ANN ARBOR, MI – With Liberty Lofts nearly sold out – only four unique residences remain – the landmark development and its residents are woven seamlessly into the Old West Side neighborhood, fulfilling the vision of developer Morningside Group.
At 315 Second Street, the former industrial site is on the northwest corner of a nine-square-block neighborhood designated as historic by the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission and the National Register of Historic Places.
A majority of the building’s terraces and balconies overlook the neighborhood. Residents take their evening walks along tree-lined streets of homes built between 1850 and 1925.
“I love hearing the sound of children playing outside,” said Jenny Hoffman, who recently sold her loft to purchase a larger one in the building.
“It’s a very warm, caring, old fashioned neighborhood, and I think people move into it because they want that kind of thing,” said longtime resident Grace Shackman, an active volunteer in the Old West Side Association. “People take care of each other’s pets and take in each other’s mail. We want the people in Liberty Lofts to feel that way too.”
Shackman was one of the Old West Side members who participated in 2004 when Morningside began planning its redevelopment of the historic site. The company’s representatives spent many hours meeting with residents and the city’s Historic District Commission, crafting a project that would be beautiful and would serve the neighborhood and its people.
At the time, the site contained nine buildings, including a 19th century tannery and the 1920s King-Seeley (later Eaton) factory. Morningside retained and redeveloped the latter, which inspired the design of an addition. The tannery, however, had deteriorated badly. In preservation-minded Ann Arbor, the Morningside team invited the city’s Historic District Commission and the Old West Side Neighborhood Association to explore the possibility for adaptive reuse.
“Rather then just giving them a report, like every other developer, we wanted to get them into the building; to let them touch it and see the problems,” said Ron Mucha, a partner in the project. He led three separate tours of the site in the spring of 2004.
“We wanted to save that part, but when Ron took us on a tour and we saw that it was a total mess, we stopped worrying about it,” Shackman said. In May, 2007, the building was honored as the Historic District Commission’s Adaptive Reuse Project of the Year.
Shackman complimented Mucha’s involvement in the development process. “Ron came to every meeting he was invited to and was always open to every suggestion,” she said. “He really showed how this kind of thing could be done. There were a lot of choices that would cost the same but made people happier. For example, they moved the air conditioning unit to the middle of building, so people walking by couldn’t see it. And they added landscaping.”
Hands-on involvement and respect for community standards are fundamental principles for Morningside.
“We work in urban environments,” Mucha said. “It’s not an empty field; there’s always some other use next to you. If our development makes a neighborhood and a city more successful, it makes our project more successful, too.”
Shackman agreed. “It (Liberty Lofts) is a win-win.”
One of the loft condominiums will be on view during the Old West Side home tour September 16 from 12 to 5 p.m. Tickets for the tour, $8 in advance, will be available beginning August 20 at five downtown locations. For information, visit their website.
Founded in 1993, Morningside Group is a real estate development firm that specializes in creating premier mixed-use and multi-family developments in urban locations throughout the Midwest. Long recognized as a leader in the design and construction of highly acclaimed buildings, Morningside Group has built an enviable track record of successful public-private partnerships.
Morningside’s incomparable work ensures that each new development will join a growing portfolio of prized buildings which includes, in Michigan, SkyLofts Royal Oak and SkyLofts MarketSquare in Royal Oak and, in Illinois, Arbor Court and Prairie Town Center in Oak Lawn, Crescent Court and Museum Square in Elmhurst, Morningside Square in Downers Grove, The Glen Astor in Glen Ellyn and buildings in Evanston and Skokie.
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