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Posted on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

Village Green: New downtown Ann Arbor apartments to feature luxury amenities and 'sexy bathrooms'

By Ryan J. Stanton


Jonathan Holtzman, CEO of Farmington Hills-based developer Village Green, addresses a crowd of more than three dozen people today at the groundbreaking for Ann Arbor City Apartments.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The first tenants of Ann Arbor City Apartments could move into their new luxury units 14 months from now, says Village Green CEO Jonathan Holtzman.

"That's the goal," the developer said today. "We're going to deliver what we think will be a great product that you can get today in Chicago and New York and L.A. but you currently can't get in Michigan, let alone Ann Arbor."

A crowd of more than three dozen people gathered today at the southeast corner of First and Washington in downtown Ann Arbor for the groundbreaking of the long-awaited project, a collaboration between the city and Village Green now four years in the making.

There to celebrate were representatives from the development team, the city, the Downtown Development Authority, neighborhood residents and downtown business owners.

"We really welcome it," said Mark Hodesh, owner of Downtown Home & Garden and the Mark's Carts outdoor food court, two businesses that share the block.

"We occupy the eastern side of the block. Now it's the western side of the block. We're no longer on the frontier," Hodesh said. "We're just looking for the added activity. It's good for the neighborhood and it pushes the western edge of the downtown commercial district further."


Jonathan Holtzman

The new apartments will sit across the street from popular nighttime establishments like the Blind Pig, Circus and Millennium, with a one-block walk to Main Street.

"Obviously we think we picked a very good location," Holtzman said. "And I think the city realizes that they should build housing on top of everything that gets built. If Whole Foods does relocate to downtown, they should build housing on top of the Whole Foods. So we need to have more people living downtown. We need to have people use the car less, walk more."

Village Green is calling its 155-unit development the first market rent luxury apartment community in downtown Ann Arbor in more than 25 years. The project is designed to meet the National Green Building Standard established by the National Association of Home Builders and 95 out of 100 points on the Google Map Walkability Index.

The project represents Village Green's "City" brand, which is designed for young professional renters as well as corporate relocation.

The apartments include studios, alcoves, one- and two-bedroom units, penthouses, hardwood floors, 9- to 11-foot ceilings, three distinct color and finish packages, and what the Farmington Hills-based developer is calling "sexy bathrooms."

"The bathtub is designed for having wine glasses and candles," Holtzman explained. "It's a bathtub designed for two people, not one person. So we're more akin to a boutique hotel than what you would consider an apartment building. We're catering to that."

In addition to large tubs and shower units, the "sexy bathrooms" feature marble vanity tops and wood-framed mirrors.

The apartments also come with oversized windows, translucent glass barn doors, track lighting and balconies. Ten different floor plans range from 500 to 1,200 square feet.

"What you're going to see from the development is a green building," Holtzman said. "You're going to see wood floors and high ceilings. You're going to see all kinds of finish packages, and there's the kitchens and the technology. But I think the real winners are going to be the Zen garden, the business centers, the exercise room, the sky club and the sky park."

The building lobby will be designed similar to a boutique hotel, and tenants will benefits from time-saving concierge services. The sky club is designed as a social environment, featuring cabanas, gourmet kitchen and bar, gas fire pit and an outdoor lounge.

The Zen garden will be professionally landscaped, and all common areas, including a business conference room, will be Wi-Fi accessible and available 24-7.

O'Neal Construction is the general contractor on the project, which is being financed in part by US Bank. Management and marketing are being handled by Village Green and L.A. Inc., and the architects are the BKV Group and Damon Farber Associates.

The building rises 104 feet into the downtown skyline. In addition to apartments, it includes a 244-space parking garage to be owned by the city and managed by the DDA.

The Ann Arbor City Council agreed to authorize up to $9 million in general obligation bonds to help pay for the parking structure. Of the 244 spaces planned, about 72 are expected to be held for residents, leaving 172 spaces for the general public.


Dignitaries shovel dirt to ceremonially mark the start of construction on Ann Arbor City Apartments.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Holtzman declined to say what the monthly rents might be, except that they're going to be competitive with the current market.

Sixteen of the units will be classified as affordable housing, meaning they'll have cheaper rents that will be closer in reach for lower-income residents.

The project is taking shape on the site of an old parking structure that was torn down several years ago and today remains a surface parking lot.

"It's a wonderful day for us because this has been a long process," Mayor John Hieftje said at today's groundbreaking. "And I really want to compliment all the partners involved for hanging in there. It was a great project from the beginning, a project that was well accepted by the neighborhood, a project I think everybody in town wanted to see go forward."

Hieftje called it the kind of project that growing tech companies like Menlo Innovations, Google and Barracuda Networks are going to appreciate as they look to attract talent.

"We're ready to see this building go in the ground and go up, and it brings us the kind of housing we're looking for in our city," he said. "It's an addition to many elements that have come together that are multiplying to ensure the vibrancy of our downtown area."

Holtzman, who noted his father graduated from the University of Michigan, said the relationship between the developer and the city was critical in allowing the project to move forward, but he also had to thank US Bank for agreeing to loan money in a difficult financial environment.


Mayor John Hieftje called Ann Arbor City Apartments the kind of project that growing tech companies like Menlo Innovations, Google and Barracuda Networks are going to appreciate as they look to attracted talent.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Holtzman said downtown Ann Arbor needs more housing and he hopes this won't be Village Green's last apartment project here. Village Green's first apartment community in Ann Arbor was built in the early 1970s and the latest project will be the third, in addition to three other apartment communities that Village Green manages for other ownership groups.

A pre-leasing center will be set up six months before the first move-ins, Holtzman said, and prospective tenants will be able to see all of the floor plans and rents at that time.

"We look forward to being part of the Ann Arbor neighborhood and we'll be releasing all kinds of information on the website," he said.

He estimated it's about a $30 million project, including the parking deck portion that is being partially financed by the city.

Holtzman commented on the viability of the project, given that literally thousands of apartment units are being added in and around downtown Ann Arbor right now.

"All the housing, in our opinion, that's been built is very good student housing, but it's not the kind of housing that the city of Ann Arbor needs," he said.

"I think Ann Arbor has always been two Ann Arbors," he added. "The University of Michigan is a very important part of Ann Arbor, but the business part of Ann Arbor is really why we're here doing this project today. Ann Arbor has developed into really a great city, so as you look at all the companies — automotive engineering, high-tech, biomedical — it is driving a lot of new jobs, and the jobs are attracting this professional who wants to live urban versus suburban."

Aside from new student high-rises, Ann Arbor's existing housing stock is aging, Holtzman added, pointing to a need for a project of this kind.

"So this development is not student housing," he said. "You have to have a job in order to live here. So we don't expect that any undergraduate students will be living in this building. You could have graduate students because they're both working and going to school, but it's meant to be professionals living and working in Ann Arbor."


An artist rendering of what Ann Arbor City Apartments will look like.

Image courtesy of developer

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 email newsletters.



Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 3:52 a.m.

If I could, I'd sell my soul to move back to Ann Arbor. Wish they had jobs, though.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

Well, the fairy sand pile/castle was more durable than I thought! It weathered the rain and the snow. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;set=pt.155074397812&amp;type=1</a>&theater


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

I hope this is not going to effect me renting out my rooms in the property I manage!!!! I am sooooooo sick of all these rentals being built that make me have to reduce rent and loose my commission. I have bills to pay too! I put a lot of work this past summer updating it and possible tenants always love it. it is always the price that drives them away...:(


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:09 a.m.

hmmm, have to think about this. i rented apts for a good number of years before home ownership, but never sought a &quot;luxury &quot; rental. Those were the years that saving money and ease of in/out/parking/getting to work were very important. Couldn't give a care about the style of the bathroom, truthfully. Modest but decent and convenient apartments[ knowing that these were temporary digs ]seemed the profile that worked. Don't know about all this....especially if extra charges are added for parking. I would think the tech company employees cited would be smart enough to know they can get a mortgage for one of many fine starter homes in many great neighborhoods all around Ann Arbor. I hope something good comes of this-probably will end up students and thus more coffee shops will have their tables occupied by a person with electronics and a cuppa.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:33 p.m.

Apparently when the sand was dug up for the &quot;ground breaking&quot;, some sand castle fairies were inadvertantly scooped up as well. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;set=a.10150135536252813.332717.155074397812&amp;type=1</a>&theater


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 1:49 a.m.

I suspect the sand pile/castle is worse for the rain.

Mumbambu, Esq.

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

Did they really haul in dirt to have something to put all the shovels in? That's funny.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.

Mumbambu, sand. Yes, funny


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:32 p.m. of the most overused words in A2!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

By what standards will the &quot;affordable units&quot; be calculated at? And 155 units with less than 50% parking availability? Oops...that's right, you will most likely have to have a reserved spot of $180/month in addition to the rent...


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

Ashley Terrace is not standing empty. There were some residential units that didn't sell, but they are mostly rented. The commercial space at ground level is not fully occupied. There are four residential units for sale at Ashley Terrace and none at 411 Lofts. Zarragon Place and the one at South U and Forest are student housing, a different thing from what this developer is doing.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Some might 'welcome' this new development-I wonder how many will be able to afford it?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Will the affordable units have sexy bathrooms, too?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

These pictures remind me of the groundbreaking our then-governor Granholm was at for Lower Town; remember that? Ah, Lower Town. Just what the city needed. Wow; it's getting to the point at which seeing the mayor's face associated with something makes me think it must be a bad idea.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

I'm delighted they are building this building, but the image of the young, attractive singles mingling in Zen garden and then having sex in the bathtub-built for 2 while the concierge runs out to buy them some supplies from the pharmacy is a little too much like a Cialis commercial.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

Aren't Ashley Terrace and the 411 lofts both sitting mostly empty? What about Zaragon Place, or the one they're building where Village Corner was? Why does Ann Arbor continue to build temporary housing in the middle of the city instead of places people want to LIVE. Oh right. The greenbelt.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

Tom While I agree for the most part and don't have a problem with developers spending their money here. &quot;I don't think these private developers would be constructing these projects if they weren't certain they would be successful. They've done their homework&quot; There is all kinds of vacant space in Ann Arbor where you would think &quot;They've done their homework&quot;


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

I think you need to check your facts on vacancy rates. Pretty sure 411 is 100% full and I know for a fact Zaragon is full with a waiting list. The Landmark (new building where Village Corner was) isn't even completed and you're complaining about its vacancies? I don't think these private developers would be constructing these projects if they weren't certain they would be successful. They've done their homework while you're just spouting nonsense.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

@M - So what are you suggesting? We have limited private property rights in this country, but constructing this building falls within the developer's rights, as did the other buildings you cite. What would you have the city do (and not get sued and lose)? And, IMO, it's likely to raise your property values, not lower them, if it has any affect at all.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

@foobar47 - because it directly affects my property value, and the culture surrounding the neighborhood they're building on?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

Ann Arbor? It's a developer. No one forced the developer to build new housing downtown. They clearly think it's a good investment. Why do you care if a developer makes an investment you wouldn't make?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

&quot;A crowd of more than three dozen people gathered today at the southwest corner of First and Washington in downtown Ann Arbor ...&quot; SE corner. SW is Kiwanis.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

Good catch

Jim Clarkson

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

I hope the new tenants like Sexy loud live music and loud people at 2 AM. better skip the sexy bathrooms and go for some sexy soundproofing. Of course city council will probably go after the two bars across the street once this is built, forget the fact that they have been there for years.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

I think the people who want to live in a place like this are aware of the potential noise and don't mind it. They are weighing the pros of living in an urban environment versus a bland suburb. I doubt a lot of older NIMBY-ish folks are going to be looking to live there.