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Posted on Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

High-end apartments, condos proposed for top of historic downtown Ann Arbor building

By Lizzy Alfs


Local developer Ed Shaffran wants to add two floors to his Goodyear building in downtown Ann Arbor.

Melanie Maxwell |

Envisioning strong demand for high-end condos and apartments in downtown Ann Arbor, a local developer recently proposed adding two floors to the top of one of his historic buildings.

Ed Shaffran of Ann Arbor-based Shaffran Companies submitted preliminary plans to the City of Ann Arbor to construct two floors — totaling 12,800 square feet — to the top of the Goodyear building, located on the corner of East Washington and South Main Streets.

The proposal comes amid a wave of new housing construction in downtown Ann Arbor.

Residential high-rises like The Varsity, Zaragon West, Landmark and Ann Arbor City Apartments will bring thousands of new bedrooms to downtown in the next two years. Another housing project, 618 South Main apartments, was recently approved by Ann Arbor City Council.

But unlike these developments, Shaffran’s plans would add residential units to the top of an existing building and would include a mix of apartments and condominiums.

The plans call for six to eight apartments and five to six condominiums on top of the three-story building, which was first constructed in the 1860s.

“We’ve looked in the past to add to an existing building, and our first attempt, although meager, was about 10 years ago when we looked at adding a single floor to the Goodyear building,” Shaffran explained.

He added: “We’ve been looking at high-end, or upper-end residential developments in the downtown…we feel the time is now.”

Shaffran has already pioneered several loft developments in downtown Ann Arbor, including units at 306 S. Main St., 209-215 S. Fourth Ave. and 120 E. Washington St. He also owns lofts at 1012 Pontiac Trail in the former Suzuki Technical Center.

He owns the Pretzel Bell building on East Liberty Street and the People’s Food Co-op building on North Fourth Avenue, among others.


A perspective street view of the addition on top of the Goodyear building

Photo courtesy of Shaffran Companies

He said he’s been looking for more than a year to find another residential development site in downtown.

“We’ve been working with a handful of folks over the last year or two in a variety of projects to build loft apartments or loft condos downtown,” he said. “We’ve not been able to find the right site; we’ve looked and looked and looked. We thought the easiest thing might be just to add to our own building.”

The plans for the Goodyear building — which are still in the preliminary stages — are limited to a 12,800-square-foot addition because it’s in the city’s D1 zoning district and also in the Main Street Historic District.

The addition also should not detract from the existing historic building, said City Planner Jill Thacher, which is why Shaffran plans to have the additional floors set back from the front of the building.

Thacher said the development also must be distinctive from the original building.

“(It needs to be) clear that the addition was not built when the building was built…you have to make sure you can distinguish it was built in 2012 and not 1912,” she said.


Shaffran said his development will be similar to the condo above Vinology in that it will be set back from the front of the building.

Lizzy Alfs |

According to Shaffran’s plans, each additional floor would total 6,400 square feet and the addition would be set back from the front of the building.

He said the condo units would probably be on the fourth floor with terraces, and the apartments would be located on the fifth floor.

“It’s a pretty simple structure,” Shaffran said. “Probably most folks really won’t notice it from the street.”

Thacher and Shaffran both cited Fred Beal’s condominium development above Vinology on South Main Street as a guideline for the Goodyear project. That condo is set back and hardly visible from parts of Main Street.

Shaffran said he has not set any price ranges for the residential units, but after having discussions with people interested in downtown condos, he said he’s working on incorporating some of the amenities of larger residential developments.

That potentially includes a small fitness center and an efficiency unit for guests, he said.

He said the project, if approved, would not disrupt current tenants in the Goodyear building aside from construction noise. Tenants include The Gown Shop, Workantile, Ann Arbor State Bank and more than a dozen offices.

Shaffran is working with Michael Corby of Grand Rapids-based Integrated Architecture on the project.

Thacher said the plans will first be reviewed by Ann Arbor’s Historic District Commission at its August or September meetings. Plans would then go before Ann Arbor’s Planning Commission and require approval from Ann Arbor City Council.

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


Billy Bob Schwartz

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

So, can we now revisit how Dave Brandon caused Michigan Stadium football tickets to soar? Let's attract as many millionaires and beyond, and then ask them what they plan to do on Saturday afternoons in the fall. Yeccccchhhhhh.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

A2 needs more high end condos and apartments? I don't think so. How long did it take to sell those high end condos over on S. Main Street? How about the condos on Plymouth that couldn't sell and were turned into apartments. Enough "high Income" in A2. Why not build condos and apartments for the middle-income residents? Why ruin a nice historic building by putting penthouses on top that won't sell? Looks to me like hot boxes atop a nice building, with all sides exposed. Good luck with heating and cooling those high end boxes and parking your car.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

Looks good to this townie! The department store is long gone and has been divided into multiple units. Let's stop focusing on the shallow facade. Okay? He's not painting it orange or tearing it down. Go about your business!

Peter Eckstein

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

This proposal seriously negates the whole purpose of having an historic district. Why not tear down all the old buildings downtown and go all the way toward making Ann Arbor look like Birmingham? In another eighty years or so it could be designated a new historic district.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

What do you mean by "middle-range condos or apartments"? Do you know how Ed Shaffran will be pricing his condos for sale and setting his apartment leases? All that I could find in the article is his statement that "he has not set any price ranges for the residential units." However, Ed Shaffran also said: "We've been looking at high-end, or upper-end residential developments in the downtown…"


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

@JRW -- you seem to be suggesting this is a bad thing? Ed Shaffran is a local developer who has been very successfully developing attractive properties in Ann Arbor for years. Having spoken to him a few times (a while back), you get the impression he knows what works and what doesn't and his track record so far proves him out. He develops, brings people downtown and is successful. Downtown is always going to be expensive to build in, so it's going to result in expensive properties. Supply and demand. I don't see anything bad here.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

Shaffron only builds to the high end. NONE of his buildings or renovations are priced for the middle income resident. NONE.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

the addition above Vinology works because it's sandwiched in a block of multiple buildings with various facades. The mass atop the Goodyear building doesn't work,rather ruins the visual of a hstorical building with 2 large streetscapes and a roofline saturated with architectural detail. What's worse,the shock of even contemplating doing this ,or the sheer ugliness of the design??..[and would in real life probably look even worse.]


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

I wish someone would create nice medium priced apts/condos downtown. Does it all have to be 'high end'? Wouldn't it be great to have basic ordinary working people be able to live downtown?? Going out to dinner, movies, strolling and window shopping in the evening and living in the heart of the city should not just be for high incomes!!!


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Yup, veracity. It's all about profits for the developer, in this case Ed Shaffran. I know Ed and he is nice guy, and he has done some interesting projects in A2, such as the Armory, but he is in it for the bucks, like any other developer. There won't be anything offered for middle income folks, who are pushed out of center city rehabs.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

So ChrisW, are you saying that only the very poor(subsidized vouchers) and the wealthy can live downtown in the same building? Geez, only in America would this make sense. Shameful.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

As Veracity says, it's expensive to build downtown. The city makes it worse by requiring a certain number of units to be made available to those with low income. This makes the other units more expensive, so the middle class gets left out.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

It will not happen. The land downtown costs too much and construction costs remain high. Because of these expenses developers will try to sell condos at high prices and the pricing of leases for apartments will be high also. After all, the basic reason that condos and apartments are being constructed is to make their developers money.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

"We've not been able to find the right site; we've looked and looked and looked. We thought the easiest thing might be just to add to our own building." So Ed Shaffran's idea for adding apartments and condos on top of the Goodyear building that he owns is "Plan B." If "Plan B" had stood out as an overwhelmingly great idea then it would have been "Plan A." The attractive cornice on the Goodyear building is meant to define the top or crown of the building. To add floors above the cornice will definitely impair the appearance of the building. Furthermore, Ed Shaffran gave no indication of the expected cost for buying a condo or leasing an apartment. Previously some "high end" condos did not sell well downtown and lease rates must be competitive. With the high costs of construction Ed Shaffran's additions to the Goodyear building may not make him profits (not that I should be concerned about his financial success). Just remember Ashley Terrace. Finally, let us hope that if Ed Shaffran's "Plan B" is successful that it does not lead to a spate of developers wanting to add stories to existing buildings downtown which will produce a more crowded atmosphere while spoiling the center of town's overall appearance.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

Fortunately, the city isn't run according to what you think other people "need" to do with their own property.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

I will notice. So will others. Ed Shaffran does not need to build residential units to sustain Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is doing very well, thank you. Altering the appearance of a presently attractive historic building is not "using existing resources to their best use" (IMHO).


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Far better than a 12-20 story concrete monstrosity. Do it small and over a long period of time and you'll never notice. It's about sustainability and using existing resources to their best use.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

My experience with the addition of high-end condos is that they will go to high-enders from out of town, not local residents, so don't start packing your things right away. They won't need parking, either. That's what money provides.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

My "experience" is that they will go to the first person to offer a high enough price, regardless of where the person is from.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

If this is a historic building and he is adding on to it, does the building now have to be ADA compliant?

Jack Campbell

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

I'm all for it. Need some more higher-end places in this town.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

I love the idea and for those of you who want to get out of your single-family houses and have a more "urban" experience remember there is affordable housing of this kind in Downtown Ypsilanti! Of course, you might be too much of a snob for it! See something for everyone!


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

It's not a matter of snobbery. It's a matter of safety.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

Just because a person doesn't want to relocate to Ypsi doesn't make them a snob!


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

Sounds like an excellent idea. I wish someone would build more middle-range condos or apartments right downtown, though, so people like me could get out of our single-family houses and have a more "urban" experience.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.



Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

I suspect the new residents will be on their own for parking.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

In living downtown for almost a decade, I've never had an issue with parking.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

Ann arbor is lacking high end lofts, I have been looking for years, the inventory is quite limited and surprisingly underwhelming.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

I would like to find a medium end garage with plumbing in AA.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 11:18 a.m.

because its shaffran he will get approval. in aa its who you know and nothing else.

Ron Granger

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

@pbehjatnia: can you site examples to support your claim that "in aa its who you know and nothing else"? When asked to provide examples, you shifted the discussion to mixmaster's character, but still don't see any evidence to support your claim.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

LOL, so you demand proof for other people's statements, but don't need any to back up your biased comments in favor of your personal friends and business buddies. Nice.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

And my list of local developers that I worked with include the Beal's, the O'Neal's, Bill Martin and Chris Grant, Peter Allen, Jerry Spears to name a few.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

@mixmaster: so are you shaffrans buddy? renter? employee? bc your vehement defense and blind admiration sure do sound a little OTT.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

I've lived here since the early 70's and know personally many local developers including Ed Shaffran. I was involved with local development for 30 years. I worked with them. From my perspective and many others who know the Ann Arbor development scene what I related is fact, not made up negative nonsense. If you ask any of them, they will tell you the same thing. Local developers have more respect and know the community better than out of town developers. They also have a vested interest in the communities success because it is directly tied to theirs. This view only makes logical and rational sense and everybody knows this except for a few people who make negative comments just to be negative. I stand by my words and can only offer my viewpoint based on my experience and knowledge. Which is more than I can say for all the negative commenters here.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

mixmaster, didn't you just say that "More often than not, local developers have a better idea of what the community wants and build for that as well as their profit" without providing any reference?

Ron Granger

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Can you cite examples to support your outrageous claim?


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 11:06 a.m.

Because Ed is a welcomed local producer - great! As for the other listed high-end to a once open sky beautiful town slap on the big ugly tax (that is a tax for being big and ugly) if the owners can;t live in own their creations.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

When considering projects that can stand or fall on their own merits they also need to include the track record of the developer and the developers desire to build what the community needs not what the developer thinks they can make a quick buck off of. More often than not, local developers have a better idea of what the community wants and build for that as well as their profit. They also have a vested interest in the communities success as well as their own because they live and work here. So, as far as a project standing on it's own merits may sound good, it's a simplistic reply to a far more complex situation. The free market does not solve all problems and in fact can create more when only developer profit is concerned. The community has to live with the whatever is built, the developer can take their money and run. In this case, Mr Schaffran has a good eye for doing well for himself and the community and I'm sure is considering both, like any good developer does.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

"Because Ed is a welcomed local producer - great!" MALARKY! Let projects stand or fail on their own merit!