Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

The Return of Glen Ann Place

11. September 2006 • Dale Winling
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After a tumultuous year of consideration and reconsideration, Glen Ann Place may be back. Last fall Ann Arbor’s Historic District Commission voted against a PUD submitted by Joseph Freed for the corner of Glen and Ann Streets. The decision provoked a great deal of controversy, not least because the city’s Planning Commission and City Council had already approved the project, which would demolish two houses on Glen St. and replace them with a 10 story mixed-use building. Freed resubmitted the proposal without demolition, instead proposing removal of the houses, but withdrew the plan to pursue the case in the courts.

An administrative judge has ruled for demolition, according to the Ann Arbor News, putting Glen Ann Place back on the city’s radar. However, city attorney Stephen Postema notes in the article that Glen Ann Place is by no means on a fast track.

In other preservation news, City Council voted down the proposed Lower Town Historic District and the Polhemus House on Washington will be moved across the Huron River on September 24th.



  1. I think the Polhemus House move is the most important bit of news—moving houses and buildings is an historically sensitive strategy for accommodating new development while offering a means of preserving historic fabric. A number of historic houses in Ann Arbor are no longer at their original sites, but have historic value nonetheless because they were moved long ago and have been adapted to their new sites.


       —Dale    Sep. 11 '06 - 08:48PM    #
  2. Oh, wow! I didn’t know they were moving it across the river! I know you were trying to contact them about a date; please let me know when you find out. Watching a house go over the Broadway Bridges is totally worth taking time off work…


       —Murph    Sep. 11 '06 - 08:52PM    #
  3. The McKinley rep didn’t get back to me, but Talk About Town said it will be the 24th (a Sunday).


       —Dale    Sep. 11 '06 - 09:28PM    #
  4. Note in the A2News TAT today said the move was delayed to October 8 with a new backup date of October 15.

    Several of the houses in my neighborhood were originally farmhouses south of town (including one of the houses that was razed to make way for the 828 Greene Street development). They were moved north in the early 1900s to make room for building the Stadium and other UM athletic fields.

    The big problem in moving houses is finding a lot within a reasonable distance. If you have a buildable lot, it can actually be relatively cost-effective to move a house—especially since these older houses are made of materials that just aren’t available anymore. I could get behind a development like North Sky if some of their houses were actually saved historic homes rather than all knock-offs.


       —Juliew    Sep. 11 '06 - 09:47PM    #
  5. The Polhemus house move was actually announced a few weeks ago, but yes, it’s a very good thing.

    I really don’t understand this new Glen Ann Place at all. When did Freed submit the plan without removal? Why wouldn’t that be viable now?

    I was willing to let this project go away, since it really is a pretty massive building, and the neighborhood doesn’t seem to want it. I tend to err on the slower-development side of things recently, since it is a little nerve-wracking to watch these buildings get approved so close to all the nice old-fashioned frame housing. Though this isn’t a completely unattractive building. It is not exactly 10 stories, though—more like 12, in terms of sheer height. If they lopped off a couple of stories I would probably like it much better. (I admit it does seem unfair that the University can basically build as big as it wants, and doesn’t get any flak for it.)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Sep. 12 '06 - 02:47AM    #
  6. Freed originally proposed demolition without removal; they never went with the modified “we’ll-move-them” proposal. I think removal would be viable, but they’re being petty in response to the pettiness of the HDC.


       —Dale    Sep. 12 '06 - 03:49AM    #
  7. Maybe we should set up a Lower Town Historic House Refuge – give them the historic district, with the requirement that they find space for houses displaced elsewhere in town.

    As Juliew notes, the problem is finding a place to put the house. Back when the ICC lost Stevens House, the University offered us a house to put on the lot – for $10. (Plus cost of moving the house.) They complained that they always try to give away the houses that are in the way of their parking garages, but nobody ever wants them, because they don’t have anywhere to put them. (Note: neither of the houses they had to offer at the time were laid out well for co-ops, so we declined, sold the lot, and bought an existing house-in-place elsewhere.)

    I’m betting anybody who called up Freed and asked to buy one of those houses for $1 would have themselves a deal. Want to keep them? Do it! If you have a lot within reasonable distance, the moving of the house should cost in the range of $30k.


       —Murph    Sep. 12 '06 - 12:55PM    #
  8. And this is what I’ve been saying—even if that gets up to 50k to move and 30k for a lot, that’s 80k to create an affordable unit, which is totally unprecedented in Ann Arbor. Hell, it’s a bargain at twice the price.

    Of course we shouldn’t need an empty lot, we need more flexible zoning. There are many backyards or sideyards in downtown-adjacent neigborhoods in Ann Arbor that could have a foundation dug and poured (or laid) and a house dropped on it, but the zoning won’t allow it. Heck, the driveway of the Madison House is large enough (if we knock down the garage at the back of the lot) to accommodate a house of decent width, if there’s some give on the setbacks.


       —Dale    Sep. 12 '06 - 01:39PM    #
  9. Dale –

    Mind your land costs – the ICC sold our vacant lot on S. Forest for over $400k.

    But yes, I agree. Plenty of buildable double lots out there. This was why I suggested the Lower Town area. A lot of the lots on Broadway and Traver are enormous.


       —Murph    Sep. 12 '06 - 01:47PM    #
  10. I didn’t mean using a vacant lot near downtown, but doubling up there.


       —Dale    Sep. 12 '06 - 02:13PM    #
  11. That…might work on lots zoned higher than R1. I don’t know how A2 handles multiple detached units, off hand. (Ypsi allows them in an R4, with a 20 foot separation between buildings on the same lot.)


       —Murph    Sep. 12 '06 - 06:22PM    #
  12. Another interesting option for affordable housing and historic preservation was profiled in Wednesday’s A2News. Using a “community land trust” to provide affordable housing (built by students at WCC) while making money for the landowner at the same time. Full article here.


       —Juliew    Sep. 14 '06 - 08:59PM    #
  13. My father and some business partners just moved a house from his city to a small town about 60 miles away. The market is so hot there that people are buying up old houses on lots just to knock them down and build something newer. The move wasn’t so expensive, and older people moving out from the city to retire are buying these moved houses.


       —jcp2    Sep. 15 '06 - 01:36AM    #
  14. The inside word on moving the Polhemus house is over $250K. Moving a large brick house is like transporting a JELLO wedding cake.


       —DowntownDweller    Oct. 7 '06 - 11:37AM    #
  15. So did they move the thing today or not? I walked by there around 1 or 2pm and it was still sitting just off division.


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 9 '06 - 01:36AM    #
  16. Last I saw, it was postponed again until the 15th.


       —Juliew    Oct. 9 '06 - 02:20AM    #
  17. Ah-hah, I missed that article, thanks.


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 9 '06 - 02:47PM    #
  18. The house is off its foundation and is now in the parking lot.


       —Dale    Oct. 11 '06 - 02:09PM    #
  19. Re: ‘jello wedding cake’

    Well first, blech. Second, there’s steel cable wrapped around the structure in what seems like a plan-ful way.

    It makes me wonder: what profession has the expertise to determine where to put the cables and how much cable to use? Is that an architect, structural engineer, or just some guy who’s done it a couple of times before? Put another way, what should you major in, if you want to do this sort of thing for a living?


       —HD    Oct. 11 '06 - 02:46PM    #
  20. Structural Movers

    Even training or having done it a few times before doesn’t guarantee success. The frame portion of the Polhemus house was separated to move as well, but it collapsed once it was disconnected from the brick. Oops.


       —Dale    Oct. 11 '06 - 02:54PM    #
  21. it’s baaaaaack
    thanks to the developer’s lawyers. appears to be a settlement by the city, we’ll see what the HDC does but it sounds like they don’t have the power to stop it any more.


       —KGS    Jul. 3 '07 - 04:24PM    #
  22. You beat me to it. fresh AU item here.


       —Murph    Jul. 3 '07 - 04:46PM    #