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Posted on Thu, Oct 28, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Downtown's 'Fritz Building' on corner of Liberty and Main to get new look

By Paula Gardner

What’s the best corner in downtown Ann Arbor?

Many in Ann Arbor real estate circles say the intersection of South Main and Liberty still holds that honor (though State and Liberty is coming on strong).

Now, sometime in 2011, the owners of one of those corner buildings plans to give a new look to the southern wall of what’s known as the Fritz Building at 223 S. Main St.

lib at main.jpg

The building at the northeast corner of South Main and Liberty, known as the Fritz Building, will get a new exterior look to open ground-floor visibility for the retail tenant.

Paula Gardner |

Today, the building houses Occasionally Gifts. But, since the store will be leaving the space by summer, building owners Jim and John Curtis plan to activate a plan approved in 2008 to add two separate bay windows on the Liberty Street side of the building.

One window will be 8 feet wide; the other 16 feet. Together, they’ll serve to improve visibility for the next tenant and also improve the pedestrian experience on that block.

“We felt confident that the project would improve the overall look of the building at this important downtown intersection,” John Curtis told me in a detailed email in response to my questions.

“… We also believe that this tasteful enhancement of the property will stimulate general business and benefit nearby retailers.”

The designs for the project were done byKelly/Tinker & Archiopolis Architects of Ann Arbor. And after its under way, the work should take about one month to complete.

There’s just a small sign advertising the change on the Liberty side of the building.

But downtown property owners agreed with me that the change will result in a big change on this key downtown corner.

“It’s like windows to the world on Liberty,” said Ed Shaffran, speaking to the activity and vitality of the corner.

He pointed to the building on the southeast corner as an example of how windows can change the pedestrian experience: Selo/Shevel Gallery, which rotates its inventory in the windows, giving visual treats to passers by.

“I think it will be a wonderful improvement,” Shaffran said.

Fritz Bldg. South Elev. Color View.jpg

A rendering of the building shows the new bay windows planned for the East Liberty corner.

Curtis Commerical

The project is moving forward at a time when real estate deals on South State over the past year have overshadowed Main Street in this market in volume and, commercial real estate agents agree, rental rates.

But this is the corner that pushed the market about 8 years ago after renovations to the building now home to Starbucks Coffee.

“Main Street is one of the jewels of Ann Arbor,” Curtis wrote, adding that Main and Liberty is an “undeniably important intersection.”

Meanwhile, the store at the corner of the building is 1,300 square feet, plus full basement.

“Though we have had inquiries about this retail space, we have not yet selected a new tenant,” Curtis said.

One option that isn’t being considered: Restaurants.

There are “many existing food choices already on Main Street,” Curtis said. “…It is our desire to create the best mix of businesses.”

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by email. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.



Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 4:40 p.m.

O'Gifts has been there for two decades and Linda is now retiring. No other location is planned. The bay windows will only extend out 6 inches, the same as the existing window on the Libery side. There will never be a horrible Starbucks or Mcanything on that corner; or any other restaurant for that matter. The owners were pretty clear about that. The only chain that would be considered would be a Michigan based retailer. The work is confirmed to begin summer of '11.


Thu, Oct 28, 2010 : 2:20 p.m.

How far out over the wall edge will the bay windows extend? This could cause an issue for the inebriated young people on the weekends having to stagger "around" a bay window.

Bob Martel

Thu, Oct 28, 2010 : 1:41 p.m.

I agree that the addition of those windows will add a lot to that section of downtown. I sure hope we can get something other than yet another food place in there, though.


Thu, Oct 28, 2010 : 10:48 a.m.

Paula, I hadn't heard the Occasionally Gifts was leaving that space. Are they going out of business or moving to another location?

Jeff Renner

Thu, Oct 28, 2010 : 9:54 a.m.

The Washtenaw County draft board office was on the second floor. As a freshman at U of M in September, 1964, I went there to register. It seemed so far away from campus!


Thu, Oct 28, 2010 : 8:06 a.m.

Somewhat Concerned said, "Starbuck's added nothing to downtown, although it probably is making a bundle for the landlord". I'm not a Starbucks coffee drinker, but if the place is "making a bundle", that's a good sign that it was welcomed in downtown AA by customers. A nice blend of local, national, and for that matter international, business offerings are a good mix.

Somewhat Concerned

Thu, Oct 28, 2010 : 7:48 a.m.

Please - not another chain anything. If the landlord jacks up the rent enough, that's the only kind of tenant that will be able to afford the space. Windows don't make downtown worth shopping, it is the local stores that we can't shop at in the malls (with their free parking). Starbuck's added nothing to downtown, although it probably is making a bundle for the landlord.


Thu, Oct 28, 2010 : 7:44 a.m.

I remember going to the doctor in the Fritz bldg. I believe it was Dr Schumacher in the middle 1950's. I remember there was a person that had to operate the elevator for you.