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Anberay Apartments would tumble for new building

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


News Business Reporter

The 1920s-era Anberay Apartments, formerly protected by Ann Arbor as a historic site, will be demolished to make way for a $20 million brick and limestone apartment building nearly 10 stories tall, according to site plans filed by the Chicago developer who is buying the property.

The proposal is the first project to be submitted to the city for review since zoning guidelines were changed in the South University area to allow taller buildings.

Zaragon Place will have 66 furnished apartments ranging in size from two to six bedrooms each and priced at an estimated $1,000 per month per bedroom, according to the site plans. There will be a 2,000-square-foot space for a retail store on the ground level and two levels of underground parking.

"The current property is almost 90 years old and it's not in good shape,'' said Richard Perlman, a University of Michigan graduate and president of Zaragon Inc., the Chicago real estate company that is the parent of Galileo Associates, which is buying and redeveloping the Anberay site. "This property has issues that need to be dealt with and the smart thing to do, clearly, is to get rid of it and go with something new.

"We are going to be putting up something that we think is extraordinarily special and the standard by which apartment housing in Ann Arbor will be judged,'' he added.

Perlman said the transaction to buy the Anberay, which sits on less than half an acre at 619 E. University Ave., is set to close next week. Current Anberay owners, including Larry Nisson, confirmed the pending sale. The approximate market value of the property is at least $2.1 million, according to city tax records.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, the three-story Anberay was protected as part of Ann Arbor's Individual Historic Properties Historic District. That historic district was dissolved as the result of a multi-year court battle over whether the city could group individual, scattered properties together for preservation.

The 23-unit Anberay was built in 1923 and designed by Albert Rousseau and George McConkey, who were architecture professors at the U-M. The duo also designed other landmarks, including St. Mary's Student Chapel and the Trotter House.

While the Anberay catered to professors and high-ranking university officials in its early days, the renters there today are mostly students.

Local historian and author Susan Wineberg said she expected any demolition to catch the attention of local historians and preservationists.

"There are so few (buildings) in that style in Ann Arbor,'' said Wineberg, who is a board member of the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission. "I think everybody cares a lot about that building; of all the apartment buildings that are from that era ... the Anberay is the best of those that still exist.''

Former Anberay resident Ann Schriber, who lived there as a newlywed with her husband Tom in the late 1960s, said the building has "so much character'' and that she was furious to hear of its possible demolition.

"It makes me absolutely sick,'' said Schriber, still an Ann Arbor resident. "I am trying really hard to put myself in (the owner's) place, but it's just one more example of making our town more homogenized, less exciting and more like every other place in the state.''

Perlman said he expects to hear some complaints about his company's mixed-use plans for the Anberay but said it would cost at least $3 million to completely update the structure, and with only 23 units there currently and no parking, it's not an economically smart choice.

Perlman emphasized that he intends to build "a state of the art'' facility with amenities like a fitness center, wireless Internet access and a security system.

If the project gains city approval, Perlman would like to start demolition later this year and finish the building by September 2008.

Maggie Ladd, executive director of the South University Area Association, said her group is happy with the plans for the Anberay. She said the developers met with the association several times to review their ideas for Zaragon Place, beginning immediately after the zoning change.

"It's beautifully designed building and what I really like about it is they've taken the time to design something that can be placed in our area and it's going to blend. It's not going to stick out like a sore thumb,'' Ladd said.

"Obviously the Anberay is a building that people in our area look to and have a fondness for ... (but) I don't think that, while we have a fondness for it, that it's so outstanding that we should sacrifice this project for it.''

Contact Stefanie Murray at [email protected] or 734-994-6932.

What's next

The city is set to have an Advisory Development Committee meeting about the project at city hall on Friday at 2 p.m. The meeting is open to the public but is not a public hearing.

The earliest date that Zaragon Place could go before the city's Planning Commission for a hearing is Feb. 22.

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This is really a shame. There are many modern, awful looking buildings in the South University area that I would love to see torn down for a new tower but this is one of the most unique and historic apartment buildings in the city. For those of you that aren't familiar with these apartments:


I've always referred to them as the Melrose Place apartments.

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This is really, a huge dissapointment.

This is also one of the cases, where we SHOULD NOT be building 10 stories. Why can't they level a bunch of two story houses next door??

Or perhaps we could level an entire block of businesses on the North Side of South University near U-Towers. Seriously, it gets uglier the closer you get to Forrest, and U-Towers needs some higher buildings up next to it.

This has to be one of my favorite buildings in AA. I can't believe this is happening, I thought this was protected.

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Please read the rules. Posting entire articles on UrbanPlanet is not allowed.

But that is a shame about that building. It's a nice classic looking courtyard apartment building. I can't believe a progressive city like Ann Arbor would allow the demolition of such a structure.

But hey, the developer says he plans to build a "state of the art facility", with a fitness center, wireless internet, and security. Wow, that IS state of the art. :rolleyes: Like YMCA state of the art.

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Ugh tell me about it. I hate it when developers use amenities to justify the demolition of historic buildings. It's a shame how this building got taken of the register. I love these Courtyard buildings too GrDad. They really add some interest to the promenade along the street. It's such a welcoming building. It's sad there are negatives attached to it though. I've heard from several people the building is in rough shape, and it's always been considered a kind of "slummy" place to live. I was going to be renting here this fall, but was turned off by the loud music and shouting that could be heard throughout the building. I didn't even get to the point of viewing a room.

The parking issue is such B.S. though. Ann Arbor is now moving away from making parking such a requirement in developments. I don't see how a renovation relates to parking, or how it could contribute to the costs. Students will move into this place whether it's there or not. Even Google is going to go easy on the parking! They are only asking the DDA for 400 spaces, for 1000 employees, and they are probably only going to receive no more than 350!

The block that Melrose Apts sits on is meant to be scaled for 2-3 story buildings. I know I complain about wanting more height all the time, but there's some places you just don't put tall buildings. I still think this belongs on the block near U towers. The back alley can give access to underground parking, and the ground floor can be used as retail.

Additionally, I'm exhausted by 10 story buildings. What's with every new building in AA having to be 10 stories? It's like the new magic number. How about like 5 or 15? The last thing I want is the AA of the future to look like Madison, WI

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I passed by that building countless times during my time on Central Campus and specifically remember admiring that building, even in its shabby condition.

I can agree that the lost of the building will be detrimental for the area and there are many other locations along the corridor that would be more appropriate (due to scale and lackluster existing buildings)


depending on the proposed design of the new building perhaps the loss of the existing building will be less important because the new building is wonderful(er).

Let's see what they present.

Perhaps I'm not as shocked. These type of courtyard apartment buildings are a dime a dozen in Chicago and the first ring suburbs. Though, it is quite a rare apartment form for Ann Arbor.

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