ANN ARBOR, MI – It should come as no surprise that residents of Liberty Lofts in Ann Arbor gravitate to Café Felix on Main Street, or that one of the restaurant’s owners and his wife own one of the lofts in the former factory-turned-luxury condominium development. Each building has an honest expression of purpose and an appealing sense of informality and openness.
Loft owner Dave Landrum and his brother, Felix, own and operate Café Felix, 204 S. Main Street. It has served Ann Arbor since 1997, first as a coffee house then, with its 1999 liquor license, as a bistro with a European flair. The restaurant specializes in tapas (small plates) and offers cocktails, specialty martinis and draft and bottled beer, with a thorough menu of American and European wines.
On a recent weeknight, Liberty Lofts residents gathered at Café Felix for after-work appetizers and a glass of wine. They talked and compared notes on why they chose Liberty Lofts and the features they find most appealing.
Most of the residents said they acted quickly and decisively when they saw what Liberty Lofts had to offer. Susan Galardi, said she made a unilateral, impulsive decision to buy the loft. She drove by one day, stopped, walked in and wrote a deposit check.
“It was another adventure,” she said. “My husband’s very adventurous. He said ‘Sounds like a good idea. We’ll go for it.’” And they did. They stuck to their decisions even when they were unable to sell their Burns Park area home, which they ultimately rented. Their tenants’ rushed timetable meant that the Galardis were the first residents of the building, alone there for two weeks while construction bustled about them. “It was great. It was fun,” she said.
Bill Wilson, a University of Michigan engineering graduate, was equally decisive. He manages two manufacturing companies in Jackson and also has a home in Orchard Lake. Liberty Lofts is his pied-á-terre. He had read about the development, and knew he wanted to live in that neighborhood. He shopped the competition and soon recognized a great fit.
“I’m an engineer so I appreciate the architecture, the way things are designed,” Wilson said. “It just felt good to me. Everyone who’s been over says it’s exactly what they expect I would choose.”
Only open since September, 2006, the instant appeal of the building explains why just seven of the 68 residences remain available.
Owners get some common reactions when family and friends first see their lofts.
“It’s very industrial; it’s taken a lot of explaining for my mother in law,” said Laurel Landrum, David’s wife. “People ask, ‘So, are they going to paint this?’”
When Susan Galardi’s mother in law saw the unfinished concrete, she said, “They’re going to fix that, aren’t they?” and “What about the ceiling? Aren’t they going to paint that?”
“No,” Susan smiled. “That’s the way it is.”
Sipping red wine and sampling Café Felix’s sautéed mussels, chevre-stuffed chicken breast and marinated beef tenderloin tapas, John Scherer, a real estate investor and manufacturer’s representative, demonstrated his knowledge of the Ann Arbor market. Scherer investigated several similar projects before Liberty Lofts came on the market.
“I didn’t even have to think twice,” he said. “I was all about the historic building. “Liberty Lofts is a true loft.” His residence is in the older portion of the building, with several of the massive industrial columns visible. He previously lived in an historic house on Huron near Ninth Street, but wanted to be even closer to Main Street amenities.
Scherer, who dines at Prickly Pear, the Parthenon, Real Seafood, Gratzi and the Chop House, said he was pleased to discover Café Felix.
Architecturally, Café Felix is a worthy companion to Liberty Lofts. Both evoke the early part of the 20th century, with the restaurant’s roots in Europe and the lofts building firmly grounded in America’s industrial history. Both feature high ceilings and surfaces of tile and metal. The lofts, though, use brushed stainless steel while brass rails gleam in the restaurant. Diners can enjoy sidewalk service while loft residents enjoy balconies or 800-square-foot terraces.
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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