The owners of two adjacent properties located in Ann Arbor’s Main Street Historic District want in on the downtown housing boom.
Meanwhile, Joe Barbat, the new owner of the mixed-use building at 210-216 S. Fourth Ave. wants to add up to three stories of residential units on top of his existing two-story building and replace the facade.
“We certainly hope this will revitalize that block of Fourth Avenue and make it as vibrant as the blocks of Liberty and Washington and Main Street,” explained Brad Moore of Ann Arbor-based J Bradley Moore & Associates, the architect for both projects
There will be back-to-back citizen participation meetings for the projects on July 10.
121-123 E. Liberty proposal
“We are one of the only buildings in the (Main Street) Historic District that’s one story,” he said. “We’re trying to get back to the look of the building before (the fire).”
The property is located in the city’s D1 zoning, but because it’s in the historic district, there are limitations on a building expansion or redevelopment, and plans require approval from the Historic District Commission.
City Planner Jill Thacher said the building is considered non-contributing because it was partially destroyed by the fire.
Preliminary plans submitted to the city call to add two stories of residential units on top of the entire building, along with a rooftop patio and penthouse that would occupy a partial fourth floor. Moore said there would be six residential units ranging in size from about 500 square feet to about 950 square feet.
It hasn’t been determined if the units will be marketed for lease or for sale, but Step said he would prefer to sell the units as condominiums.
Step said they also intend to improve the building’s facade. He said the project should not affect business at his Running Fit store, or the physical therapy clinic opening at 121 E. Liberty.
210-216 S. Fourth Ave. proposal
A fire in 1960 caused significant damage to the building, which was occupied by Montgomery Ward & Co. at the time. Thacher said the existing aluminum facade was installed after the fire. The property is located in the D1 zoning, but it’s also considered a non-contributing building in the Main Street Historic District.
Barbat’s plans call to add up to three stories of residential units ranging in size from about 500 square feet to about 800 square feet on top of the rear of the building.
“They would certainly like to add three stories,” Moore said. “We’re still doing investigations for the building’s structural system, and we hope to have everything completed by the time we get to the citizen participation meetings.”
The total number of units hasn’t been determined yet, and Barbat hasn’t decided if the units will be marketed for lease or for sale.
“That’s going to be a market-driven issue,” Moore said.
Along with the addition, Barbat wants to replace the building’s facade. Moore said they are still working out what materials would be used, and that’s subject to Historic District Commission approval.
“We are looking to bring this building back to its old glory,” Barbat wrote via email.
At one point, the building at 210-216 S. Fourth was known as the “Fourth Main Arcade” and it had a pedestrian walkway in the middle, but Thacher said that wasn’t part of the original building’s design.
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“We think it has a great history as the old Montgomery Ward’s building, and we want to bring some of that old history back to life. We realize this property has been neglected for many years, and we are excited about our plans to make this a premier property in the downtown area,” he continued.
It’s unclear how the addition would affect the building’s current tenants.
If approved, the projects would join a wave of new housing construction near downtown. Recently built and under construction high-rise buildings are resulting in more than 2,500 new apartment units.
Meanwhile, Tom Fitzsimmons of Huron Contracting LLC is building condominium projects on North Main Street and North Ashley Street.
“There’s no question that downtown residential is really strong right now,” Moore said.
Added Step: “(Our) project is smaller, one-bedroom units. According to the studies we have done, there is demand for that type of space downtown.”
The public meeting for the 121-123 E. Liberty St. project will be held from 6 to 7:10 p.m. on July 10 at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library. The meeting for the 210-216 S. Fourth Ave. project will follow that from 7:10 to 8:30 p.m. on July 10.