You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

New student housing project proposed for Grace Bible Church site raises concern at public meeting

By Lizzy Alfs


A preliminary plan for The Grove shows the general layout of the site, with the Grace Bible Church building to the north. The two buildings on the southern end of the site have been moved to the northern end in the most recent drawings.

The developers of The Grove, a student housing project proposed for Ann Arbor’s west side, met with about 50 members of the community Thursday night to detail plans and receive public input.

Many attendees raised concern and some expressed anger about the project, which is proposed for a 15-acre site just south of the Grace Bible Church building off South Maple Road near Pauline Boulevard.

The church owns the property and has it listed for sale at an undisclosed price.

North Carolina-based developer Campus Crest Communities is proposing 10 to 12 three-story apartment buildings, totaling about 224 units each with two or three bedrooms. It includes one parking space per bed.

The site was approved in 2008 for the controversial 42 North project, a similar student apartment complex with five buildings, 120 units and 494 parking spaces.

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

Campus Crest Communities has 33 student properties in 18 different states. Chris Russ, vice president of development for the company, said all its student projects are a “branded product” and look similar.

The compounds offer “resort-style amenities,” such as a large pool, sand volleyball courts, 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 tenants life skills courses, such as financial skills, time management and cooking classes.

Preliminary plans for the Ann Arbor development call for 600 parking spaces on the edges of the site and the buildings in the middle to eliminate noise and light for neighboring residents. The site would be surrounded by a six-foot high decorative fence and would be gated to control who comes and goes from the property.

Because a portion of wetland area would be removed for the apartment buildings, there would be a mitigation wetland area north of the church.

The Campus Crest apartments - which typically cost between $15 and $20 million to develop - average a monthly $500 per bed for rent, but that figure will change based on the Ann Arbor market, Russ said.

For some attendees at Thursday’s meeting, The Grove is far too similar to 42 North, a project some didn’t believe was practicable considering its distance from the University of Michigan campus.

“This just doesn’t seem to make any sense,” one resident said. “I mean, why bring [students] out here? I think this is some kind of a dream that somebody thinks they can rent these things out.”

But Russ said Campus Crest has considered building in Ann Arbor for a long time, is aware of the site’s proximity to campus and believes the project will be successful.

“We wouldn’t be here spending the money on the project is we weren’t sure it was going to be a success. I can’t gamble with a $20 million project,” he said.

He added: “We’re over 90 percent occupied across the portfolio.”

Other concerns raised among attendees included stormwater management, water pressure issues, traffic and transportation, home values, safety, and whether the demand for student housing can support another apartment project.

There are several other apartment projects closer to the U-M campus that are currently under development, promising to bring thousands of new beds onto the market.

Meanwhile, U-M officials have stated their intention of decreasing student enrollment growth starting next year. There are about 27,400 students enrolled as undergraduates right now, which is 2,400 more than the school would like.

Addressing The Grove project, neighboring resident David Gurk called the development “counterintuitive.”

“It seems the only way that it would make sense is if all the students were living on the street now,” he said. “[The students] are being housed now, plus there’s all this going up and the new [North Quad] dorm.”

Nearby resident Andrew Pawuk added: “It just seems like there’s going to be too many beds available here in Ann Arbor for students.”

Another concern attendees raised was how the students would get to and from campus.

Russ responded, “We are having a shuttle service, we just don’t know who is providing it yet.”

Although there were no plans for a second citizen participation meeting, Russ agreed to hold another one at the request of attendees.

“We really do want to come in and be a part of the community…I want to be an open book with all of you,” he said.

Russ said he hopes to have site plans submitted to Ann Arbor Planning Commission in late January or early February, and if the project receives approval, the goal is to open The Grove in fall 2013.

Campus Crest is working with local architect Brad Moore of J Bradley Moore & Associates and Earl Ophoff of Midwestern Consulting.

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



Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 12:39 a.m.

First, this is a typical development that won't get past first base, but we can get our knickers in a twist worrying about it. Second, students don't just live within walking distance to UM - even those without cars. If you folks ever rode buses on the west side of town, there are plenty of students riding them. UM students can ride AATA buses for free (as can staff/faculty). This location is within walking distance of shopping on Stadium - if a student didn't have a car. They'd most likely take a bus to campus as parking is expensive/difficult to find. The bus will get the students to campus in < 20 minutes, which is what a slow 1 mile walk would be. Students are also located in the Packard/Arborland area; in the north campus area - not UM housing. However, the student housing market is getting saturated. This isn't a real cool location.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 11:31 p.m.

this is just a total bad fit.I'm so glad the church doesnt care about their neighbors that allready live around here.Bad owners and a bad pie in the sky idea.Someone e mail the council the articles about these clowns building this.It makes no sense whatsoever.Water pressure is allready bad on some days.Turn this thing down because nothing good will come from it and we will be saying I told you so in a few years.How about polling students.Would they wanna be out of the loop on campus?


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 9:16 p.m.

Unlike the new South Main Apartment project which I tentatively approve of this one seems "counter intuitive" as one writer said, to the max. The students will have to commute in cars to everything, increasing congestion all over town (if they even would be attracted to living there). This one should get a hasty "no" from all concerned.

say it plain

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

If you've read anything about this Campus Crest outfit (check out their investor's profile ;-) They're publicly traded, thusly waaaay too well funded ;-) and the heirs to one of those big right-wing fortunes that never ever run out of lending capacity! If City Council or whomever has to approve this also *doesn't court a law suit if need be* then you can absolutely say hello to a nasty development (see the complaints against them on a facebook page dedicated to their evilness ! <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;v=wall</a> that will further over-saturate this already over-saturated student rental market in town! Truly, if you want lots of very very nasty housing that will not be kept up and will not be well made and will probably wreak havoc with that part of town on various counts.... Let our esteemed leaders approve this one! Maybe it won't be that much extra bleh housing bringing rents down everywhere else as well, but maybe it will. These guys won't care at *all* about whether their risk of $20 million was a good one--they will all be long out of their IPO stocks before any of that matters! &quot;Free markets&quot; don't always work so well when there's nothing to counter the greed of american big-business guys in the face of inflating bubbles...just to say... And @anarboran has it exactly right...this housing goes even farther than the rest of the student towers going up lately (and the overpriced condo towers that preceded them!) in &quot;place breaking&quot; for Ann Arbor.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

After viewing some of those online sources, it's obvious that this project ought to be a no-go from the start. I for one, am tired of companies from way outside our state thinking they can come in and bluff their way into the community, and not knowing one thing about Ann Arbor, U-M, and Michigan. I understand that the church that owns the property would like to sell it and so forth, but this company appears to have some serious baggage that would not sell well here. Apart from that' it's a tremendously stupid idea to think that &quot;build it and they will come.&quot; Not at this university, and not in this town. Yes, we could use more affordable housing close to downtown, but I doubt that this is the place.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

It's way too far from campus. One might as well be in Pinckney as live that far from campus in &quot;student housing.&quot; If one is more than 2 miles from the main campus and not on a UM bus line, it's too far for most students.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 4:38 p.m.

Is it just my imagination, or is this so far from campus that even grad students wouldn't want to live there? Did someone just offer the property up to an out of town buyer on the premise that Ann Arbor=UM=profitable student housing? Call me old-fashioned (or practical, if you will), but I tend to think that &quot;student housing&quot; is best located in areas that are reasonable walking distance to campus. Even if they include a free shuttle service to and from downtown, I can't imagine the average undergrad wanting to live so far from everything (and everyone) else. I'm guessing (as many others have speculated) that the &quot;student housing&quot; proposal is just a sham to get the site plans approved, as it will be easier than if the place is just labeled Section 8 from the outset.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

leem, I'm a Christian. This is a bad plan.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

What does christian have to do with it? It's apartments for heavens sake.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

West Wood Apartments on Liberty south of W. Stadium has now become Section 8 housings. This happened after new condominiums 's were built next door to them. ( check out their new hand painted sign, done after the old sign was in disrepair for months) Just an observation.


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

@Tony....ok, Liberty east of W.Stadium.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

Liberty runs east/west and Stadium runs north/south so I am not sure where &quot;south of W. Stadium is. There is a development on the corner of Liberty and Maple that has sat dormant for years unfinished. I believe it is another Concannon bankruptcy situation. That was recently bought and is being converted from condos to apartments. That is quite close so yet more apartments in the same area.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

If you don't want to be thought of as ghetto, don't make it look like a ghetto. My 5 year old could have painted a better sign. At least she can stay (mostly) within the lines.

Usual Suspect

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Thanks, once again, for not providing a large version of the image that we can actually read.

Karen Hart

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

The planning commission has historically and philosophically been opposed to gated projects, as they should be. Wetlands are amenities and -- if anything -- should be enhanced, not destroyed. I'm more impressed when developers work with the land, rather than against it. The road can handle the traffic, I think, but it's a weird location to stash students -- nowhere near campus.

Ron Granger

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:43 p.m.

This is how you make a quick buck by sneaking a section 8 development into an area where it would not be allowed, on wetlands. No students will live out there. And if they did, I can't imagine what it would do to traffic. and how much we'd have to spend modifying the surrounding roads.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

I admit, I kind of skimmed the article. Is it a (provable) requirement to be a student to live there or will they rent to anyone if there are not enough students to fill the beds?

Emma B

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.

My sister lives in a 'luxury student apartment' type place up in East Lansing that just opened this year and there are definitely non-students living there already, despite the website advertising 'exclusive student living.' It seems that they try to deter people with selective marketing and a negative attitude if you inquire but there's not much more they can do if you meet their financial requirements. Of course, I'm not a lawyer or anything so my opinion should be taken lightly, I'm just speaking from my family's own experience.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

This is not student housing. Might as well stick this in Milan and call it student housing...


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Agreed. Write in down. If this is ever built it will be housed by less than 20 percent students!


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

I seem to remember fighting to keep developers from building a section-8 highrise development (where Dicken Woods resides) just a handful of years ago...We had hardly caught our breath, and LOOK: the ill-conceived plan by 42-North, I can't even begin to describe the rudeness and arrogance of those developers. Now there is this ridiculous plan! I wouldn't be surprised if this new development &quot;turning to section 8 through low-occupancy&quot; hasn't been the real plan all along...Destroy property values, drive out all the &quot;activist residents&quot;, bulldoze the homes, install new McMansions for 400-600K each, etc.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

That stretch of Maple isn't high-crime (check the observer crime map). It's the Pine Village/Pine Lake (or whatever it's called at this juncture) public housing that is problematic at times. The surrounding neighborhoods have ZERO or almost no crime, and we'd like to keep it that way...not have MORE traffic, more water/sewer issues, more people, more mess, etc. If you check the crime map, all the crime is mainly located in heavily student populated areas OR subsidized housing areas (aside from Arrow-wood, who've done an excellent job removing and avoiding leasing to sketchy people).


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

Geeze, party central or what? All this and reduced staffing in the police department.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

City Council should look long and hard at this project. Honest study on the infrastructure, traffic and environmental impacts should be a part of the look. And Council should be very careful to hear what the public opinion on the project is. It certainly would be attractive to take a non-taxable tract and instead see very high property tax benefitting the City's bottom line. Council has been pro-development in the past for exactly this reason, but approving this project might result in approval of a new Mayor or Council.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

As long as there is no split wood fencing . . . .


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

I meant this on the other development story


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

They'll offer classes in time management. Lesson #1: Don't live all the way out here and take a shuttle bus to class. Beach volleyball and grilling areas don't sound too appealing right now, and the dead of winter is when students rent for the following year. The proposed rent is $500/bed, so $1500/month for a 3-bedroom. The whole thing sounds crazy to me.

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

That's going to turn into section 8 housing faster than you can say chupacabra.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

Seems section 8 housing is needed more than student housing today.

Usual Suspect

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

That is, IF you can say, &quot;chupacabra.&quot;

Ron Granger

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

Well said.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

$500 a month rent? With resort style amenities? Student housing? Dream on. I guess if you make the lies so big they become overwhelming and almost believable. This company and its owner has a history of being a big bully and being way over the top. I suspect this one will go the way of 42 North.

Jack Davis

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

Has anyone looked at the history of this Company. There appears to be a lot of angry tenants, employees and laws suits, There is an anti Campus Crest &quot;The Grove&quot; Facebook page.. or check these articles; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Anti Campus Crest face Book page!!

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Probably one of the reasons Council is so keen on them. Maybe they can hire the same German sculpture to put a fountain in THAT development too!

Jim Osborn

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

It would have been very nice if the diagram / picture had been of a higher resolution, and shown a larger area, so one could see where the roads such as Maple were and neighboring buildings. Many students do live that far from campus, such as near the Best Buy store. But that is a &quot;good&quot; part of town with low crime &amp; lower prop taxes. This proposed area is the opposite

Jack Eaton

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

The South Maple Group web site includes a Mapquest photograph of the area and a line drawing of the area surrounding the site that shows the streets, parks and the nearby school. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

By the way, this is not a 'by right' development. The city had to allow special code exemptions for off-site wetland mitigation for 42 North and that will be the same case here. Last time around city council let city staff make that judgement call, then when it got to council they said the decision has already been made. That's bass-ackward. If there is any by-right aspect to this, it is the citizens' rights to not have a development that will clearly harm their health, safety, and welfare. That is what our city code says, and this is a perfect case on which council should finally be willing to defend these citizens rights. I am sure the neighbors would be willing to support a reasonable development that allows the church to make a profit but that doesn't ham the neighborhood. There can be a win-win outcome. But the Grove ain't it. Council needs to acknowledge that the grove is not by-right, that in fact it is extreme in the number of beds, the number of cars, and the lack of fit with its surrounding land uses. If the developer sues, so be it. This is a perfect case to draw the line in the sand to defend the city and it's citizens.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

While not a fan of this kind of development, and certainly the links Alan Goldsmith are disturbing, I think the point may be that at $500/month these will cost a LOT less than many of the other new housing options being developed. And, if there is a shuttle bus, students won't need cars, and the associated costs. With parents worried about the total cost of college education as well as kids' safety, this may be more appealing than you might think - not necessarily to students, but to the 'rents who are paying the bills.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

The article said $500 per bed. That is $1000 for a 2BR and $1500 for a 3BR.

Rose Garden

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

Once the developer realizes that other student units are bringing in more than $500, these rents will become higher.

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

Yet again (sigh) misses the story either by poor reporting or intentionally leaving out information. Why no word on this development company? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Usual Suspect

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

This might be good information, but Daily Kos? Really? While asking for &quot;reporting?&quot;


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

I'm not saying the information on this site in inaccurate, but going to one source for information is not reporting either.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 11:24 a.m.

It won't fill with students because its too far from campus and the student housing market is already being oversupplied with all the new developments next to campus, but non-students won't move there because it's clearly going to be a private animal house marketed as the 'fully loaded college lifestyle' with the additional slogans of 'this ain't your mama's house' and 'do what you want, whenever you want'. There really can't be any question that this development would harm the neighborhood and decrease the quality of life for the neighbors. And on top of that, it is likely to fail if built. Have we learned nothing about the costs of such failures to places? The city and its residents bear the risk of the failure and would pay the costs. That is just not acceptable in today's economy. The Michigan Municipal League is working overtime to show that placemaking is the key to economic development. The Grove doesn't fit this location in any way at all. It is the opposite of placemaking ... It I placebreaking


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 11:17 a.m.

If I was 35 years younger coming to UM all over again green from my little, this is exactly where I would NOT want to live, isolated from campus, no shopping or restaurants, nothing I would use daily nearer than a bus ride away...might as well have gone to a commuter school closer to my old hometown.

Usual Suspect

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Jackson and Washtenaw do not intersect.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

Halter I agree. If they were smart enough to poll some existing students you would be proven right!

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

This is not all that far from the Jackson Road/Washtenaw corner with more of the services you mention than anything in the campus area.

Marshall Applewhite

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 5:37 a.m.

This indeed does seem like a horrible fit for the stated goals, and I can't imagine this building ever being more than 25% students. That being said, if they want to pay the property taxes and believe they can fill the units, I'm not exactly inclined to oppose the idea.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 4:39 a.m.

Taking property from exempt to taxable would seem to be a logical step for the the city. Or perhaps the city can buy the lot from the Greenbelt tax to avoid development.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Would seem logical. But before its done the city will probably grant an abatement.