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Posted on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Developer proposes new 224-unit student housing project for Grace Bible Church site in Ann Arbor

By Lizzy Alfs

Three months after the 42 North site plan expired, a development company is proposing a new 224-apartment student housing project for property owned by Grace Bible Church on Ann Arbor's west side.

The 15-acre site is located off South Maple Road near Pauline Boulevard.

The controversial 42 North project - a five building, 120-unit apartment compound with 494 parking spaces - was approved by City Council in a 7-4 vote in 2008.


As the housing market went soft, the North Carolina-based developer, Wood Partners, didn’t move forward with the project and the site plan expired in late 2011.

Grace Bible Church still owns the property because Wood Partners never exercised its option to purchase. It has been listed for sale at an undisclosed price.

Now, a different North Carolina-based development company is proposing student housing for the site: 10 to 12 three-story apartment buildings, totaling about 224 units each with two or three bedrooms. It includes one parking space per bed.

Developer Campus Crest Communities is holding its first citizen participation meeting to get public input on Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Grace Bible Church fellowship hall at 1300 S. Maple Road.

Founded in 2004, Campus Crest specializes in “fully loaded” student housing properties, according to its website. The company has 33 student properties in 18 different states, and also has it’s own construction and real estate management branches.

Chris Russ, vice president of development for Campus Crest, said its student projects - which are all named The Grove - are very similar and only have a few different building types.

“It’s a branded product,” he said. “When kids come to school they look in the market and see if there’s a Grove there they could possibly live at.”

He said the compounds offer “resort-style amenities,” and The Grove at Ann Arbor - the first Campus Crest development in Michigan - would be no different.

Amenities typically include a large pool, sand volleyball courts, a basketball court, barbeque pits, game room, bistro eating area, coffee bar, library, fitness center, in-room washer and dryer and fully furnished apartment units.

They also offer the tenants life skills courses and host charitable events at local establishments, Russ said.

“We’re not about heads and beds,” he said. “We’ve got a number of great programs we’re trying to get our students involved in and I think that’s really what sets us apart.”

The average rent for apartments in Campus Crest buildings nationwide is $500 per month per bedroom. That number will change based on Ann Arbor competitors and proximity to campus, he said.

Similar student apartment projects that are located closer to the University of Michigan campus, such as Zaragon Place on East University Avenue and Sterling 411 Lofts on East Washington Street, are priced from $800 to $1,650 per bed.

Sketches for The Grove at Ann Arbor are still in the preliminary stages and might change, he said, based on feedback from the community at the citizen participation meeting.

The goal is to have about 600 parking spaces on the edges of the 15-acre site and the buildings in the middle to eliminate noise and light for neighboring residents.

“We’re trying to design it in such a way that the impact felt by the neighbors…are minimized as much as possible,” Russ said.

Because the project is located a few miles from the U-M campus, Russ said it would likely offer a shuttle service to ease traffic and parking concerns.

One of the major concerns with the 42 North project was the transportation issue for students. At the time of approval, neighborhood residents also raised questions about stormwater management and crime.

In 2008, Council members spoke at length about their reservations about 42 North, but concluded there wasn’t sufficient justification to block the project.

Mayor John Hieftje said at the time he thought it was being built “for a market that may not exist” and that the number of student housing units proposed was “way beyond demand.”

Since then, several other student apartment projects have come into development near the U-M campus, which promise to bring thousands of new beds onto the market. Among the projects:

--The Varsity on East Washington Street received approval in November and construction is set to begin soon.

--The under-construction Zaragon West is projected to open on East William Street in fall 2012.

--Landmark on South Forest is under construction and slated to open fall 2012.

--Construction has begun on City Place apartments on Fifth Avenue after seven houses were demolished to make way for the project.

--Both the Ann Arbor City Apartments on First Street and 618 South Main are targeted towards young professionals and graduate students. City officials expect the Ann Arbor City Apartments to break ground this month, while 618 South Main is still in the early planning stages.

The student housing boom comes at a time when U-M officials have stated their intention of decreasing student enrollment growth starting next year. About 27,400 students are enrolled as undergraduates right now, 2,400 more than the school would like.

Russ said Campus Crest has been studying the Ann Arbor market for a long time, and the company was just waiting to find the right piece of land.

One of the reasons it landed on the Grace Bible Church site, he said, is that it’s already zoned for multi-family use.

“We’ve looked at the market in enough detail to know we’re comfortable with this location for students and its proximity to campus in terms of having some sort of bus or shuttle service to decrease traffic and get cars off the road as much as we can,” he said.

He added: “We aim for this thing to be 100 percent full, of course. We’re going to come in and get the right price to make that happen.”

After next week’s public meeting, Russ said site plans would be submitted in late January or February.

Campus Crest is working with Ann Arbor-based architect Brad Moore of J Bradley Moore & Associates.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

I have no respect left for Grace Bible Church, given that they appear to have no respect for their neighbors. "Fully loaded college life?" Are you kidding me? In a residential neighborhood? Miles from campus? Clearly the church doesn't give a damn about the people around them, they only want the maximum profit they can possibly realize. And that after decades of owning the land tax free. Dis-GRACE-full. And sad. So much for love thy neighbors.

say it plain

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

Especially given the law suits against them for claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, and the truly ugly business of their CEOs illegally manipulating the judicial system to get his divorce case's jurisdiction changed so that he could leave his wife and children with *nothing*, including no place to live! While he has 1/2-billion dollar IPOs! I sure hope any church organization would find this unacceptable in terms of a legacy to their community. It sounds like there would be no good stuff coming from this project for anybody but the developers' bottom line...


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

anarboran I would not go so far as you have concerning Grace Bible Church. But I certainly hope if Grace Bible can and will look further into what this developers reputation is and has the moral conviction to stop this if they can, and feel it is not a good move.

say it plain

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

Wow, I'm a little scared now reading the comments on the anti-Grove facebook page! This group just won approval for a compound in Fort Collins CO to provide housing for CSU students, and apparently while residents fought to prevent it, it all went through anyway... and it sounds like a *terribly* run group, a terrible company! But, like here of late, the city managers seemed unconcerned and seemed as though they couldn't really find a good reason to deny the project...yikes! Very substandard building, awful management, a company that uses very abusive legal I'd worry in a big way if the city lets this go forward much at all, because they will mess with people to get what they want it seems and that happens to be a part of town where maybe there isn't as much political clout to stop undesired developments.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

Does anyone have any evidence that any of our glorious city leaders ever read any these comments? There is some really good stuff posted at times, such as the work of jcj. Seems like democratically elected officials would like to keep their eye on what some of their citizens are thinking--and their researches could save them some work also.

say it plain

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

Well then concerned Ann Arborites should really get their arguments against this developer in order. Check out their website--they are *all* about the stockprice. Even their "about us" section is all about how this is growth market opp...they've already made their money on the IPO. They could care less about the overabundance of more desirable student housing in Ann Arbor. They might need to price their units a little lower for the hassle of being so far from campus, but I sense that they will push with this, because they'd want to show their shareholders that they are in on the Ann Arbor market (woohoo! score!), and because, as their representative says, "this piece of land is already zoned multi-family". That way they don't have to do the whole PUD thing, and so their business record can't come into play as the powers that be consider whether to grant them that. I'm sure they'd like to avoid the kind of scrutiny that this would entail. If our 'city leaders' were scared about a law suit from lesser corporate muscle than this outfit, no way they'll dare to peeve Mr. Rollins. Wow. Too bad for the West Side of Ann Arbor, I'd say...and the kids who will end up living there.

Mike D.

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

I know for a fact that they do. Credible, verifiable information posted in these comments will make it into the hands of council and the mayor. However, just because they don't like something, doesn't mean they can block it. It's a free country, and they don't own this land. And neither do the neighbors.

say it plain

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

Really, I sure hope they look at this stuff! The facebook page is truly from Alabama Texas elsewhere all over going on about improper charges galore, terrible maintenance, bedbug infestations not dealt with, management issues, plus the lawsuits from employees for discrimination against women and people of color and so on and so forth... That's in addition to the nasty nasty personal business of the CEO's divorce (leaving his wife and daughters homeless, on food stamps, while he was busy orchestrating huge IPOs for Campus Crest with the help of his ultra-wealthy powerful rightwing georgia family, ick)... Nightmare, and a lot of the facebook post stuff is all current, not in some past incarnation of the company. That the city would even begin to consider such a project is ridiculous... If doesn't run a more complete profile here that too would be silly...

say it plain

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

Here's a facebook page for people who have complaints about &quot;The Grove&quot; housing projects near various college campuses around the country... <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;v=wall</a> maybe this is par for the course in student housing development complaining, but I'd like to think it's not...

say it plain

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

Oh, wow, check out @jcj's links here! That's very damning of this group... Please, follow up on this company's problems/connections so that our community can know the can o' troubles this project might represent. Hopefully nobody will get fooled... I guess Ann Arbor is going to have to be on guard about projects proposed in this sort of scammy niche now that campus-related projects is one of the only bubbles reliably in existence development-wise currently...

Peter Eckstein

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

Would it be illegal to ask where the money is really coming from to build this proposed project? We have seen some developers--mainly from out-of-town--who design a project, produce all sorts of inflated estimates of the demand for it, and then get financing for the project from some unwary bank or group of investors far away who are dazzled by the projections. The developer charges hefty management fees and more than covers its own costs, and the lenders lose most or all of their money when the project fails. I do not know the circumstances of this particular pipe dream, but I would like to know how much of the construction cost is being borne by the developer itself. I have seen many projects in AA fail at the expense of the lenders, and I have seen that great movie, The Producers. There are ways to make money from a project doomed to fail, as Zero Mostel's character knew--even if his own project backfired. Just asking.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

&quot;In 2008 Mayor John Hieftje said he thought it was being built "for a market that may not exist" and that the number of student housing units proposed was "way beyond demand." Wow how times have changed, you'd never know by all the APPROVED housing project by the mayor since those famous words were spoken 4 years ago. Might as well stamp it approved, this way they can expand the bus line, build a new bus transfer station, justify the hole in the ground on Division, the $80K cross walks, the ridiculous city hall and art.... fits very nicely now with the Mayor's vision of what this city should look like when he and his buddies are done...

hut hut

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

So watching Hollywood movies can make anyone an expert? Two movies about campus hijinks gives you a license to make gross generalizations? Please stop. It hurts when I laugh this much.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

It would behoove the city and those interested to do some research into Campus Crest. I am not passing judgement just passing on information. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Hot Sam

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

I've probably heard dumber ideas...I just can't remember when...

Hot Sam

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

You guys are killin' me...I was trying to forget:-)


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

there is also the 750K storm water fountain in front of city hall

Hot Sam

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

The hits keep on comin' don't they Brad?


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

Just take a drive down Fifth Ave - oh, make that a *walk* down Fifth Ave and look for the big hole in the ground.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 4:48 a.m.

Do you have to be a student---I like the sound of those amenities, lol?


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 3:17 a.m.

From reading the article, I got the idea that I might not be fully informed on this kind of project - too many things didn't make sense. But reading comments: I see that many (who're evidently well informed) have the same questions I do. What're we gonna do with an additional 600 &quot;student drivers&quot; in Ann Arbor? Possibly there are a few hundred students who are &quot;commuter oriented&quot; who also have cars. But I would see that possibility in another way: U of M is no longer even close to being a typical American public college, it's a university for students who are already in the top social and economic class. I thought public schools were founded on the idea of boot-strapping Middle and Lower class students as much as &quot;continuing the first class rides&quot; for the wealthy. I know &quot;interstate commerce&quot; is a good thing: but I wonder why there are no Michigan based developers interested in this property (for other than the currently projected use). As for the rest: Ditto what smokeblwr, Ross, brimble and Lollly say.

Go Blue

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 2:50 a.m.

As usual, cater to the builder and the heck with affordable family housing as there is no money in that! Like we REALLY need more student housing, especially so &quot;close&quot; to campus. Yessiree, we sure do need it, just because. Why does it feel like our city is up for grabs to the highest bidder and our glorious council just goes right along with it????? Tear it down, who cares what the people that actually live here think!

Emma B

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 12:25 a.m.

As a very recent graduate let me throw in my youthful perspective: I would never live that far from campus as an undergrad. Of course if it were like $300/month then maybe I'd change my tune...

Original Ann Arborite

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

This makes me sick to my stomach!! Ann Arbor is in dire need of more affordable FAMILY HOUSING!!!! This is a family neighborhood with small children in the area etc. No, this should not go to students, if your going to build something would you please begin with some type of affordable housing-ugh!!! Did A2 forget there are also families here and not just students who need housing? Gee, as a modern gal, I would like to see more apts. with up to date amenities. 3 bedrooms please!!! All we have here in a2 is the same ole(2 bedroom) properties available-mostly owned by Mckinley and they are really picky about who they allow in their housing. Then we have home owners who are splitting up their houses and charging 400-600 per room for a 3-4 bedroom-for students! I don't even think the lofts available here are up to par... Where can families who don't make more than 50,000 live? What if their credit isn't A1 but they can afford the rental rate? Deadmeat... They won't be able to rent anything decent. What if they are not a student? Deadmeat... Can somebody please change this type of standard out here?!! AFFORDABLE FAMILY HOUSING PLEASE


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

I really think Ann Arbor would prefer &quot;that&quot; kind of person to move to Ypsilanti.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 4:36 a.m.

didn't Habitat for Humanity build some homes over there for use as affordable family housing ? weren't they vandalized during or after they were built

say it plain

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 3:15 a.m.

great points... one would think *this* kind of housing would be getting some tread in our current economy... but I guess the powers that be still think that once you have a 'family' you should own your place, even though we've seen what credit trickiness and overpriced housing and job insecurity can do to a society that puts forth that silliness about owning homes being so important to true upstanding adulthood. There is some bucking of that idea, even among the economic pundit-types, citing the easy mobility and freedom and flexibility for even apparently upstanding adults and families to rent instead of buy, but around here the options truly are minimal for families or young adults who don't feel like paying too much for meh charmless too-cramped rental units.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

I don't consider my self a liberal, but some of these comments putting down poor folks who live in section 8 housing are downright nasty. Get a clue. Are you really better than them? Re: the article, I agree, doesn't make sense to me to market the location for student housing.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 4:34 a.m.

poor doesn't always equal criminals, however the criminal element in that neighborhood does reflect on the rest of the people living there. If they don't want to be lumped in with the idiots then they need to run the bad apples out. As it stands I wouldn't move into the neighborhood b/c of it.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

This is not a good student housing area. As a grad student, my daughter lived at a complex not far from this proposed one, and she complained constantly about unreliable/infrequent bus service to campus and the lack of restaurants. This is a plot of land more suitable for other types of housing as suggested by other readers. .

Usual Suspect

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.

Didn't we already give a big &quot;no&quot; to this a couple years ago?

Usual Suspect

Sun, Jan 15, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

Well, EXCUSE my use of not exactly the perfect word. Didn't we just VOICE a big &quot;no&quot; to this a couple years ago?

Smart Logic

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 11:10 a.m.

Your answer is the same as your question: no. Read the article. The developer decided not to proceed due to the housing market, not because of a &quot;big no.&quot;


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10:31 p.m.

Apparently the developers don't know much about that stretch of road. Sure there is a subdivision and some nice new condos, but students don't generally live in that area. There is also the nice &quot;projects&quot; down the street with gun fights in the summer and a young girl was shot through the wall of her home while she was sleeping a few years ago?

Marvin Face

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

Um...yeah. I've always loved the sign at the entry that proclaims it so!


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 4:29 a.m.

marvin, I assume you were being sarcastic!

Marvin Face

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 3:27 a.m.

That is a &quot;drug free community&quot; thank you very much!


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

Nothing like affordable housing! Build baby Build!


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

There is some nasty section 8 housing right next to that location. Why not plow that instead of the nice Church to make room for these young Scholars?


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

This is not the land upon which the church sits. It is adjacent land that is currently owned by the church but that has no church buildings built upon it.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 9:18 p.m.

What student, other than some grad school or med students would want to be miles from campus? They would have to take Ann Arbor buses or drive and there isn't enough parking in the campus area. Would the developer like to buy some nice swamp land?


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 9:18 p.m.

Churches are non-profit I believe. So would all this property be considered &quot;tax exempt&quot;??


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

Not after they sell it.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

From my work on campus I can tell you that it will be mainly grad students who will be drawn to this type housing. They generally have the financial means to pay more, they don't want to live close to campus, yet they still want to live around other students. Also, with two residence halls being taken out of commission next year (Baits I and East Quad), Northwoods is going to become mainly Freshmen, pushing more grad students further off campus. Grad students and students who are willing to pay this much and live this far from campus will not be ones to party. That tends to be students who live in the &quot;ghetto&quot; close to campus. This developer has been in this situation before. They obviously care about the development being successful in the long run. The article notes that they've been looking at the area for some time, and I'm sure they've done their homework. In spite of the recent student housing projects, they still desire to build here, so they must know something about the demand for this type of housing.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 9:23 p.m.

Sorry, but I don't see why they &quot;must know something.&quot; But then I've had a long career in real estate watching the results and consequences of bad decisions as well as good.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

Doesn't sound like a great business investment, but then, what do I know? Once you get that far off-campus, in an area where a car will be a necessity, it begins to compete with dozens of Pittsfield Township complexes with similar amenities that can be had for a lot less than $500 a bed. Honestly, were I the developers (and I realize student apartments are what they do) I would ditch the restrictive and cringe-inducing &quot;student housing&quot; label and just call them &quot;2-bedroom apartments&quot;, and create a community-oriented rental community that happens to allow students to rent there but that is a more representational mix of students, faculty, and others, with a downtown shuttle, which would give them the luxury of being able to be more selective in who they rent to.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

Hope they plan on getting security out there, lol, that location on South Maple isn't the most law-abiding area.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

This project doesn't make much sense at all, no matter how you slice it. The location is not only not near campus, but not near anything other than residential neighborhoods (and, obviously, a church). South Maple is a two-lane road, which terminates into Scio Church -- a two lane road. The other access is via two-lane Pauline or two-lane Liberty. While the students might have a shuttle to campus, they will drive to restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and so on; it is not viably walkable. The size is similar to the previous project, which means that the impact to water, sewage, and stormwater will be very large. What is the environmental impact? Has anyone run a good analysis of the impact on infrastructure -- water, sewer, roads, police and fire -- and associated costs to the City? My guess is that the business case is flawed, the environmental impact is unknown, and the infrastructure costs are ignored.

say it plain

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.

I sure hope people have some good environmental impact arguments to make so that this project gets blocked!

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

Looks like a great location for PUD. Go for it.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

There are so many apartments already in this area. I use to work at the 1500 Pauline complex and I think they have 300 units and I wonder what the vacancy rate is? There is also a problem with overdevelopment and the sewer system draining down Liberty and into the lower level basements of the homeowner's. Hopefully it is fixed but with another huge complex who knows?


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

Students in general won't live that far from campus. This is a goofy idea for Ann Arbor and is destined to be a loser for its investors. These people should talk to some local realtors and get a sense of what the student rental market is like here. The campus atmosphere is more like the Ivy League experience. U of M is not a commuter campus. In addition, as the article implies, the luxury student rental market is about to be overbuilt in the same way the condominium market was overbuilt in the late nineties and early this century. Developers see that something is working and they believe it can be replicated endlessly. They stop only when the bottom falls out (for example, re condos, think of Ashley Terrace). There is definitely a saturation point in every market, and developers need to learn to recognize it.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

without mass transit, it does seem a far location. Shuttles are okay, but I'm not sure it would equate to a line that runs downtown or to campus in 3 minutes.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

Student housing on south maple? Dumb. Really dumb.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Great. Now we'll get even more drug dealers than usual hanging out in this area to sell to the students. And the Wolverine Tap Room will be overrun with East Coasters....NOOOOOO!!!

say it plain

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.

But clearly this apartment complex will *not* be renting to anyone but students--it's their business model, and I don't see them deviating from it. Check out their's really all about the sell of the stock, it's really all about the 'brand' as an investment-in-college-costs-bubble for people looking to buy shares.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

I've seen Animal House and Old School. I think I know how college students behave.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

Why do apartments and students = drugs? With the housing correction and mortgage constraints, many homes (read families) are shifting more to renting, so apartments are not a bad thing per se. While drugs transcend all discriminating criteria, I don't think the pricepoint for these places are suggestive toward drug dealers and inner-city crime? I must have missed something - it seems there are far more suggestive crime areas near this site.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

Don't worry. No one from the east coast will live that far from campus.