On a recent cloudless day in Saline, a petite white barn stood sentinel on a 3.9-acre plot of land framed by a city park and well-kept historic homes. Several mounds of sand and gravel mark the spot where a dilapidated house stood before being demolished in March.
It may not look like much now, but a contemporary condominium complex within walking distance of downtown finally is moving closer to breaking ground at 207 Monroe St. In June, city officials are likely to consider the rezoning of a small parcel of land to be added to the project before taking up final approval of revised site plans.
The latest plan by Ann Arbor architect-developer Damian Farrell calls for forty-four one- and two-bedroom units in three buildings. If city officials approve the rezoning of the additional 0.2-acre parcel at the corner of Monroe and Henry streets, Farrell plans to move the barn closer to Monroe.
“Being a barn guy, I loved the little barn, and right from day one, it was, ‘We’re going to use this,'” Farrell says.
The Fairdene project was originally going to have thirty units, all but six of them two-bedrooms. Three years ago, Farrell hired an Indiana-based manufacturer to fabricate the housing modules off site, but the company went out of business. With construction prices rising dramatically and demand for one-bedroom condos in Saline surging, he retooled.
“We wanted to provide something that was very fresh,” says Farrell. The new plan includes nearly three times as many one-bedroom units but maintains the nine-foot ceilings, large windows for natural light, quartz counters, and bamboo flooring. He says prices will range in the $200,000s for the one-bedrooms and in the $300,000s for the two-bedrooms.
A different Indiana company, Titan Manufactured Structures, will fabricate the modular units off site and transport them to Saline. Then, the Birmingham office of VESTA Modular will manage the on-site work.
Farrell says if the rezoning is approved and the new site design passes muster with the city, work can begin by late summer or early fall. Darby Kolano, a Reinhart Realtor who is partnering with colleague Rick Mangan on the Fairdene project, says it should appeal to millennials and young professionals as well as empty nesters.
“One of the reasons why I decided to support Damian’s initial proposal is he has a history of developing products that are different than what currently exists in our housing stock,” says Saline mayor Brian Marl. He says the contemporary units will not just expand but “more importantly, diversify our housing stock.”
Marl notes there are “pros and cons” in bumping up from thirty units in the original design to forty-four–higher population density versus more tax base for the city. Ultimately, Saline’s planning commission and city council will decide.
Farrell says he’s converted fourteen barns into homes for architectural clients. He wants to turn the Monroe St. barn into a shared space for residents, with a kitchenette and bathroom on the ground floor and a multipurpose room upstairs. If the rezoning is approved, he says, it will provide “a little bit of elbow room to bring the barn forward and make it more of a signature” of the development–“at the front of the project, not tucked away at the back.”