which would be demolished and cleared.