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Posted on Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

New student high-rise construction ahead of schedule in downtown Ann Arbor

By Ben Freed


Workers have been piecing together The Varsity over the past several months on East Washington Street.

Melanie Maxwell |

Construction at new student high-rise The Varsity is progressing ahead of schedule, regional sales specialist Sarah Tatum said.

The structure, in downtown Ann arbor next door to fellow student apartment building Sterling 411 Lofts on East Washington Street, is expected to be completed by the end of June.

Construction on the 415-bed complex began in February 2012.

Tatum said the company’s goal was to be finished with the rooms and amenities at least a month and a half before students move in for the fall 2013 semester.

“If it wasn’t done on time, we have a concession built into our leases,” she said. “That concession goes up every month.”

The concession is a rent refund that would be returned to students if any of the apartment complex’s promised amenities are not finished by the agreed upon move-in date.

The Michigan Daily reported that students living in the new Landmark on South University Street have expressed frustration over continuing construction on their building through the middle of the semester.

While winter weather can cause trouble for construction companies in Michigan, Tatum said the new building’s roof will be poured and put into place by the end of January at the latest.

“Rather than just building the interior and going back we’ve been putting in the walls and windows all along on each story,” she said.

“Weather can always be a concern, but we’ve made it through this far so once we get the roof on there will be no stopping us.”

As they compete to one-up each other with new and better amenities, student high-rises could struggle to stand out among similar competition. Tatum said the Varsity’s calling card will be attention to detail.

“From the lobby all the way up through the various amenities and apartments we are going to have high-end finishing, that’s something that’s very important to us,” she said.

“There will be big screen TVs in every apartment as well as monthly resident events and a golf simulator.”

The Varsity launched an early marketing campaign when it released a “Varsity Ann Arbor Style” video in October, a parody of the hit "Gangnam Style." Tatum said that other marketing efforts will involve passing out promotional items to students on campus, Facebook and social media outreach, and sponsoring events at local bars.

“We hope to be fully leased by the end of the spring semester,” she said.

Prices at The Varsity range from $999 per bed in a four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment to $1,644 for a one bedroom.

Pricing for the 2013-14 school year at the Landmark is being advertised at $989 to $1,839. Zaragon West, the other high-rise that opened at the beginning of the 2012 school year, lists prices from $1,100 to $1,850.

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


Frustrated in A2

Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

If you interested students want a 2 bedroom-2.5 bath condo for less than what this place is charging, let me know!


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

I went to college to learn and also to have fun but that did not mean spending a lot of time in my room. I was perfectly happy to pay rock-bottom dorm rent and share a 12 foot by 10 foot room with a classmate. We had a desk with wall shelving, a bed and a small closet. But then I only used the dorm room for sleeping and to change clothes. Sharing a 4- or 6- bedroom suite with a bunch of strangers would not appeal to me. I imagine that all the wonderful amenities will be less impressive after a few weeks. Not all parents of students will want to pay over $1000 a month (or $12,000 a year) in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars for tuition. The market for high-end luxury apartments will become saturated at some point in time, probably sooner than later. It will be interesting to watch which highrises go bankrupt first and what happens to them afterwards. The Ashley-Terrace apartment building was bought out of bankruptcy at 30 cents on the dollar. The new owner was able to cut rental rates and attract enough lessees to fill his building. But his profit is limited and the institutions that originated the construction financing incurred major losses.

Christine Laing

Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

U of M dorm rates currently range from about $6000 to $13,000 a semester. The cheap ones are for sharing a bedroom in the remote areas of north campus and do not include a food plan. For that same $12,000 you can get your own bedroom, access to a common kitchen and amenities, and live much closer to central campus. You also get use of your room year round, even during summer and vacations. For $26,000 a year U of M will give you your own room and a meal plan. This place will give you your own room with a kitchen for about $20,000. In other words, your thrifty option costs more, not less. I don't think you have really thought about the options and tradeoffs for students. The absolute cheapest way to go would be to rent a house in Ypsi and share a 4 BR among 8 people. That would cost you $200 a month and require some serious planning and some very long bus rides. Considering the value of a high GPA or the cost of attending an extra semester or two, many people find the cost of a closer, quieter place to be worth it.

Linda Peck

Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

Doing comparisons in time and place, I rented my first apartment, a third-floor walk-up on Kingsley and Ingalls, for $75 and that included heat and water. Wow, the hugest claw-foot tub I had ever seen (had I ever seen one?), a refrigerator with a cylinder on the top that worked great, and a gas oven with no thermometer that I used and it worked great. What a wonderful place it was. I was lucky to have it. I swear it creaked when there was a thunderstorm. The house is still there, much like it was I expect, when I was there in 1962.

Linda Peck

Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

It was a modest apartment, a garret. Epengar, I think the inflation estimate is accurate.


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

Even with inflation Linda Peck's apartment rented for half or a third of the cost for renting a luxury apartment in any of the new highrises. Plus I do not know how much interest Linda, as a student, would have in a golf simulator or even a large screen TV.


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 6 p.m.

I found a quick inflation calculator that says that $75 in 1962 would buy about the same as $550 in 2011.


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

We should create an award for bad architecture and this piece of junk would certainly be a good candidate for a prize!

Blue Marker

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

You may want to wait until it's actually finished.....


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

When I last rented in Ann Arbor, in 1995, it was $700 for a nice 2 bedroom with a yard and parking, or $350 each in a two bedroom. In 1991 we paid $270 each in a three bedroom, and that included parking and utilities on Main Street. In 1984 it was $220 each in a two bedroom with covered parking. Now it is $1000 each in a four bedroom?Inflation, greed, or some of both?


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

DJ: it's simple free enterprise. they build it and students decide if they want to pay for it. let's see if the prices hold up when it opens.


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

You seem to be assuming that this new place offers the same as what you got in '95. That's comparing apples to pinecones. These big new places are not ordinary dorms or apartments, they're offering a lot of extras, and charging for it. They think there is demand for this from rich students (and their families), and maybe some young professionals who want to live downtown (some of these new buildings are more aimed at students than others). About 1/3rd of UM's undergrads are from out of state, and are paying about $20,000 per term in tuition alone (in-state is about $7,000). About half of them are getting some financial aid, but nonetheless, there are some very wealthy families sending their sons and daughters to UM. Apparently these developers think they'll pay for high-quality housing.


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

Did you have high end finishes in these places?I doubt it> what kind of amenities did you have? Why is it, if some people CHOOSE to use their money for a nicer place as a student they are deemed greedy or selfish. Quite frankly this is the best thing for students wishing to pay less rent or get better living arrangements. It takes some of the higher end people out of the rental pool, and also forces landlords to either come up with reasons for a student to stay in student ghetto living or have the property sit vacant.


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

It's this particular rental model. My daughter rents one bedroom in a 4 bedroom duplex just across Huron for $600. Nice yard, parking, etc. I have to believe they are approaching the limit for this type of rental. I think 411 is already having trouble keeping it filled.

say it plain

Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

greed, mostly. and 'inflation' in the monies allocated for college costs by wealthy and non-wealthy families alike. The wealthy families are benefiting in their bank-accounts from the bubbles in college costs and real estate, while the others are paying with debt. Ann Arbor is becoming a surreal disney-land of a microcosm of these forces. Other places with skyrocketing rents at least have more of a 'real'-seeming job market and unit-demand profile, while here it is so clearly artificial. It used to be just the surreal scene of slumlord types getting 400 or more per bedroom for run-down single-family homes near campus carved into franken-frat-type houses for the UM it's these hideous high-rises pretending to offer luxury to those masses, who've morphed into creatures who expect granite countertops for their communal kitchen shared by 6 kids with little bed-bath suites off the central noodle-prep/pizza-carton station. But they have "golf simulators" (? seriously? how bourgeois can you get?!) and giant hot-tubs, so it's totally worth the (parental) dough!