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Posted on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

Jerusalem Garden expansion, rooftop patio get OK from Historic District Commission

By Ben Freed

Since the underground parking garage construction finished and South Fifth Avenue re-opened in Ann Arbor, business has been very good at Jerusalem Garden. So good, in fact, that the restaurant, at 307 S. Fifth Ave., submitted plan to the Historic District Commission for an expansion that would nearly double the building’s square footage.

Jerusalem Garden.jpg

Jerusalem Garden's historic facade would not change with a planned renovation, but an expansion in back would allow for more seating and a larger kitchen.

“We’re really bursting at the seams here,” owner Ali Ramlawi said. “We serve 150,000 meals a year here and it’s becoming difficult to meet our demand and offer people a good experience.”

Ramlawi said friends warned him that going in front of the HDC could be daunting, but he said the review by the commission might be the easiest part of the process.

“Fortunately they were really nice,” he said.

The HDC unanimously approved Ramlawi's expansion plans at its April 11 meeting. The project now must be reviewed by Ann Arbor's Planning Commission before construction begins.

“It’s actually amazing how accommodating they were to our needs and how much they wanted to see us stay here and grow," Ramlawi said of the HDC. "They really gave us the green light and I was flattered by the support we got from them.”

Preliminary plans available on the Ann Arbor city website show an addition to the back of the Jerusalem Garden building that would add room for 54 seats in addition to a brand-new rooftop patio for increased summer seating.

“Patios are great, and the one we have, on nice days, it really helps,” Ramlawi said. “But when it’s 40 degrees and raining, as it often is in Michigan, we have to have space inside.”

The renovation would also increase the size of the restaurant’s kitchen and add a basement with a “prep-area” for food and a walk-in cooler. On the ground level, the plan would add 979 square-feet to the existing 1,283 square foot restaurant. Ramlawi said he has a 12 to 18 month timeline for the project.

“The plan is still in its infancy, but it’s a hot topic for me right now,” he said. “It’s all I think about.”


Jerusalem Garden's preliminary expansion plans.

From city staff report: Drawing by Michael Bruner, Architect

See what Ali Ramlawi had to say about what he expected for his business when 5th Avenue first re-opened last summer:

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Seasoned Cit

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

Wow... amazing how the closed street hurt his business....but now business is up since the completion...shouldn't the headline be: Business is better than ever with Parking Completion ?


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 8:12 p.m.

Way to go Ali! This is great news for all of us falafel and kibby lovers! Thanks, too, to the HDC for being reasonable and supportive.

David Cahill

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

A wise decision by the Historic District Commission!


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

I predict that the planning commission will not issue permits until JG agrees to convert 40% of their seating area into indoor bicycle parking, as part of the Washtenaw Walking/Biking Coalition's non-motorized transportation scheme.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

Some of the best food in town at one of the lowest prices. Love seeing this.

Audion Man

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

There seems to be a large and loyal following for Jerusalem Garden. I just wish that he had enough confidence in this following, to have not had to resort to petty lawsuits. After all, it doesn't appear to have hurt him all that much.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 11:53 a.m.

Mr. Freed, the drawing that accompanies your story is a copywritten design by an architectural professional. Please credit them in your story.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:21 a.m.

I hope there is an elevator for those of us that have trouble negotiating stairs.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 11:34 a.m.

That's what the lower level is for.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

Yes! Ann Arbor needs more rooftop establishments. Jolly Pumpkin's space is great - excited that JG is adding space too.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

Oh joy! Congrats!!!

Scott Reed

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

Glad to hear this was not sabotaged by the HDC. But why would HDC have any say in this matter in the first place? Historical hobbyists should not have a say in this sort of thing.

David Cahill

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

I see "Bulldozer Reed" continues to show his ignorance of historic districts.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

This is precisely what the HDC does. It reviews proposed buildings and additions in Historic Districts. If you don't know what the HDC does, why make negative comments? The owner of JG was pleased with the HDC process.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:52 p.m.

For the win, JG! Can't wait to sit on the roof and eat the best fattoush ever!

Steve Bean

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:17 p.m.

I'm very happy for Ali and his employees. And while now is a risky time for investments (especially those that incur debt), their strong customer base and moderate price point will help it pay off during a deflationary period.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:07 p.m.

I wonder whether Mr. Ramlawi will give credit to the DDA and the 700-space parking garage for his expanded business. He now has a built-in clientele, along with an inviting sidewalk.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 10:26 p.m.

...which has nothing to do with his delicious food, which is what has kept his business in town for like 26 years?


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

It wasn't like his business wasn't good before the Garage Mahal debacle. Let's not attribute too much to the DDA and that new structure quite yet.

Audion Man

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:16 p.m.

Somehow, I doubt it...


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

I like Jeru's food.

Rita Mitchell

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

Great news, and great result of the HDC review. Yay for a rooftop space.

Bob Needham

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:33 p.m.

Wow, this is great. I bet that rooftop patio will be very popular.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:24 p.m.

Awesome news! Go JG!


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

Yes! I've never understood the appeal of sulfur oxides and carbon monoxides as a condiment for your dinner. Yes to rooftops!

Jonathan Blutarsky

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

Hopefully Mr. Ramlawi gets every consideration for a hassle free expansion. This guy's business has been through the wringer the last two years because of the parking structure construction and I'm happily surprised he's sticking around let alone considering expansion.

Marc Williams

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

I'm happy the new parking structure is paying off for them (It's so easy to park I drive downtown more often.) and I hope Jerusalem Garden is allowed to expand. They should apologize to the people of Ann Arbor for wasting our tax dollars on a frivolous lawsuit.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

His business is enjoying the fruits of that parking garage now. See ow that works? The businesses in that area will see marked increases on business, just as businesses on Stadium did when the redid it both directs a few years ago.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:01 p.m.

That's great news! Jerusalem Garden has a loyal following - I've been wondering how they dealt with the size of the restaurant for so long. My dad will be happy :)


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:02 a.m.

Agreed, @operabethie! I think it's huge now!


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

you should have seen the old space! It still seems "big" to me when I go in there!