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Posted on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Developer hopes to break ground on 618 South Main project in October

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor developer Dan Ketelaar is making revisions to his plans for a new apartment building on South Main Street as he looks to break ground in October.

Ketelaar has submitted a formal request to the city's planning department, seeking administrative approval for a roughly 4,500-square-foot increase in usable building space.


The former Fox Tent & Awning site between Ashley and Main streets, just north of Mosley Street, is where the future 618 South Main apartment project is expected to take shape starting this fall.

Ryan J. Stanton |

He wants to take what would have been essentially dead space on the north and west wings of the sixth floor and fill that area in with more apartments for young professionals and empty nesters — his target demographic.

In all, there would be an additional seven units on the sixth floor and one more on the first floor.

As part of the changes, Ketelaar is giving up the penthouse suite he planned to move into on the top floor and converting it into three smaller apartments.

"It just became clear the revenue was needed," he said. "It was a difficult decision, to say the least. One of my ideas for this project was to have a place to live downtown."

He said a rise in interest rates is driving his request to reconfigure the internal layout of the building, adding eight more units.

"When the rates went up, it caused some heartburn," he said, adding he's now looking at an interest rate closer to 4.5 percent instead of 3.5 percent. "The numbers need to work."

Ketelaar of Urban Group Development, 225 S. Ashley St., had been planning to start construction on the 618 South Main project in July, but the timeline has been pushed back.

He now hopes to start construction by mid to late October and welcome the first tenants into the building by the fall of 2014.

According to the revised plans, the unit mix is changing as follows:

  • Studios — up from 57 to 59
  • One-bedroom units — up from 65 to 68
  • Two-bedroom units — up from 28 to 31

Ketelaar told there still are six duplex/two-story one-bedroom units, so the unit count is going up from 156 to 164.

Ketelaar announced earlier this year he was eliminating an entire floor from the building, reducing it from seven to six stories, taking the number of units from 182 to 156.

Even after adding eight units back into the plans, he noted it's still well below the maximum density allowed on the site. He said the changes won't really affect the outside appearance.

"It's not an increase in massing," he said. "The massing is almost exactly the same as it was. If you look at the elevations, it really doesn't change anything. It's still the same building."

City Planner Jeff Kahan said what Ketelaar is proposing is fully consistent with city code and the project won't need to go back before Planning Commission or City Council.


Chicago-based Clayco has been chosen to oversee the construction. Ketelaar said they'll be hiring many Southeast Michigan subcontractors and it'll be a union job.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"I don't think you'll see much of a substantive change on the exterior," he added.

Ketelaar is responding to a request from the Ann Arbor Fire Department by moving the fire command room for the building from the main floor to an upper parking floor to provide direct access via Main Street. That's taking the place of two parking spaces, decreasing the number of spaces from 132 to 130 — which is still more than the 47 spaces required.

Kahan said a fire command room is a code requirement for large commercial or residential buildings, which feature modern fire suppression systems on multiple floors.

The code requires a room in which the fire department has access to determine the extent of a particular fire, find out where the fire is taking place, and which sprinkler systems are showing pressure, so firefighters can make quick determinations.

Another change is the extension of a handicap ramp for access via Ashley Street. The plans note a separate entry for wheelchair access has been included in the design.

Due to the increase in the building square footage, the Class A bicycle parking requirement has increased from 51 spaces to 53 spaces. The plans now include 55 spaces.

Ketelaar has been working on the project for three years. He plans to have a pre-groundbreaking tailgate on the lot — the former Fox Tent & Awning site — in late September.

He said on Tuesday he believes the project fits the community's values. He said the plan is to achieve LEED Silver certification for eco-friendly building design and operation.

The site also is laid out so zero stormwater will be discharged to the city's sewer system during storms — it'll all be captured and managed on site with the help of rain garden/bio-retention areas.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

Local developer building next to a 7-Eleven and a neon clad pizza joint. How is this destroying our city?


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 10:35 a.m.

Sure, I empathize with those "progressive dreamers" in Ann Arbor who rinally run into economic reality. However, more than a few of these big profit idea projects seem put together on a shoestring budget or even imaginary funding at walkaway risk to the profiteers while still basking in easy public funding incentives. Like mearly no Landmark at South U, the big fence at Maiden Lane and Plymouth. The progressive DDA Y lot (now costing taxpayers a fortune). The abandoned lot at Glenn-Ann. The off and on again Georgetown Mall. Why isn't adequate financail responsibility being included as part of the City approval process? Before dreamers are allowed to change the landscapre and taxpayer monies are promised?

5c0++ H4d13y

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 2:14 a.m.

[Insert NIMBY BANNAN statement here.]


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

New builder's game. Step 1. Barely get approval for little ol' plan B. Step 2. Then Superugly back up to monster plan A. Maybe the word is out to owners that no more growth will be tolerated by new C ity Council and the last ones through the gate want to capitalize on this coming moratorium. Sadly, however, they are probably still dreaming of that elusive new stream of wealthy families flocking into their concrete cubes.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 3:20 a.m.

City organization and environmental funding seems like it would be easier to obtain. Plus, having those funding/approval sources would be a positive thing for a developer to bring to the table when they try for project funding. Just because it got the funding after an interest rate increase, it doesn't necessarily mean it was purposely postponed until after the increase.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 1:30 a.m.

Not sure what is going on. June 18th 2012 approved by City Council Got DDA TIF money Got County Brownfield funding Aug 2012 Yet still no project funding until after Interest rate rise in Feb 2013? Why?

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 12:35 a.m.

That's not what's happening here

say it plain

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 10:33 p.m.

@ZeHammer and @StupidHick, click on the bluetext link in the first line of this article for more info...Ketelaar is partnering with a group from Chicago that has major commercial real estate management and leasing portfolio (Willis Tower among them), and these are intended to be *rental units*. So, I don't know if observations about the 30-something hipsters wishing to go upscale and upsize apply. Are they really interested in continuing to rent? Getting financing for condos construction going to get easier anytime soon? Maybe not...not when the hot ticket is still college-town apartments, which, despite the alleged alternate demo Ketelaar is going after, these still are...yes, The other article claimed he was aiming for $1100 /mo starting price for these units. For a studio?! Lord more of the same bull around here...

Stupid Hick

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 9:29 p.m.

Something missing from this story: how much money will be spent on the project?


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

Any idea of unit price ranges?

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

The developer did say earlier this year units might start around $1,100 and go up from there, but that's all I've heard.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 12:30 a.m.

Good question. I haven't gotten that info yet, but will report it as soon as I know anything. A lot of times with projects like these with the open date more than a year away, the developer will wait and pay attention to the market and try to be competitive in pricing the units as they begin leasing.

Eduard Copely

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

With all the new neighbors moving into the hood, a dog park will be required.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

I understand the need for numbers to work, but think it's a huge mistake to create more, smaller units. If you look at what's beginning to happen in Ann Arbor, on 4th street, the new men's shop, that is doing well right after opening, you'll see the demographics are changing. I think a mix of units are needed and that penthouses and larger, more costly units will sell. Ann Arbor is changing fast. The thirty something hipsters have money and want nice, clean things. They are helping clean up the city. It's happening. Very few professional people want dinky living quarters. Let's not lose them to Ypsilanti and Plymouth.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

"He said on Tuesday he believes the project fits the community's values." Unfortunately this is becoming more true every day. The values seem to say "get rid of any character in Ann Arbor, pave it over and make it as upscale as possible!".


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

Will mayor High-rise appear at the groundbreaking party? I think this building has the potential to be even more out of place than 413 E. Huron. I hope I'm wrong.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 3:21 a.m.

I'm beginning to wonder if people in this city are all afraid of heights. And nice things.

Eduard Copely

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

Why should he? The kickbacks are enough to send him to Bora-Bora for the week.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Groundbeaking Party = oxymoron.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

I thought this was in the flood prone zone.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

If you read toward the end of the story, you'll notice I mentioned the stormwater controls being put in place. The site is designed to handle a 100-year storm.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

Don't forget this is adjacent to a site of significant (DNAPL) PERC contamination across the street (and not covered by the "Brownfield" part of the project). I hope that the below grade parking construction, structure, and stormwater management approach won't exacerbate the existing plumes in such a way as to further impact the residential neighborhood. Let me guess their response . . . . . . Trust us you'll be fine?


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 11:25 a.m.

The building is so out of scale with the neighborhood. It should never have received the height variance. I also have no doubt that if built, he will sell this apartment building to out of town investors within two years of completion at a tidy profit for himself. That's the way the game is played. I also like the veiled threat "Even after adding eight units back into the plans, he noted it's still well below the maximum density allowed on the site." Trying to paint himself as a "good guy" while reminding us how screwed up our zoning is.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 9:46 p.m.

And being in the DDA district is germane why?


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

How dare he want to sell his building at a profit? The nerve!

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Keep in mind, this property is in the DDA district, and even before the project was scaled back, it had support from the Old West Side Association, which said the developer did a great job of working with the community on the design.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 10:58 a.m.

Parking for cars??


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 10:17 a.m.

Starting in October during football season will only add to the congestion on Main Street.

Eduard Copely

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

Football Saturday's have been declared traffic free zones, so your point is moot.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 10:08 a.m.

I love this old building!