Downtown Apartment Development Pipeline

There has been a lot of new development in downtown Ann Arbor in recent years and the vast majority of that has been apartments, much of it catering to students.  I thought I would assemble a summary of what’s been completed and what’s on the table.  This is only formally announced rental developments and thus does not include condominium projects.  There are a couple of other things in the works on both the student and market rate apartment side that could be added to the list in the near future.

Property Status Year Built Market Units Beds Parking Spaces
Sterling 411 Lofts Completed 2008 Student 97 318 109
Zaragon Place Completed 2009 Student 66 264 40
Landmark Completed 2012 Student 173 606 146
Zaragon West Completed 2012 Student 120 200 40
Varsity Completed 2013 Student 181 415 148
615 S Main Completed 2014 Market 156 186 132
Ann Arbor City Apartments Completed 2014 Market 155 205 73*
Sterling ArborBlu Completed 2015 Student 113 242 48
Foundry Lofts Completed 2016 Student 209 512 114
The Madison Proposed 2017 Market 24 33 11
611 E University Proposed 2018 Student 90 343 56
The Calvin Proposed 2018 Student/Market 124 310 108
618 S Main Proposed 2018 Student/Market 229 588 163
The Collective on 5th Proposed 2019 Market 360 540** 200
Average       150 340 99
Total       2,097 4,762 1,388
Total Student       1,402 3,798 972
Total Market       695 964 416

So 2,097 total units encompassing 4,762 beds could conceivably be added to the market in a roughly 10 year time frame.  Is this a lot?  Considering there was essentially no units added in the downtown area in the preceding 30+ years, I don’t think so but let’s take a look at a couple numbers.

Everyone asks me about student housing and for good reason, student high rises are the biggest thing changing the skyline of Ann Arbor right now.


The Foundry

Including The Foundry which just opened last month there have been 2,557 beds of private  student housing built in the greater downtown area since 2008.  If you add in the Munger Graduate Residences built by the university and The Courtyards (a private student development on north campus) you come up with a total of 4,085 beds.  In that time the University of Michigan has added 4,117 students.  Actually seems just about right.  There’s another 1,241 beds proposed by 2019 while enrollment is expected to grow anywhere from 749 to 2,352 students depending on which trend analysis you use.  Based on the rhetoric from the administration, I would assume the lower end of that spectrum, perhaps 1,000 or so, many of them graduate students.  Still, this seems to buck the thinking that new housing is pulling many kids out of neighborhood homes.  Long term I think that is a theme but it seems that to date and in the short term future, housing supply is meeting growth.

Additionally, our own research at my day job shows that occupancy in off campus housing at U of M was 98.6% for the 2015-16 school year (national average is 95.3%) with rent increases averaging 7.8% over 2014-15.  Pretty strong market.


618 South Main

The market rate apartment side is harder to gauge compared to say, population growth, but the numbers are modest anyway.  There have been just two developments with 311 units and 391 total bedrooms between them, Ann Arbor City Apartments and 618 South Main.  Both are 100% occupied with rising rents.  I was told by management at 618 that the lease up was the fastest for a new development project they’ve ever been involved in.  Given the macro demand for urban living and relative lack of supply, it’s pretty easy to surmise there is still a substantially untapped market for market rate apartments catering to young professionals, empty nesters and essentially anyone else looking to rent an apartment.  Granted the rents are out of reach for many but that tends to be the case with new construction (and that’s a whole other blog anyway).

Against my better judgement (I’m guilty of reading too many MLive comments) I included parking numbers in the table as well.  I actually think the ratios of parking spaces to units/beds is not out of line but I realize many people disagree (that’s perhaps another blog as well).  It’s important to remember we don’t want to really encourage driving downtown but rather the use of more efficient, sustainable transit.  Also, the hope is these buildings will still be here many years from now and research shows the use of private automobiles decreasing substantially in the future.  It’s all about smart growth folks.

In summary, it really doesn’t seem that student housing is overbuilt, at least not yet, but new buildings will have to start attracting tenants from older properties rather than relying on natural enrollment growth.  Downtown apartments, however, seem to have plenty of runway with demand almost certainly far outstripping supply.


* Ann Arbor City Apartments is built on top of a public parking garage in partnership with the city.  There are 251 total spaces. 73 available for full access, 73 available for nightly access and 105 public spaces.

** Total number of bedrooms have not been established for The Collective on 5th, the proposed development on the Library Lot.  This number assumes 50% of the units to be one bedroom or studio units, 50% to be two bedroom units based on the number of units projected and target demographic.

Montgomery Houze Condo Development Coming to 4th Avenue

This development was announced back in 2014 but I’m happy to report we should start seeing visible signs of progress any day now.  Located at 210-216 S. 4th Ave in what has most recently been known as the Town Center Plaza, owners David Ebner and Joe Barbat of Barbat Holdings, LLC are planning 33 condominiums in a completely renovated and expanded building coined Montgomery Houze.


This is one of those developments that it’s hard to find too much fault in.  The building was long ago the victim of a bad corrugated metal facade and the new renderings show a masonry exterior much more reminiscent of the original building, once home to Montgomery Ward’s.

Montgomery Ward.jpg

The original Montgomery Ward & Co circa 1925.  The building was later expanded with another bay to the south where Bandito’s is now.

The Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase leases the basement space in the building and Bandito’s Mexican Restaurant will remain.  There will be 2-3 new retail spaces.  The condos range in size from Studios to 3 Bedrooms and there is no on-site parking.

I’m told interior work is currently ongoing and exterior work should begin soon.  The building was originally planned to be apartments or a mix of condos and apartments but the hot sales of condos in projects like The Mark, 121 Kingsley West and 414 N Main convinced the developers to pursue an all condominium strategy.


Barbat has been busy opening a couple other “Houze” developments in Detroit, the Regis Houze and the new Briggs Houze.  From what I can tell these projects appears to be excellent adaptive reuses of historic buildings, I wish them the best of luck both in Detroit and here in Ann Arbor.  As a bonus, local architect Brad Moore is behind the design at Montgomery.

I personally think 4th Avenue has a ton of potential and this project is an excellent step in the right direction.  Formerly a red light district of sorts, 4th offers less expensive retail rents as compared to Main Street or even Liberty but has great character and some unique local businesses.  If Habitat builds on the old Y lot and the city goes through with a plan to put a retail business incubator in the ground floor the 4th and William Garage, we’ll only see greater things coming to this street.