Buyer of Ann Arbor's ex-Greek Church property plans for condo development
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Tom Fitzsimmons, owner of Huron Contracting LLC, purchased the property last month, via a tax foreclosure auction, for $610,200.
Now, Fitzsimmons is planning to move forward with a low-rise condominium development.
“We’re interested in doing a project that I guess, comparatively speaking to what was previously proposed and approved there, will be much less dense,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’re low-rise builders: three to four story townhomes. We’re looking for something we feel fits in well with the neighborhood.”
In 2006, the North Main Street property was zoned as a planned unit development (PUD) when North Main/Fourth Ventures LLC proposed a 158-foot multi-family residential development called “The Gallery.” Plans included an 11-story mixed-use building and a nearby four-story building.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Financing issues and the economic downturn stalled the plans and the property was later turned over to the county treasurer following a tax foreclosure. The former church building fell into disrepair until it was demolished in September.
At auction, the property had a minimum bid price of $365,051. Several bidders took notice of the site — which serves as a gateway into the downtown area — and the price shot up during the last half hour of bidding.
Fitzsimmons said in order for his project to make financial sense, he didn’t plan on shelling out much more than $610,000.
“I’d say we were right at or very close to (my maximum bid price),” he said. “That’s part of our strategy: we think this site is great what made it work for us was being able to get the land at that price.”
Fitzsimmons is partnering with his long-time business associate, Mike Staiti, on the project. His goal is to meet with neighbors, business owners and city officials before moving forward with a formal site plan. He plans to first request that the property be rezoned to D2, which has a maximum allowable building height of 60 feet.
The time frame — although loosely set — would be to complete the project by spring 2014.
Fitzsimmons said he plans to avoid commercial use at the site and thinks its best fit is strictly residential. The number and size of the condominium units has not yet been determined.
“We are looking at keeping it simple and doing what we do best: filling a need of residential in that area,” Fitzsimmons said. “We are not, at this point, looking at expanding on that.”
Fitzsimmons is no stranger to downtown development; in the past two years, he has built five homes in the Kerrytown area. He also just received city council approval for a 3-story townhouse building on Catherine Street.
Photo courtesy of the city of Ann Arbor
“We have done, in the Old West Side, the Water Hill district, Kerrytown and Burns Park, I think right around 31 new homes,” he said.
He added: “We fly it below the radar quite a bit because we try to blend in with the neighborhood.”
One of the challenges of the Greek Church site is an easement with neighbor McKinley Inc. for 57 parking spaces, which was agreed upon when The Gallery project was proposed.
Fitzsimmons said he met with McKinley representatives 60 days before the property went to auction, and he is confident he will be able to provide those parking spaces with the development he has in mind.
“It appears that we will be able to build a project at a significant density that makes sense for us to build there and provide adequate parking for our condos and provide the necessary parking for McKinley — the 57 spaces,” he said.
Although Fitzsimmons’ proposal comes amid an intense development boom in the downtown area, he’s not worried about competition or over saturating the housing market.
“We’re pretty excited about the site and to have this opportunity to build in that area, because we feel there is a need for more housing we see ourselves as the alternative to what is being built in downtown Ann Arbor,” he said. “We are niche builders and it has kept us going.”