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Posted on Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

Developer has Fox Tent property on Ann Arbor's South Main Street under contract

By Paula Gardner

A block in the southern gateway to downtown Ann Arbor is under contract for a new development, the potential buyer of the former Fox Tent & Awning property confirmed.

Dan Ketelaar, one of the original developers of the 601 Forest student high-rise on South University, said he is “looking at various options right now” for the property at 618 S. Main.


The former Fox Tent & Awning building from the South Ashley side of the property.

Melanie Maxwell |

Unclear so far is what he envisions building on the land, which spans most of a city block with frontage on South Main and bordering a single family row of homes to the west.

It’s now under the city’s D-2 zoning, which would allow a higher-density, mixed-use building up to 5 stories.

“I’m not interested in talking about it yet,” Ketelaar said, “… until we get further along.”

City officials said they had conversations with Ketelaar in late 2010, but there has been no site plan submitted.

“No one here has had specific conversations with anyone for at least 6 months on the Fox Tent & Awning site,” said Wendy Rampson, city planning director.

The property was listed - without an asking price - at the beginning of the year. The business also was listed for sale, but it was purchased by Delux Tents and Events.

The property is close to 1 acre and it spans most of the block bordered by South Main, West Mosely and South Ashley. It’s across South Main from the South Main Market and located between the heart of downtown Ann Arbor and Michigan Stadium.

Co-listing agent Larry Zahn of Anchorage Realty in Ann Arbor said at the time of the listing that it had the potential to drive larger-scale development on South Main Street.

Doug Ziesemer, co-listing agent at Anchorage, said the property attracted attention from a number of potential buyers before it went under contract to Ketelaar in mid-March.

“We had a lot of interest in the property, both from local developers and from developers from outside of the area,” Ziesemer said.

He added: “There really hasn’t been a good piece of property to come available on Main” since the former Greek Church on North Main.

Ziesemer said details on the project would be released by Ketelaar as the process continues.

“It’s in an extended due-diligence period,” he said.

Information on the deal's contingencies or the duration of the contract were not available. Ketelaar would not say when he expects to unveil plans to neighbors and the 3 commercial tenants remaining on the site.

Despite the property's proximity to Allen Creek, Ziesemer said it's neither in the floodplain nor floodway.



Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

I wish they would do something with the Greek Church property, at the very least tear it down to give the area more parking until the formulate a plan for it. It looks awful.

Linda Diane Feldt

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:42 a.m.

This story would benefit from including information about "the 3 commercial tenants remaining on the site". Would that include Ivory Photo and Overture Audio? Two Ann Arbor businesses who have been in that location for decades. Both businesses are unusually superb at providing personal customer service, and are certainly Ann Arbor features. My heart certainly skips a beat thinking that they may be threatened by "improvements" in the area. Please follow up with more information about exactly what additional property is involved with this potential deal, and what long time local businesses may be affected.

Linda Diane Feldt

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

My dad taught city planning at the UM. Some change is good, some is great, some is bad some is a disaster. That's what I've learned from him. The best change, for any city, is well planned. Which means you follow a set of decisions made well before proposals, you don't react ad hoc or spontaneously to each developer that comes along. I believe in the planning process, that is fair and applied thoughtfully. In this case, there is not enough information to make a judgement. But I do care about those small businesses. Some of the special businesses in Ann Arbor (and everywhere else) operate on a close margin, and a change in cash flow or extraordinary expenses (like those associated with a move) can cause them to go under. Just because they are good doesn't mean they can weather sudden changes. I would prefer a story that includes basic info on at least who might be affected, but also how. It is one sided if just the developer's plan is given. Neighborhoods and businesses have long and sometimes fragile histories. That story needs to be kept in the forefront, so that we can respond with full information and possibly be involved in safeguarding what we value. With more information provided, I'd be happy to form an opinion on the project. But that includes honest reporting on what are the true costs And what are the trade-offs. That all starts with information and conversation. I look forward to that process.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

Bonsai, thank goodness this day, like every other day in Ann Arbor, is "self righteous indignation day"!


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

Aboriginal -- what she's asking for is MORE reporting -- without the ORIGINAL reporting you wouldn't have this particular complaint, now, would you? But it sure is fun to gripe, isn't it? Linda Diane -- I hope you're not falling victim to the Ann Arbor malady of all-change-is-bad-itis. If these businesses are so good, they will survive a move.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

What you are asking for is reporting. You might want to check some other dotcom!


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 2:40 a.m.

I imagine that City Council will encourage Mr. Ketelaar to build a 12-story hotel and conference center by offering an underground parking facility which will be built with taxpayer money. In a addition, City Council will probably defer TIF payments for ten years or more to make the project even more attractive. In return the City may take control of the property by default when the development goes bankrupt. Meanwhile, the taxpayer gets a new millage or an income tax to pay off bonds issued to help the developer finance his fiasco. Please turn the channel. I have seen this show.

Ann English

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 12:50 a.m.

Never paid much attention to the businesses on the west side of Main in that area, just the east side ones, better lit up in the dark morning hours. Only Sherwin Williams held my attention, and the homes on Mosley after discovering that First Street ends at Mosley. Then there's the Hill Street traffic signal to pay attention to. Nice that that part of Main has several lanes, not just two, if construction vehicles will soon be on the scene. Building construction, not road construction. We have enough of that taking place elsewhere.

Marvin Face

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

I live in the neighborhood and welcome whatever development occurs in this location. I loved Fox Tent & Awning but it was always (and still is) a neighborhood eyesore. Don't bother consulting with me, just do it. I suspect that many of my neighbors will have their panties all bunched up over it, however.


Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

As one of the original developers of the 601 Forest student high-rise on South University,I am sure Dan Ketelaar is well aware of all of the hoops that one must go through to build/depvlope in Ann Arbor. Remember the height issue of 601 Forest. For the life of me, I do not know why anyone would want to develope in Ann Arbor, there must be opportunities elsewhere.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 12:08 a.m.

Or an intellectual person might realize that Ann Arbor is the strongest economic center in Michigan AND one of the strongest in the entire midwest. I would argue part of the reason for that is precisely the so-called "hoops" one must jump through to get things done. If you want things done half-assed with little rhyme or reason just head to the east side of Detroit with Warren etc

Old Salt

Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 10:07 p.m.

Would any of the current businesses in that area have to move if the property is developed?


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 8:10 p.m.



Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 11:07 a.m.

Probably just Washtenaw Dairy as it will be in the way.


Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 9 p.m.

He added: "There really hasn't been a good piece of property to come available on Main" since the former Greek Church on North Main. and we can all see how that sale has blossomed into the beautiful site everyone thought it would be...although I would rather have a drunk sleeping on the steps of that location then downtown...

Tom Teague

Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

An enduring lesson from some unrealized developments around town is that you can't wait until the end of the process to gain community acceptance. I'm sure there are significant differences involving zoning, requirements and funding between this and some of the unsuccessful downtown projects, but there's no time like the present to get out and listen to the neighbors about their concerns, fears and desires for development of the property.