New building on tap for East U.

BY KATHERINE MITCHELL
Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 13, 2007

Anberay, the 84-year-old yellow Art Deco apartment complex on East University Avenue known to many as Melrose Place, may soon be knocked down to make way for a much taller building.

Angela Cesere
Anberay, an 84-year-old apartment complex on East University Avenue (SHAY SPANIOLA/Daily)

Zaragon Inc, a Chicago-based real-estate company, plans to demolish the existing 23-unit building and construct a 10-story, 66-unit apartment building in its place.

The plan still needs to be approved by the Ann Arbor Planning Commission.

Zaragon President Rick Perlman said the new structure, Zaragon Place, would contain apartments with two to six bedrooms marketed to students and professors along with ground-level retail space and two levels of underground parking.

Perlman, a University alum, said the company purchased Anberay about a month ago with the intention of demolishing the building.

Anberay was designed in 1923 by Joseph Rousseau, then a professor of architecture at the University. Rousseau also designed St. Mary's Student Chapel and Trotter House.

The building's previous owners told tenants in November to look for new housing, but it was unclear whether they would be able to rent their apartments again next year. LSA sophomore Lea Kilibarda, an Anberay resident, said renters weren't told for sure that they wouldn't be able to re-sign leases until last month. This made finding a place to live next year more difficult.

"No matter where we move we're not going to be in as great a location," she said.

Students hoping to prevent the building from being demolished have formed a group on Facebook.com called "Save Melrose Place."

The group's recent news includes an apparently facetious plan for saving Melrose Place.

"We should chain ourselves to the tree in the courtyard so they won't be able to tear down 'the castle at Anberay,' " the page says.

"I don't think people are too happy about it," Kilibarda said of the demolition. "I'm not exactly too happy about it."

Perlman said he hopes that his proposed plans go before the Planning Commission within the next few weeks. If approved, he said Zaragon plans to begin construction this fall and finish by May 2009.

Anberay was the focus a multi-year court battle in 2001 over the designation of historic districts. The building lost its historic designation after the case ended.

Jill Thatcher, Ann Arbor's historic preservation coordinator, said many people are still upset about Anberay being stripped of its historic status.

Because of the court decision, Zaragon doesn't need to abide by any historic restrictions.

"It's simply an old building," Perlman said.

Proponents of the plan emphasize the building's run-down condition as further justification of the proposed plans.

Kilibarda, though, disagrees.

"I don't think it's decrepit at all," she said. "They've really fixed it up. Our unit was completely renovated the summer before we moved in."