Architecture :Development News

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New apt building planned for south of downtown Ann Arbor

A new mid-rise apartment building is heading for the greater downtown Ann Arbor area. The Residences at 615 South Main will replace three commercial buildings on the 600 block of South Main with a six-story apartment building. Plans have recently been submitted to the city and the approval process is expected to go on through this winter.

The development would go up across the street from 618 South Main, another mid-rise apartment building that opened earlier this year. The Residences at 615 S Main would feature ground floor commercial space and 245 units, including townhomes, micro-studios (less than 400 square feet), studios, two-bedroom, three-bedroom, four-bedroom, and five bedroom units.

"We probably have the most diverse collection of housing for any development in the city," says Brad Moore, president of J Bradley Moore & Associates, which is the co-architect on the project.

About 51 percent of the units are comprised of the studios, micro studios and townhomes. The larger bedroom-count units only account for a handful of units. The townhomes will feature two bedrooms and a flex space for a potential work-from-home business. Moore says the development isn’t targeting any one specific demographic.

"Anybody who wants to live close to downtown," Moore says. "We imagine the micro studios will be popular with people who work downtown and want to live close to downtown without paying a lot of money."

The development will also feature one floor of underground parking of about 180 parking spots. It will also have 5,000 square feet of commercial space where the builders plan to incorporate an 19th Century buggy factory into the overall development. The current businesses that occupy the commercial space The Residences at 615 South Main will replace will also be given an opportunity to reopen in the new building.

"It's possible some of the tenants from the existing buildings could locate into the new buildings," Moore says.

The development is currently scheduled to go before the city's Design Review Board later this month. The approval process is expected to take the rest of this winter and possibly go into the spring. A construction timeline is roughly set for 14-18 months.

Source: Brad Moore, president of J Bradley Moore & Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's A3C moves to new downtown office space

A3C never had any intention of moving from its headquarters in downtown Ann Arbor. The boutique architecture firm had made downtown its home early on, and built up a sustainability nerd's palace, complete with geothermal heating, solar power, and a green roof. After 33 years, it was doing just fine, having weathered the Great Recession. It was adding staff and working on innovative projects.

Then a knock came on its door with an offer to buy its building.

"We were given an offer we couldn't refuse," says Dan Jacobs, founding partner of AC3. "We had no intention of ever moving our office."

Jacobs and his team turned down that first offer. Then came another bigger offer, and another one. A friend in the community reached out and explained the original offer is coming from a group of local tech business people who want to use the property and others surrounding it to create a cluster of office space for tech startups. The money and the argument for further economic development was enough to sway Jacobs.

"We saw some real benefits for ourselves," Jacobs says. "It's also a great opportunity for the local community."
That put AC3 into a rush to find a new home for it and its growing staff. The firm has hired a new person over the last year, expanding its employee base to 10 people. It's looking to add another team member now. The firm has a lead on a new office, but the deal fell through.

Then a new option to take over its original office came up at the last second. Jacobs and his team jumped on the chance to occupy the office on the second floor of a West Liberty Street building in downtown Ann Arbor.

"I walked up the stairs for the first time in 20 years and has a deja vu moment," Jacobs says.

Source: Dan Jacobs, founding partner of AC3
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at

Toledo-based architecture and planning firm to open Ann Arbor office

Downtown Ann Arbor's creative talent pool is set to grow deeper in 2015. Toledo-based architecture, design and planning firm The Collaborative has announced plans to open their second office at 206 S. Main St.

"One of our main goals in opening this new office is to become a integral part of downtown Ann Arbor as well as the University of Michigan," says The Collaborative Director of Marketing Brook Jones. "The Main Street location allows for just that."
Renovations on their space have already begun and some employees are already working there. The Collaborative aims to complete work by end of January and have a soft opening in late spring of next year. Renovations to the space include interior work and social workspaces.
"The Collaborative is an amazing place to work," Jones says. "We are a forward-thinking design company rooted in the belief that delivery of an excellent product will always set you apart."

The total number of jobs to be created by the new office is not yet known, though Jones says the firm is always looking for new talent. The new office will contribute to The Collaborative's plans to continue to grow their higher education and corporate client relationships, and to retain and recruit exceptional people.   
Source: Brook Jones, The Collaborative
Writer: Natalie Burg

$2.2M S. Fourth renovation to bring Ruth's Chris Steak House to Ann Arbor

The S. Fourth Ave. building that housed the former Dream Nite Club is getting a major renovation, and the south side of downtown Ann Arbor will be getting a new restaurant with the $2.2 million development of a Ruth's Chris Steak House. The project came together after the development team that worked on a Ruth's Chris in Grand Rapids decided to give the franchise another go.

"It was very successful and well received and that team decided tot look for another market that was similar," says Steve Fry of Concept Design, the architectural firm working on the project. "Ann Arbor sort of stood out as a good possibility." 

Finding the right size building available downtown was a challenge, but the vacant nightclub was selected for its potential to become the structure they need. The one-story, approximately 8,200 square foot building will be totally renovated, including the addition of a 1,700 square foot second level. 

"This building did fit for size, shape good location," Fry says. 'We basically approached this as having potential by completely renovating and bring it back to life."

Fry also hopes the timing of the renovation will coincide with the neighboring properties coming back to life a well. He believes residential or hotel use of the recently sold city property across the street would be a great complement to the restaurant. 

The project is pending approval by the Ann Arbor city council next month. Should it be approved, Fry says the plan is to move quickly, with a goal of opening the new Ruth's Chris by end of the year.

Source: Steve Fry, Concept Design
Writer: Natalie Burg

Restored, historic barn to be raised again at Zingerman's Cornman Farms

When faced with a historic barn in disrepair, people can get pretty creative. Some sell the "reclaimed barn wood" to be used as flooring or décor, others might slap a coat of paint on it and cross their fingers it doesn't fall over, but neither approach is really up Zingerman's alley. So they decided to deal with the 1837 barn on their Cornman Farms property in Dexter in a way that better fit their style: having it completely disassembled, shipped to a barnwright, restored, and shipped back for reassembly. 
"They're basically sparing no expense," says Zingerman's Marketing and Communications Specialist Eric Olsen. "Most people don't send off a barn to be rehabbed, but that's what we're about. We believe in sustaining this property." 
The final stage of the process will officially kickoff with the raising of the barn on Sept. 29. During the private, all-day event, workers will raise the barn and begin the process of reassembling and refurbishing it for its future use as an events space. Though the project is a lengthy one, expected to continue through next summer, Olsen explains that preserving this piece of history is simply worth it.
"It's a classic, beautiful barn," he says. "It's also an integral part of the at property. It's also been a landmark in Dexter for well over 100 years. We wanted to make sure we didn't disrupt anything out there." 
Private events have already been booked at the future events space for 2014. Zingerman's vision for the barn includes hosting weddings, business meetings and other events in the two-story structure. 

Source: Eric Olsen, Zingerman's
Writer: Natalie Burg

Lunch Room opens with chic style, 20 new jobs in Kerrytown

Considering the amount of hands-on effort Phillis Engelbert and Joel Panozzo put into their creative vegan fare, it's probably no surprise to learn how involved the co-owners of The Lunch Room were in the build-out of their new Kerrytown location, which opened last week. 
Working with longtime customers and architects Lisa Sauvé and Adam Smith, Engelbert and Panozzo spent months working to bring the chic, modern aesthetic to their 1,128 square foot space. 
"We were active in the construction process," says Panozzo, "but we were are really happy for the construct part to be over, and to be opening and making food."
If their first-week crowds were any indication, so were The Lunch Room customers. With busy lunch and dinner crowds, Engelbert and Panozzo grew their new staff from 15 to 20 in the first week, after realizing that their commitment to from-scratch cooking required constant dishwashing. 
"The huge thing about our business is not necessarily that it's that vegan," says Panozzo. "We're just making really good food, made in-house with real ingredients, and its conveniently vegan."
Among those handmade dishes are favorites from The Lunch Room's original food truck format, as well as a host of new entrees, such as a Southwestern Salad, Mac & Cheese and tempeh reuben, among others. Now open for dinner, Panozzo says The Lunch Room will soon themed nights featuring foods inspired by New Orleans, the Upper Peninsula and paella. 
The Lunch Room seats 35 inside and 20 diners outside in a hybrid counter- and table-service style. The restaurant also sells and serves fresh baked goods, such as donuts and muffins. 

Source: Joel Panozzo, The Lunch Room
Writer: Natalie Burg

Energy-efficient tech tops EMU's new $90M Science Complex

The final phase of Eastern Michigan University's Science Complex opened at the start of the fall 2012 semester, and now university officials are in the process of seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the building. The Science Complex is the centerpiece of EMU's plan to invest over $200 million in capital projects over five years, beginning in 2009.

"From a cost standpoint, it's our largest construction project in the history of Eastern Michigan University," says Scott Storrar, EMU's director of facilities planning and construction.

The 256,320 square-foot complex has 107 labs and a newer addition with a planetarium and green roof containing 16 varieties of drought-resistant native plant species. It houses EMU's biology, chemistry, psychology, physics and astronomy, and geography and geology departments.

The project's final phase consisted of a renovation of the original 180,000-square-foot facility. A vivarium, an enclosed space to house animals for research and observation, was installed in the penthouse portion. Other amenities include new windows with sunshades and insulated glazing, a high-efficiency electrical chiller, occupancy sensors for lighting and temperature controls, and heat recovery in the air handlers.

And in what could be coined a construction breakthrough, the complex makes use of a new chilled beam technology that uses convection and water to cool the building. "That's an active system, and it's one of the first installed in Michigan," says Storrar.

The university is seeking LEED-silver certification for the complex, but could be eligible for LEED-gold status, Storrar adds.  A decision is forthcoming in the next six to eight months.

Source: Scott Storrar, EMU's director of facilities planning and construction
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

From boarded-up gas station to flatiron office and condos

The nothingness of a boarded up gas station on Detroit Street in Kerrytown is likely to make way for a building that a local architect sees becoming a landmark for the city.

Though small, the proposed flat iron style building - roughly a triangular shaped structure with a nose that faces the convergence of two streets, will stand out, says Marc Rueter of Rueter Associates Architects. And true flat iron structures in Ann Arbor are rare - though there is one down the street near Zingerman's deli at Fifth and Detroit.

Rueter is the architect on the project that's being developed by Dan Williams of Maven Development.

"He recognized this was a really cool site..It's a hard site to develop because it's such a small footprint, but it could be very much a landmark, something to be seen when you cross the bridge over the river, something people will notice and remember."

The building would be three stories and about 4,000 total square feet. The ground floor would be office space, and the second and third floors would each be condominiums of about 1,650 square feet. The top condo would have access to a rooftop patio and a view of the Huron River. Parking would be located underground.

And the location to Kerrytown market makes it attractive.

"I think it's one of the nicer areas to live in Ann Arbor if you want the urban lifestyle," Rueter says. "It's a short walk to a lot of the things you need and great places."

The project, which involves demolishing a Clark service station that was boarded up about 30 years ago, is supported by city officials but most go before the historic district commission because of its location in a historic area. The commission meets Thursday.

If it is approved, as expected, the project would go for other approvals and likely be done by year's end. Construction could start in the spring, Rueter says.

Source: Marc Rueter, Rueter Associates Architects
Writer: Kim North Shine

A2 Modern designs A2 walking-tour map, hosts architecture event

As Michigan gained dominance in the new-car market in the mid-19th century, leading architects were also designing of-the-moment housing. The decades spanning 1940-1970 spawned Modernism - a spare, clean style which abounds in Ann Arbor, where renowned architects and professors of architecture - think Eero Saarinen, George Brigham, and Alden B. Dow - designed many of the iconic Modern homes still standing today.

"There was a lot happening in Ann Arbor - the college was moving from the Beaux Arts style to Modern, there was a large influx of new students after the war, more faculty, and the need to build. The faculty were doing cutting-edge research and were really open to a new and different way of living," explains Nancy Deromedi, co-founder of A2 Modern, an educational group and promoter of Ann Arbor's collection of Modern architecture.

Although no firm count of Modern properties in Ann Arbor has been completed yet, A2 Modern, together with U-M's College of Architecture, has developed a walking-tour map highlighting 86 sites around the city. Many can be found in Ann Arbor Hills, Barton Hills, near Spring Street, and along E. Huron River Drive.

"I think what is interesting to see is if you start in the Geddes-Arb area, you can see the changing styles of what was Modern, starting with the home George Brigham designed for two families...It is on Oswego, [made of] concrete block and has more of an International Modern feel. And then you can work your way over a few blocks to see what Alden Dow did for his sister in 1932, which is a fabulous low-ground hugging structure on Berkshire; then go a few blocks further and see an example of Bauhaus with the home William Muschenheim designed for himself on Heatherway. So, it is really a fascinating collection of ideas and influences," Deromedi says.

Modern fans and the merely curious can meet at 7 p.m. on October 9 at the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor, where A2 Modern will host state historic preservation officer Brian Conway, who will be discussing Michigan's role in the Modern movement. To obtain walking tour maps and for more information on upcoming programming from A2 Modern, click here.

Source:  Nancy Deromedi, co-founder of A2 Modern
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Geodesic dome shapes artistic and entertainment possibilities

An Ann Arbor group that promotes creativity in the community has designed a traveling geodesic dome that can be used for any number of creative outlets.

The dome, 16 feet in radius, is a project of Syncytium, a group dedicated to creating large-scale, interactive art in Ann Arbor, Detroit and surrounding communities.

A2Awesome, the Washtenaw County arm of a Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization, The Awesome Foundation, awarded $1,000 to artist Amanda Sari Perez to help complete the dome, which is made out of 1.5 inch thick electrical conduit. Perez told A2Awesome that she wants the dome to be a "platform on which others in the community can express their creativity. The dome has already been a guest at Ann Arbor and Detroit Maker Faires, Figment and Lakes of Fire.

Future plans for the dome include covering it with cargo net so that it could be used as a climbing gym. Add lights and it's a great DJ stand.

“Other people,” says Perez, “may want to use it for parties, fundraisers, gatherings, or performances. They may want to hang hammocks or swings inside of it. They may want to cover it in some way, or leave it open.”

Ultimately, according to Perez, she would like to see it find a semi-permanent home where it could exist as a giant instrument, filled with cords that would trigger sound, either electronically or mechanically, when tugged or clambered upon.

Linh Song, board member of A2Awesome, where the mission is "Forwarding the interest in Awesome in Washtenaw County, $1,000 at a time, says the dome was chose as a grant recipient in June because “it’s the kind of thing that could continue to foster awesomeness for years to come. Not only will people be able to play on it at Maker Faire, which is awesome in its own right, but it’ll exist as an easily-transportable cultural asset that could be used in hundreds of different ways. We’re excited to see how it inspires people. The potential is endless.”

Source: A2Awesome
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ann Arbor homes and buildings receive preservation, rehab awards

A little-known function of the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission has been to circle Ann Arbor neighborhoods in search of homes and buildings whose owners have done exceptional jobs of rehabilitation and preservation. The search committee didn't come up short this year. Fifteen homes and businesses, dating from pre-Civil War days to the mid-century, and a handful of other individuals received awards for their efforts at last Monday's Ann Arbor City Council meeting.

To qualify, among other criteria, the homes and buildings must be at least 50 years old but they do not have to be in a designated historic district.

Award recipient Herb David, owner of Herb David Guitar Studio in a Dutch Colonial Revival house at 302 E. Liberty St., has "just been a big advocate for the block that he's on, despite all the development pressures," Awards Committee Chair Susan Wineberg says. And Martin Soave rehabbed a small home at 508 Fourth St. on the Old West Side that sat "empty for 12 years, and it had raccoons living in it."

New this year, "Mid-Century Modern is getting more attention," says Wineberg. Six such properties were recognized, five of which are in the Ann Arbor Hills neighborhood. Many homes in the neighborhood were designed by architect luminaries such as Eero Saarinen and Alden Dow.

Nancy Deromedi and Tracy Aris, founders of the group A2Modern, received a special merit award for their work in promoting this architecture through walking tours, exhibits, lectures and publications.

Source: Susan Wineberg, awards committee chair,  Ann Arbor Historic District Commission
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Ann Arbor's modern architecture matters too

The period from 1940 to 1970 was the heyday for the Modernist movement in architecture - a clean, natural style that is the flipside of ornately-trimmed homes from earlier epochs. A large contingent of Modern architects and designers, such as Charles and Ray Eames and Alden B. Dow, had Michigan ties.

"Michigan did play a really important role in the development of Modernism after World War II, specifically because Michigan was booming in that period. Michigan was and still is a center for design, particularly when you consider the auto industry, the furniture industry, plus the major institutions such as Cranbrook and the University of Michigan...." says Michigan State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway.

To inform the public of Michigan's strong design heritage, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network will be holding its annual conference in Flint, Mich. from May 10-12. The Michigan Modern Project presentation from 3:15 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 10 at the Flint Masonic Temple will be of especial interest to Ann Arborites, due to the city's extensive collection of Modern architecture - particularly residential.

"Because of the [University of Michigan] and the architecture program, Ann Arbor does have a wealth of very good architecture from this period, particularly residential architecture that was designed by architecture school faculty," Conway notes.

The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office last year gave a grant to the A2Modern group to develop a walking tour of Modern architecture in Ann Arbor. This year the group is developing an even more comprehensive walking tour, Conway says. And at the national conference of the Society of Architectural Historians held in Detroit a couple of weeks ago, A2Modern hosted an Ann Arbor tour for a contingent of academics and scholars.

"Long story short, Ann Arbor's very important to this story," Conway says.

Source: Brian Conway, Michigan State Historic Preservation Officer
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

U-M laboratories, Crisler Arena to get nearly $100 million in upgrades

Last week the University of Michigan Board of Regents advanced a couple more big projects totaling nearly $100 million in capital outlay.

The regents approved a $47 million, inside-out renovation of the George Granger Brown Memorial Laboratories building. The 1958-era, 220,000 square-foot structure will get new finishes in common areas, an HVAC upgrade, new electrical and safety systems, new exterior windows, and better accessibility.

The state of Michigan will cover about $30 million of the cost, with the balance coming from the university's investment proceeds and other resources from the College of Engineering and the Office of the Provost.  

Troy, Mich.-based architecture firm Integrated Design Solutions will manage the design phase, with a construction start date to be determined upon completion of the design.

And soon the roars in Crisler Arena won't just be from basketball fans. The arena's $52 million expansion and renovation project is ready to go out for construction bids. Funding will be provided by the U-M Athletic Department.

The 63,000-square-foot addition will host retail spaces, ticketing areas, and a private club area. New spectator entries will also be installed. An existing 54,000 square feet will be redone with disability-accessible seating and better circulation and egress. Additional restrooms, concession stands, and fan amenities are also in the game plan.

Work is expected to be complete by winter of 2014.

Source: University of Michigan Board of Regents
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

WebUrbanist praises Ann Arbor library as one of 14 Marvelous Modern Libraries

With its recent inclusion on WebUrbanist's list of 14 Marvelous Modern Libraries, the Ann Arbor District Library's Traverwood branch is on the same page with fantastical book spots like the underground TU Delft Library in the Netherlands; Colombia's stone and pine lattice Villaneuva Public Library; and the National Library of Belarus, wrapped in an LED-lit globe reminiscent of a holiday ornament.

The 16,500-square-foot library opened in 2008 on a four-acre site in northeast Ann Arbor that had a thick canopy of ash trees felled by Emerald Ash Borer disease. Entire trunks of those original trees were worked into the interior, says Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library. "And the ash borer's patterns are apparent on the trunks of those trees. So it's clear what killed the tree, and why so much ash was available. It's a social statement, an environmental statement, as well as an architectural statement, all being made in one design."

Its other notable features include an L-shaped design to accommodate the irregular lot shape, a light-bathed interior, a storm water management system with a rain garden, and a cafe. Parker puts the total project cost at $10 million, including the lot, construction, and furnishings.

The Traverwood branch made such a lofty list because, "First of all, it's not a big major city library," says Parker. "It's a highly sustainable and a very progressive site in an urban city without being in a major metropolitan area, and I think that  [WebUrbanist] understood it for that and that's why they chose it."

Source: Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

EMU's Pray-Harrold building rehab done and greener than ever

With school back in season, stat-happy football fans would do well to take note of the recycling numbers posted by Eastern Michigan University's Pray-Harrold building renovation project. The university is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the $42 million redo of the building used by 10,000 students a day, says Sean Braden, planning and design manager at EMU.

This project was the biggest shake-up in the 1969-era building's structural history. Of the 1,200 tons of debris generated, 950 were diverted from the landfill, for a recycling rate in excess of 75%, according to Braden. Off to the recycling plant are 200 tons of masonry block; 30 tons of ceiling tiles; 15 tons of metal; and 3,163 lighting ballasts and 4,317 lamps.

In shooting for LEED certification, Braden says, "A lot of our focus on this was in the recycling of debris created and just trying to use low-maintenance materials or those with recycled content."

The new design includes recycled ceiling tiles, carpeting with recycled content, bamboo doors, low-flow plumbing fixtures, floor tiles made of a lower-hassle polymer composite as opposed to industry-standard vinyl composite, and a bamboo ceiling in the new glass-enclosed student commons area.

The project design also called for using the vast majority of the existing walls and pre-existing layouts of the seven-story, 235,000-square-foot building whenever possible, he explains. "We didn't move every wall in the building; we kept what we could when we could."

And vines will slowly be twining up the second through the fifth stories of its south wall. The intent of the green wall is to temper heating and cooling levels. "[The green wall] will absorb the rays of the sun rather than the building doing it and then from a storm water standpoint it will use some of the water that might otherwise have just been run-off."

A determination on LEED status could take up to a year to receive from the U.S. Green Building Council, says Braden. Meanwhile, students who used to have to sit in hallways between classes are enjoying the new commons area. All 60 classrooms were redone, and two of the four auditoriums were converted from movie theater-style seating to seminar-style designs.

"It's hard to pick one [standout] thing," Braden says.

A Pray-Harrold building open house is set for September 20 at 10 a.m. in the new student commons area.

Source: Sean Braden, planning and design manager at EMU
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar
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