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Posted on Sun, Oct 23, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

Alex de Parry offers rebuttal to claims he miscalculated square footage for Heritage Row

By Ryan J. Stanton


Developer Alex de Parry sits on the steps to his office at the corner of South Fifth Avenue and East William Street in downtown Ann Arbor. He said he was hoping the Ann Arbor City Council would approve the Heritage Row apartments project he proposed as an alternative to City Place.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Ann Arbor developer Alex de Parry has offered a rebuttal to claims that miscalculations on his part are to blame for the apparent inviability of the Heritage Row apartments project.

City Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, said last week he talked to Jeff Helminski, the new developer of the site, and learned that Heritage Row, as initially put together by de Parry, never was economically viable because de Parry underrepresented about 14,000 square feet of construction costs — a $1.3 million hit to the project.

Helminski hasn't returned phone calls from, but de Parry has responded and argues the claim that 14,000 square feet was missed is untrue.

Here's the full text of de Parry's rebuttal letter:

First, proformas were created for each variation of Heritage Row that evolved during this long process. The final plan that was before council in June 2010 was analyzed by the development team which included most of the members of the group that bought out my interest in the site. They were partners in the project since 2007. In other words, the partners, including Jeff Helminski, have been working with the same proformas and calculations that I worked with.

Square footage calculations were very precise and no one would have missed 14,000 square feet of construction costs.

For the new buildings, square footage calculations were based on the drawings which all members of the development team worked on and which were used for estimating construction costs. My former partners even have their own in-house architect who worked on the new building plans. Suppliers and contractors all looked at the plans and we had hard numbers on which to base our cost estimates.

In round numbers, total gross square footage for the new buildings is 48,194 +/- and FAR (Floor Area Ratio which is habitable square footage, i.e. apartment square footage minus hallways, utility closets, etc.) square footage is 44,588 square feet. One need only refer to page 4 of the last revised plan set submitted to the city in May 2010 to confirm these numbers. The plan submittal set had a total of 48,152 gross square feet and a total of 44,738 FAR square feet. The last version that eliminated one floor off of the South Building reduced the gross square footage by 3,432 sq ft. Everyone was looking at the same numbers and plans.

For the existing buildings, square footage calculations were based on actual field measurements and mortgage survey measurements. In round numbers, the Fifth Avenue buildings had 29,292 gross square feet and 24,412 FAR square feet. Again, one need only refer to page 4 of the plan set submitted to the city to confirm square foot calculations for each building.

My proposal called for remodeling six of the existing houses and completely rebuilding the seventh house located at 437 S. Fifth Avenue. Remodeling costs included moving the houses as needed and replacing the existing foundations with new foundations. All mechanicals were to be replaced along with new kitchens and bathrooms. Common area elements were a separate line item cost. The remodeled houses would have, to a great extent, kept existing apartment floor plans.

Throughout this process, all team members were aware of the square footage numbers for each variation of Heritage Row that evolved. We all worked from the same spread sheets and plan sets.

The proposed plan presented by my former partners left open the option of rebuilding all houses. In this case, gross square footage numbers (i.e. outside building dimensions) and a cost per square foot for new construction could be used and could be different than the cost of remodeling the existing houses that we had all anticipated. This could potentially account for some difference in the cost of construction, but at the point at which this was proposed, I was no longer involved in the project.

Additionally, the proposal presented by the present development team included adding additional living space by connecting the Center and South buildings. This would account for additional square footage (and thus additional cost) but also results in additional apartment units in the new buildings and additional income — so there is additional income on the revenue side to offset additional construction costs on the expense side. But again, I was no longer involved at the point at which this was proposed.

I hope this clarifies any misconceptions regarding the square footage issue of Heritage Row and the numbers everyone had been working with. I had truly hoped that Heritage Row would be approved.

Best regards,

Alex de Parry

Ann Arbor Builders, Inc.

Fifth Avenue Communities

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 6:49 p.m.

Why does anyone care? City Place was approved, Heritage Place was not approved, Developer will build City Place because it's approved. It seems decision making has gone out of style in Ann Arbor. Discussion and discourse is suppose to be a means to an end, not the end itself as it appears to be regarding this development and the new crosswalk law.

David Cahill

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:11 p.m.

This just goes to show that there is no honor among developers.

Tom Teague

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

@DonBee is exactly right when he says "The public needs to see that the zoning rules get fixed to prevent this from happening again." The real scandal is that the box-like City Place met downtown zoning standards in a city that prides itself on historic preservation. Council should adopt a sense of urgency in wrapping up its review and refinement of the R2A and R4C zoning before downtown ends up with Son of City Place.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

If I still lived in Ann Arbor, I would be very vocal about making sure the 4 who blocked Heritage Row never served on City Council again.

rusty shackelford

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 11:41 a.m.

Donbee and Hart are spot-on here, I think. I just don't see why de Parry's motives were so consistently construed as nefarious when he put so much time and money into developing HP, even when he already had the right to build City Place without all the trouble (and council made it way more trouble than he probably expected) or additional expense.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:10 a.m.

This is all very seedy. If they are indeed misrepresenting the figures, the it would seem that the new team never intended to build HR, but just played everyone to delay any negative reaction and to get concessions from council. City Place is a monstrosity, and yet the claim to be proud of it, and this say everything one needs to know about this lot. This is a sad day for Ann Arbor. Everyone is blaming council, but in the last round they bent back to offer parking and other savings for the developer, who apparently only wants to make a cheap buck without any consideration for our city. Council should look into all possible legal ways of stopping this. There are plenty of more honorable developers around, but in order to avoid dealing with this kind, council should immediately pass a regulation banning the combination of lots in the R4C areas in order to sidestep the obstruction that is taking place in the commission that is supposed to come up with new regulations.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:50 a.m.

Thanks for publishing Alex DeParry's explanation. I especially think it is important to consider Mr. Parry's detailed explanation (see paragraphs 4, 5, and 6) regarding the proformas, site plan, and the existing 7 properties along Fifth Avenue. Also, if the calculations were the very same ones that Mr. Jeff Helminski and Mr. De Parry were working with, why would Mr. Jeff Helminski misinform City Council Member Carsten Hohnke of the project's viability? This is all starting to sound a bit like business deal gone sour, maybe?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:45 a.m.

So let me get this straight. Helminski proposed eliminating underground parking which has to cost at least 2M , plus was adding units so would have had more revenue. But then pulls Heritage Row at the last minute and both he and Hohnke point a finger at deParry? What a joke. It's pretty clear that this wasn't about pushing Heritage Row forward but about playing to council to get concessions for City Place from council. As for Hohnke, looks like he was trying harder to save political face than the houses. In the end, the loss of these old houses will be the result of gamesmanship that has been played on this property by council for years. When they come down, we have only to thank Hohnke, Anglin, Briere and Kunselman for overplaying their hands. A lose-lose for everyone and a sad day in the city's history.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

Council can only act on the figures and numbers given to them. Blaming them is not fair.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

I suspect that Mr. De Parry did the numbers correctly. I also suspect that he was willing to carry part of the cost of this effort to get Heritage Row built. The new developer has ZERO reason to reach into his own pocket, he is a pure business person. We should thank Mr. De Parry for trying so hard to get Heritage Row built. The council needs to take a hard look in the mirror on this one. The public needs to see that the zoning rules get fixed to prevent this from happening again.