Downtown Ann Arbor's town-gown connection is becoming a little more uniform now that McKinley Inc is moving forward with an expansion of the McKinley Towne Centre on Liberty Street.
The expansion will extend the new two-story storefronts adjacent to the towne centre east on Liberty until it bumps up against the Michigan Theater. If these plans are approved by the city this fall, McKinley hopes to start construction as soon as January and finish within a year.
"We're excited to get going," says Albert M Berriz, CEO of McKinley Inc. "We have always believed in the nexus connection of town and gown, downtown and campus. This block epitomizes that connection."
This block, centered on the intersection of Liberty and Thompson, has seen a dramatic reversal of fortune. Until a few years ago, a drab concrete traffic island painted in bad tags was the sole dash of color... unless you want to count the former TCF Bank's regional headquarters, a dreary example of Soviet-style concrete architecture. Cracked sidewalks and dingy old street lamps led to the forbidding Liberty Plaza a half block away, which at that time was frequented by the homeless.
Fast forward to today and the difference is nearly night and day. The traffic island has been removed and the streetscape is completely renovated. Liberty Plaza has been cleaned up and is dominated by young professionals and townies. This past summer saw live concerts and community lunches with the Mayor. The biggest turnaround has taken place in the aforementioned TCF building, now McKinley Towne Centre.
McKinley transformed what was formerly a profoundly ugly building into an attractive, colorful office complex that is the new headquarters to Google's Adwords division. The once fortress-like building has become an inviting place for pedestrians by opening up its ground floor retail to businesses like Bar Louie, Salsarita's and AT&T while building over the surface parking lot.
The expansion will continue that success, extending the traditional brick façade that houses Salsa Rita's and AT&T all of the way to the Michigan Theater. The old storefronts and the alleyway will be eliminated for the ground floor new retail and second floor office space.
Source: Albert M Berriz, CEO of McKinley Inc.
Writer: Jon Zemke