Documents show City Place property has new owner and active development plans
Confidential documents obtained by AnnArbor.com show the development team is poised to move forward soon with demolishing seven houses along South Fifth Avenue near downtown Ann Arbor to make way for two new apartment buildings and a 36-space parking lot.
The property changed hands last week in a sale that leaves an out-of-town developer with control over the project as it moves forward.
AnnArbor.com obtained dozens of pages of documents this past week offering a glimpse into what's happening with City Place — an approved by-right project that city officials and many neighborhood residents don't want to see built.
The documents show the development team has worked aggressively in recent months to line up financing and take other steps necessary to start construction.
Among those documents is a May 25 letter of intent from Titanium Real Estate Advisors to Jeff Helminski, vice president of Rochester-based Campus Village Communities and one of the partners involved in City Place.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
"The developer believes that in order to secure construction financing, the project will require 40 percent equity on a loan-to-cost basis, which equates to approximately $5.4 million in equity for the project," the letter states.
"Investor intends to contribute $4.6 million of capital and the developer and affiliated parties $800,000 of the $5.4 million total."
Campus Village currently owns, operates or has under construction more than 3,000 rental units in 11 different apartment communities.
Its portfolio includes apartments near several universities, including Michigan State, Wayne State, Kettering, Texas A&M, Saginaw Valley State, Ferris State, Siena Heights, Toledo and Wright State. Most were either purchased or built in the last 10 years.
The letter of intent from Titanium gave Helminski until June 10 to accept the financing terms and return an executed copy.
Titanium Real Estate Advisors is a division of Titanium Asset Management, a publicly traded investment manager headquartered in Chicago. Its clients represent a number of institutional investors, including public employee pension funds and college endowments.
Property changes hands
A newly formed company called City Place Ann Arbor LLC filed articles of organization with the state on Aug. 5. Ernest Schaefer of Campus Village is listed as the resident agent.
According to a financial document leaked to AnnArbor.com, Schaefer had a net worth of more than $17 million at the end of last year.
Helminski declined to comment on Friday about the investors behind City Place or what's happening with the project. But he confirmed that, as of Thursday, he and other partners involved with City Place Ann Arbor LLC had finalized the purchase of all seven houses expected to be demolished to make way for the 24-unit apartment complex.
In the past, Ann Arbor developer Alex de Parry was seen as the face of both City Place and Heritage Row, an alternate development proposal for the same location. But it appears now that Helminski and his team are taking the lead on pushing forward with City Place.
De Parry owned five of the houses and had an interest in the other two. But now after the sale, it appears he's no longer involved in the development.
City Place was begrudgingly approved by the City Council in September 2009, despite concerns about aesthetics and whether the project fits the character of the neighborhood. It legally conformed with city codes, so the council felt it had no choice but to approve it.
Heritage Row, a compromise proposed by de Parry in late 2009, promised to preserve the seven houses while building new apartments behind them. But four council members — Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere, Carsten Hohnke and Stephen Kunselman — blocked Heritage Row's approval last year, steering the developer back toward City Place.
Fearing City Place could move forward now, some council members said this past week they're hoping the developer is open to bringing back the Heritage Row proposal. Helminski and de Parry both declined to comment on that possibility.
If the developer were to bring Heritage Row back for reconsideration, one of the four council members who previously opposed it would need to change his or her vote for the project to win approval, and it appears Anglin and Hohnke might be willing.
Ann Arbor resident Tom Whitaker, who lives across from the City Place site and continues to oppose the project, referred comments to his attorney on Friday.
"We are exploring all possible legal options for our client to pursue," said attorney Susan Morrison, declining further comment.
Dollars and cents
One of the documents obtained by AnnArbor.com this past week is a 32-page construction finance offering prepared by Jones Lang LaSalle's real estate investment banking group in Chicago. The undated report includes confidential financial information about City Place, as well as a market overview that was used to sell the project to investors.
The report references a financial commitment from Titanium Real Estate Advisors and states that Campus Village also was seeking a construction loan of up to $11.5 million, representing 85 percent of the total development cost.
According to the report, Campus Village executed a development and purchase agreement with the owners of the City Place property for about $3.7 million and have paid more than $1 million for pre-development activities. The report also said detailed construction drawings were being finalized and construction was expected to start by the end of September.
In addition to $3.7 million for the land, the project budget shows $7 million in hard costs, including $100,000 for building demolition and $5.3 million for building construction — for a total building cost of $82.40 per square foot.
The report describes City Place as a quality student housing option for the University of Michigan community. The market overview contained in the report states there's "significant opportunity for the development of new student housing units due to a very strong rental market that is historically underserved with quality housing options."
"City Place will be the most spacious new student housing project serving the Central Campus market and will provide the highest level of technology available, including the fastest Internet and greatest bandwidth capacity in Ann Arbor," the report states.
City Place is a 64,750-square-foot project with 23 six-bedroom units and one five-bedroom unit in two identical buildings. The 1.23-acre site is located along the east side of Fifth Avenue, south of William Street, in an area near downtown zoned R4C multiple family residential.
The monthly rent for a majority of the units is expected to be $900 to $960 per bed, with a handful of them priced at $1,100 and $800, according to the report.
The budget projects a stabilized annual cash flow of $1.1 million, equating to an 8.5 percent return on cost. Annual debt service of about $870,000 would be paid over 30 years.
Net rental income is expected to be about $1.5 million annually. Total operating expenses are expected to be slightly north of $500,000 a year, including $200,999 in taxes.
The report talks about the on-campus housing currently provided at U-M, calling it both "limited" and "outdated." Off-campus housing, the report adds, is "infamous for its low-quality offerings" that have "pushed into areas originally constructed as single family neighborhoods."
The report looks at comparable rents, identifying City Place as more affordable than other apartments in the campus area.
The average rent is expected to be $5.78 per bedroom square foot, compared to $9.24 at Zaragon Place, $7.21 at 411 Lofts, $6.17 at 922 Church and $6.54 at 930 Church.
The report references enrollment growth at the University of Michigan, claiming about 800 new students are being added to the rental market each year.
According to university records, undergraduate enrollment increased from 25,555 to 27,027 — about 5.8 percent — between 2007 and 2010. Meanwhile, total enrollment increased from 38,680 to 41,924, or about 8.4 percent, during that time.
However, university officials said recently they think they welcomed too many freshmen on campus last fall and so they made it a goal this year to reduce the incoming class. A university spokesman said on Friday this year's enrollment figures won't be released until October.
The new housing stock is growing, too: Two high-rises are under construction, and another is proposed on East Washington. Combined, the three projects will bring another 1,173 bedrooms into the student housing mix.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.