Kingsley Lane developers redesigning Ann Arbor project as small apartments
The attributes of Kingsley Lane remain the same: It’s close to Kerrytown, it’s close to downtown, and it’s close to the west side Ann Arbor neighborhood that appeals to young professionals.
Now the developers behind the project - put on hold in 2007 as the housing market stalled and the downtown condo pipeline clogged with hundreds of units - think a new approach will make it viable.
“We’re going to come back with small rental units Ã la Ikea,” co-developer Peter Allen said.
Allen and Mark Berg met with city planners last week as part of their efforts to retool the site plans for Kingsley Lane, which celebrated its groundbreaking in March 2007 as 46 condos were planned for the corner of Kingsley and North Ashley, just north of downtown.
That project launch followed the announcement that Pfizer was leaving Ann Arbor, and both Allen and Berg quickly decided to postpone construction as they saw the housing market start to hiccup.
The decision, Allen said, was the right one, since the economy only worsened over the following years.
Today, Allen said he thinks it could take up to five years for the condo market to rebound.
Yet affordable rental housing for young adults who are moving beyond their student years and want their own apartments close to downtown is rare, he said. The recent Moravian proposal for just south of downtown, for example, had many multiple-bedroom units.
So the revisions to Kingsley Lane are focusing on creating about 40 small apartments - from 360 to 700 square feet - pattered after the efficient, “Not So Big House” type of designs for which shoppers can buy a complete set of furnishings and housewares at Ikea.
“These units will be, by their size, affordable,” said Allen.
And for a price of about $1,000 per month or less - including one parking spot - they’ll suitable for someone living alone and making about $40,000 per year, he said.
The new version of Kingsley Lane will look different, too. Architect Marc Rueter is redesigning it in four stories, so the developers will be seeking approvals under the new downtown zoning instead of submitting it as a planned unit development.
Earlier versions focused on making Kingsley Lane the hub of walkable new construction in Ann Arbor. Each condo - from 516 to more than 2,000 square feet - did not come with a parking space, which cost extra. Instead, buyers were going to get a bicycle.
While obtaining financing may be the biggest hurdle to any project right now, Allen believes a local bank will be willing to sign on to the project by 2011.
“We’re talking about $5 million - that’s not a big loan,” he said.
Allen looks to the job growth that both Ann Arbor and the U.S. are starting to see. He also sees Zingerman’s effort to move its plan forward to add to its Detroit street deli as a sign of confidence in the local market.
And while many types of developments still won’t make sense, he thinks what he calls “niche rental plays” will work. Other examples are student housing, like the proposal coming later this month for Zaragon Place 2.
Condos, he said, still don’t make sense for development in Ann Arbor.
“The market’s coming back in a different flavor,” he said. “It’s clearly not condo.”