Last month, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission unanimously approved the design scheme for a new CVS/pharmacy, which would move into the 209-211 State Street building and replace current tenants Sava’s State Street Café and a tattoo parlor.

According to John Baumann, director of construction at Velmeir Companies, which represents CVS, the projected $8-million design plan for the building will keep the front façade and knock out the back of the building.

In April, Velmeir Companies submitted its first draft of the building plan, which called for the entire building to be demolished. Soon after, the plan was withdrawn.

Jill Thacher, Ann Arbor historic preservation coordinator, said in a May 8, 2009 Michigan Daily article that the HDC rarely approves projects that demolish an entire building, except in rare circumstances, such as if the building was a health hazard to the public.

Baumann said the current development plan would present a difficult task to construct.

“This is going to be a big undertaking,” Baumann said. “This is like saving the Alamo.”

Ethel Potts, an Ann Arbor resident and City Planning Commission member, expressed concerns about the change in the scale of the building, which would be increased three feet in height due to the new design.

“It could be that the current grace and scale of the building could be changed,” Potts said, fearing that the new dimensions wouldn’t match with the scale of the other buildings on the block.

Potts added that the extra height would be “too visible” of an addition from State Street.

HDC Commissioner Patrick McCauley said his concerns with the proposed layout include the building’s height increase and the new storefront that would be made of aluminum.

“My only two concerns are how raising the parapet wall would affect the building and what the new storefront would look like in relation to the historic fabric of the building,” McCauley said.

Thacher echoed McCauley’s doubts about the proposed storefront.

“I do have a little bit of concern about the color of the storefronts,” Thacher said. “It seems quite bright and may distract from the front façade of the historic building.”

Thacher added that “the building has grown organically over the century. There are really no character-defining features left behind the front elevation.”

McCauley agreed, stating that the location’s current condition contained remnants of architecture from various eras.

“It’s a big of a hodge-podge of things going on,” said McCauley, in reference to the location’s current condition.

Thacher said she thought CVS’s move to State Street was appropriate in keeping with historic design.

“This is an appropriate use for retail establishments,” Thacher said. “It does not compete with or distract from the historic front façade because it’s as neutral as possible, just being plain brick.”

Baumann said he was confident in the success of the store’s design.

“We’re ready to take on this responsibility,” he said. “We have a client (CVS) who’s willing to put the money up to do this … we will prevail.”

Baumann said that if the project is approved, it would take six months to complete and could begin sometime next year.

Velmeir Companies must next submit a site plan to be reviewed by the Ann Arbor planning commission. The planning commission will then present its recommendations to City Council, which will ultimately decide the fate of proposed plan.

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