Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

A developer is temporarily shelving and adjusting plans to build a Sports Illustrated-themed hotel, condo building and conference center in downtown Ann Arbor after opposition from some residents to the location and others to the entire concept.

The hotel complex, as recently proposed, was to contain about 215 hotel rooms, 85 to 100 condos plus about 70,000 square-feet of events and conference space, and be built on a city-owned parking lot at 309 S. Ashley St., known in Ann Arbor as the “Kline’s lot” for the old Kline’s Department Store.

Rendering of the proposed Sports Illustrated Hotel in Ann Arbor.

The project also called for public support in the form of about $200 million in tax-exempt bond financing as well as a Brownfield future tax-capture.

But the project ran into significant criticism from residents at an informational meeting Monday night in a packed room in Ann Arbor’s city hall. A series of speakers argued the project wasn’t appropriate for the site and said they preferred to see it remain a parking lot or be developed as affordable housing.

Ann Arbor residents raise their hands to ask questions about the proposed plans to build a Sports Illustrated Hotel in downtown Ann Arbor, during a special meeting organized by the city to discuss the proposed hotel at the Guy C. Larcom Jr. City Hall in Ann Arbor on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024.

Several also denounced the project as inappropriate for Ann Arbor, pointing to Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue and recent reports of mass layoffs at the magazine.

“Why would the city be partnering with an organization that is restructuring right now and is perhaps best known for exploiting women in its swimsuit issue,” Jeff Hayner, a former Ann Arbor city councilman, said at the meeting. “Is that the brand of Ann Arbor? Is that our brand? I think it’s terrible.”

In a phone interview Wednesday, Chris Schroeder, CEO of Sports Illustrated Resorts, the project’s developer, said they are no longer pursuing the city-owned parking lot location, but still wish to build the development in Ann Arbor and are considering two or three alternative sites.

The first proposed location of the Sports Illustrated hotel.

“There is a very vocal minority group that just absolutely opposes having anything there on that size — and they want to have affordable housing,” he said.

Sports Illustrated Resorts hopes to decide on an alternative site with the next 90 days, and possibly still break ground before year’s end, Schroeder said.

He emphasized that the theme of the hotel would be sports and living an active lifestyle.

“We’re not going to have anything to do with the swimsuit issue in this project,” he said.

Sports Illustrated Resorts is partly owned by a company called Authentic Brands Group, which owns the Sports Illustrated brand and about 50 other various brands.

One of the project’s codevelopers is Odis Jones, a former CEO of the Detroit Public Light Authority, who had a key role in the overhaul last decade of Detroit’s once-broken streetlighting system.

Check back later to freep.com for more details on this developing story.

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