University of Michigan plans $6.3M renovation of Wolverine Tower
Building owners across Ann Arbor have been upgrading their aging office facilities to keep tenants or attract new ones in a competitive market.
Now it’s the University of Michigan’s turn to invest in one of its properties: The Wolverine Tower, which will get a $6.3 million renovation.
The 11-story office tower, at 3003 S. State St. at Eisenhower, was bought by U-M in 1992.
Since then, various offices - most of them financial services - have moved in, moved around and moved out, without a single master plan for the 225,000-square-foot building.
But discussions over recent years with staff and surveys of those working in the building yielded concerns that the building could be better used and needed upgrades.
The result, said U-M treasurer Greg Tewksbury, is a building-wide look at office consolidation and efficiency, with a request heading before the Board of Regents today to fund the renovation of about one-fourth of the building over seven floors.
By moving offices around, departments that once were spread out over several floors will share workspaces.
As an example: “Financial operations will only be on two floors,” Tewksbury said. “And procurement will be on one floor instead of two.”
The effort also will get the optical imaging group out of the basement, where space will be converted to use as a wellness room that includes yoga classes and showers.
Wolverine Tower was built in 1973 as development took hold in the Briarwood Mall area. Also built that year was Eisenhower Plaza, also known as the 777 building, directly north across Eisenhower from the U-M property.
Most of those properties already have gone through renovations. The highest profile may be the 777 building, which got millions of dollars in upgrades and a new, 108,000-square-foot addition by owner Transwestern Investment Services in Chicago.
That building also went from about 60 percent occupancy to significantly higher in recent years as tenants - like Thomson Reuters - expanded.
But as visible as Wolverine Tower may be to passersby, its move into the University of Michigan fold meant many in the real estate industry lost touch with the building.
If approved as planned, the moves to upgrade the property will keep it in line with other nearby properties in the corridor.
While that’s no longer an issue for attracting tenants or holding onto value at Wolverine Tower, it bodes well for the people who work in the building.
In fact, the consolidation will free up space for an additional 50 employees from the MHealthy offices, now on South Industrial, to move into the building, Tewksbury said.
The work should be completed by fall 2011.
Tewksbury said a lot of collaboration is behind the project.
“We think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We spent a lot of time looking at how we can work more effectively together and looking at our processes and collaborative space issues.”
The efforts will come with some tradeoffs for the people who work there, Tewksbury said.
“Everyone had to give up something,” he said. In some cases, that meant moving to smaller offices or tighter workspaces.
But the configuration also offers better work groups, he added.