Ann Arbor-based Oxford Companies has plans to transform Ann Arbor's State-Eisenhower corridor into an alternative downtown, starting with its recent acquisition of the iconic office building at 777 E. Eisenhower Parkway.
Oxford Companies founder and CEO Jeff Hauptman says his company is the first local owner of the building since it was built 44 years ago. The 10-story, 290,000-square-foot building is one of 38 buildings Oxford Companies owns on the south side of Ann Arbor.
Hauptman says an investment real estate company's goal is to make a good return for investors, but he wants to "have a positive impact on the entire community" in Ann Arbor.
He says Oxford has been investing in improvements to parking lots, landscaping, and other highly visible parts of the office buildings it owns. The company would like to take that one step further by making the State-Eisenhower corridor more pedestrian-friendly and tackling the problem of traffic congestion. He cites statistics that 80,000 cars drive into Ann Arbor every morning because many people who work in Ann Arbor can't afford to live there.
"Oxford's goal, because we're the largest landlord in that market, is to bring everyone together to start working on projects that bring more density and make the area more attractive to people who work there," he says.
He says downtown Ann Arbor is attractive because of the mix of retail, bars and restaurants, and office space, and he'd like to bring more of that "live, work, play" atmosphere to the Eisenhower-State corridor. He plans to start with adding retail business and a restaurant or cafe to the ground floor of the 777 building, and making aesthetic improvements to the building.
"It's very well built, very solid, but we think we can do a lot more to make it more attractive for people to want to go there," he says. "There's no real food option, even though it's the largest property of its type in the area. We want to make the whole presentation of 777 a lot nicer."
He imagines community members and developers improving the area further by building workforce housing and attracting more fitness studios, restaurants, and bars, so that residents can work and then find food and recreation all in the same area without ever having to get in a car.
Improving a community is not something one company can do on its own, Hauptman says.
"You need everyone to step up and be involved," he says. "We're happy to be a catalyst because of the level of involvement we have in the corridor. Why not get everyone involved with trying to improve the area?"
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the interim project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Oxford Companies.