Downtown Condo Project in Eaton Buiding to Begin

A new downtown housing project – and the reuse of a dormant manufacturing facility – is under way.

Morningside Group, which bought the former Eaton Corp. automotive manufacturing facility last year; plans to begin demolition next month of portions of the plant. The Chicago-based development company is holding a sales event this Saturday and has built a sales model to promote the project, named Liberty Lofts.

When finished, the five floor structure will boast 62 units from 800-square-feet up to 2,000 square feet. In place of the demolished part of the plant, a five-floor building will be erected and connected to the original building, which is also five stories. The finished product will be about 130,000 square feet.

The condominiums will start around $250,000 and will top out at $600,000. There will be parking spaces provided to tenants on the first floor of the building.

“These are sophisticated and hip, with high-tech finishes, designer lighting and expansive windows,” said Ron Mucha, vice president of Morningside.

Looking across the wide open expanse of hardwood floors and walls of 8-foot-tall factory windows, it’s easy to see why the former Eaton factory was attractive for redevelopment into housing.

The upper stories of the brick building on South First Street provide a view of downtown Ann Arbor and the facility has plenty of room for parking – something that makes it that much more valuable in Ann Arbor.

The units each will have either a balcony or, in the case of the top-floor condos, a roof top terrace and adjoining sun room. The building also will feature a fitness center for use by residents only.

Housing isn’t everything the project offers. A single-story building at the corner of South First and West Liberty streets has about 20,000 square feet available for retail, and could be a home for a small grocery store, Mucha said. The hangar-like building has no pillar or support poles. An the project offers more than 50 parking spaces for retail use.

Mucha said the company is marketing the retail space, but has not secured a tenant.

“We’d like to find uses that are complementary to the neighborhood and downtown,” Mucha said.

Morningside gained rezoning approval for the project last fall and won an agreement from the Historic District Commission to make alterations to the building.

Eaton has agreed to share the cost of any environmental cleanup required at the site. The price of the cleanup has not been disclosed.

Located in the Old West Side Historic District, parts of the Eaton building date to 1868, but most of the structure was built in the 1920s and ’30s. The Historic District Commission granted permission to demolish portions of the complex, including the former tannery on the west, which had been found structurally unsafe.

While the handful of condominiums priced near $1 million have been slow to sell, condominium projects closer to Liberty Lofts’ price range have sold well.

The Ashley Mews condominium project on South Main street in downtown Ann Arbor had sold nearly all of its brownstone condominiums, which start at $375,000, by last fall. Calls Monday to the Ashley Mews developer were not returned to update whether those units have sold out yet.

Mike Ramsey can be reached at or (734) 994-6864.

Click here to visit the Liberty Lofts website!

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