ANN ARBOR – Whether you’ve lived in Ann Arbor for years or come into town for game days or other events, it’s likely that you’ve passed the M Go Blue Barn.
The barn in Lodi Township has become a landmark over three decades, and now the family that owns it wants to transform the structure that has served as the backdrop to hundreds of wedding photos.
Bill and Katie Parker have owned the barn since 1992, and its iconic “M Go Blue” roof was installed in 1993 at the suggestion of their son Chris.
Now looking toward retirement, the Parkers are faced with a dilemma: Find a way to preserve it or sell the property it stands on to developers.
“We’ve taken care of the barn almost like a member of our family all these years,” said their son Matt Parker. “It’s always been this thing we’ve protected and cared about and the community’s always loved. The corner parcel that we own has been an attractive piece of real estate.
“We find ourselves kind of in this scary predicament knowing that they would somehow sell the property in order to fund their retirement and yet not find anyone willing to preserve the barn. Developers don’t care about the presence of the barn. The location is so prime that they want to put up a housing development.”
Determined to find a solution, Parker came up with a Barn & Grill concept to give the 121-year-old barn a new life.
The project would see a complete renovation of the barn with indoor and outdoor seating. Parker said with the ongoing presence of COVID, such a large property would allow them to give visitors plenty of space.
“It gives us flexibility and less trepidation than a restaurant that has four walls and is landlocked downtown,” said Parker.
The Barn & Grill would serve as a restaurant, a beer garden and community gathering space. Parker said they are also exploring the idea of opening a general store on the property to serve the surrounding community.
“It’s an underserved community because you have to drive all over the place and then yet right here -- which has a high population density -- has nothing,” he said.
Parker has launched a Kickstarter to raise the first phase of funding for the project, which would require a feasibility study, architectural plans, engineering drawings, a topographical site survey and more. The project’s $200,000 target would also cover the rezoning of the property by Lodi Township.
“We’re very deferential and favorable with how agrarian Lodi Township wishes to remain,” said Parker.
The Parkers have enlisted local architect and historic preservationist Chuck Bultman and barn construction expert and general contractor David Haig to help with the project. Both Bultman and Haig collaborated on the designing and building Zingerman’s Cornman Farms in Dexter.
Parker said as plans for the Barn & Grill take shape, he is open to adding attractions to the property for community members of all ages to enjoy.
“If I could put a miniature train for all the kids to ride next to a petting zoo, I would totally do it,” said Parker. “To have this much land -- to imagine what you could do -- is rare in Ann Arbor.”
The Parker’s Kickstarter campaign ends on Dec. 17. To see the campaign, click here.
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