Office V Michigan

The goal for south Ann Arbor? Building that neighborhood feel

The goal for south Ann Arbor? Building that neighborhood feel,ph01
Oxford Companies took just four months to boost the occupancy rate of 777 E. Eisenhower Parkway to 96 percent.

Vacant space is far from plentiful in downtown Ann Arbor. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for new retailers, apartment units and restaurants in the areas surrounding the center of this town. That’s especially true of an area south of Ann Arbor near the intersection of State Street and Eisenhower Parkway.

This is the area that Ann Arbor-based Oxford Companies has targeted for new development. According to the company, the south Ann Arbor submarket has the city’s largest office market but also more than 30,000 square feet of vacant space. This makes it a good fit for redevelopment.

And the ultimate goal here? Oxford would love to spur the transformation of south Ann Arbor from a largely car-focused, rather bland section of the city into a walkable, bustling neighborhood with independent restaurants, modern multifamily buildings and quirky retailers.

So far, Oxford Companies has been successful in kickstarting what Jeff Hauptman, the company’s chief executive officer, hopes will be a redevelopment effort that will transform this somewhat-neglected slice of Ann Arbor into a walkable live/work/play community.

Hauptman said that south Ann Arbor now is a bit dull. It’s also a bit of a food desert, with few dining options for residents or visitors. The Briarwood Mall is located in this part of the city, and that mall is big, offering its own food options. But the restaurants in the mall aren’t the kind that generate excitement or bring visitors to the area, Hauptman said.

“We want to see denser housing here. We want to promote a pedestrian-oriented landscape. We want more food and entertainment choices to entice people to want to live and shop in this area,” Hauptman said.

Oxford Companies made an impact on south Ann Arbor last year, when it purchased the large office building at 777 E. Eisenhower Parkway. Oxford has been successful with this property, attracting enough new tenants to boost the occupancy rate here from 38 percent to 96 percent.

Hauptman said that the success Oxford experienced at the 777 building isn’t surprising. Oxford Companies brought a local touch to the building that its previous ownership lacked, he said.

“The owner was an out-of-state owner. The owner was very talented on the higher level, but did not necessarily understand the local market,” Hauptman said. “We were fortunately able to work with the university and some other local tenants pretty quickly to get them to this building. That combined with a little bit of vision for this part of the market made the building much more enticing.”

It took Oxford just four months of ownership to bring the 777 building to 96 percent occupancy, Hauptman said.

 

The hope is that this is just the beginning for this south slice of Ann Arbor. Oxford Companies is working with Ann Arbor SPARK, a business development organization in Ann Arbor, to bring more businesses and attention to the city’s south corridor. The goal, according to Hauptman, is to transform the current car-focused nature of the State and Eisenhower area to one that encourages walking.

This, of course, would require an influx of retailers and restaurants.

“There is always a bit of luck when you are marketing a building,” Hauptman said. “But we have had a lot of success in this area. We have been making a significant investment in this area for quite some time. We are the champions of this market.”

Andrew Selinger, investment manager with Oxford Companies, said that replicating downtown Ann Arbor in this southern section of the city is not a realistic goal. The real goal, he said, to offer an alternative to downtown Ann Arbor.

Selinger said that the best outcome for south Ann Arbor is a better mix of property types. Currently, this section of the city is heavy on office space. There is very little housing here. Oxford Companies plans to develop multifamily options for this part of the city, giving people the option to both live and work in the community.

“There is the mall here, but we would like to see more character in the retail and restaurant options, too,” Selinger said. “We would like the area to have more of an authentic shopping experience. Right now, if you are there, you could be in anywhere USA. We want people to be more tied to the neighborhood here.”

“There is always a bit of luck when you are marketing a building,” Hauptman said. “But we have had a lot of success in this area. We have been making a significant investment in this area for quite some time. We are the champions of this market.”

Andrew Selinger, investment manager with Oxford Companies, said that replicating downtown Ann Arbor in this southern section of the city is not a realistic goal. The real goal, he said, to offer an alternative to downtown Ann Arbor.

Selinger said that the best outcome for south Ann Arbor is a better mix of property types. Currently, this section of the city is heavy on office space. There is very little housing here. Oxford Companies plans to develop multifamily options for this part of the city, giving people the option to both live and work in the community.

“There is the mall here, but we would like to see more character in the retail and restaurant options, too,” Selinger said. “We would like the area to have more of an authentic shopping experience. Right now, if you are there, you could be in anywhere USA. We want people to be more tied to the neighborhood here.”