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Posted on Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 5:55 a.m.

First glance inside Ann Arbor's newest high-rise: The Varsity

By Lizzy Alfs

In eight days, downtown Ann Arbor’s newest high-rise apartment building, The Varsity, will open its doors to its first wave of tenants.

Finishing touches are being made this week to the 13-story, 415-bed building at 425 E. Washington St. The Varsity is hosting an open house from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 2, with appetizers, drinks, live jazz and tours of the building.

“We’re doing all the last details,” said Chris Cepeda, a marketing and leasing representative for The Varsity. “They are painting and putting together the gym. The rooms are all finished.”

Cepeda said about two-thirds of the building’s units are leased, and that’s due in part to a management change halfway through the leasing season. Colorado-based Cardinal Group is managing the building for Maryland-based developer Potomac Holdings.


A unit inside The Varsity, Ann Arbor's newest high-rise apartment building.

Melanie Maxwell |

“We have undergrads, we have some graduate students, as well as some people in the working industry, like people from Google and so on,” Cepeda said.

The selling point, he said, is the building’s location and the Sky Lounge on the 13th floor.

“You’re still so close to campus you can walk there, but you’re still surrounded by restaurants and bars,” Cepeda said.

Construction on the complex began in February 2012, and it’s wrapping up right on schedule. Tenants are planned to move in on Aug. 10 and Aug. 23.


Construction started on the building in February 2012 and finished on schedule. Tenants are planned to move in Aug. 10 and Aug. 23.

Melanie Maxwell |

“The building was supposed to be finished ahead of schedule, but rainy weather delayed an early finish,” said Brad Moore of J Bradley Moore & Associates, an associate architect for The Varsity.

The building consists of studio units, and one-, two- and four-bedroom units. Rental rates range from $999 per bed in a four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment to $1,644 for a one bedroom.

At street level, the building has a public plaza with a mid-block pedestrian connection stretching from Huron to Washington streets.

“Since the day this has opened up, it has been a highway with traffic,” Moore said.

There are two levels of parking connected to the building with about 70 spaces, and indoor bicycle spaces. The parking is accessed from both Washington and Huron.

The first two floors of The Varsity have a 24-hour security desk, a leasing office, a 24-hour fitness center, tanning beds, a lounge, and a business center with study rooms.

Similiar to Ann Arbor’s other new apartment developments, units at The Varsity come fully furnished with flat-screen televisions in the living rooms, in-unit washer and dryers, and free Wi-Fi and cable. The Varsity also boasts of a nearly one-to-one ratio of bathrooms to bedrooms.

The 13th floor of the building — the “Sky Lounge” — is an outdoor and indoor area where tenants can lounge, watch TV, and catch sweeping views of Ann Arbor, including the University of Michigan football stadium. Cepeda said the marketing team will be planning weekly events at the Sky Lounge and tenants will be able to reserve the space for events such as birthday parties.

The Varsity is one of nine apartment buildings constructed or approved in the downtown Ann Arbor area since 2009. Landmark, Zaragon West and City Place opened in 2012.

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



Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

Is providing advertising and glossy photos for every apartment complex in town now? This should have been run under "advertising," not news.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

There seems to be a lot of nostalgia for the dumps we lived in while undergrads. Tower living wasn't for me, but I didn't begrudge my friends who did and certainly didn't mind visiting them. Hopefully the new buildings force the slums to upgrade or revert back to single-family homes.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 12:13 a.m.

Let's see, there are 70 parking spaces and 415 beds. Hmmm. Does anyone see a problem here? Where are all the other residents with cars supposed to park? In the adjacent neighborhoods near 425 E. Washington? I predict that the surrounding neighborhoods will be inundated with cars. Why does the city approve these warehouses with inadequate parking?

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

Who can afford a car with what they are paying in rent? I guess there's still mom and dad.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 2:42 a.m.

The City administration, DDA and City Council could care less as long as that TIF money keeps rolling in! Seriously, I do believe that the city administration is attempting to discourage students from bringing cars with them to college. I left my car at home when I went to college and had longer distances to walk between my dorm room and classes. Finally, cars can be parked in various lots and with monthly passes that cost less than the hourly rates. In fact student parking in the lots will fill many of the chronically vacant parking spaces that bring no money to the DDA and the city.

Tom Joad

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 12:08 a.m.

What a stingy-sized living room. I can't see a lot of social interaction going on in there. It's basically the size of a bedroom which is also extremely meager for $1000 a month. 13th floors are UNLUCKY. Should have designated it the 14th.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11:58 p.m.

Seems to be a nice looking facility...but REALLY expensive! That one bedroom apartment is more than we pay for our home mortgage!


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

"We have undergrads, we have some graduate students, as well as some people in the working industry, like people from Google..." The working industry? Huh?


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11:59 p.m.

I thought that was funny, too!


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 8:35 p.m.

NOT impressed.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

Thanks @justcurious Got it. Structure is made of Concrete not Cement. Cement is kind of like the fixodent for the Concrete sand, gravel, and rebar. Can't tell if that's a main thermostat from one of the pictures given but if theses 4 bedroom units are centrally heated then it seems like the CONCRETE outer walls might get just a lttle bit cool in the wintertime when the student shuts their bedroom door for privacy? Or the inner room has to compensate by being extra toasty? Also, since highrises are now hip, does Ann Arbor building code provide for earthquake protection? Those stilts in the garage seem kinda shakey. (a large quake or explosion even in neighboring states can travel a long way due to bedrock. A rare event but still possible especially with all that fracking in Saline).


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

Following Tom's comment above, can do an in-depth article on the % leased of all the new luxury apts as we get closer to september? (i.e. whether supply has already outpaced demand)

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

@Ross: I would love to, and I'll try. Because the buildings are privately-owned, it can be hard to get that information and usually the developers and leasing agents keep that information pretty quiet. But I'll try and dig it up. Thanks!

Tom Whitaker

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

Only two-thirds rented at the start of August is very bad news in a college town. I hope the developers of 413 E. Huron (and their major investor, the UM endowment) are paying attention to what appears to be a very strong indication of a saturated "luxury" student housing market in Ann Arbor. It's not too late to scrap their plans and build something smaller that meets an actual local need. How are the other high rises doing--i.e. Landmark, Zaragon, and 411 Lofts? What about City Place? They didn't come close to filling that last year, even with displaced law students, and they still have a rental marketing banner up for Fall. By the way, is that two-thirds of the units or two-thirds of the beds?


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

Tom - yup. The capitalist that are developing the future units will want to pay close attention. My kick is, if they build-out all these sites under construction and can't fill them what happens? The owners sell-out cheap (or bankrupt)? The new owner reconfigures the high rises to less "student" style? And suddenly there are hundreds of new downtown units for rent or sale 30% less than a "professional / family" unit today?

The Picker

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 9:54 a.m.

Perhaps with U of M holding the note on this building, it will become the next dorm when it fails. Seems like the price will be right in there and they look the part !


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

Very good points and questions.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

415 beds? How many separate units is it?


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

Tanning beds? I thought educated people were going to be living there.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 12:03 a.m.

HaHAhaaa! Best post of the day!


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

It's not that unaffordable, considering a basic double in the dorms costs $10,000 for only 8 months. Extrapolate that month-by-month for a full year and that's $1,250 per month. So on a month-by-month basis, it's actually LESS expensive to have this fancy apartment with your own room/bathroom/living space than share a 12x12 dingy dorm room with a roommate. Of course the dorm package includes some meals, so it probably costs about the same in the end. So yeah, give me one of these apartments over a dorm room any day.

Stuart Brown

Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

AJ16 is right, UofM the putative "non-profit" charges capitalist gouging rates for crappy dorms.

Tom Whitaker

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 4:28 a.m.



Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11:55 p.m.

Squeegee- Things have changed since you graduated. Check the current rates. A standard double is $10,000. I actually had to pay over $13,000 for a single room last year. Thankfully I have good financial aid. Lola- My math is right. If the apartment costs $999 a month without food, and the dorm costs $1,250 with food, then you have $250 to spend a month on food in the apartment to match the dorm price. I could eat on $250 a month easily.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

AJ16 is clearly not good at the maths. LOL Unless he/she thinks food is free or nearly free. These apartments look like a crappy cracker box. I looked through the pictures, saw the price and thought that this HAD to be a joke. Anyone who spends even the low end amount for one of these claustrophobic, ugly dorm room inspired apartments should have their head examined.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

I graduated in '09, and my dorms were $8500 for the year, including my meal plan (the unlimited meal plan is $558/semester), and I lived in a North Campus 2 bdrm suite with a bathroom. Even UM's Northwood apartments are around $850 - 1000/month. So, these are not on par with dorm affordability.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 3:40 p.m.

Why is the parking structure two stories tall (with only one level of parking) ?? What a waste of space.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

With the help of Garage type car lifts they will be able to double or maybe triple the parking in the event that the residents can afford private transportation.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

Should just call them "deep pocket dorms".


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

Wow, for those prices I would expect a little bit more square footage in my apartment. Also, what undergrad can afford an apartment for $999/ 1,644 a month? I'm obviously doing something terribly wrong to be a college graduate and not have that kind of money to drop on my living arrangements

Sean Thomas

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

that is the cheapest, ugliest furniture Ive ever seen. I guess you can afford your own if you rent here. But wow, really?

The Picker

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 9:44 a.m.

The furnishings are obviously a profit center for this company. Can you say " I want my security deposit back "


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

Disposable furniture from Ikea. Designed & priced to be replaced after each beer bong party.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

That much money and iKea furnishings?

Joyce Followell

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

Hey, Ann Arbor has something for everyone. I like the look of the apartments. Beer cleans up better off of cement. If I could have afforded it, I would have put both my daughters in an apartment like that. I think we need to hear from the kids who will be living there.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Residents with roommates will be hoping that lots of deodorant will be used.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 8:42 p.m.

Veracity, hopefully they can afford deodorant after kicking in their share of the rent/utilities!

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

but hopefully easy on the cologne!

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

The double standards of the moderation prevent me from mentioning dorm smell, but you seem to get a free pass.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

My college digs, with creaking stairs, leaky basements, annoying neighbor's dogs, sticky windows, ramen and cheap Mexican beer was character building. I am thankful to have the option to live like this now that I can afford it - humility and delayed gratification. Those kids are going to be out of luck at 23, when they realize their parents are now spending their money on themselves and their BA in English puts them in the housing the rest of us realists graduated from. also: damn kids get off my lawn. Uphill both ways in the snow. Etc.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

Hi Emily, thanks for the laugh! Seriously though, I agree with everything you said.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Very NYC-ish


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

they wish...


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

Very nice. Pack 'M into their boxes. Looks like an environmental design championed by local "progressives". - Infrastructure centered around the core. Lower kitchen ceilings to accomodate pipes, ducts, electrics. - Cement floor of above units serving as ceiling for lowers ? - No closet doors. - Uninsulated cement outer walls? - Minimalist railing around the skyroom patio. - central heating/cooling for all rooms? - fire suppression ? No Studio$ ? Why under new management?

The Picker

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 9:37 a.m.

What about ceeement ponds ?


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

That would be concrete, NOT cement. Portland cement is a component of concrete along with water, aggregate and other additives as needed. Cement can't stand on it's own.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

The 2nd floor lounge and workroom sure look like they were rdecorated by an OSU grad...


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

Hoo boy. Looking at the decor was enough to give me an acid-trip flashback to the 70's. Do the students have to provide their own lava lamps?


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.


K Thompson

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 12:18 p.m.

Looks claustrophobic and institutional with severely Nightmare on Elm St decor. ICK. Hmm, coulda, shoulda, woulda had a library or quite study room, don't see it.

Sara White

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11:44 a.m.

Common areas and amenities look nice, but the apartments themselves look just like every other one of these kinds of buildings in town. Small and generic. But hey, at least they have closets. 411 doesn't even have closets.

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

closets cost $10,000.00 extra... a deal!


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

Management company from Colorado. Developer from Maryland. 415 beds, 70 parking spaces.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:51 a.m.

Good for them. Not our fault someone from MI didn't buy the plot and develop it.

Andy Piper

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11:20 a.m.

Looks like a nice addition to downtown. Looks more student oriented then I had thought - with the four beds furnished set up. A one bedroom downtown for $1644 as mentioned in the article is a great deal - especially in a building with these amenities. Parking extra I am guessing.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

These prices are absolutely outrageous! What college student can afford that much for rent??!?! Maybe if your rich mommy and daddy are paying for it...I certainly would not have paid that much for an apartment during college even while working 2 jobs and supplementing my room and board funds with financial aid. I know these are intended for students, but what Ann Arbor needs more of is decent apartment housing for young professionals who still can't exactly afford $1600+ /month. I'm a working college grad, and I know from experience that if your housing budget isn't over $1000/month, then your options are extremely limited...and um, dingy, old, and dirty.

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

What planet do you live on? $1644.00 for ONE bedroom! give me a break.

Sara White

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

I agree that $1644 for a one bedroom isn't bad for downtown with amenties, if you don't mind the student atmosphere. I am curious about what they do about utilities though. I know that in some of the other high rises, it's kind of a scam. You get charged an extra flat rate for utilities and don't really even have control of the temperature sometimes.

Hugh Giariola

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

Swanky. Looks like nice digs with lots of things included- furniture, cable, internet, washer/dryer. I am jealous and wish my undergrad apt. looked that nice!

Hugh Giariola

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

@Veracity, I suppose because now I am grown up and have a house of my very own.


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

For me, the charm and fond memories of college were living like a college student, not in a fancy high-rise apartment. What's there to look forward to?


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

It is only two-thirds occupied so, if you like it so much, why not move in?

Terry Reilly

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 10:59 a.m.

Whatever. $999.00 per bed? For real? Good luck!


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

This is called capitalism. Let the People decide where to spend their money. It will be interesting to see how this facility, and the new ones being built, do once they are all on the market. And what effect will it have on rundown converted rental homes? And what happens when (if?) online education lowers the cost of a degree by 50% ten years from now?


Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

Since it is 2/3rds leased I would say they really dont need LUCK