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Posted on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Developers file site plans for high-rise apartment buildings on East Huron, Church streets

By Lizzy Alfs

The developers behind two student apartment buildings proposed for downtown Ann Arbor formally have submitted site plans to the city’s planning department.

The projects — which follow a wave of new housing construction in Ann Arbor — would bring 733 bedrooms to the rental market and add two buildings to the downtown skyline.

The first project, proposed by Pizza House owner Dennis Tice in a partnership with Minnesota-based Opus Group, would add 13 stories of residential housing above the existing restaurant on Church Street. An existing two-story residential structure south of the site would be demolished.


A rendering of the proposed development above Pizza House restaurant on Ann Arbor's Church Street.

Rendering by J Bradley Moore & Associates

The development, which would be built in the city’s D1 zoning district, calls for 76 apartment units with 196 total bedrooms. There would be a mix of one-, three- and four-bedroom units and a range of amenities, including a rooftop area and ground-floor plaza.

The developers already reached an agreement with the Downtown Development Authority to provide 42 parking spaces off-site.

Throughout the city’s planning process, the project has received some positive feedback. Architect Brad Moore of Ann Arbor’s J Bradley Moore & Associates detailed the plans to the Design Review Board and to about a dozen residents and neighbors at a citizen participation meeting. (Read more about resident feedback here)

Since going before Ann Arbor’s Design Review Board, the developers behind the second project, proposed for East Huron and North Division streets, have made several design changes.

The 14-story high-rise, located in D1 zoning, would replace a vacant building, a former Papa John’s pizza store and a residential structure. Connecticut-based real estate firm Greenfield Partners purchased the properties for $6 million.


A photo of the rendering by Humphreys & Partners of the 14-story development proposed for East Huron Street. The developers have made since changes to the project in the past few weeks.

Lizzy Alfs |

Plans call for 216 apartments with 537 total bedrooms, and two floors of underground parking with 139 spaces. Georgia-based Carter, the developer spearheading the project, plans to incorporate first-floor retail, a pool and other amenities.

But because the project would abut a historic residential neighborhood to the north, it has been rather controversial among neighboring residents. (Read more here)

In the site plan application, Conor McNally of Carter said “significant modifications” have been made to the original proposal.

“The site layout and building design of the project have evolved through a series of preliminary city staff reviews and meetings with local representatives,” he wrote in the application.

“Based on input from the (Design Review Board) and from neighbors, citizens and elected officials at various meetings held, the development team has made significant modifications to the building design,” the application continues.

Some of the changes include incorporating a glass facade on the corner of the building to draw attention to the “prominent” corner of downtown, a change in facade colors to break up various sections of the tower, and increasing the first-floor setback from the curb.

“(We) created a sizable inset retail plaza at the corner of Huron and Division to enhance the corner experience and provide space for outdoor dining,” the application said.

They eliminated plans for a plaza at the rear of the property, choosing instead to focus on Division and Huron frontage. As per the Design Review Board’s comments, they also plan to replace exposed concrete at street level with either tile or glazed brick.

Both projects will be reviewed by planning staff before going before Ann Arbor’s Planning Commission and City Council for approval beginning in January.

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



Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

At some point , with the economy the way it is (fragile). We will be stuck with empty apt buildings, with less student population. Perfect opportunity for low cost housing.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

This high rise would totally overwhelm and dominate a residential area and historic neighborhood. STOP the madness in Ann Arbor with building all these high rises for rich students!


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

How many high-rise apartment buildings can Ann Arbor and/or the University of Michigan support? Is there a danger of overbuilding? Is there any per-capita or per-student standard measurement that can be applied to our situation? What kind of market research do developers do?


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

I see these buildings as emptying 150 single family housing units, most likely at the farther reaches of the student housing areas. This means real families returning to residential neighborhoods now filled with students. These building are being built virtually next door to building that are both 40 years old and 20 stories high. They do not change the neighborhood any. Take the one on Huron; it will be across the street from two 12 story student housing buildings, next to a 30 year old 8 story apartment building, which is itself next to a 40 year old 14 story hotel. In other words: this part of town was build high-rise 40 years ago. These buildings are just more of the same. The current city council and mayor have been pushing this sort of high-density downtown living for more than a decade. It is awfully late to now be saying you don't want it.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 10:26 p.m.

Once upon a time the voters of Ann Arbor assumed their elected officials were honest brokers for them. After all, this is an intellectual, liberal, tree-town of beautiful parks and trust. Not once did I here a pro-density pro-development City Council put forth any such horror as is happenning today. Those pros like Lowenstein who tried are now gone - almost. Instead, II remember the concerned politicians tirelessly beating the poor developers into delay and setback submission until no more instruments of torture could be applied and the project was beyond any legal ability to halt it - oh woe is council, woe.. Ten years of woe. More recently the voters are waking up to the ugly towers and traffic congestion and lame solutions like pedestrian laws being forced upon them. And make no mistake, the voters are now reacting to that big political lie - stay tuned mayor, remaining proD council, and DDA - more woe is coming. I also missed those real neighborhoods returning somewhere - please specify..


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

Since I do not live downtown, I do not care. Although the additional property tax revenue will be nice. I can't wait to see what new, shiny public art this project spawns.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

We are now harvesting the efforts of the DDA (its Downtown Residential Task Force) and certain members of City Council who have set their sights on a downtown with maximum density and height everywhere. I'm surprised that the business downtown merchant associations have not objected to this reconfiguration of the downtown. Is this really going to be a place anyone wants to visit? We can still have the Art Fair and football Saturdays, but otherwise, who will want to come to this ugly downtown full of wind tunnels? The "Greenbelt link" that was pushed through the Calthorpe process - where we would prevent sprawl by building density in the downtown - has now been exposed as a fraud. I doubt many student were buying ranchettes out in the township.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

Amen, Vivienne. I don't really care too much what they do over on Church St, but E. Huron sure is getting ugly. Also means closed lanes on major arteries during construction, and we can expect that traffic will be even more snarled in that area for some time to come. Welcome to Ann Arbor!


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Don't foget about the Main Street project where Fox Awning-Tent used to be and one on Main near Huron. Add the two in this story and you get upwards of four more high rises. It is hard to imagine that student housing is falling way short. As for parking spaces for the Pizza House expansion, remember, the students would be encouraged to ride bikes or walk.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

Shouldn't be too long, Veracity. Right now it is not mandatory for students to live in the dorms, but UM could change that if they ever needed to.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

The proposed Packard Mall with about 228 apartments is to be marketed as student housing also. Ever wonder when student housing will become saturated and luxury apartment vacancies will become plentiful?


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

Doze the town and make it really high! No one cares anyway.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Oh, and get rid of those two old houses on the right in the picture as quickly as possible. They just aren't urban chic!!


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

Tice adds 196 bedrooms and " developers already reached an agreement with the Downtown Development Authority to provide 42 parking spaces off-site." Greenfield Partners adds 537 bedrooms and only 139 parking spaces underground. 733 bedrooms - 181 parking spots = 552 cars looking for local parking. Does anyone understand why the DDA-AATA wants to award current residents to go green? Add the monthly park deals for govt employees, business', and other highrise kids and the DDA suddenly looks like a suprised cash cow about to be axed.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 9:51 p.m.

Thank you very much for the info. If the DDA is a really a money loser for the City why does it along with paid staff even need to exist in a budget-constrained environment? It doesn't so it's cash cow time. Build enough highrises with bedrooms and there will be a demand for more parking. How many existing highrisers are still looking for a suitable parking spot? Anyone know? Each landlord should provide sufficient parking per bedroom BEFORE being allowed to build. New leases are required to state the absence of any parking - even for visitors - right?. Add more business downtown and there will also be a demand for more parking. The DDA has a vested interest in promoting density development - maybe not so much the voters. Parking has always been a cash cow for the controlling interests in any "dense" city. I am also interested to know why the bond covenant dictates facility use. The City should be free to adjust their own assets to varying needs.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

The DDA does not make money and, in fact, has run deficit budgets for years. The Library Lane parking structure with its 677-odd parking spaces is grossly underutilized and would benefit from monthly parking space leasing to residents of neighboring student housing. However, the covenants associated with the municipal bonds that financed construction may permit only limited private leasing.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Regarding 413 E. Huron, no substantive changes were made following Design Review or Public Input, and no we will not ever again see the sun in our backyard. The building fills the FAR and zoning envelope to the max, with no relief at any facade or along the streets. A recessed colonnade is not a setback above grade, and the recess is not walkable, given the columns under the upper stories. it is one giant mass of a student warehouse, with no accommodation or respect for its neighbors. Pretty sad state of affairs for the city and its citizens.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

@ionic: Yes, it should be noted that the biggest concern -- the context of the surrounding neighborhood and the overall massing -- was not changed in this go-around.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

I don't live there, but I feel your pain.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

"their," not "there." WHY is there no edit function??


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Because pointless grammatical errors should simply be ignored. Who cares.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

"Throughout the city's planning process, the project has received some positive feedback." That's a strong endorsement. Is that all they've got? Positive feedback from the developers, no doubt, and the hands they've greased on the "Design Review Board," of course. From earlier article on this project: "There are a lot of things that I like about this project and I'm happy that it's being built," Ray Detter, chairman of the Downtown Citizens Advisory Council, told the developers. But, he continued, "I thought this was presented as all one and two bedrooms…which I thought, here's an opportunity to really get people living downtown who aren't students." Wrong. It's only being marketed to students and there are going to be 4-BR units. 13 floors of Animal House. Bed sheets covering the windows, pizza boxes sailing off the roof. didn't ask Ray for feedback AFTER he found out his reason for supporting the project was no longer valid. Architect Brad Moore plans a rooftop plaza with a "green roof." Which students will be charged with taking care of this "green roof?" Probably the ones growing pot up there. Who cleans up after the keggers? We know what good care transient students take of there temporary apartments, right? Ask Arch Realty. As of now, this thing is not even going to have windows on the west elevation. Nice. "There will be a plaza next to the front entry on ground level to possibly provide outdoor seating, food carts or artisan booths during the Ann Arbor Art Fair." "Artisan booths." Did they really say that? If by "artisan booths" they mean sofas and inflatable kiddie pools, then yes. There will be that.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

oh, the developers have greased the hands of the design review board? got any evidence or just throwing mud against the wall to see if it'll stick?


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Whoa, I actually kind of like the redesign for Huron Street... If I only I believed I could afford to live there.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

I agree, it looks pretty fresh. I was in the tiny minority who actually didn't mind the initial renderings, either. better than the bland beige boxes going up elsewhere.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

With all the high rises going up you won't see the sun anymore in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

So you got 181 parking spaces for 733 bedrooms. "Nick," you may ask, "Where are the 552 kids supposed to stick their cars?" But all I can tell you is where the developers apparently want the kids to stick them. Anyway, Ann Arbor meter maids should strongly consider moving to a commissioned pay structure in their next contract; and even as we speak, high-performance modifications are underway to the cash register at Brewer's Towing.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

Realistically, many will bring them : -0


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

Hopefully, most students will not bring cars to campus.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

booo, dont like it. A2 is not a high-rise type city IMHO.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

... Actually, more of a mid-rise kind of city. I kind of like the re-do of the Huron St. bldg. Be nice to see a more detailed rendering.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

I don't care for it either, Bcar, but unfortunately, A2 IS quickly becoming just another ugly, high-rise city.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

@zanzerbar: When the Pizza House owners renovated and expanded the restaurants years ago, they did it with this type of project in mind. They put infrastructure in so that the restaurant building can handle up to 17 floors on top of it.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

"Would add 13 stories of residential housing above the existing restaurant on Church Street." You sure about that, don't see how you can add 13 stories about a existing building that was not structurally designed for that purpose.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

It was designed to support 15 stories above if I recall the original construction. It's in a D1 zone so the original construction (remodel) was designed to support the future - what a concept. Kudos to them.