Regional: Local business owners on the move with plans for 19-story high-rise in Ann Arbor

By Mike Frieseman

With plans progressing on a 19-story high-rise behind the Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor, at least one business owner has inked a new deal on a different location after learning of plans for what would be one of the tallest buildings in the city. Other business owners haven’t started to pack yet but are keeping a watchful eye on the situation.

Name Brand Tattoo has been in downtown Ann Arbor for 20 years in four different locations including in the Michigan-Theater-owned building on Washington Street near State Street. Shop owners Jeff and Kerri Zuck wasted no time when hearing the news for the planned high rise and didn’t wait around for the eviction notice – they’ve been down this road before.

“Kerri immediately started looking for spaces to rent, because we’ve been through this and it’s a very similar situation,” Jeff Zuck said.

However, finding a new shop wasn’t as easy for them as it was in the past. New and prestigious building projects, like the one prompting the move, indicate major changes in the city’s landscape. It’s also an indicator of new challenges for small businesses to continue to thrive.

“Once we started looking what we ran into was, wow, there’s not much if anything, and when we looked at the prices we realized, wow, holy smokes,” Zuck said. “What kind of prices do we have to charge to do business in Ann Arbor?”

Zuck’s concern is maintaining a business model that is financially within reach for clients and his fellow tattooers.

“We don’t want to be elitist and unafordable. We want to be approachable to every economic group and also provide a good living for people that we work with as independent contractors at Name Brand Tattoo,” Zuck said.

After several months of looking they found a new space at 205 Main Street above Vedge Cafe that opened April 22.

“We are beyond grateful to have found a building that is an upgrade, and not beyond our financial comfort zone in Ann Arbor,” Zuck said. “The area should see a good addition of support from our clients.”

Craig Kufta, co-owner of CameraMall, is staying put – for now.

“Since we have a long term lease, our landlord made contact well in advance to let us know that there was a possibility of this development, and we feel that we have been well-informed of its progress,” Kufta said. “Should the project be approved, we’ll coordinate a mutually beneficial move to a new location with our landlord, which will be in or near downtown Ann Arbor.”

The Ann Arbor building department said the proposal is still under review and hopes to have more information within the month.

The proposed building will include 241 new apartments above ground-floor retail space. The proposal calls for a pair of residential buildings – a 19-story tower and six-story mid-rise – that, together, comprise 261 residential units. In addition, the development would create approximately 6,000 square feet of prime retail space along Washington Street, as well as 121 on-site parking spaces.

Photos by Mike Frieseman

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