In his new loft, 1st-time home buyer says he feels like he’s ‘visiting someone’
BY STEFANIE MURRAY
News Business Reporter
Past workmen in hard hats in the lobby, up to the second floor in an elevator lined with plywood and down a quiet hallway is Liberty Lofts condo #206.
Inside, the 1,004-square-foot space is in disarray. Boxes line a wall, a green cloth-covered couch nearly blocks the entryway and pieces of wall art are stacked against one another. The new resident cat, named Lucy, hides in her litter box, scared by the young men installing a television in the living room.
For owner Terry McClymonds, the emotions he’s felt being one of the first people to move into a condominium in downtown Ann Arbor’s newest residential complex go beyond excitement, beyond pride.
At age 58, it is the first home he’s ever owned.
“I keep telling my mother, I feel like I’m visiting someone,” McClymonds said, talking about his shiny granite countertops, his stainless steel appliances and all the decorating he’s planned: the furniture from Three Chairs that he’s bought, the rug from Jewel Heart he has ordered.
“I never thought I really cared about all this,” he added. “I guess I’m tired of living like a student.”
Ann Arbor follows trend
McClymonds’ neighbors began moving into the renovated former Eaton Corp. factory building in August. McClymonds moved in September.
Liberty Lofts is the first of at least 10 condo developments planned around downtown Ann Arbor to open.
Ann Arbor appears to be joining a trend started in the late 1990s of new condo complexes being built in urban areas to accommodate people moving back to the city, said John McIlwain, a senior resident fellow at the Washington-based Urban Land Institute.
Those making the move have been mainly three groups: Empty nesters, young professionals with help from mom or dad, and single women.
Some cities have seen a glut of condos – mostly caused by speculators – and a subsequent slowdown in sales, McIlwain said.
“When you find dentists and lawyers buying more than one condominium unit, you know your condominium market is about to overheat,” McIlwain said.
In select areas where the housing market is softening, like Michigan, people who want to move into condos are having a hard time selling their suburban homes first – as a few local people moving into Liberty Lofts can confirm.
Bob Galardi, deputy superintendent of administrative and human resources services for Ann Arbor Public Schools, finally rented his Burns Park home. The new Liberty Lofts resident and his wife, Susan, will put the house back on the market in spring.
Just as McClymonds doesn’t fit into any of McIlwain’s categories, he also did not have to depend on the sale of a home to buy his loft. Rather, his financial means came partly from an unfortunate life event.
Living near work
McClymonds’ first Ann Arbor home was an apartment near Miller Avenue and First Street when he moved here on Dec. 29, 1979. Since then, McClymonds has always lived near downtown. He often does errands on foot, but owns a Toyota Prius for longer trips.
“I always believed in living four blocks from where you work if possible,” said McClymonds.
After arriving in Ann Arbor, McClymonds worked at a small local bookstore, tended bar and served as the maitre’ d of Escoffier. An unexpected brain surgery in 1997 pushed him to seek a more stable job with better benefits. He’s now a full-time bookseller at Borders Books & Music on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor and part-time Aut Bar bartender.
McClymonds graduated with a degree in history of arts and letters from Yale University – he was in George W. Bush’s class – and then went on to graduate school at the University of Vermont.
He left the master’s program there after newlywed friends asked him to watch their apartment in Washington while they honeymooned in Italy. McClymonds liked the city so much, he moved there. His move to Ann Arbor in 1979 happened just as casually: McClymonds moved after visiting friends here.
In early 2005, McClymonds was still renting, still sleeping on the well-worn futon he’d bought 25 years ago, when he noticed the condo developments beginning to take hold around Ann Arbor.
Liberty Lofts especially appealed to him, since McClymonds loved living in the Old West Side and had lived on Second Street just down from the former Eaton factory for many years.
“I thought it would be pretty cool to live there if I could ever afford it,” McClymonds recalled.
He soon was unexpectedly able to do so. His father died in April last year and left a substantial sum of money to his only son, which made it possible for McClymonds to buy a $289,000 condo in Liberty Lofts and afford the $7,000 tax bill.
He signed purchase papers in July 2005 – more than a year before he would be able to move in.
Now that he’s settling in, McClymonds says, he loves the location, the views and the nearby trains that rumble past the building.
“I love living downtown,” McClymonds said. “I think the mix of people (in Liberty Lofts) will be eclectic.”
News staff reporter Tracy Davis contributed to this report.
Contact Stefanie Murray at email@example.com or 734-994-6932.
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