Liberty Lofts | Liberty Lofts Are a Perfect Town and Gown Combination

ANN ARBOR, MI – The exterior brick of Liberty Lofts may be a weathered orange, but the building is maize and blue, from the outside in. Morningside Group president David Strosberg is a University of Michigan grad and students, faculty and administrators predominate among the owners.

Strosberg’s strong ties to his alma mater include membership in the President’s Club and establishing a scholarship in the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, whose events he often attends. He earned a BS in architecture and urban planning in 1976, and then went on to receive an MBA in real estate at Columbia University in New York.

John Chamberlin, 63, was already teaching at U of M when David Strosberg enrolled there. Chamberlin, whose wife, Marsha, runs the Ann Arbor Art Center, is a professor in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and in the department of political science.

The Chamberlains perfectly demonstrate the suitability of loft living for empty nesters. With their children grown, the couple has traded the nine rooms of their former house for three rooms spanning more than 1,800 square feet.

“We like the big, open room that is the living room/dining room/kitchen,” Chamberlain said. “We like the way lofts look. People say, ‘When are you going to do the ceiling?’ We say, ‘We paid money for that!’”

While visiting children and grandchildren don’t often sleep over, “We had 16 people for Christmas dinner and they fit better into the loft than they did into our house,” with tables spread throughout the open space, he said.

Former residents of Liberty Lofts’ historic west side neighborhood, the Chamberlains had their eye on the building for a long time.

“If they ever condo-ize the Eaton factory, we want to live there,” they vowed. As soon as the for-sale signs went up, the Chamberlains were tapping on the door.

The building wooed David Strosberg, too.

“I remember to this day, I was driving with a partner of mine and I pointed to it and said, ‘That would make a perfect loft building,’” he said. He knew the multi-floor configuration didn’t suit modern manufacturing processes, so he bided his time, calling the building owners from time to time until they finally put it on the market.

A U-M colleague’s decision to buy at Liberty Lofts persuaded Russell Lundholm, 47, to follow suit. Lundholm is chairman of the accounting department in the Ross School of Business at U of M, and teaches there, too. He already lived downtown and valued the convenience of biking to work and the restaurants almost outside his door.

University sports are big part of the appeal for Lundholm as well.

“I’m a big sports fan,” he said. “Football, basketball, hockey, the occasional swim meet, soccer games: I’ve been to most everything.”

In line with recent trends, the parents of twin U of M sophomores, Sam and Joe Churukian, bought a Liberty Lofts condo as well. Aspiring doctors, the 19-year-olds will complete four years of undergraduate work, then apply to the Michigan medical school.

Their father, Victor Churukian, said he felt that the loft was a good buy, judging that the Ann Arbor real estate market was somewhat undervalued. Ownership also provides a return on investment, unlike renting an apartment or staying in a dorm or fraternity for three or more years.

“Naturally the investment was in the back of our mind and, eventually, if they make a lot of money, they can pay us back!” he said.

When it came to decorating, “Mom had a good time picking things out,” Sam said. A prized work of art in their loft is a framed caricature of a Michigan-Ohio State game, bearing the autograph of the legendary Bo Schembechler. The twins go to every home football game.

Both boys walk to classes, most of which are on the central campus. They share a car, which they use to drive to Detroit on weekends to volunteer at the Karamanos Cancer Center. They’ve also volunteered at Beaumont Hospital, where they hope to get research-related jobs this summer.

When they’re not spending time at home or their fraternity house, the Cherukian brothers visit sushi restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor and the Starbucks and Expresso Royale coffee shops.

Some things never change. David Strosberg also hung out in downtown Ann Arbor when he was a student, frequenting the Blind Pig or the now-closed Del Rio bar. The city’s downtown has changed dramatically in the 30 intervening years, he said.

“Downtown has made a 180-degree turn since then,” Strosberg said. “Briarwood had just opened and downtown businesses one-by-one were closing down.” He and fellow students in the architecture and urban planning program spent “considerable study time” trying to figure out how to turn around the downtown.

What made the difference? “Entertainment,” says Strosberg. Downtowns like Ann Arbor’s will never again be retail centers, but restaurants, bars and coffee shops are even better magnets. They do attract specialty retailers and, along with the amenities of the university, they create a social scene that makes downtown loft living a powerful attraction.

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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