42 North aims to provide affordable rental alternative to Ann Arbor students

While proponents of building vertically in Ann Arbor are trying to win a victory with the 601 Forest development, those who back the suburban-style horizontal development are going for their own victory with the 42 North project.

They'll just have to wait a little bit longer because City Council postponed a decision on the development Monday night until Sept. 8.

The project on the city's western edge is the typical suburban-style development consisting of a cluster of 3-story apartment buildings surrounded by lots of surface parking. Throw in a recreation center in an area dominated by sub divisions, strip malls and car-centric culture between Maple Road and I-94.

And that's just what the developer, Wood Partners, wants.

"You have two choices in Ann Arbor," says Matthew Marshall, a developer with Wood Partners. "You can build a high-rise or build on the edge of the city where our project is."

There is definitely lots of vertical construction going on in downtown Ann Arbor. A handful of mid-rise projects aimed at student housing are being built and some tall skyscraper buildings are about to jump off the drawing board and into the city center's streetscape.

But Wood Partners are betting not everyone wants (or can afford) to live in a densely packed high-rise with limited parking. Marshall points out there hasn't been a significant investment in new student housing at U-M in more than decade and that a significant percentage of students will want to live in an affordable area with new housing where they can easily park their car.

"We offer a suburban alternative to the student," Marshall says.

Construction is set to begin within 120 days of approval on what is now known as 42 North. The name will probably change before construction starts.

But when it does it will turn a 15-acre parcel next to the Grace Bible Church (about three miles from campus) into the apartment complex. Five buildings will house 120 4-bed, 4-bath units. Each unit will be furnished and come with plasma TVs. The apartments will rent for $600-$650 a month per bed including utilities.

A recreation center will go into the center of the project. The 10,000-square-foot building will feature a fitness center, basketball courts, tanning beds and a business center. Open space will also be interspersed throughout the complex.

The development will also feature 494 parking spaces (30 of which are in garages), 240 bicycle spaces and AATA bus stop at the complex's recreation center. The developers are also looking at including a Zipcar with the development.

A larger version of this development was proposed late last year. City Council rejected it early this year. This latest proposal is about 25 percent smaller with 40 fewer units.

Source: city of Ann Arbor and Matthew Marshall, a developer with Wood Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke
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