Pizza House gets new topping: 14-story high-rise wins approval from Ann Arbor City Council
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Pizza House restaurant owner Dennis Tice and the Minnesota-based Opus Group are teaming up to bring forward the 83,807-square foot development at 624 Church St.
The $17 million project geared toward University of Michigan students is expected to contain roughly 76 apartments with at least 175 bedrooms.
Rendering by J Bradley Moore & Associates
"We all talk about — and have talked for a number of years — wanting there to be more one- and two-bedroom apartments in the downtown, and I'm glad to see this is an important step toward realizing that," said Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward.
In response to the comments provided by the Design Review Board, as well as citizen input, the development team modified the design of the project to predominantly include one- and two-bedroom units in order to hopefully attract a broad demographic of tenants.
"We worked closely with the Tice family to design a project the city of Ann Arbor and the citizens will be proud of," said Mark Bell, a real estate manager for the Opus Group.
Bell said roughly 74 percent of the units will be one and two bedrooms, with the rest being three and four bedrooms.
Not everybody was singing praises about the project Monday night, though. An attorney representing a competitor in the student housing market — the Zaragon Place high-rise, which backs up to Pizza House from East University Avenue — appeared before council members to reiterate previously stated concerns about the development having zero front and rear setbacks.
Chicago-based Galileo Associates, which owns Zaragon Place, has argued no crane system exists that can install heavy pre-cast concrete panels on a zero setback property line without swinging the panels over neighboring property, which Galileo considers a trespassing issue.
"We're concerned about the health, safety and welfare of our student residents," said attorney Sandra Sorini Elser. "In particular because the developer is proposing to locate that western wall right at the developer's property line, and they're going to be using essentially the backyard of Zaragon Place, where we have open patios, barbecues, students out there all the time, even in the winter."
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Jim Caesar, vice president at Opus Design Build LLC, said safety is his company's first priority. He referenced two recent projects where Opus operated with a near-zero setback.
"We've designed crane systems and we've met with experts for the past seven months to develop systems and we would not attempt something we didn't think we could do," he said, adding Opus won't be trespassing on the Zaragon property in any way during the project.
"We've taken great strides to eliminate the need to swing anything, bring any equipment, or have any air-right encroachment," he told council members. "It's not the way we want to do it, but it's the way we will do it to avoid any complications with our neighbor."
There will be no vehicle parking spaces on site at 624 Church St., but the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has agreed to make roughly 40 spaces available to the developer in the nearby Forest Avenue parking garage.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.