Downtown Ann Arbor is constantly in a state of flux, businesses opening and closing, rents going up, owners retiring, young entrepreneurs trying to break in. It’s sad to see old standbys close but also exciting to see new concepts try to make a go of it. I’m always curious as to what’s going on when I see a storefront papered over, contractors laboring mysteriously behind the scenes, hopefully bringing something exciting to the block. As a (very lax and part time) blogger of the haps downtown I try to ask around and dig through city documents to see what’s going on. I thought I would share a few upcoming openings, some more exciting than others.
“Bar Star” – 220 S Main St
The former home of Elmo’s T-Shirt Shop (now operating just down the street on Liberty) will be converted into a high end cocktail bar with the working title of Bar Star per construction documents. This swanky spot comes from the owners of Melange and is being designed by local shop Synecdoche Design. The interior appears to have a very modern theme with an open concept and chef’s table. Critics may label as it as just another emblem of gentrification but it’s a substantial investment in the space and I look forward to checking it out.
“TBD Sports Bar” – 309 S Main St
This one I’ve been waiting on expectantly for some time, The Melting Pot closed here in November of 2015 and I hoped for a fairly quick turnaround as the space is relatively turnkey for a restaurant/bar. After a misfire or two (I heard the owner of Tavern & Tap in Lansing had the space under contract at one point) there’s now a yet unnamed sports bar in the works. I don’t have a whole lot to go on here, mostly looking at a building permit, but it appears that the proprietor is the owner of Shalimar next door. The space will be opened up a bit, occupy all floors of the building and feature a rear patio on the second floor, much like Jolly Pumpkin next door.
Kosmo – 308 S Ashley St
The second outpost of local Korean spot Kosmo will open in the former Lucky Monkey Tattoo parlor. Personally thrilled for this as it’s about 100 feet from my office, look forward to exceptional bibimbap. This one was already covered by the Ann Arbor News here.
Fred’s – 403 E Washington St
Another one recently covered by the News but the old Babo location at the corner of Washington and Division is being re-positioned as Fred’s. This comes from Fred Lelcaj, brother of Babo owner Sava Lelcaj who recently ran a much smaller version of Fred’s on South U. I never got to try the old spot so excited to check it out downtown, should be open by the time you read this. (Side note, perhaps the closing of Babo will free up Sava to launch another concept downtown? Here’s hoping.)
Roasting Plant – 312 S State St
Testing the depths of Ann Arbor’s seemingly insatiable demand for coffee shops, NYC-based Roasting Plant will open their second Michigan location at State and North University (RP has a very popular spot in the First National Building on Campus Martius in downtown Detroit). I believe this space was most recently the northern portion of Amer’s Deli, they’ve consolidated (along with Chicago Reds and Yogurt Rush, you can really cover all your bases here) into the southern half of the building. Roasting Plant’s shtick is a custom pneumatic roasting system called Javabot. I’ve been to the Detroit location, it looks cool and makes a good cup of joe but the competition in that nook of A2 will be stiff, Comet and lab are right nearby for high end stimulation, Espresso Royale, Sweetwaters, Elixir Vitae and of course Starbucks offer a more traditional coffee experience.
Core Spaces Leasing Office – 306 S State St
Pretty boring but in case you were wondering what’s going on in the old Work Gallery Space on State Street, it’s a leasing office for Core Spaces, developer of The Calvin on Huron and conceivably The Collective on Fifth, the building planned for the library lot. Positive here is that they will renovate the space and only be there a short time, hopefully setting it up nicely for a new tenant (note: I understand the building permit has been temporarily denied as they work on some accessibility issues). In better news, the gallery has moved to larger space in McKinley Town Center on Division Street
Exscape Smoke Shop & Vape Lounge – 607 E William St
I don’t vape so this opening excites me about as much as a leasing office but for those who do, you’ll have a new option in the former Menna’s Joint space on William just west of State Street. Exscape has eight locations, primarily in college towns, including one in East Lansing.
Collegian Leasing Office – 1112 S University Ave
The venerable Village Apothecary shut down seemingly overnight back in 2015 and the building (along with many of the others on South U) is probably not long for this world. There are plans in the works for a redevelopment of much this stretch by developer Hughes Properties, there are two student towers in the planning stages right now. I understand that most, if not all, of this block will eventually be torn down but for now Hughes is going to use the space as a leasing office for Collegian North and Collegian East. Not looking to rent a student apartment? It appears there will also be an ATM, so you know, there’s that.
Smoke’s Poutinerie – 1300 S University Ave
This is the corner space in the newish Landmark Building at the corner of South U and Forest once home to World of Beer and briefly another bar called Dick Tyler’s Tavern. The Toronto-based purveyor of gravy fries is growing rapidly with locations planned for Detroit, Ann Arbor and East Lansing. Honestly this sounds like a great spot for them, this is classic, relatively inexpensive drunk food. The menu looks absurd, ah to be 22 again.
Odds & Ends
Another business in the Landmark building, Tim Horton’s closed down in late 2016 to make way for MVMNT, an indoor cycling studio which had their grand opening on January 20th.
No word on the former Kai Garden at 116 S Main St although they did recently complete an interior demo and clean out of the building.
Siris, the BBQ and cigar lounge on North Main is still in its seemingly perpetual “coming soon” mode.
Eve in the Bell Tower Hotel closed back in September 2016 after a flood in the restaurant. Unfortunately it appears the damage was extensive and the closure is permanent. Eve is looking for a new location and no news regarding the future of the Bell Tower space.
Not sure what’s going on at the old Carter’s Auto Service on Ashley that was once planned as a brewpub. The building has been cleaned up and painted so certainly some improvement there.
I’m sure I missed a bunch of future openings, hit me with a comment or or social media if you have word on any fun new business developments. Also, follow me on Twitter for updates like this in real time.