OT: thoughts or INSIGHTS on UM vs. A2 purchase of Edwards Bros. on State St.?

Submitted by MGoPatio on December 4th, 2013 at 3:21 PM

I've long heard tales of an eventual purchase of the 16.7 acre Edwards Brothers site by the University. Then I heard that the city would step in and prevent another big chunk of the tax base from bing taken off the tax rolls. The story, with a little more detail, has been in the papers (virtual or otherwise) the past few days.


What do you think aout the whole thing, pros & cons? AND...does anyone know more than what can be read in the news story? Who will get their hands on the property and how will it be used? The Victors for Michigan campaign seems to have a lot planned for the space. Will it happen?







December 4th, 2013 at 3:25 PM ^

I'd be happy for this one to go to private development, in the vein of mixed-use residential and commercial.  Now that I live in the area, I'm less impressed by University facilities that I can't use, and more interested in things like shopping and businesses that I can frequent.  Not to mention having a tax-paying entity there is of more use to the residents of Ann Arbor.

I've heard that the university would use it to extend their athletic campus (meh), or their commuter parking lot (meh).  


December 4th, 2013 at 3:40 PM ^

It would be nice to have a stronger commercial corridor in State Street, extending unbroken from downtown south to Briarwood Mall.  Mixing in some residential would be important, though.  I would just be unhappy if it damaged the attractiveness of downtown Ann Arbor at all, though.  Growth outside of the immediate downtown can be good, but only if you bring in new people to support it and don't gut out the downtown in the process.

Section 1

December 4th, 2013 at 3:36 PM ^

The South athletic campus has a very long way to go, before it will feel like it is culturally part of the rest of the main campus.  It feels like a bus ride.  Even North Campus, as far away as it is, feels more "University of Michigan" than the South athletic campus.

I'd have another question for the University, when it comes to real estate acquisition:  What about all of the land that borders the railroad tracks, in between the Stadium and thw Wilpon baseball complex?

In this old photo, one can see the remarkable expanse of property (very nearly 100% of the size of the existing Blue Lot) that is dedicated to -- what?  "Facilities management"?  "University truck parking"?


There is no greater waste or misuse of land south of Hill Street that I can think of, than the land fronting the railroad line next to the Stadium.


December 4th, 2013 at 3:45 PM ^

I know OSEH is in that area of South Campus - my mother-in-law works for that particular department. Security is headquartered around there too as well. As for parking, I've borrowed the orange tag before to be closer to the stadium / Crisler, but I admit to wondering why it was necessary to pay for said tag when you work on that part of campus anyway. 


December 4th, 2013 at 3:52 PM ^

Speaking of bus rides, might the University bus student fans to and from cetral campus to an (extended) South Campus for athletic events (or student-athletes to/from practice)?

Crisler and The Big House are an easy walk. Soccer, less so. Lacrosse and a new track facility, if they sit 1.7 miles south of the Diag (thank you Google Earth), could be a tough draw without transportation.


December 4th, 2013 at 3:51 PM ^

All of the white stuff in the upper left hand corner of your picture is the University's plant services.  That's where the electricians, elevator repair folk, painters, and plumbers work.  It's also where transportation services is located (buses, car leasing, repairs, U's gas station).  UM police is also located there.  It certainly is questionable whether it still makes sense to have the U's major infrastructure services located in the middle of the always expanding athletic campus, but it has to go somewhere.  Also all of the parking surrounding Crisler is one of the main commuter parking lots for the university...

If you look on the athletic department website, it appears as through there are plans for a "victors walk" that will traverse the athetic campus. from State Street (around the Yost entrance) past the softball/baseball field, through to the football stadium.  So, it is possible that in the U's master plan, they are hoping to relocate some of those activities elsewhere (maybe up by the North Campus Research Complex?).  

In the meantime, not exactly wasted space. I'm happy to have people available to keep the heat on in my office.

Section 1

December 4th, 2013 at 4:24 PM ^

Here is a more schematic-looking map, although the aerial photo is at least as valuable for my intended purpose:


So we see that indeed the farthest-south thing is that old commercial building that has been repurposed for "Campus Safety & Security."  Until recently, it was a private commercial building.  I'm still no too clear on who really owns and controls the property.  It is an unremarkable building, in any event.

Up the tracks to the north is the Transportation Services complex.  Yes, it is a bus garage.  In the middle of the University's most-visible land, outside of the Diag.  A bus garage!

North of that is the "Plant Business Offices" and the "Student Theater Arts Complex."  Those are more of the same garage-looking buildings; they have white roofs in the aerial photo that I posted.  If there are any "Theater Arts" happening there, I suspect it is warehousing of sets and equipment.

Then at the corner of Hill Street and Greene Street; where every Michigan football fan knows is the place to scalp tickets on game day, are "Administration Services."

You just can't tell me that garages, warehousing, and routine offices are a good use of the land in between the main athletic campus and the Stadium.  No planner in his or her right mind would ever plan something like that, and of course nobody did.  That's the problem.  The area around Ohio Stadium is light years ahead of where we are; and as they replace St. John Arena, and build their next generation of facilities, they are actually getting even better.

Of all of the ways that they are planning to spend Stephen Ross' money, I don't know of any plans to do anything with the land I have questioned.  All of the facilities upgrades, as well as the Victors' Walk (a project that I personally approve, not that anybody cares) has nothing to do with the crappy landscape next to the railroad tracks.

I am saddened by the trashing of Ferry Field as you are.  But it could be made into a nice conversion, if they made it effectively a student park (not a working competitive track) and parking just for football game days.  WE NEED THE GAME-DAY PARKING!  But I am still not so clear on what they are going to do.  What I fear most of all is yet another building crammed into that space.  I hope not; that area needs some space and some light.



December 4th, 2013 at 4:24 PM ^

The current plan as I understand for Ferry Field is: Giant parking lot.


Not football parking only. No more track. No more field. Just filling in the area between Wilpon and the IM building with more parking lot just like what already surrounds Ferry Field.




Section 1

December 4th, 2013 at 4:39 PM ^

...particularly since we are probably in 99% philosophical agreement about the sacred history of Ferry Field.

But there are parking lots and then there are parking lots.

There are vast expanses of lined asphalt, like outside of big box stores.  I'd hate to see that.  But then there are parking lots with generous grass islands, mature trees, etc.  I've never seen it done, but could they put down an expanse of field turf for intramural sports, on which cars could still be parked on football Saturdays?  I don't know.  They don't park any cars on the MMB's field-turf corner of Elbel Field.  I don't know if cars wreck field turf, or if there is a fire hazard or whatever.  They aren't paying me to figure those things out.

I might like to have seen the Ferry Field track improved.  I certainly hope that the Jesse Owens Memorial is rededicated on that spot.  But this is one time and one place where a new parking lot is actually very much needed.

Section 1

December 4th, 2013 at 5:33 PM ^

...when the series of improvements videos went up on MGoBlue.com.

You are correct, as far as the depiction goes; but I sort of thought that it was just a placeholder graphically for whatever they ultimately did there.  I'm not sure that picture is the most accurate depiction.  For instance, it's the old Track and Tennis Building that is still in that picture, right?  (Past the rightfield wall at Fisher.)  And that is ultmately coming down and being replaced, right?

Anyway, thanks for that picture and your point is well taken.

Edit. - One interesting thing that I just noticed about the photo you posted:  Depicted in color along with the rest of the athletic campus, as if the University owned it, is the Ann Arbor Golf & Outing Club.  It is the golf course land directly to the south of the Stadium.  It all looks contiguous with the UMGC.  

That is another prime parcel, just waiting for the University of Michgan to overpay for it.  Unless the U already owns it?!?  (I think not.)


December 4th, 2013 at 5:38 PM ^

" I'm not sure that picture is the most accurate depiction.  For instance, it's the old Track and Tennis Building that is still in that picture, right?  (Past the rightfield wall at Fisher.)  And that is ultmately coming down and being replaced, right?"




That is a depiction of the new "Multi-Purpose Arena" that will be built on the spot where the Indoor Track building (which will be torn down) currently exists.

It's apparently where they're going to shove the stuff that is in Cliff Keen Arena currently.


"The Cliff Keen Arena has served us well, but it doesn’t provide individualized resources for our sports that rely on this facility. Our vision is to transform the space ensuring that our wrestling, volleyball and gymnastics teams will compete in a facility, which will make them the envy of our conference, and on par with their national rivals."

Ivan Karamazov

December 4th, 2013 at 4:50 PM ^

And the buildings adjacent to the railroad tracks actually pre-date Michigan Stadium.


Hoover Ball and Bearing was opened in 1913 well before the Big House was built in 1927.

Some more info here:


Suprisingly there was a day and age when athletics were an afterthought economically.

Horace Prettyman

December 4th, 2013 at 8:57 PM ^

1) The university is not the only tenet of the buildings adjacent to the railroad tracks. A company called GTH operates out of one of the building to the south of DPS.

2) As others have noted plant operations fit really well into the old Hoover Ball and Steel (Namesake of Hoover Ave btw) company, but those facilities are very old. This was never planned (re: Section1) and if it was, it wouldn't have been terrible planning back in the 1930's

3) There is actually a theater operation out of those buildings, I've seen kids outside practicing swordplay during the summer months.

4) Transportation services is not the university's most visable land outside the diag. That would be any of North Quad, Law Quad, Weill Hall, North Campus, The Hill, basically any other building. You actually can't even see Tansportation Services from the street. (Again re: Section1)

5) The university could easily move these functions to the plethora of land it owns on North Campus. There is already an ancillary bus depot on Baxter Road. Have you ever driven up by the Laundry Services Building (or even known the university has an entire building dedicated to laundry)? There is plenty of space up there for these support functions, it's just a matter of funding and building new structures when there are adequate facilities in place.

6) None of this land is near the Edward Bros site.

Ivan Karamazov

December 4th, 2013 at 4:33 PM ^

The collection of buildings that sit between the railroad tracks and the blue lot adjacent to the stadium used to be ball bearing plant before it was acquired by the University.  The name of company escapes me and this acquisition happened well before my time.  

Anyway the point is that many of assets that were useful when it was a ball bearing plant were reused in way that suits the plant operations department.  For instance, the university moving and trucking department makes great use of the existing loading dock.  There are many more trades and departments housed here that all "Make Blue Go" (the Plant Operations slogan).

That being said, one of the running jokes around the office is that the athletic department has always had their eyes on the property and is just waiting for the right time to kick everyone out and level the place to accommodate their grand design.  Unfortunately the buildings are also home to the Architecture, Engineering and Construction department who would ultimately have to approve their own eviction...

Section 1

December 4th, 2013 at 4:44 PM ^

I'd never suggest that Operations, Security or Engineering are not important.  My complaints have absolutely nothing to do with the good people who serve those functions, or their mission.

I do suggest that it is crazy-cheap to run those operations from those locations.

I have been hearing that the Athletic Department "has its eye" on those properties for about 30 years.


December 4th, 2013 at 4:50 PM ^

That would be the Hoover Steel Ball Company, founded in Ann Arbor in 1913.

True, it's a very useful location and it's especially nice that it has all the industrial amenities that suit Plant Ops, then and now. Big question is whether or not the undoubtedly crucial operations could be based a little farther from the center of campus and the space more efficiently utilized--by Athletics or some other campus unit.

It IS ironic that AEC would have to approve the move.

Ivan Karamazov

December 4th, 2013 at 5:00 PM ^

As a townie I have always loved the history of Ann Arbor.

In regards to moving the operations to another part of campus the rumor of relocating to NCRC (as guessed a few posts above) has been floating around but it is very much just an idea.  Granted the people having these ideas have power and sway within the university but an idea can be summarily squashed by many internal political forces.


December 4th, 2013 at 3:39 PM ^

As a taxpaying resident of Ann Arbor I too have grown weary of the expanding "non-profit" footprint of the UM.    My taxes go up to subsidize every piece of land they take off the books.  We are already struggling to make ends meet in this city with laying off cops and firefighters.   The $180K/year currently brought in my EB in taxes probably pays for almost two public servants like that.  Will we be forced to lay off more of them after this?

UM doesn't need more parking for the tennis courts.


December 4th, 2013 at 3:44 PM ^

Agreed.  If it were on Central Campus and to be used for something like a new academic building or new dorm, then fine.  But to provide more breathing room for a few hundred kids in non-revenue sports?  Not necessary.  The tax implications are also very important, like you said.  With the city recently making over a million on the sale of the old Y property to a private developer, hopefully they're more open to taking this on.

True Blue Grit

December 4th, 2013 at 3:48 PM ^

I'd not be in favor of seeing another large piece of prime property go off the tax rolls.  But, if there is no better plan for using it to improve the South State Street corridor, then it might as well be used for the athletic campus expansion.  That whole corridor has been recognized by planning experts as being underdeveloped for years now.  There are a lot of old houses and dated commercial buildings on mostly small lots.  I'm not sure what type of commercial development would be appropriate for the Edwards land.  But if Ann Arbor is going to try and buy it, they better have some idea for it.


December 4th, 2013 at 3:49 PM ^

Evanston has the same issue with Northwestern eating away at the tax base with the purchase of property. Our taxes are very high, and our schools are not that great (wishing more money and/or help from Northwestern in that department). Does U of M contribute to the betterment of non-U of M Ann Arbor? Just from visiting, I can tell that your economy seems to be thriving more than ours. In Evanston, restaurants and shops seem to struggle a bit, except for a few that seem to have figured out a successful formula. Like Michigan, Northwestern has abundant resources, and is building amazing facilities, all while taking away some of the resources that the non-Northwestern community uses. The difference might be that Ann Arbor is a city unto itself, especially with Detroit in decline, while Evanston competes with Chicago for restaurant patrons and shoppers. 


December 4th, 2013 at 3:59 PM ^

Commerical developments in that part of town have yielded things like Buffalo Wild Wings, or some other awful place geared towards servicing mouthbreathers visiting town for football games.  It's not like a cool place is likely to move in.  Let UofM have it and use it as a socialist indoctrination center, that would be more of a public service than another goddamn place like Buffalo Wild Wings. 


December 4th, 2013 at 4:13 PM ^

Well, okay then.  Still, a bunch of mouth-breathers at a (gasp) chain restaurant are still of more value than an indoor rowing facility or bigger parking lot that is empty most of the time.  I point your attention to the new Arbor Hills shopping center on Washtenaw, across the street from the Whole Foods.  It appears to be a great success so far.  Something like that would be great to have on State Street!


December 4th, 2013 at 5:11 PM ^

Ann Arbor is a college town, and we are talking about campus here.  The Arbor Hills shops are more geared towards 30-something soccer moms.  http://shoparborhills.com/

J. Jill, Lululemon, juice bars, a second Cafe Zola (which is actually pretty cool, at least in theory, but I have never been there).  Nothing against that, especially as it is off campus, but it is not college town stuff. 

Part of what makes Ann Arbor special to me is that it has places like Sweetwaters, Zingerman's, Dominick's, 8Ball that exist in Ann Arbor, and nowhere else, and are of Ann Arbor.  When I was back for the Game I noticed chain or at least chain-looking bar/restaurants left and right, in between Main and State Street.  Now, one or two of those places may serve some useful purpose, like drawing 100s of Buckeye fans away from the places I like to go, but there reaches a point where those places detract from the character of Ann Arbor. 


December 4th, 2013 at 5:36 PM ^

No alumni are ever going go back and feel like this piece of land is "on campus" or even like main street. It's south of the golf course next to a parking lot and to me sounds more like "down by briarwood mall". It's not a walkable area, so any development is not going to have the character you're looking for.


December 4th, 2013 at 7:27 PM ^

Looked at a map, and that's right, as far as being on campus goes.  South of the golf course has never been anything but industrial park/shopping center/box hotels.  Discontinuous from campus, even if it is contiguous with it.  But I don't know, would it kill anyone to open a brew pub/biergarten there, with another Zingerman's venture in the mix?     


December 4th, 2013 at 8:14 PM ^

OK, but over 28,000 people are employed by the University, making the town dependent on the prestige and attraction of Ann Arbor as a college town.  http://www.annarbor.com/business-review/ann-arbor-areas-25-largest-comp…

The more Ann Arbor resembles some anonymous suburban space like Columbus, Ohio, the less attractive it is, at least to me. 



December 4th, 2013 at 8:27 PM ^

who made you the arbiter of taste? Plenty of students eat at that BWW. I also find the idea that Ann Arbor's collegiate atmosphere is under threat hilarious... if anything the university has hurt the city on that front by killing Blimpy in the name of an effing grad student dorm nobody asked for  

Wolverine Devotee

December 4th, 2013 at 5:12 PM ^

The Michigan Lacrosse stadium will be out there.

Back awhile I ago, I posted a thread showing the ADept's plans for South Campus (now the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus).

Lax alums have been approached about donating for a stadium, but they did not show anything in the support.mgoblue.com/explore for a new lacrosse stadium. This probably because the land wasn't purchased yet.

Here is just a little refresher on the projects-

  • Schembechler Hall renovations currently taking place
  • Ocker Field Hockey Field mass expansion, playing surface replacement, team facility being built to replace South Ferry Field. These are all taking place if not now then very soon since it was announced that the renovations would take place after the 2013 season.
  • The Donald R. Shepherd Softball Center currently in progress.
  • FieldTurf replacing the traditional grass field at both Ray Fisher Stadium & Alumni Field at the Wilpon Complex. The baseball turf is complete, as posted here Monday.
  • Lacrosse team facilities being built at an estimated date of 3/1/2014. The estimated cost says only $12 Million, so I don't think the stadium is coming just yet.
  • TWO High Performance Centers for Strength & Conditioning to be used by most of the Varsity sports. New soccer facilities such as coaches offices and locker rooms. And an indoor rowing facility. All are estimated to begin on 3/1/2015. Estimated cost of $25 Million.
  • Demolition of the U-M Indoor Track Building and historic Ferry Field in favor of brand new Indoor AND Outdoor track competition facilities. Ferry Field site will become a parking lot for multiple sports. Estimated to begin on 3/1/2015 with a cost of $90 Million.
  • Yost Ice Area ice plant replacement. Scheduled for 4/1/2015 for $3.2 Million
  • Canham Natatorium major renovations and expansion. Pretty much will look like a new building by the looks of it. Scheduled for 3/1/2017 for $20 Million
  • Demolition of Cliff Keen Arena in favor of a brand new multi-sport arena. To be built where the U-M Indoor Track Building once stood, the new arena will be home to volleyball, wrestling and men's gymnastics. Scheduled for 6/1/2017 for $30 Million
  • Expansions of the Stephen M. Ross Academic Center and Weindebach Hall. Unlisted in the 2012 Budget but talked about on the website.

with the videos of what's coming-

Walk of Champions



Donald R. Shepherd Softball Center


Ocker Field


U-M Golf Course and clubhouse restoration


Soccer upgrades


Rowing facility


Lacrosse facilities


New multi-sport arena


High Performance Centers


Canham renovations


Ross Academic Center expansion

Weidenbach Hall expansion


December 4th, 2013 at 5:05 PM ^

The appraised value was 3.1 million and the taxes were 180k (~ 6%, Ann Arbor residents, does this sound accurate?). U-M is offering 12.7 mil. The city would have to match that bid in order to keep it from U-M. In my opinion that means they'd need to sell it to some tax paying user for at least $9mil to make sense financially (lose 3.7 mil and get paid back in tax revenues of 540k per year, ~7yr simple payback period).


December 4th, 2013 at 5:22 PM ^

$9 million / 16.7 acres = 540k / acre. Here's a vacant parcel on the main st side next to the golf course listed for 667k / acre. It's for residential development instead of commercial / mixed use, and it's 1.45 acres not 16.7. I have no real estate background but it seems like $9 mil is reasonable based off of that...


Steve in PA

December 4th, 2013 at 7:44 PM ^

If the laws are like here...If the appraised value is 3.1M then the city would only need to pony up that much in an Eminent Domain.  The city could then lease it to the school if that was their choice.

There are two small schools in the city where I work.  They began gobbling up distressed properties and the city was OK with that.  Then when they built student housing and kept building it began to eat into the taxbase and the same arguments started happening.


December 5th, 2013 at 12:10 AM ^

I just don't think the city should be in the real estate business. The property fits in well with the Brandon empire and probably should go to UM. If the city were so concerned with its tax base it wouldn't have the least friendly tax incentives for businesses in Michigan... I'm surprise no one is talking about how U-M plans to turn Ferry Field, where Jesse Owens set 4 world track records, into a parking lot. Nice respect for history.