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Old Ann Arbor High will be demolished for U-M dorm


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Frieze Building to go

Old Ann Arbor High will be demolished for U-M dorm

Thursday, October 7, 2004


News Staff Reporter

The University of Michigan has decided to demolish the Frieze Building, the former Ann Arbor High School, to make way for a new 500-student residence hall that will include academic space.

The prime piece of real estate, in downtown Ann Arbor at the northwest corner of U-M's central campus, will allow the university to create a "beautiful gateway to campus," U-M President Mary Sue Coleman said Wednesday in announcing the site for the new dormitory.

U-M officials have discussed building a new dorm for the last several years. Coleman recently announced that the project would be a priority and the innovative design would merge academic space with living space.

The Frieze Building location was one of two finalists for the dorm site, U-M officials said, but they wouldn't identify the other location.

Expected to be completed by 2008, it will be the first new dorm built by U-M since 1967.

No cost estimate has been set yet, although U-M officials recently estimated that a plan to build a new dorm and improve five existing residence halls over the next 10 years would cost between $250 million and $280 million. The new residence hall proposal, with financial details and an architect, will be presented to the U-M Board of Regents in December, Coleman said.

The Frieze Building, finished in 1907 and expanded at least twice over the years, takes up much of a city block at 105 S. State St. It is bordered by Huron Street on the north, State on the west and Washington on the south.

It was the only site left on U-M's central campus large enough to accommodate the construction of at least 500 beds for upperclassmen in suite-style configurations, with students sharing semi-private bathrooms. In addition, the new building will include a significant amount of new academic spaces and dining facilities.

Coleman appointed U-M Provost Paul Courant and Vice President for Student Affairs Royster Harper to oversee the project.

"I envision this space as a magnet location on campus - creating a density of activity, including dining options - that will be available day and night for students and faculty," Coleman said in a memo to Courant and Harper. "Shared spaces might include meeting rooms, production facilities, studios, classrooms, seminar rooms or a small auditorium - spaces that can be used by faculty and students together or individually, for creative or scholarly projects."

While no designs have been drafted, the new building will be much larger than the existing building, officials said.

Coleman said the plan also fits well with Ann Arbor's recent discussions to diversify the core of the city and increase density downtown, drawing more people there.

Although most of the building will be demolished to make way for the new dorm, the portion of the building that contains a Carnegie Library - which once was the city's library - will be preserved and incorporated into the new construction, Coleman said.

The building was completed in 1907 and used as Ann Arbor High until U-M purchased it in 1956. The high school was then moved to the site of Pioneer High and the library was moved to its current location at Fifth and William.

U-M expanded the building and today it is home to 27 classrooms, the Trueblood Theatre and various administrative offices for part of the School of Music and several departments of the College of Literature, Science and The Arts.

Coleman said she is sensitive to the fact that many city residents still recall the Frieze Building fondly as Ann Arbor High School. But she said it would cost more to fix up the building to modern specifications than to replace it. Coleman called the current condition of the building "pretty appalling."

The plan solves two problems for the university. U-M would like more upperclassmen to live on campus, but it currently does not have enough beds for them. The university is under pressure to curb underage alcohol use and studies show students learn better when their home lives are more closely connected to their academic lives.

The plan also solves the problem of what to do with the Frieze building, which is deteriorating.

Still, many in the city fondly recall their days attending high school at the building. "I sort of wish it didn't have to be, but I guess time marches on," said Clarence Dukes, who graduated from high school in 1950 and served on the Ann Arbor School Board from 1972 to 1978.

U-M officials say they want to be mindful of the site's history, while reinvigorating it as an exciting place for students to learn and live.

E. Royster Harper, U-M's vice president for student affairs, said the new building will be a "showpiece" for the university.

"It's going to be a fabulous residence hall," she said. "It will be connected with this academic space that's also exciting."

Exactly what will go into that academic space has not yet been decided. A task force has been talking about how to flesh out Coleman's desire to better knit together students' living and academic environments, and will hold a retreat on the topic on Sunday. But it could turn out that the building has classrooms, seminar rooms, studios, offices for faculty, and performance spaces that are separate from the dorm rooms. Students could bump into their professors at the dining hall, or hold activities in the common areas.

"The educational experience of a student is not just in the classroom," said Carole Henry, director of University Housing and assistant vice president for student affairs. "It's really the total experience the student has on campus."

The Frieze Building is currently used by seven academic units: Theater and Dance, Film and Video, Communication Studies, Center for Judaic Studies, Near Eastern Studies, Asian Languages and Cultures, and Linguistics.

The departments of Theater and Dance will eventually move to the Walgreen Drama Center and Arthur Miller Theater, which are being constructed on North Campus. Some of the other departments could stay in the new building, and others could move elsewhere on campus.

Coleman is calling for an aggressive construction schedule that would allow work to begin in 2006, and finish in 2008.

Reporter Dave Gershman can be reached at (734) 994-6818 or [email protected].

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Pleas to save Frieze foiled

U-M regents approve demolition of former Ann Arbor High School

Thursday, January 27, 2005


News Staff Reporter

The Frieze building now has a date with the demolition man.

In summer 2006, the University of Michigan will take down the Frieze building, located downtown. In its place will be a combined dorm and academic building that mixes students' learning and living spaces in such a seamless way that U-M officials say you won't find a similar building anywhere else in the country.

On Wednesday, U-M Board of Regents unanimously approved the project despite the pleas of community members who want a portion of the building preserved. The former Ann Arbor High School was bought by U-M in 1956. Its main wing opened in 1907.

"This is an important and exciting project for the university," said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. "I really do see it as a major northern gateway of the campus."

The site is bordered by Huron, State and Washington streets. The new building is being welcomed by students and nearby businesses. U-M hopes it becomes a destination for faculty and students across campus.

It is dubbed the North Quad Residential and Academic Complex, though the name could change to honor a U-M figure or major donor. The price tag is estimated at $142 million.

The condition of the Frieze building has been described as inadequate and embarrassing by U-M students, staff and regents.

Slated to open in 2008, North Quad will let U-M catch up to competing universities that have built new residence halls. The new dorm rooms will house about 500 students in suites. Juniors and seniors, with the possibility of some first-year students, from all majors will be eligible to live there. A large dining hall will be inside the building, too.

U-M also sees North Quad as precedent-setting in how it combines students' living and learning environments. It will have 190,000 square feet of academic space, enough to replicate the space currently used in the Frieze building by Communication Studies, and Film and Video Studies. A language resource center will be added.

In addition to classrooms, the new building will have faculty offices and other academic spaces, possibly including a TV production studio and rooms for student performances or studying. The idea is that learning doesn't stop when the class period is up. The design will encourage students to bump into faculty at lunch, or gather informally to talk about their studies.

The academic units gathered at the building will give it a central scholarly focus: to encourage students, adept at using technology from cell phones to the Internet, to become more sophisticated media consumers.

"Students need media literacy skills and a deeper understanding of the way in which media shape society," said Terrence McDonald, dean of the School of Literature, Science and the Arts.

High technology will play a big role in connecting students to people from across the world. A student may be able to have breakfast in a cafe where foreign-language news is shown on TV, then go to a foreign language class where students in other countries participate through video-conferencing.

A more experimental idea is to install a "video wall" in an alcove of the building. U-M could help other universities across the world install similar devices. Then a student in Ann Arbor could see and speak with a student in another country.

"We want the experience of students coming into the University of Michigan to dramatically increase their global vision," said John King, dean of the School of Information.

Still, the demolition is strongly opposed by people who love the original wing's 1907 Beaux Arts exterior, who fondly recall going to high school there or who feel the building is an important city landmark. They mounted a letter-writing campaign and have spoken out at regents' meetings.

"Basically, I don't think they gave one iota of concern," said Len Coleman, a graduate of Ann Arbor High.

"I would hope that before they get into the wrecking ball, and the architect, that they get the community's input, because they have not done it so far," said George Kempf, another graduate.

Two regents, Katherine White, D-Ann Arbor, and Andrea Fischer Newman, R-Ann Arbor, had voiced concerns that the architects should examine the feasibility of saving a portion of the Frieze building, but they did not raise the matter on Wednesday. After the vote, Newman said, she is now assured that there's no way to build modern facilities while saving part of the old building.

U-M staff members say the costs would be too great, and the existing building's load-bearing corridor walls and ceiling heights would hamper the new design too much.

In several months, the architectural firm of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott of Albany, N.Y. will show drawings of the new building to regents for their approval.

U-M officials have previously said it could reach seven stories. U-M officials say they want to preserve the heritage of the Frieze building at the site, but can't offer more specifics right now.

The architects are being asked to try to preserve all or a portion of the small Carnegie Library that is attached to the Frieze building.

Reporter Dave Gershman can be reached at (734) 994-6818 or [email protected].

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