"We've been working on this for a year," says Mary Jean Raab.
by Jan Schlain
From the September, 2020 issue
Raab is president of the board of the nonprofit Senior Citizens Housing of Ann Arbor, Inc., which owns and operates Lurie Terrace, an affordable 132-unit senior high-rise on W. Huron. The year of secret discussions culminated in August with a unanimous city council vote to "approve the acquisition and renovation of Lurie Terrace."
Raab has been on the board for more than thirty years--she got involved when her grandmother lived there. "None of us are getting any younger," she says, so they began thinking about the building's future four or five years ago. "Initially we were looking at more management rather than actually selling it." But when they learned that rents would have to increase at least 10 percent to pay an outside company to operate the building, "we decided that was not acceptable."
"It's a pretty hot property," Raab says. "We had unsolicited phone calls about it," she says. But that wasn't what the board wanted.
"Before we listed with a broker," Raab recalls, "we had Mark Heusel, who is our attorney at Dickinson Wright, call Christopher Taylor about a year ago, and just ask" whether the city might be interested.
"He said, 'absolutely.'"
"We had 132 units of senior affordable housing that were at risk for loss," says Taylor. "The property is going to be able to be used for affordable housing for seniors in perpetuity."
The deal is contingent on obtaining a federal affordable housing mortgage. Once the sale closes--probably in December, Raab says--the Ann Arbor Housing Commission will take over management. "AAHC has a multi-million-dollar budget, it's under the able leadership of Jennifer Hall," Taylor says. "They are our local experts."
The purchase price is $4,050,000. "I can't tell you what [the money] will be used for," Taylor says. "That's going to be under the purview of the board."
"We have a mortgage, so that's got to be taken care of," Raab says. "Other sorts of receivables and things like that. There will be some legacy
money--I don't know how much--and that will be used for the mission.
"None of the residents who are there now need to worry," Raab stresses, "as long as they honor their lease and their lease obligations." Most current residents are on month-to-month leases, and according to AAHC's Hall, "newer residents are likely to have a one-year lease that [will] convert to month to month after one year."
Lurie Terrace was the brainchild of Shata Ling, a self-appointed activist for seniors. "It started out with her and her husband buying houses and renting out rooms, and starting the senior guild," says Raab. She didn't know Ling herself--she died very young, from breast cancer--but "I think she would be very happy ... the building is going to be what she set out for it to be, forever."
"It's a win-win-win-win-win," says Raab. "How many wins means everybody? The current tenants, the future tenants. I'm very happy. It's been a heck of a year, I have to say."
[Originally published in September, 2020.]
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