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Posted on Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

The Ark purchases current venue, starts making plans to renovate

By Ben Freed

The Ark has established itself over the last half century as one of the Midwest’s premier music venues and an Ann Arbor landmark. With its lease due to expire in 2016, the venue’s managers decided it was time to secure a permanent location.

“For the first time in the Ark’s 48-year history, we own our home,” executive director Marianne James said in an email to the music venue’s friends and supporters Friday.


The Ark has been leasing space at its current location since 1996. With the lease due to expire in 2016, the Ark's management decided to purchase the property.

Lon Horwedel | The Ann Arbor News

The Ark purchased the space it has inhabited since 1996 at 316 S. Main St. as a “condominium” parcel from building owner Dr. Reza Rahmani.

Rahmani initiated the process of creating separate properties by developing the property as a condominium project in November of 2012. Because Rahmani created the separate parcels within the building that share key infrastructure such as the shell and roof, The Ark was able to purchase its venue without buying the whole property.

City documents show that Rahmani bought the property, which includes The Ark, Melange restaurant, and Rush Street in 2011 for $3.85 million.

James said The Ark paid $2.05 million to purchase the second floor, the staircase leading up to it, and the box office from Rahmani.

“Our venue is such a key piece of who we are and our identity,” she said. “And we’ve never owned it before. We couldn’t be in a better location.”

James’ said that Rahmani worked with the Ark and that Ann Arbor State Bank provided favorable terms on a loan to help facilitate the process.

The Ark is launching a capital campaign to help pay off the loan, a process James hopes will take five to seven years.

The campaign will be operating in a “quiet phase” during 2013 and 2014. James hopes raise the bulk of the $2.5 million goal by focusing on larger donations during that time.

The campaign will open up to the public in 2015 as the venue celebrates its 50th anniversary.

“That will free up key resources and enable us to focus on appropriate growth and innovation and lay the groundwork for the Ark’s next 50 years,” she said in a statement.

In addition to paying off the loan, James said the capital campaign will help finance renovations that have been necessary for a number of years.

“The wish list keeps growing, and I’m sure it will continue as the campaign continues,” she said.

“Top of the list is we want to upgrade the concession area and we’ll be working on renovations to the box office as well. After that it will be mostly smaller cosmetic things throughout the club.”

Before its current location, the Ark was housed at 637 1/2 S. Main St. and before that in a Victorian home on Hill Street, where it was founded in 1965.

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



Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

Good news, does this mean they can get those columns moved somehow?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

there are 4 structural columns in the place. they are NEEDED. you must have bad luck. there are hundreds of seats in the place.

Joe Hood

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

Good plug for Ann Arbor State Bank!

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:56 a.m.

Looks like I'll have to do my part & become a member!


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 11:49 p.m.

This great news but i wish they weren't so stuck up and anti fun in there. Can't dance without having people look at you like your nuts. This forces acts to play at the blind pig which is pretty awful smelly place.


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 12:32 a.m.

The Ark is a `listening venue'. The artists appreciate patrons paying attention to them, and not their cell phones. The artists don't want to be background noise. There is dancing sometimes, and the membership is NOT $25. The lowest membership is $5 for 4 months.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

$25.00 Whine


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

Depends on how much a glass of wine is worth to you.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

I have enjoyed the music and danced with abandon at the Ark...I do not especially care for the $25 joining fee for a glass of wine though...seems like each time I go it is time to rejoin at $25...

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 3:26 a.m.

Sorry but the Ark isn't set up for "dancing" If you want to dance PLEASE go to the Blind Pig. Last thing I want is someone dancing in front of me. I go to the Ark to see & listen the act not to dance. Also I know of NO bands that wanted to play @ the Ark but were "forced" to play the pig.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:18 a.m.

I completely agree. The Ark is no fun.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

Not to be the fly in the ointment but it seems to me that they could have found something where they could expand a bit, make it more comfortable and have parking as well. Any place they went, their clientele would follow. It is such a great place. They could have even cut out the drywall with all of the graffiti from the green room. I always envisioned them owning a great old church ala Alice's Restaurant. Oh well...I'm sure I'm in the minority here.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Don't know about noise filtering downstairs however Rush St. cranked up some electronica funk with deep bass that shook the Ark a couple of weeks ago.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 11:15 p.m.

They also could have had a place where they could have their business office on site. There have been issues in the past with noise filtering downstairs and the long lines blocking sidewalk traffic down Main St. and around the corner. Ann Arbor is a lot busier downtown than it used to be, so parking isn't always easy to find. Just my thoughts as a former volunteer there.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

There are two huge parking lots within a block of the Ark! We have never had a problem parking there for many shows in over 15 years. As far as expansion they can rent the Michigan theatre or Hill Auditorium for large Folk festival entertainment.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

You are correct but their comments about identity reminds one of the comment "location, location, location"


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

Great News!! Congrats!

A2 rocks

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:16 p.m.

How cool is this! Great job to The Ark! Looking forward to another fab Folk Fest this month too.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

Congratulations! Great news!

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 9 p.m.

Epic! Dave Brandon could learn a thing or two about venue management from the Ark staff.


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 12:25 a.m.

And don't forget that most of the people that are working at the Club are VOLUNTEERS.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 8:28 p.m.

This is great news! I've been a huge fan of the Ark since I was a teenager. It's nice to see it finally laying some roots. Looking forward to more great shows for years to come. Just for fun, here's some old news ... "The Ark coffeehouse finds a snug harbor on South Main" circa 1984

Lizzy Alfs

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

Haha cool, Ryan! Thanks for posting that -- news to me.

Andrew Kerr

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

This is fabulous. If you have a well established business, purchasing your property is the only way to go. It boggles my mind how many well-established business rent, and then complain when their landlords raise rent or sell the property. Congrats to the Ark for securing themselves, and doing all of us in A2 a service by ensuring their longevity as a key member of the Main St area. And thanks to the land-lord for not completely sticking it to them (2.05M seems pretty fair).


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 11 p.m.

How could someone vote "down" such a wonderful piece of news for music lovers from all over the area. Not every town has an Ark. Great work from good people keep Ann Arbor on the map for some of the best music to be found in the midwest.