You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Mar 21, 2010 : 5:58 a.m.

University of Michigan will host this year's Winefest at ex-Pfizer site

By Paula Gardner

This column almost told a story about a non-profit fund-raiser searching for a home. Instead, I get to deliver the news that yes, indeed, the annual WineFest - the year’s largest benefit for the Ann Arbor Art Center - will be held at the North Campus Research Complex.

The more specific location is the former corporate cafeteria in the ex-Pfizer campus, which the University of Michigan purchased last year.

Anyone who is getting a mental image of a school cafeteria right now needs to know: This facility is fit for any type of elegant event, thanks to its high ceilings, expansive windows and high-end finishes.

cafeteria art.jpg

The former corporate cafeteria for Pfizer in Ann Arbor, now part of the University of Michigan NCRC facility - and home of this year's Winefest.

Lon Horwedel |

“We’re very excited that we’re going to be there,” said Marsha Chamberlin, president and CEO of the AAAC.

And probably a little bit relieved.

I talked to Chamberlin last week after I heard that plans to hold the May 8 event at the former Pfizer building had been cancelled by U-M, possibly leaving the AAAC searching for a new home a mere two months from the event.

U-M did commit to hosting Winefest, but then administrators realized that some of the protocols hadn’t been met: Namely, questions were raised about who was securing a liquor license and insurance for the event, said Joan Kaiser, interim director of the NCRC.

That “hiccup” threw some uncertainty into the event planning for about six weeks. But it’s also been resolved, Keiser said.

And that gives Chamberlin and her event organizers - like co-chairs Tom Root and Toni Morell - the green light to keep planning the event.

The setting, she said, should be stunning.

“Not only is it beautiful, but it seems enormous,” Chamberlin said.

And the evening’s decorations will include large-scale cellophane figures from BIGThink: Creating Community, the Grand Rapids-based art collaborative, which will suspend the figures from the ceiling.

The event will under go several changes this year, Chamberlin said. Among them: a new ticket pricing structure, with tickets at both $100 and $200, that Chamberlin and her team hopes will make the event more accessible to more people.

The number of reserved seats will drop and attractions will be added around the venue - like a sketch artist - to make what Chamberlin describes as an “art party” from the event.

“We’re excited about how this is going to look at feel for people,” she said.

About 400 people are expected at the annual event, which is paired two related gatherings over the weekend.

The goal, Chamberlin said, is to raise at least $50,000 to fund art education through the art center.

On the U-M side, the NCRC is happy to host the event, Keiser said, because it fits the mission of making the NCRC more accessible to the community.

Hosting events will be more difficult at the site is populated. So far, only a few of the offices that will move to the facility have been announced.

But over time, the former Pfizer facility that had been tightly controlled will become more open, more campus-like.

“It should feel more like a university campus than it did when it was a private campus,” Keiser said.

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by email. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.



Tue, Mar 23, 2010 : 11:54 a.m.

"... in the ex-Pfizer campus, which the University of Michigan purchased last year..." You mean the facility that was turned into a non-tax revenue generating school. Just what Ann Arbor needs more schools to replace our business. I'm still boycotting Pfizer for taking over Warner Lambert, stripping it of it's resources and then abandoning it! All Washtenaw county residents should boycott Pfizer products.


Sun, Mar 21, 2010 : 10:39 p.m.

"This facility is fit for any type of elegant event, thanks to its high ceilings, expansive windows and high-end finishes." Sounds like yet another great addition to the multiple conference center facilities already available in Ann Arbor.

Larry Eiler

Sun, Mar 21, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.

The changes to upgrade and refine content are good moves toward content. I like the readers comments, quotes from newsmakers and ability to vote on editorials. Will, Dowd and Friedman are excellent voices on both sides, liberal and conservative. The Talk About Town column utilizes two well known personalities in news and entertainment to bring info. Larry Eiler