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State Theatre to reopen after $8.5 million renovation project

A 10-month, $8.5 million renovation project at Ann Arbor's iconic State Theatre gives a nod to the theater's movie-palace past while updating the facility for a modern audience.


The theater, located at 233 S. State St., will host a grand reopening Friday, Dec. 8, with a full slate of movies starting on Saturday, Dec. 9. Ann Arbor native and filmmaker Qasim Basir is scheduled to come to town for the reopening, and a special engagement of Basir's film Destined, shot in Detroit, will run from Dec. 8-13.


Renovation efforts were focused on the balance between restoring many of the building's original Art Deco touches — designed by renowned Michigan architect C. Howard Crane and opened in 1942 — while also creating more legroom and making the building more accessible to those with mobility impairments.


"I am personally thrilled to be honoring C. Howard Crane, an under-appreciated Detroit-based architect," says Russ Collins, executive director for the State and Michigan theaters.


Renovations included updated movie projection and sound systems, increasing the number of screens from two to four while providing more legroom, and adding a full-sized elevator, escalator, full-service cocktail bar, and completely renovated concession stand.


Recreating the original 1942 carpet was one of the most challenging aspects of the renovation.


"It was this cool, spacey Art Deco design that was removed in the 1970s or early 1980s," Collins says.


Photos gave a general idea of the color and pattern, but it wasn't until a patron offered the theater a 12' x 18' piece of the original carpet that designers were able to confirm the exact colors and size of the pattern.


Collins says the most exciting part of opening the theater again isn't the aesthetics, but the wide range of films the State and Michigan theaters will now be able to offer their customers.


Collins says that, with the exception of a few obscure formats, the theaters will now be able to "show any kind of celluloid film cinema ever made."


Theater projectors can slow down the speed of the film to make sure silent films are projected at the right speed. The theaters will be able to handle 35mm film, 3-D movies, and all other kinds of films, from blockbusters to archival footage to art cinema.


Collins says other big cities like Los Angeles have the ability to show many different types of films, but not all "under one roof."


"Together, the State and the Michigan will be the most outstanding set of cinema screens capable of a wide variety of archival and exhibit content unrivalled in the rest of the country," Collins says.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at


Images courtesy of the Michigan Theater.

County's first hyper-energy-efficient "passive house" to break ground in Ann Arbor

Webster Township-based Architectural Resource is set to break ground on what is expected to be the first Washtenaw County home to meet the stringent energy-efficiency requirements of the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS).


The architectural firm is hosting a Visible Green Home seminar on passive home technology from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Builders and Remodelers Association, 179 Little Lake Dr., followed by a noon groundbreaking at the construction site, 4567 Boyden Dr. in Ann Arbor.


Michael Klement, an architect with Architectural Resource, says that to understand the idea behind passive homes, one can envision two buckets, one for energy gain and one for energy loss, on a seesaw, with the goal being to get those two sides to be as balanced as possible.


He says the first and most important step is minimizing what's in the energy loss "bucket."


"The way most houses are built today, we build whatever we want, and then add a furnace as big as needed to take care of the energy demand," Klement says. "This certification looks at that in a completely different way, making reducing the energy demand a fundamental design principle."


He says a PHIUS-certified house uses about 80 percent less energy than a standard house built to code.


During construction, the building team works on minimizing energy loss primarily by creating an extremely airtight "thermal envelope," whether that means building walls that are half an inch thicker than required by local building codes, or eliminating studs that conduct energy from the inside of the house to the outside.


As far as the "gain" bucket, builders look to renewable energy sources, most often solar cells.


Klement says his team has gone through a rigorous computer design program to make sure the project hits five metrics related to heating, cooling, and the use of renewable energy sources. That process has gained the project the status of PHUIS+ 2015 "pre-certification."


"We have an opportunity to really reconsider our relationship with the natural world and our responsibilities to future generations," Klement says. "We're really excited about this approach to building and this project in particular as one possible answer to that challenge."


Klement says the seminar is almost sold out, but Washtenaw County residents who are curious about the home will have other opportunities in 2018 to tour the home while it's under construction. Updates and future tour dates will be available on the Visible Green Home tour series website.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at


Renderings courtesy of Architectural Resource.

Take a look inside the Lodi Township home seeking an ultra-rare green building certification

Washtenaw County residents will have a chance to mark Earth Day with a tour of a local green home that aims to be only the second private residence in the world to earn the stringent Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification.


Ann Arbor firm Architectural Resource, along with homeowners Tom and Marti Burbeck, are inviting the public to tour the Lodi Township home, called Burh Becc at Beacon Springs. The home was built to earn the LBC sustainability certification, which was developed by the International Living Future Institute.


"LBC certification is currently the most rigorous green certification program on the planet," says Michael Klement, the home's architect.


The LBC certification goes beyond the commonly used Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by requiring net zero energy, net zero water, and net zero waste, among other stipulations. It also requires homeowners and builders to think about sustainability in new ways.


"When you see house plans where the same house is being built in Baton Rouge, La., and Spokane, Wash., something is out of sorts with that," Klement says. To be a "living building," a residence must be in harmony with its surroundings, he says.


What the LBC guidelines don’t do is tell architects exactly how to accomplish these goals.


"They explain what good building looks like and then ask you to figure out how to achieve that," Klement says.


In the case of the Burbecks' home, moving from philosophy into practice entailed creating a highly energy-efficient "building envelope" that uses roughly 80 percent less energy than the typical home, using recycled wood floors from a local school to create a ceiling treatment, and using the roof to catch and filter water, which is then stored in three 2,500-gallon buried tanks.


Another difference with the LBC certification is that it is not awarded on projected performance but on actual performance. The Burbecks applied for certification in December 2016 and their home is currently five months into a 12-month probationary period. If the home achieves LBC standards, it will be awarded LBC certification this December.


More information about Burh Becc at Beacon Springs and the LBC certification process is available here. Tours of the home will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. April 22. Tours are free but visitors must pre-register here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

All images courtesy of the Burbeck family.

New mural goes up on city hall in downtown Ypsilanti

The city of Ypsilanti recently installed a 24-foot-by-11-foot mural depicting a number of the city's landmarks and symbols on the side of city hall. The theme is a visual depiction of the eclectic city's history and culture, honoring both longtime residents and newcomers.

"We have to find a way to engage visitors and new residents in this city," says Jermaine Dickerson, the creator of the mural. "This is one of the first things they will see."

The mural is on the back of city hall at 1 S Huron so it is visible to traffic coming into downtown from the I-94 freeway exit. The icons on the mural include Harriet Tubman, who symbolizes Ypsilanti's status as a stop in the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves in 19th Century America. There are also depictions of the local houses, businesses, and institutions, like the Firehouse Museum. The mural features a lot of greenery paying homage to the city's extensive park system and a rubber ducky which represents the Heritage Festival's renown rubber duck race.

"My biggest goal is to create a piece that represents Ypsilanti but is also a little whimsical," Dickerson says.

Dickerson works as a graphic designer and illustrator in Ypsilanti after graduating from Eastern Michigan University in 2014 with a bachelors in graphic design. He is a Mt. Clemens native who now calls Ypsilanti home. Check out more of his creative work on his website here.

Source: Jermaine Dickerson, the creator of the mural
Writer: Jon Zemke

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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

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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

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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
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