Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

What's up with Upland Green?

25. November 2007 • Bruce Fields
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COMING *SOON* UPLAND GREEN: Opening Fall 2006 Arbor Update regular David Cahill says of the Upland Green project, at Plymouth and Upland, "Although the project has been started, no work has been done on it for several months. It's just sitting there half-done."

Anyone know what's up?

  1. A little bit of hearsay, but I understand that, in fairly quick succession,

    * The builder was experienced in commercial development, but not residential, and misestimated costs for the upper stories, so parted ways with the developer,

    * While the developer was shopping for a new builder, the national residential market crawled into a corner and hid, screwing up the numbers for completion of the building, and,

    * The developer died.

    So, what’s the next step? (shrug.)

    It’s a shame to see it sit, as this project was an example of things happening right. Aside from the junkyard and accompanying contamination getting cleaned up, the process was pretty decent.

    Those of us at the public hearing (this project was not quite in my backyard, but a few doors down), will remember that half the public comment was critical of the suburban sprawl appearance from the sidewalk (parking lot in front of single-story commercial buildings) while the other half was critical of the second, two-story building placed at the back of the lot, abutting the single-family neighborhood. The project that got approved was kind of the consensus solution: pull the front buildings towards the street and stack the back buildings on top of them, with parking behind and landscape screening to the neighboring homes. Everybody seemed happier with this revised concept. (The developer’s comment was, “Well, shoot, that’s what I would have proposed, but I thought you wouldn’t want the buildings so close to the street!”)

       —Murph    Nov. 27 '07 - 09:25PM    #
  2. The reality of the current market is that good projects are going to suffer and fail and those who finance them are not going to be so enamored of creative solutions. The people who finance development are notoriously conservative and will throw money into a suburban strip mall long before they’ll want to put money into anything that smacks of urban development.

       —John Q,    Nov. 27 '07 - 09:45PM    #
  3. So I did some looking around and I don’t see anything to suggest that the developer (Bill Conlin) for Upland Green has died. He was, however, partners in the Shops at Arlington development going in across from Whole Foods, and his partner there did die unexpectedly last spring. As of August, Conlin was quoted as saying that he was working on stabilizing the Arlington Shops project. The Upland Green Web Site and web cams are still up and functional. I haven’t tried calling their contact names though.

    A lot of the developments around town are on hold right now. Kingsley Lane, The Gallery on North Main, and several projects in the Huron/Washington/Division/William area aren’t progressing. An article in the current Observer said that remaining Liberty Lofts condos are as much as $100,000 reduced. So it is hardly a surprise to see Upland Green stalled out.

       —Juliew    Nov. 28 '07 - 01:03AM    #
  4. Thanks JulieW fo info. Do folks think the economy will stall out Glen Ann because I was happy to see in article that Glen Ann Place was finally getting going. Still think that development has the most promising location. Also actually had support of all of Council, which is rare.

       —sometimes reader    Nov. 28 '07 - 09:06AM    #
  5. The only developments I would expect to move forward are those that have commitments from a U-M, Google, or similar major tenant for office space or a national retail or restaurant chain that can guarantee that the space will be occupied once it’s completed. Otherwise, the smart developers are those sitting out and waiting to see where the market is heading. You may see an occasional “in for a penny, in for a pound” situation where someone’s already put enough in that they don’t have any alternative but to continue to press on. But otherwise, most projects are probably not going to break ground unless they fit the criteria listed above.

       —John Q,    Nov. 28 '07 - 10:38AM    #
  6. Sometimesreader – I expect Glen Ann Place will be sitting on a shelf for a while. A year or three, perhaps, before anything happens.

    But, considering that they’ve gone through all the approval (and appeal) processes already, and have almost everything in place to build – last I heard, there were just the details of the HDC “settlement” to work out – they’ve got something like a five year window in which to turn the key and start construction. And, as the city gets a few years more desperate for tax revenue, I expect few additional roadblocks will appear.

       —Murph.    Nov. 28 '07 - 06:19PM    #
  7. John Q – this is a pretty broad statement. Where does the development at First and Washington fit? And what about the proposed hotel in the old Metro 202 spot? Broadway Village? Please prognosticate.

       —anonymous too    Nov. 28 '07 - 06:59PM    #
  8. Thanks for the info! This is the first project I can remember that stopped in mid-construction. This is a different situation than Kingsley Lane and various other projects, when the builder didn’t start construction because of financial difficulties.

    Things looked like they were all set for Upland Green, but I guess appearances were deceiving. Is there any way to predict such a mid-construction failure? Signs to look for?

    What is the prognosis for such projects? Do they typically get restarted and completed? Or torn down as public nuisances?

       —David Cahill    Nov. 29 '07 - 03:32AM    #
  9. Conlin has not died, but his partner in the Upland Green and Shops on Arlington projects did. Both projects are on hold until such time as the former partner’s estate is settled. My understanding from a discussion last week with a an Upland tenant is that financing has now been renegotiated. So hopefully Upland Green construction and buildout can resume in short order.

       —Stephen Rapundalo    Nov. 29 '07 - 09:58PM    #
  10. It’s great that you checked this out, Stephen! I’m looking forward to Upland Green being completed. It has a lot going for it.

       —David Cahill    Nov. 30 '07 - 02:12AM    #
  11. “John Q – this is a pretty broad statement. Where does the development at First and Washington fit? And what about the proposed hotel in the old Metro 202 spot? Broadway Village? Please prognosticate.”

    I don’t know enough about the prospective tenants for those projects to make any predictions. Was U-M going to be leasing space in the BV project? If so, that would be a big plus for that project.

       —John Q.    Nov. 30 '07 - 08:19PM    #
  12. Upland Green construction to start again this month , Michigan Biz Review, 6 Dec. 07.

    Work stopped on the site this summer when the project’s financing became entangled following the death of developer William Conlin’s partner, R. Gordon Mathews.

    But Conlin, who met with Ann Arbor officials in early November, indicated he’s sorted out the financial situation and by early December was planning to proceed with construction. It could finish in six months, the city said.

    The article notes that Panera could open as early as January, and Qdoba is apparently in talks for space; 100 interested parties for the 20 upper story condos are still in limbo until things start moving.

    I’m not totally thrilled about the Panera/Qdoba choice of tenants, but, having lived there, I can understand that this barren northern tundra of a site probably doesn’t occupy enough North Campus mind space for people to just stumble across something they don’t already know. The “fast casual” chain is probably the reasonable choice for something campus-oriented that will actually survive, and I’m pretty thrilled to see something campus-oriented getting built along the edge of North Campus. (The other choice that might survive would be the more destination restaurant, like Saica or the Syrian bakery, but, again, I think those do so without a huge campus audience.)

       —Murph.    Dec. 6 '07 - 05:41PM    #
  13. The building projecs on Plymouth Road and Upland, as well as the building project on Plymouth and Green, are both ugly. Look at them! They look like something from a bad 60’s movie. Not to mention that both have now sat uncompleted and exposed to the inclement weather conditions. The Northeast side was once a beautiful location – it’s just mind boggling how these two building projects ever got approved. Sorry… but really LOOK at them!

       —MjC    Feb. 14 '08 - 05:19AM    #
  14. MjC, I’d rather look at an unfinished Upland Green than the car junk yard that occupied that spot prior to the start of construction. IMHO, they are improving the beauty of the North Campus area. BTW, anyone know why construction hasn’t resumed yet?

       —jb    Mar. 16 '08 - 10:22PM    #
  15. Last I heard was from someone on the Broadway neighborhood list in February, reporting on a conversation with Conlin in which he said they’d had financing problems but were expecting to get to work again soon, with a couple condo models open by May 1st, and 2 or 3 restaurants (including Panera and Qdoba) open in June. They also described Conlin as “an optimistic soul.” So, take that for what it’s worth….

       —Bruce Fields    Mar. 17 '08 - 12:57AM    #
  16. Second verse, same as the first. I hope that something happens, but I doubt it will.

       —David Cahill    Mar. 17 '08 - 02:25AM    #
  17. Looks like the Panera is opening next Friday, by the way. I don’t know about the rest of the building.

       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 19 '08 - 01:53AM    #
  18. The following whole week, Panera is doing a partnered promotion with Food Gatherers: bring a non-perishable for FG, get a free small coffee and a reusable tote bag. Details to follow.

       —HD    Sep. 19 '08 - 02:45AM    #