High Rise Delay
Wary lenders leave a mega-project in limbo.
by Jeff Mortimer
From the July, 2020 issue
"It's like launching a rocket in the worst weather possible," says Howard Frehsee of his struggles to get Ann Arbor's biggest construction project in decades off the ground.
Frehsee planned to break ground this spring for his nineteen-story high-rise on E. Washington and its companion six-story mid-rise off State St., with tenants moving in by the summer of 2022. But the pandemic "slammed the brakes on it," says Frehsee. "Now it's going to be the summer of '23, and we have to be careful we can still meet that timetable."
Though he doesn't have a new groundbreaking date, he's still "hoping to start construction this year," he says. "Hopefully, it won't get delayed until the spring" of 2021.
Michigan's construction ban was lifted in May, but the pandemic caused bigger problems. Even though Frehsee says the buildings will be marketed to a wide demographic, questions about what U-M's reopening will look like are more worrisome in the long term.
"It creates a great uncertainty in the marketplace, and the lenders that loan money for projects like this are very concerned what that means going forward," he says. "We believe that people will come back [to Ann Arbor] once they know the coast is clear.
"We have every intention of moving forward on our project. Still, it's about the worst time you could pick to do something like this."
[Originally published in July, 2020.]
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