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 Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Downtown Ann Arbor's next high-rise? Building on East Huron sold to Connecticut real estate firm

By Lizzy Alfs

(Editor's note: This story has been revised to correct the zoning of the property.)

Is another high-rise development project in the pipeline for downtown Ann Arbor?

Bruce Thomson, the former longtime owner of the property at 413 E. Huron St., said the outcome is likely.


The building at 413 E. Huron St., pictured in 2008. file photo

The 10,300-square-foot building and parking lot, situated on a 0.75-acre site between Sloan Plaza condominiums and a Papa John’s pizza store, was sold last month from Thomson’s family trust to Connecticut-based real estate investment firm Greenfield Partners.

The price, according to city documents: $4.5 million.

Thomson said the property has been in his family for more than 80 years. Over time, the building housed an A&P market, Michigan Bell, a bank and a University of Michigan office.

But after 80 years, Thomson said his family was just “ready to move on.”

The site has on and off been listed for sale for about five years. In 2007, it was being marketed for sale for $6 million.

In 2008, Thomson and his wife, Linda, toyed with the idea of redeveloping the site on their own. They planned to redevelop the existing building and construct a neighboring two-story, 15,000-square-foot structure.

The project included eight retail shops and seven luxury student apartments, according to previous reports. Thomson also had plans to install a driveway lined with streetlights and benches between the two buildings, which would lead to 20 parking spaces in rear.


The former A&P market, pictured in June 1975, was in business at 413 E. Huron St. for 37 years.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Thomson

But Thomson told this week that the real estate market turned south and his plans never came to fruition.

“We never actually went through city approval,” he said. “I had a plan I wanted to do…the bottom fell out of the market and we decided it didn’t make sense to build it.”

Greenfield Partners — which is operating under the name Ann Arbor Green Property Owner LLC — is a privately owned real estate investment firm based in Connecticut. Its asset management office is based in Chicago.

The company’s website says it specializes in direct investment; restructuring of financial obligations; development, redevelopment and repurposing; and repositioning assets.

Representatives with the company did not respond to several requests for comment and no site plans have been submitted to the city of Ann Arbor.

The property is in the D1 zoning district, which allows for mixed residential and commercial development. The maximum building height for the East Huron segment is 150 feet.

“I assume it will end of a up high-rise of some kind, but I don’t know what they will do,” Thomson said. “It’s zoned for high-density development, which is what makes sense, so I’m sure it will end up some kind of high-density development.”

The property sale comes while downtown Ann Arbor is in the midst of a housing boom. There are six approved or under-construction housing projects in the area surrounding downtown. Among them: 618 South Main, Ann Arbor City Apartments, Landmark, Zaragon West, The Varsity and City Place.

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



Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 2:13 a.m.

150 ft building is a high rise? Maybe in 1817?

Wolf's Bane

Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

Careful. Building all of these high rises with no real market need may encourage Zombies to move in and settle.

alan haber

Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 3:28 a.m.

i shopped in the old a&p and remember the building there through its various incarnations including the last several years of vacancy after the university left. The advocacy group, "Imagine Warming Centers, inc" seeking space for a self managed community center for homeless people for last winter, (and the future) approached the management of this vacant building, 10,000 square feet of accessible space, to negotiate a use agreement through the winter, or until the building was sold to be torn down and replaced with some more profitable structure. The not-for-profit warming center group was turned down; they would not even talk with us. They were expecting a new high paying tenant, so they said, (deceptively.) Imagine Warming Centers had looked at various vacant commercial properties (still vacant) and were turned down by all. The advice was search for a building slated for demolition, which is what took us to the old a&p. It will likely sit for another year or so vacant while the new out of towners figure out what to build for the most profit and try to get their plan through the gauntlet of city approvals. Sadly, the Thompson family, in town for 80 years or not, was at one with the cold hearted culture of these times, when they could have done something beneficial, costing them nothing; in my view its fine they are "moving on." They were no more cold hearted, however, than the City government itself that still refuses to permit a vacant city building (721 North Main) to be rented and used as a temporary community center through next winter by the imagine group, until a greenway plan for redevelopment of the site is approved and ready for implementation. Perhaps, at least the big tax dollars anticipated from the high rise to be will reduce the city administration's singleminded urgency to sell the "library lot" for private taxable development rather than allowing it to become an Ann Arbor central park and "libra


Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 12:33 a.m.

I remember that A & P. It was still there when we moved to Ann Arbor. Thanks for posting the photo.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

This is bound to be fun. Sloan Plaza is full of not only nice but VERY WEALTHY people. I don't think anyone living there is likely enjoy the view of brick less than 50 feet away. Yet at the 4.5 million dollar price, what else but a high rise would make economic sense?

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:17 p.m.

I recall that when the Downtown Plan was being discussed at council, there were some nearby residents who passionately argued to have this zoned D2. It makes sense to me, since it is right on the fringe of downtown (I believe that residences abut these lots on the back). Too bad Council went ahead with the most intense downtown zoning for this area.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 10 p.m.

Whatever highrise that is built there, should be geared towards professionals and families, not 6 kids to an apartment student housing! I wouldn't mind living in a mini-New York or mini-Chicago, just think of the non-student population for a change. Professionals and families will have no problem committing to a full year lease w/o all the subleasing craziness!


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

Maybe if we get a few more apartment buildings, a grocer will see there are enough customers to open shop downtown.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

"I assume it will end of a up high-rise of some kind, but I don't know what they will do," Thomson said. "It's zoned for high-density development, which is what makes sense, so I'm sure it will end up some kind of high-density development." I'm sure the residents of Sloan Square will love having a high rise next door.....great views! WAY too many monster buildings in A2, destroying the character of the city and adjacent neighborhoods, IMO. But hey, if it means more tax revenue, the city says, "go for it!" Who cares what happens to downtown as long as the taxes keep rolling in!


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Be careful what you say, as many of the people commenting love high-rise buildings. They are going to vote you down! I personally agree with you that it is and has destroyed the character of Ann Arbor. We can thank our mayor, city leaders and most of city council for this. If and when they are replaced - all they will say is "we did the best we could do", even if not logical (ie - pedestrial crossing issue, diverting critical funds for art, the AA Big Dig, etc.).


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

For once, this is the PERFECT place to build a high-rise! Go for it!! How about plain-ol medium priced apts? Not luxury student apts, but something for the average working stiff who wants to live downtown. Go for it!!


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

I'd have loved the opportunity to live downtown, but as a soon to be retired working stiff, there's no way I can currently afford the prices downtown.

say it plain

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 4 p.m.

There's no development money in that. There's money for the nouveau poor, i.e. small families who had been on the edge of not making it but were given loans to buy homes in the boom anyhow, who now have to (want to? probably not...) rent. And there's money for student housing. The small family housing gets located in sprawl regions, and the student housing tends to be overpriced and not really appealing to "working stiffs". The best that "working stiffs" can hope for, my guess is, is that the rents on the meh housing stock that has used to house all the students come down a little. I hope I'm wrong, time will tell...some small chance also that all the student towers will not be fill-able only with students, but the pricepoints there are hardly affordable if you're talking about *earned* money...


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Hate to have a west-facing Sloan condo about now -- that million-dollar view is going to be into someone else's kitchen soon enough. Still, if a developer can make sense of a viable project on the main thoroughfare through downtown, really, on what grounds are the objections to be made? Jobs? Additional residents and/or businesses in the heart of downtown?

say it plain

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

If there were a 'viable' connection between the willingness of banks to approve loans for development and the 'sense' of a project, I'd agree. But right now there is money to be made from non-sense in college town housing, and we might suffer because of it. Even if you are just fine with the idea of all downtown taken over by student housing complexes. We'll see how all these new projects pan out...I'm especially interested in seeing how the 618 Main Street deal works out, i.e. whether it truly attracts and retains these "young professionals" it claims to be about.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

Just when you thought we were already over the brink on high rise apratments, yet another one on the drawing board. What to these know that we don't? Or what is it most of us are missing? The 1975 file photo is pretty cool. Hard to imagine there was a grocery store on E Huron. I was a student here at the time and completely forgot about that. (It was in the last century)

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

Hey, here's an idea. how about some Badly-Needed low-income housing? Ohhhhh, sorry, I forgot. makes too much sense.

say it plain

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

@xmo, you mean one of the USA's top public university towns! Better hope that student debt bubble doesn't deflate! Or else, of course, we can become ever more like a town whose sole purpose is to cater to the offspring of the wealthiest as they purchase their college degrees, sort of like a resort town where the 'season' is september to may. Wait, I think we may have become that already, for the most part...


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

The badly needed low-income housing is called "Ypsilanti". We have enough of it already. How about some "Big High Rises" to house all of the people that want to live in one of the USA's top ten cities! Build baby Build!


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

In a growing community such as Ann Arbor you only have two options, you can grow UP or you can grow OUT. I prefer UP! Bring on the high rises. Do some of you really prefer sprawl??

say it plain

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Also, @NorthsideZak, wanna share your "growing community" numbers? From the census numbers I just looked at, Washtenaw Co grew a little from 2000 to 2010 but Ann Arbor the city lost a little population (but it's essentially the same, not significant change in either direction). GIven all these new housing units, you'd think the UM was planning on accepting a couple thousand more bodies per year, but they'd claimed they wanted to cut back again...

Mike D.

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

Amen. We voted for the Greenbelt, which we have to balance by building up. What are people so scared of? If you need more sun, move to a higher floor!

say it plain

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

the thing is, we already *have* sprawl too, woohoo, we are now getting truly "complete" then I guess as a community!

Ron Granger

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

Now the city council can figure out just how large of a tax credit to give these wealthy, out of state "elites" to complete the plan they are going to do regardless.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

No more high rises in Ann Arbor. Thank you.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

>> [More high-rises is] 100x better than sprawl. << Yes, and it's a pretty direct trade-off. The population can either expand up, or expand out. Assuming a growing population, the housing needed for more people, and the businesses they patronize, can either go in taller buildings, or in areas father out -- classic sprawl. IMO up is generally better, within limits. And of course it requires less highway construction/maintenance, and expends less fossil fuel.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

It's 100x better than sprawl.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

It's too late for no more high rises. The more people that live downtown, the more vibrant the area.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

No more parochial NIMBY's either, please.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:38 a.m.

The building on the east side of the A & P was originally Herb Estes Ford, sold in the 1960's to Henderson Ford. Henderson built the current Ford facility (now Varsity Ford) and moved there ca. 1970. 505 East Huron (the address) became the Ann Arbor Volvo-Mazda dealership until it merged with Toyota Ann Arbor in the 70's and moved east to Ypsilanti Township (on Washtenaw) to a shuttered VW dealership.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

Looks like a good site for an under ground parking garage.

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

dconkey, GOOD LORD NO!!!! one black hole of Calcutta is too much already..

Sabra C Briere

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

Mr. Thomson mis-spoke or the research in the article was erroneous. The zoning for this property is D1. It's in the East Huron segment of the new D1 zoning, and so has an absolute height of 150 feet (not the 180 feet that is absolute elsewhere in the D1 zoning). All buildings in D1 can be mixed use or single use (residential, commercial, office). You can read the zoning requirements here: And yes, a planned project can be taller or have different set-backs from one that fits the zoning code; it cannot hold more people or be bigger (more square feet) than one that's designed to fit the code.

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Thanks, Sabra. The change has been noted.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

We can only hope you're right!


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 10:54 a.m.

Yes, another high-rise building! The vision our mayor and city council have for AA is to turn it into another New York City, where the only time the sun will hit the streets and sidewalks is when it is overhead at noon.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

Easy tiger. Eight million people aren't going to fit in one office building.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

You'll be fine at Pauline and Maple before the sprawl erupts over the next couple years.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 10:51 a.m.

A & P had more than 50% of the national grocery market in the 1950's due to stores like this one. At the time they were built they were "super" markets, which were enormously larger than existing grocery stores, with a greater selection. A & P popularized the concept of the customer gathering their groceries, and carrying them to a check-out counter. During the sixties and seventies, larger grocery stores with move parking were built by others farther from downtown ( e.g. Meijer's Thrifty Acres at Carpenter and Elsworth (1972)) all over America to the point that A & P almost went bankrupt. A & P is currently a shadow of its former self, I moved to Ann Arbor in 1974, leaving a job at the Oldsmobile factory in Lansing. The second photo showing the A & P store has a 1974 Oldsmobile Delta 98 in the foreground. I ran a machine which made the metalwork around the taillights.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

If you increase the size of the photo, it is definitely a traditional GM dealership sign with what appears to be a Cadillac emblem up high. Would be nice if someone could remember the dealership owners name. Thanks.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

I remember that being a Cadillac dealership in the early 70's. My sister lived on Ann St., directly behind that location. I believe it was called Curt Turrova(sp) Cadillac that eventually moved out to Jackson Ave (also in the 70's). Anyone else remember the same? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

Very interesting. Thanks for the history!


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

Good post Nick, Henderson Ford was next door and before that a bowling alley.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : noon

Very cool story, Nick, thanks for sharing!


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:04 a.m.

The building on the other side of the A&P was Henderson Ford I believe.

Chip Reed

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 10:20 a.m.

A supermarket downtown. What a concept!

rusty shackelford

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

By no reasonable measure could White Market be called expensive, and I'd wager a lot that the AP referenced here was not any bigger than either White or PFC. Our notion of "super"market has inflated. If only Meijer qualifies as a supermarket, of course there isn't one downtown, since it would take up ALL OF DOWNTOWN.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

Yeah hurry on down to Babo today's special peanut curry tofu just $12/ lb. I wish I was joking...


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Rusty, none of those are even close to being called a supermarket, and all except Sparrow's are very expensive.

rusty shackelford

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

Such a good one that White, PFC, Sparrow, and Babo are already on it!