On the outskirts of Ann Arbor sits a distinctive red barn emblazoned with “M GO BLUE” across its rooftop. The barn has been a part of the Ann Arbor community since 1900, getting its iconic rooftop a year following the purchase of the property in 1992 by current owners Bill and Katie Parker.
Over the past 28 years, the barn has garnered landmark status. Prints of the M GO BLUE Barn are sold, and the University of Michigan Alumni Association uses the barn’s facade in promotional videos.
To Rola Jeffery, an Ann Arbor resident and 1985 U-M graduate, the barn serves as a bridge between the University and the Ann Arbor communities.
“Everyone knows (the barn), and it is a topic of conversation,” Jeffery said. “People use it as a point of reference. Someone could say ‘turn left at the barn.’ It’s an iconic place in Ann Arbor.”
After putting the barn on the market in 2008, the Parker family received offers from property developers, but ultimately decided the preservation of the barn’s legacy was too important to demolish.
Now, Matthew Parker, son of Bill and Katie Parker, plans to repurpose his family’s iconic barn into a restaurant, beer garden, bar and community gathering center. The property would be multi-functional, with the barn operating as a prime location for tailgating during U-M football season since it sits less than three miles from Michigan Stadium. It would also serve as a place for family gatherings and community functions.
Early planning for the barn’s conversion began around four years ago. Parker said the plan has mostly remained the same, noting that, at one point, the family considered the idea of a farmer’s market.
“To sort of tick all of the boxes we’d like to tick, the bar and grill is just certainly the best option,” Parker said.
LSA freshman Maya Jeffery, daughter of Rola Jeffery, explained that to her, the barn represents an important landmark and emblem of the Ann Arbor community and the University.
“It is one of the most consistent parts of being a resident in Ann Arbor,” Rola Jeffery said. “I think (the bar and grill) is a very fun idea. It would allow passersby to be more involved in the barn’s history.”
Considering its location at the intersection of Oak Valley Drive and Scio Church Road, the barn would provide a restaurant within walking distance to surrounding neighborhoods. The intersection services approximately 15,000 cars a day, making it a viable location for passersby as well.
Seeking to extend his reach further into the U-M community, Parker said he is hoping Fraternity & Sorority Life or other local groups interested in using the barn will pitch in for fundraising.
Parker set up a Kickstarter campaign to help raise community awareness and support for the project. Kickstarter operates on an all-or-nothing basis, meaning that if a campaign’s goal is not met, all donated amounts will be refunded.
The goal is to raise $200,000, which would cover the cost of rezoning the land and surveying for future structural features, including a well and septic system. Currently categorized as an agricultural landmass, Parker aims to rezone the land as a commercial property, while also trying to preserve the Lodi Township’s agrarian roots.
The barn’s renovation will likely be aided by Ann Arbor architect Charles Bultman and general contractor David Haig. Bultman has contributed to the restoration of multiple barns across Michigan and in neighboring states.
If the goal for the Kickstarter is met, the barn’s target opening would coincide with the 2023 Ohio State vs. Michigan game. If the goal is not met, Parker still plans to pursue the barn’s development, though he acknowledges that not meeting the goal would delay the project’s progress.
With less than two weeks before the fundraiser closes, Parker is hoping to spread the word about his plan to give the barn a new life.
“Please don’t see this as charity or donations,” Parker said.
By donating, incentives and other perks at the future restaurant are offered, with rewards going up in value the higher the amount one donates is.
Daily Staff Reporter Madison Kraft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.