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Posted on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

High-rise rush continues: Another apartment development proposed for downtown Ann Arbor

By Lizzy Alfs

Another student high-rise apartment development could be built near the University of Michigan campus on South University Avenue, accelerating a trend of similar projects that have been constructed or proposed throughout downtown Ann Arbor in the past few years.

Property owners have submitted a rezoning request and “area plan” to the Ann Arbor Planning Commission for a mixed-use student high-rise development located between the 601 Forest high-rise project and the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon on South University Avenue.

The parcel of land, located at 1320 S. University Ave., is currently a 2.5-story multi-family apartment building owned by Philip Sotiroff of 1320 South University Ltd.

The request, submitted by Jim Sotiroff, is to rezone the parcel from a D2 district, downtown interface, to D1, downtown core. Along with the rezoning, an area plan was submitted outlining a possible site plan for the location.

City planner Alexis DiLeo said that the rezoning would allow a building of bigger dimensions to be built on the property.

The area plan includes a building 145 feet tall that totals 148,876 square feet. It includes 2,748 square feet of first-floor retail space with frontage on South University Avenue with residential uses above. There is both below-grade and at-grade parking included in the plan.

Brad Moore of J Bradley Moore & Associates, the architect who designed the plans, said the building would be several stories shorter than the neighboring 14-story 601 Forest.

In 2008, the site at 1320 S. University Ave. was included in the original plans for University Village, an ambitious high-rise development that was proposed before it was scaled back as 601 Forest.

The proposed University Village was for a 582,390-square-foot structure with two connected towers that would rise as high as 26 stories. The project was reduced after developers had trouble acquiring the development rights to a piece of land.

Now, the scaled back 601 Forest is currently under construction, with a projected opening of fall 2012.

Architect Moore said that the recent rezoning request and area plan for 1320 S. University Ave. could add more student rental housing onto a high-demand market.

“If current development trends persist, I expect that the residential space on the upper floors would have a significant student renter component, but we are not proposing to limit the residential use areas to students,” Moore wrote in an email.

DiLeo said the rezoning request should go before Ann Arbor Planning Commission in October. It will then need approval from Ann Arbor City Council.

Other recent high-rise developments in downtown Ann Arbor include the completed Zaragon tower, the under-construction Zaragon West, the finished Sterling 4-Eleven Lofts building and a recently proposed development on Washington Street called The Varsity.

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



Mon, Sep 5, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

This is good for Ann Arbor as these facilities will pay property taxes to support this city, unlike UM and its giant dorms.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 3:01 a.m.

don't think any of this has to do with sprawl or density or the like...take a good look while you walk across the diag or anywhere on State St or South Univ: the Asian and foreign born students at the Univ of Mich is a huge number and increasing every year. They spend the requisite semesters here to earn their degree and likely go back to their country where they will get good jobs with wages to ensure a good life. The rather clinical "living in a box" setup altho dull and boring to US kiids, doesn't matter to these students...and their family can afford these rents with the description of "new "and all the amenities at the tip of a finger. Nothing wrong with "there is something for everyone" here... but Ann Arbor is more than an oasis for foreign students...heed should be taken in giving over to developers drooling over their fattening portfolios with these projects...they are not looking around our town...they are selectively looking up, away from the street for the next crevice to insert their tower. Plans put forth can and should be scrutinized with the same zeal that the projects are laid out. Is the only plan for older buildings going to be hi rental student units consuming every square inch with vertical pile on in every direction from campus?

John A2

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 3 a.m.

Why? A2 has plenty of housing as it is. I believe it's these big Corps that want to take all the business from the private sector. Renting out room in big U towns is OLD business. That business was inherent to the Citizens Of that town. This big boom for rental space is not going to last long. The U is going to loose there enrollment numbers in a couple of years. These high priced apartments are going to loose there appeal.

Tom Joad

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

A new paradigm in education has arrived and it will be web-based. A residential college with its massive logistical and infrastructure costs just doesn't make sense today. The costs of college have far outstripped the majority's ability to pay for it. Most students graduate with massive loans that must be paid off over decades for the honor of having their brain stimulated in an elitist college environment. Real work skills are needed in this economy and the future. Those skills can be garnered effectively in a more cost-conscious way.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

Yeah, quaint University town. Look at U towers and tell me about quaint!

Bob W

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

Environmentally, building up beats the sprawl of building out.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 1:45 a.m.

It's like SimTower. Remember that game?

Jack Eaton

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

In a perfect world, high rise development would be preferable to urban sprawl. Unfortunately, sprawl and highrise apartments appeal to two completely distinct demographic groups. Those who seek a big house with a 3 car garage, 1/2 acre lawn, space for a garden and compost pile are not likely to find an expensive apartment that is marketed to students very appealing. Even highrise condominiums are unlikely to appeal to the sprawl demographic. Some do not want to trade "country life" for a expensive condo in a high tax city. These apartments are for students. The market for high end student apartments is reaching its saturation point. Let the projects that are being built reach the market and see whether there is further demand before we grant re-zoning for even more of the same kind of development.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

These high-rise buildings are very expensive to build and therefore will demand expensive leasing rates of $1000 per month or more. With similar construction recently completed and contemplated and the University not planning to increase enrollment, demand for luxury rentals should diminish precipitously. Do not forget that four years residing in this type of residence will cost $48,000 in addition to tuition. Not every Michigan student has a family that can afford this style of living. Furthermore, the addition of tall buildings will destroy the quaint college town appearance which is part of the attraction of the University of Michigan (as versus New York University or Columbia). Very likely these high rise student residences will not have sufficient occupancy to be prevent bankruptcy and subsequent sales at rock bottom prices like Ashley Terrace. One ray of light out of such a situation is that the new owners can slash leasing rates by two-thirds, generating full occupancy and profitability. Of course the DDA will receive reduced TIF payments in accordance with the newly reduced value of the properties.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 8:55 p.m.

You can't really compare Ann arbor to NYC. It just can't be done.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

What is your point?


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

The first illustrations were a creamy yellow disaster - good luck Ann Arbor!! LOL

Mike D.

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

Bravo! This is good for the environment because more families will be able to afford lifestyles that require less driving. Increased density downtown will allow more people to live within walking distance in close-by neighborhoods currently full of students. The area between Hill and Wells, for example, will gradually revert from multi-unit rentals to single-family homes.

West of Main

Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

Now if we could only get an affordable, non-boutique grocery store within walking distance of the downtown/campus area.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 8:36 p.m.

PLUS no driving = less idiling:)


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

I like these developments - keeps the students concentrated in one particular area of town for the most part. The current 2.5 story building there is quite ugly, anyways. I say go! The location is great for this type of thing...on campus. Much better than building highrises in the "downtown" part of A2. Nobody really wants to live there, anyways.