You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

2 downtown Ann Arbor housing projects well-received at public meetings

By Lizzy Alfs


A rendering of plans for residential building additions to two properties on South Fourth Avenue.

From J. Bradley Moore Architects

Only a handful of community members weighed in Wednesday night on plans to construct apartments or condos on top of two downtown Ann Arbor buildings, but the feedback was positive.

“This is a wonderful contribution to downtown and it’s going to be a very desirable place to live,” Ann Arbor resident Ray Detter told the projects’ architect, Brad Moore.


Architect Brad Moore details two housing projects at a citizen participation meeting Wednesday night.

Lizzy Alfs |

Moore, owner of Ann Arbor-based J Bradley Moore & Associates, detailed the plans for two separate housing projects during back-to-back citizen participation meetings on Wednesday night. About a dozen people attended the meetings, including the building owners and Ann Arbor city councilmembers Sabra Briere and Jane Lumm.

One project calls to add two floors of residential units along with a rooftop patio to the existing one-story Running Fit building at 121-123 E. Liberty Street.

Meanwhile, the new owners of the mixed-use building at 210-216 S. Fourth Ave., adjacent to the Running Fit building, wants to add three stories of residential units on top of the existing two-story building.

Both proposals call to restore the buildings’ original facades, and the plans require approval from Ann Arbor’s Historic District Commission.

“We’re hoping the combination of the two projects transforms Fourth Avenue, which has been so hard to pull back from where it was in the (1970s),” Moore said.

121-123 E. Liberty proposal

The building at 121-123 E. Liberty St. was a three-story building until a fire in the 1950s destroyed two floors. It’s located in the D1 zoning and the Main Street Historic District.


Step and Angerman own the entire building at 121-123 E. Liberty St. after purchasing the former Metamorphosis Salon space last year.

Joseph Tobianski |

Running Fit owners Randy Step and Steve Angerman want to restore their building to a three-story structure with six residential units occupying the top two floors. There would be a partial fourth floor for an outdoor patio.

Moore said the units would range in size from 530 square feet to 915 square feet, with five one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit. Parking is not included in the plans.

Moore said they have not decided whether the units would be marketed for lease or for sale, and unit prices haven’t been determined.

“We’re trying to keep these in the more moderate price range,” he said.

The enamel steel panels on the building’s facade would be replaced with brick, and Moore said there would be an opportunity for public art — like a mosaic tiles or modern artwork — at street level on South Fourth.

The partial fourth floor would be set back from the building’s facade, and would be surrounded by a green roof with vegetation. (Similar to Moore's Big George's project)

“The idea would be to create some outdoor recreation space for the people who live here on that rooftop,” Moore said.

If approved, Moore said construction could start in summer 2014 and it would take about nine to 13 months to complete. Briere asked that the developers keep the Ann Arbor Art Fair in mind if the project is built, so that construction doesn’t block the sidewalk during the event.

210-216 S. Fourth Ave. proposal

A fire in 1960 caused significant damage to the building at 210-216 S. Fourth Ave., which was occupied by Montgomery Ward & Co. at the time.


The new owner of the building at 210-216 S. Fourth wants to build residential units.

Courtney Sacco |

The aluminum facade was installed on the two-story building after the fire. (See pictures of the fire)

The building’s new owners, Joe Barbat and David Ebner of Barbat Holdings LLC, want to restore the original Montgomery Ward glazed terracotta facade and construct three floors of residential housing set back from the facade. If they can’t get the glazed terracotta materials, they intend to construct a brick facade.

Moore said they contacted Scio Township-based Motawi Tileworks about incorporating its tiles into the new facade.


Susan Wineberg's Lost Ann Arbor shows the old Montgomery Ward & Co. building.

“We would like to incorporate some local artisans on the project,” he said.

Barbat and Ebner also plan to rename the 20,000-square-foot building from the Town Center Plaza to the Montgomery building.

“I think it will be much more attractive with the shape of the old building in place,” Moore told meeting attendees Wednesday night.

Unit sizes haven’t been determined, but Moore said it would be studios, one-bedroom units, and two-bedroom units. There would be about 30 units that would be marketed for sale or for lease.

Moore said they are contemplating the possibility of a partial six floor with a green roof that residents could use for an outdoor patio.

If approved, Moore said construction would take about 14 to 15 months.

Detter told Moore that both proposals are “good projects” for downtown Ann Arbor.

Added Briere: “I think this has the potential to really alter the discussion for how to use downtown and how to build in the historic district.”


The owners of two adjacent downtown Ann Arbor properties - 123 E. Liberty St. (not visible) and 210-216 S. Fourth Ave. (white building in center) - want to construct two to three stories of apartments on top of their existing buildings.

Daniel Brenner |

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 2:25 a.m.

To call Ray Detter 'Ann Arbor resident" is true, but is not telling the whole story.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

Didn't a recent article on A2 Politico expose Ray Detter as posing as something he's not, a CAC member, when he wasn't? (see link below) Since when does an intellectual turned busy-body receive so much press? I'd be more interested in hearing comments from other town architects, designers, city planners, retailers than the exposed town busy-body.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

Thanks for sharing; good to know. The last thing the DDA needs is an echo chamber.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

These appear to be great projects. No sprawl. No highrise. Better looking. Plus jobs and higher property taxes. Good luck!

Ben Freed

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

I wonder what developments like these will do to rental/home prices in downtown Ann Arbor. On one hand, your creating more spaces which should increase supply and drive down prices. On the other hand, the glut of new housing has yet to result in a dip in rental rates and it's likely that these spaces will be highly desirable as they will be new and more "unique" than a lot of of the other new spaces being constructed. This will likely lead to above-current-market prices for the new spaces which could in turn drag the whole rental market upward as landlords see others making more for equivalent spaces. What do y'all think?


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

@Ben Freed....May I please correct just a couple of your second should read...On one hand, YOU'RE creating.....and your final posing a question such as this one, in southern slang to more than one person, the correct wording is "all y'all"..."y'all" is singular, not plural...just a little grammar lesson...but as a journalist, I'm confident you're aware of this.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

The number one thing I see is the need to stop using the word 'glut' to describe the number of high-rise apartment buildings going up. As related to our situation in Ann Arbor, the definition I found for glut is: to flood (the market) with a particular item or service so that the supply greatly exceeds the demand. Since there is no indication (yet) that the supply even meets the demand, let alone exceeds it or greatly exceeds it, glut is an incorrect word that perhaps indicates that the person using it is biased against (by the implication that it is excess). Perhaps surge of new high rises, to indicate a rapid increase, would be more accurate. More to the point, I think that over time the most change will the older converted homes; especially the farther from campus they are. Some will hopefully be un-converted back to traditional single-family units. Also, at some point the high-rises may indeed overwhelm the student market, and perhaps some may have to be converted into more traditional apartments with 1 or 2 bedrooms. After all, wasn't part of the increase of the building height limit supposed to attract apartments for young, modern urban dwellers? The issue there may be in - what else - finding enough parking.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

Hey Dirty Mouth, did you have a citation for this, or is it an observation of yours? "Most people moving to the city still prefer a 2-3-bedroom house with yard versus a high-rise condo." Because my observation is "Most people moving to the city want to live downtown and would love a condo/apt" Together, our study seems inconclusive.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

I'm just waiting for the demand curve to flatten out. At some point it has to. The landlords with crummy, 6-8 bedroom student ghetto houses are going to be the first ones struggling to rent their units, I predict. Sure, they could lower rent, but they wont want to.

Dirty Mouth

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

I think it really depends on what you're looking for out of living in Ann Arbor. Most people moving to the city still prefer a 2-3-bedroom house with yard versus a high-rise condo. Yes, you would think that if more downtown towers are built that it would increase supply and drive down prices, but that has hardly been the case thus far; not even since they've started constructing places like Tower Plaza or Maynard Place. I think the reasons are multiple: The lack of the single professional-urban demographic that favors downtown living and the lack of seniors (that could afford it). Both of these groups are vital to a diverse and prosper downtown, but unfortunately missing in the numbers required making any of these towers a viable financial option for most. Perhaps another group that should be catered to is the "Parents-of-student" group that views these downtown condos as a short-term investment while their child(ren) attend school and then move back to the coasts. In closing, Ann Arbor's amenities are to few to facilitate tower living at this massive scale and developers still have to make a buck.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

"Unique" always sells in A2, especially if the premium isn't too high. And as a low hassle way to maximize existing properties (just like the new Meijer outbuildings) this is attractive to the owners and developers.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

Smart! If Ann Arbor does indeed become the Gotham Metropolis envisioned by the UM/DDA, these "exclusive" little in-out pads will command a premium over their neighboring socialist block sardine cans. Comrade student citizens might just call them their little ddachas.

Dirty Mouth

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

It looks pretty ugly and nondescript. However, the scale is perfect for the neighborhood and it will be a good addition to the corner, unlike the behemoths that have been built recently.