121 Catherine is located on the northwest corner of 4th Avenue and Catherine Street in Ann Arbor. The site is located adjacent to the Old Fourth Ward and Ann/Fourth Historic Districts. The site is currently a surface parking lot managed by the DDA as a paid public parking lot. The lot contains 49 parking spaces serving neighborhood businesses. Additional public parking is provided on-street and in the Ann Ashley Structure two blocks to the west. There are 5,268 off-street and 607 on-street parking spaces within a 1/4 mile of the site. The site is seasonally used for public events.
Key adjacent uses include the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, Kerrytown Shops, Zingerman's, Community High School, and Washtenaw County municipal buildings. Immediately to the north is Braun Court. The county owns the surface parking lot to the south of the site.
For most of the twentieth century, the area was a predominately Black neighborhood centered around several Black-owned businesses at Ann St. and N. 4th Ave. The Kayser Block building, just south of the site, was home to the Colored Welfare League which housed Black-owned businesses and community organizations such as the early Dunbar Community Center. In 1959, the city council adopted an Urban Renewal Plan for the area, but it was vetoed by the Mayor. The area also narrowly escaped plans for a Packard-Beakes Bypass in 1972. The “old neighborhood” would ultimately be shaped by the civil rights and fair housing policies of the 1960s and 70s, the desegregation of the Ann Arbor Public Schools in the 1970s, and issues of parking. In 1980, the predominantly Black Second Baptist Church moved to a new location on the West Side to better accommodate its ever growing 700-member congregation. New investment in the late twentieth century sparked the growth of an eclectic commercial district and brought with it the double-edged sword of revitalization and gentrification.
The site is currently zoned as D2, Downtown Interface District which allows a building height of 6 stories and 400% Floor Area Ratio (FAR) with affordable housing premiums. From a financial perspective, the site is suitable and scores competitively for a 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) deal. The Ann Arbor Housing Commission is developing this site as 100% affordable housing.
- November 18, 2019: R-19-514 City Council directed the AAHC to develop as 60-85 units of affordable housing for households up to 60% AMI, including due diligence, hiring of development team, securing site plan approval and applying for financing
- April 19, 2021: AAHC added site to the Community Engagement process being reported, shares results of community engagement process with City Council
- October 2022: A request for proposal for a co-developer was issued and Avalon Housing was selected
- March 2023: The City Planning Commission gives site plan approval with conditions.
Next Steps: AAHC completes site plan approval process and secures financing.
Design Proposal and Concepts
Co-Developer: Avalon Housing
Architect: Landon Bone Baker Architects (LBBA)
Green Consultant: Elevate
Art Consultant: ArtSpace
Development Consultant: DMC Real Estate Services
General Contractor: O'Neal Construction
The development proposal is designed to be a harmonious and beautiful addition to the existing Ann Arbor community, while also being a forward-thinking model for design, community engagement, affordability, the arts, and sustainability. The proposal includes a 64,529 square foot L-shaped building that is designed to maintain the urban fabric along the sidewalks. The upper floors the building steps back breaking up the overall mass of the building. At this level the material changes as well - the lower floors are clad in red brick to engage with the surrounding architecture, while the upper floors are a more modern, but no less durable rainscreen system. The building includes 63 residential units include 62 one-bedroom and 1 two-bedroom apartments. This development includes significant green infrastructure. 18 units of public parking will be provided, including electric vehicle charging stations, a pedestrian pathway through our site to the Farmers Market and local businesses, and EV carshare for residents.
Image courtesy of Landon Bone Baker Architects (LBBA)
The ground floor is divided into two (2) separate spaces. The first space directly supports the 5 residential floors and includes on-site property management and resident services as well as a flexible community space, including a kitchenette for residents. Tenants will be able to access computers, internet, phones and faxing services in the community center as well as create and participate in community events and activities.
The second ground-floor space has a separate entrance and will be a community and cultural space. It is anticipated that a non-profit will be created to activate and manage the space. The neighborhood around this site was, for most of the twentieth century, a predominately Black neighborhood with vibrant Black-owned businesses and residential community. The development team has been working with a Community Leadership Council (CLC), of local Black residents, previous Black residents, and young Black artists to create a space that honors the unique history of this site and the people who worked, lived and organized here.
Images courtesy of Landon Bone Baker Architects (LBBA)
RFP AAHC-21 - A Co-Developer for 121 Catherine and 353 S. Main
Avalon Housing was selected for 121 Catherine. A RFP will be re-issued for 353 S Main.
Avalon Housing Response for RFP AAHC-21 Combined with Exhibits and Fee Proposal
Community Engagement and Presentations
November 9, 2020 121 E. Catherine Community Engagement Presentation
December 10, 2020 Community Engagement Main Room Presentation
May 3, 2021 Affordable Housing Public Engagement Report
June 14, 2021 City Council Work Session on Development of City-Owned Properties as Affordable Housing
June 14, 2021 City Council Work Session on Development of City-Owned Properties as Affordable Housing (download presentation)
June 17, 2022 Public Community Forum
September 1, 2022 Public Community Forum at Farmers Market (CTN Ann Arbor)