What's next for the vacant Glen Ann Place development site in Ann Arbor?
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
The site, located on a half-acre property on Glen between Catherine and Ann streets, is home to a decade-long effort by Illinois developer Joseph Freed & Associates to build Glen Ann Place, a nine-story mixed-use building.
The project, which would be located across the street from a parking garage and would abut two other apartment buildings, calls for nine stories of apartments with lower level commercial space. It’s located in the city’s Old Fourth Ward Historic District.
But as the site plan for the project is set to expire in November — and with the developer owing more than $80,000 in back taxes — questions remain as to what’s next for the property.
A tangled history
Once occupied by a gas station, parking lot, small commercial building and two historic houses, the site has been fenced and vacant for years. Today, the fence has fallen down in parts around the lot and weeds have sprouted on the property.
Freed assembled the five parcels more than a decade ago, and then received approval from Ann Arbor City Council for the Glen Ann Place project in 2005. But when Ann Arbor’s Historic District Commission (HDC) then rejected the proposal to demolish the two historic homes on the site and to build the project, Freed appealed to the state’s Historic Preservation Review Board.
According to state documents, the Review Board affirmed the HDC’s denial to demolish the houses, prompting a lawsuit from Freed.
A consent judgment in 2007 ended the litigation, and Freed was granted approval to move forward with the project — given it was reduced in height from the original 10-story proposal and received facade improvements. There’s also an agreement that the developer would make a $1.008 million contribution to the city’s affordable housing trust fund if the project is built.
Rendering by Meier Group Architects
Freed proceeded to demolish the buildings on the site, but activity at the property then ceased.
In 2010, Freed requested a five-year site plan extension for Glen Ann Place, citing financing troubles and the economic downturn. The company was granted a two-year extension, and that is set to expire this November.
“The Glen Ann Place project cannot proceed on its projected schedule because of economic conditions affecting demand for residential and commercial space and trauma and turmoil in the financial markets,” a Freed representative wrote in a 2010 memo to the city.
“However, ownership of the Glen Ann Place property wants to pursue an extension of the time to start the project because it believes that positive changes in market demand and access to financing will occur in the reasonable future,” the memo continues.
At the same time, Freed lost or sold two of its other Ann Arbor properties as it battled with lender Bank of America: the Ashley Terrace high-rise returned to the lender in 2010 and was later sold, and Freed sold the student high-rise Sterling 411 Lofts.
City Planning Manager Wendy Rampson said the city met with a Freed representative in mid-summer and the company was “exploring” its options for the Glen Ann Place site.
“They didn’t give us an indication one way or another on what they wanted to do,” she said.
Representatives from Freed did not return multiple requests for comment.
According to county materials, Freed owes $88,046 in back taxes on the five parcels. The property would enter tax foreclosure early next year if the taxes aren’t paid.
“This is a common story: In 2005, you’re hot to do a big development, and by ’08 and ’09, nobody had any money,” said Washtenaw County Treasurer Catherine McClary. “If (the owners) don’t get a hardship extension or they don’t pay up the taxes for 2010 by February of 2013, it would go into foreclosure.”
She added: “But they could have a plan — without us ever knowing — to pay on a certain day.”
Rampson said if Freed does in fact request another site plan extension, the city and HDC would consider the taxes owed when making its decision.
With the city — particularly the downtown area — in the midst of an intense housing development boom, local commercial real estate broker Jim Chaconas said he’s taken notice of the Glen Ann Place property.
He said the “terrific” location, along with the demand for housing in that area, even triggered him to make an offer on the property. He said Freed never responded to the offer.
Still, Chaconas said, there are “holes” in the site plan.
“That site plan wouldn’t work,” he said. “It had too much retail and too much office. It’s too big, it has some environmental concerns and you’ve got the (affordable housing) donation to the city you’d have to restructure the whole deal.”
Mayor John Hieftje told AnnArbor.com last month he thinks the Glen Ann Place project is a “great idea” in terms of providing housing for people working at the medical center.
“Hopefully somebody’s going to come in and revive that,” he said.
Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 7:49 a.m.
How about a 24 restaurant for the 24hr hospital staff on the ground floor and up to 4 story parking above it, but not so tall as to over shadow nearby housing?
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.
As someone that has ancestral roots in that neighborhood, I personally would love to see that corner become a place of dedication to the history of the forefathers and be able to relax for a change. I envision a nice corner park with trees and plants and some nice benches and maybe a swingset or two. A nice Memorial site dedicated to the historical creation of the 4th ward residents to allow the residents of the present and future to better understand how this city called Ann Arbor came to be. There is already toooooo much insanity in that area and Lord knows we don't need any thing else there that will add to traffic congestion. When my GGGrandfather came to live in this district in 1844, I'm sure he and our other ancestors never envisioned our fair city to be what it has become today... completely overpopulated and no green space to enjoy !
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.
Whatever they are going to do they need to do soon. This site is attracting large packs of dogs and it is dangerous to walk nearby.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.
Here is a link to the State Historic Preservation Review Board's decision in this matter, upholding the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission's decision: http://tinyurl.com/9abggrs Sadly, the decision was made moot by an unnecessary settlement between the City and Freed, and the houses and businesses were subsequently torn down for this lovely vacant lot. Property taxes were substantially reduced as a result of the loss of these buildings, but apparently are not being paid anyway. Hopefully the era of the City bending over backwards for any and all development proposals is nearing an end. We've had enough of blight and vacant lots created by pie-in-the-sky schemes that our City officials are far to willing to accommodate without any form of guarantee.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.
Have someone build something that the city can be proud of instead of the garbage architecture that is constantly polluting the city! We have one of the finest architecture schools in the country at the University, but the city is being built up by people who have absolutely no imagination and only care about the bottom line.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.
How about more parking for University of Michigan Health Center employees. As a staff member I would love to see more parking as there is a shortage of close by parking.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.
How about housing for hospital staff so more parking isn't needed? UM has been tearing down decent housing for decades and forcing people to live farther and farther from work, which in turn, has created a need for parking structures. Makes no sense.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.
Before we get all crazy with getting a huge development, let's look at the road network there. Glen is on of the few routes into Ann Arbor that gets you over the river. It's used to get to two high employment areas in town; Medical Campus and Central Campus. It's already packed with cars, bikes and pedestrians during the rush hours. Other streets are pretty much residential and not made to handle large amounts of traffic efficiently.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.
More people living close to where they work or go to school means less traffic, not more. I'd rather see an apartment building here--maybe one dedicated to UM hospital staff--than another parking structure, for example.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.
Sounds like a great place once the property changes hands to develop. Its just too bad that the Developer has to deal with the City of Ann Arbor.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.
This developer has demonstrated an inability to put together the financing for the project for 10 years, no more extensions. They have left Urban blight at a prominent corner for decade with callous disregard for the denziens of this city. FREED must go, NO MORE EXTENSIONS! Bust a deal and face the wheel.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.
Shall we send him to the Thunderdome?
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.
Pizza ! No ? Two Big Wendy's ! No ? Community Spa for the naked family across the street ! No ? Tesla Showroom and Recharge Station ! No ? Trade it for UM golfcourse ! No ? All right bubblestickers, how about a brand-spanking-new 9 story historic student hi-rise then? With boomerang trolley service out to Briarwood. And bike-mover escalator all the way up hospital hill. Who' s got the vision now, ehh?
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.
Perfect spot for a Tomorrowland monorail station.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.
The poll is working now. Thanks!
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.
Please fix the poll.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.
Good.....that's been a vacant lot ever since the gas station closed......which was when again? I don't even remember it being open honestly and I've been going to Angelo's for decades....
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.
Glen-Ann Service was open right up until this developer bought it and tore it down about 5 years ago.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.
This is a great location and needs a developer who has the resources to develop it properly - housing, retail, restaurant, whatever. This area is right next to the medical school and a stone's throw from main campus and sits in an area with very little commercial amenities.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.
The U should partner with a private developer to build staff housing for the hospital complex instead of building more parking structures. Keeping it in private hands will keep it on the tax roles.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.
This is what hapens when you have micro managers ( historic district comm. ) who think they know something trying to regulate reality ...damn good thing these idiot boards didn't exist 150 years ago or OZ would still be a cow pasture ..not that there isn't still a wagon load of manure at the corner of 5th and huron....
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.
Um, this looks like a cow pasture to me, dude, but not because of the HDC. The HDC's ruling, which was upheld by the State, ended up being made moot by an out-of-court settlement negotiated by our courageous city attorney and supported by our anti-preservation mayor and council. The failure of this development had nothing to do with the City, which bent over backwards to allow it. At least two businesses and two decent, liveable houses, along with the property taxes they were paying, were wiped off the map for no reason.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 11:07 a.m.
Hmm, maybe more public art? A gold statute of the members of city council or the developers responsible for the all the ugly developments?
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 11:05 a.m.
If the historic commission were valid in any sense they would have houses systematically removed and replaced by old growth forest. The fourth ward is a hodgepodge.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 10:47 a.m.
How about an underground parking garage. Just saying.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 11:08 a.m.
That would actually be intelligent along with a beautiful park above the structure.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 10:42 a.m.
Umm... Poll settings seem to be off, showing "final results" on zero votes, with a closing date of October 18th?
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.
I just went into it and changed a couple of settings - it seems to be working now. Thanks!