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Posted on Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

Developers of 618 south main apartment complex meet the public

By Kyle Feldscher

Thumbnail image for 618southmain.jpg

The layout for the 618 south main apartment complex, as provided by the developer.

The developers for the 618 south main project met with about 50 members of the community Friday night, detailing how they hope the six-story complex will fit into the area around it.

The building will house studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments and will be situated between Main Street and Ashley Street, bordering Mosely Street, at the location of the former Fox Tent & Awning.

Although the design of the exterior of the building has not been finalized, it’s expected to follow the motif of the South Main Street area with red brick and steel as two of the main components, according to developer Dan Ketelaar.

Ketelaar, who works for firm Urban Development Group, said the area where the building will go is a unique spot in Ann Arbor — a neighborhood that transitions from the hustle and bustle from downtown into a more residential area of the city.

“This is a fairly unique piece of property. This location is close to town and close to campus and I don’t think there’s anything else like it in Ann Arbor,” Ketelaar said. “This is a neat location. You’re a part of downtown … and you’re still a part of a community, which we’ve tried to respect.”

The latest design presented to the community at Friday night’s meeting will see the building in an L-shape, six stories tall and with roughly 180 units. There will be two floors of parking beneath the building, which will provide about 140 spaces, according to Mike Siegel, an architect with VOA Associates.

Siegel said the original plan was to have a block of apartments along Main Street and a block of townhomes and condominiums along Ashley Street. That evolved into the current L-shaped building with a courtyard facing the majority of Ashley Street.

Siegel said the area is zoned so no structure can be taller than 60 feet. The building as currently designed would have a peak height of about 80 feet, but if the project shows that the current design benefits the community, city officials can allow the project to go through as is, Siegel said.

“Main Street is the appropriate place for the density of this development and the more you can do to soften that edge toward the neighborhood, the better,” Siegel said.

Residents who attended the meeting voiced their concerns about increased parking in the area, whether the height of the building will block current views of the Ann Arbor skyline that residents enjoy and the effect of having a large number of new residents moving to an established neighborhood.

The apartments are aimed at young professionals in their mid-20s to mid-30s, Ketelaar said. He said the area around the complex would adjust to a more urban environment as the people living there created a demand for grocery stores, coffee shops and other stores.

He said the 618 south main complex would appeal to someone who wants to live within walking distance of downtown Ann Arbor and wouldn’t want to drive a car that often, which could help ease traffic and parking concerns. In addition, the building would have two or three ZipCars for resident use.

“Once people start living here like it’s an urban area, it will become more like an urban area,” he said.

City Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, encouraged the developers to take a proposal to city officials to potentially narrow Main Street to one lane in either direction in front of the complex.

“It would be difficult, but it would get a tremendous amount of buy in,” he said. “This is a project for the community and would help do a great deal for the community for traffic calming.”

There will be another meeting for residents to speak about the development from 5-7 p.m. on Nov. 22 at the Fox Tent and Awning location at 618 S. Main St.

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Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:57 a.m.

I attended the session on Friday. While the project team was sincere, I wasn't impressed by the project. I agree with other commenters that the proposals are out of place in the neighborhood. I keep thinking that it's a 7-story eyesore in a 2-story house neighborhood. The 4 story 'by rights' project is not very attractive (intentionally?), and "wasn't sensitive to the neighborhood" as the architect said, so they decided to go bigger. The bigger alternative seems to be less sensitive. The building will be LEED certified and have solar water heaters, which impressed some people, but I'm not sure how that makes it less a 7-story eyesore than if it weren't LEED. The developer pointed out that the 618 site sits low relative to downtown, minimizing its visual impact, but if you're at Madison and Main, you'll be looking up at a 7-story eyesore. The bigger alternative qualifies for a subsidized HUD loan so it makes financial sense for the investors. I wonder what you need to qualify for this and if the 'by rights' qualifies. The developer is only doing what you'd expect – building a profitable project that meets zoning. That zoning allows a 7-story eyesore variance if there's some positive impact since this site is downtown. Only the City and the DDA would call this site downtown. If you stand at Main and Packard, it's pretty clear downtown has ended. From Packard, if you look down Main to 618 and imagine a 7-story eyesore there, it will seem out of place among the much shorter buildings around it. New residential development at 618 makes sense, but it should fit in with the neighborhood. I'm not sure this project does. There's another public meeting on Nov 22, but I'm not sure how many people are around that week to attend.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

"some people regard car ownership as a burden" Exactly. If you only have an occasional use, there are many more cost-effective alternatives (Zip Car, friend's car, bus, etc.). Not too many people want to plunk down a large amount of cash for "occasional" car use.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 1:06 a.m.

The traffic calming seems kind of like a false argument, since there are countless urban areas that have 4 lane streets that feel very urban and walkable. The design is a little more conscientious than some recent projects, but there are any number of ways creative forward thinking architects and developers could design the site so as not to need wider side walks and 'traffic calming' on Main. Hopefully some sort of development here could help make this area a little more vibrant and bring back places like Leopold's and the firefly, making a unique neighborhood area, akin to Kerrytown.

Berda Green

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 9:45 p.m.

hope i can move over there wanna move so bad from the miller manor its bad over here just terrible all kinds of drugs crack all over the building lord plz let me move from here in the new year

Tom Whitaker

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 7:48 p.m.

I agree with Zags. This site was zoned D2 as part of a multi-year, cooperative effort to update the planning and zoning of our downtown core. The purpose of D2 was to serve as a buffer between the high density high rises of D1 and our Central Area Neighborhoods. There is absolutely no reason to turn around and immediately begin to waive our new zoning regulations simply to improve a developer's bottom line. Unfortunately, this Council has shown time and again their lack of respect for our community's master plans and zoning, and I will be shocked if this proposal doesn't pass as proposed.

Old Salt

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.

Would someone please tell me which businesses there now would have to move ot.

Dan Darbor

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

Correction : Affordable Vet Services must be the "Existing Adj. Building" on the site plan

Dan Darbor

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 9:39 p.m.

The five businesses on the proposal's footprint : Delux Drapery @ 624 S. Main Overture Audio @ 618 S. Main Ivory Photo @ 606 S. Main Affordable Vet Services @ 611 S. Ashley Fox Tent & Awning @ 617 S. Ashley ( Closed )


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

This seems like a nice project in an appropriate area. Studio, 1 and 2 bedroom apts will draw a much nicer mix than the egregious manipulation of code that allows new construction of 6 bedroom "boarding house" apartments in near downtown neighborhoods. People in the area should consider themselves lucky.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

What would be most useful is if this building were for the baby boom retirees who would prefer apartment living to paying condo fees and taxes on property. This would be ideal for 55-75 year olds who enjoy Main Street and Washtenaw Dairy and would like a pool in a residential area. I would urge the planners to consider changing the demographic of this complex so that the local neighbors who are thinking of moving out of their homes and into something easier to manage can move to a complex like this. Time to do a survey so this can be aimed at current locals who plan to stay, not noisy football fans and obnoxious young drinkers who will drive in and out of the neighborhood at all hours of the night.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

There could also be pent up demand from those snow-birds who no longer wish to maintain/own property in A2.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

what 55 yold will get out of a home they own, go pay high rent here? name me one...


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

Don't narrow Main St.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

This is a great plan and meets the needs of my demographic, "young professionals in their mid-20s to mid-30s." Downtown lacks reasonably priced, decent quality, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. Many young professionals must choose a lower quality place or live in apartments near Briarwood or Plymouth Road. I'd live at 618 South Main and many of my friends would too.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 1:52 a.m.

Many 20-30s aren't sure they want to live in Ann Arbor indefinitely, so it doesn't make sense to buy a house. Or, the house they want now won't fit their needs in 5 years. The choices in downtown A2 now are carved up houses, expensive apartments, or old mediocre apartments. 618 South Main seems to fit the demographic perfectly.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:04 p.m.

house prices have come down, rentals are high. Why would one choose this type of renting-the last 30 y old I spoke to was happily looking to get out of renting and buy something. Who are you talking to, Marshall? Townhouses for purchase would be suitable here.

Marshall Applewhite

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

@mtlaurel I don't think you really understand the market. People this would be targeted toward don't stay in one place anymore. These people are hesitant to buy any house, because jobs don't remain in one single area anymore. The current crop of young professionals have largely been turned off to the idea of home ownership, simply because it is cheaper and easier to rent. They may decide to buy a home once they reach their mid 40's and have kids nearing high school age.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

the goal in this demographic is typically to be saving money for a downpayment for a, we now have a somewhat transient rental market going into a neighborhood of homeowners. How long do you realistically think you would live there... if the place were so nice you'd answer"several years", you'd quickly realize you are spending money which could be a mortgage payment on something you can own. If the place is by chance "cheap" and you like it because it's near downtown, let me tell you-we've all been there and done that-that is not a long term situation, ever.Townhouses would be more suitable for this block.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

In a perfect world, this project should go on the other side of Main St. (the failed Moravian could have soaked up some of this demand). However, the developer does provide a nice setback for the west side neighbors and Washtenaw Dairy patrons. Don't be fooled by the 80 foot variance request, the same developer wanted extra height on South U which is all part of the bargaining process with the Planning Dept. No way will the OWS allow such a variance at this location. Also, narrowing Main St. between downtown and the stadium is just crazy talk.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

Yes, the bargaining process is what took down 8 houses on 5th Avenue yesterday. Blame city council. Blame the DDA. Did the city vote for building height? No.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

what's with the pool?..Southfield in the 70's? n this day with water shortages and drought conditions..come on...let's do a sustainable garden....heard of xeriscape? Why is there a deep landscaped area on the Ashley side, nothing on Main or Mosely...the noise if you live on the Main St side will not be good...a set back and even a small cluster of shrubs, trees there can buffer some noise from traffic including stop and accelerate car motion.which is the worst. The landscaping would have been nice if distributed around to the corner of Ashley and Mosely and on the Main St side...the building looks too close to the edge of Main St.

Marshall Applewhite

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Luckily, the developer does not care about your "recommendations".


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

the people on Ashley have setbacks-porches and yards as well as back yards...can one conceive that the aesthetic and design on Main St can also be for residents of this building-unless you think Corner House on State is just fine. Well, then enjoy living directly above Main St traffic and on top of the 7-11 parking lot. Town houses would have been more suitable.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

Now all the kids can go to Washtenaw Diary, have some ice cream and do some pool hopping! Seriously though, the setback should go towards the existing residential neighbors as shown in the drawing. The businesses on Main could care less because they will have more customers now living in the area.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

They want to emulate the uom by placing massive buildings as close to street as possible.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

So it's zoned for a 60' high max. Why is the developer proposing a 80' high building? "Main Street is the appropriate place for the density of this development and the more you can do to soften that edge toward the neighborhood, the better," Siegel said. "Softening the edge" is why it's zoned for 60 '. Build within the zoning laws and you won't have a problem. And you wonder why there is such a resentment towards developers in this town.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

Any idea where the current tenants will be going and when?

Silly Sally

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

Follow the money; campaign contributions in the pipeline? Probably donated to a buddy or to some wacko enviro group that hates cars. This sounds very crooked. Can I get a private parking space in front of my home by closing a lane? NO, and neither should this scheme.

Jim Osborn

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

"City Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward,"..would help do a great deal for the community for traffic calming." We do not need "calming" we need Main St to remain a main road into and out of town. All this foolish councilman's proposal would do is create traffic backups and more idling cars. Ann Arbor should not "narrow Main Street to one lane in either direction in front of the complex." It is grabbing public land for private development. "This is" NOT "a project for the community". It is a project that is to enrich developers by using public tax money, if this is the project I think it is.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

"complex would appeal to someone who wants to live within walking distance of downtown Ann Arbor and wouldn't want to drive a car that often" but the plan includes, "two floors of parking beneath the building, which will provide about 140 spaces, according to Mike Siegel, an architect with VOA Associates." It looks like the developers story does not match their development plan.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

Yes, they have 140 spots. They also have 180 units. Presumably, they are already planning on some people not driving cars. Given the closeness of the property to downtown, this is not unreasonable. Believe it or not, some people regard car ownership as a burden and would like to live in a dense area that's walkable. Some people like to walk, but also like to maintain a car for the occasional run to Meijer's or the mall. I think the ratio proposed here is perfect for both markets.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:23 a.m.

@Mike Anglin. Please do Not reduce lanes on another street. Shrinking Main Street is a putrid idea.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 5:17 a.m.

Ann Arbor is not an Urban area, so lets skip that line of talk. You need a car. DTE helps save the planet by power outages so, you don't have to. Really, is being "GREEN" smart or just playing the game?