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Posted on Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Arbor Hills shopping center poised to alter Ann Arbor's retail landscape

By Lizzy Alfs


The Arbor Hills shopping center is under construction on Washtenaw Avenue between Platt Road and Huron Parkway.

Rendering by reForm Studio

It was too good to pass up: a mostly vacant Ann Arbor property nestled near County Farm Park and directly across the street from a high-volume Whole Foods store.

The largest retail development constructed in Ann Arbor in a decade is now taking shape on the 7.45-acre site, on Washtenaw Avenue between Huron Parkway and Platt Road. When Arbor Hills opens on Aug. 22, it could rival Briarwood Mall as a regional shopping destination and it will bring multiple new retail concepts — many which are found in Troy's upscale Somerset Collection — to Ann Arbor.

Developers were eyeing the property long before Arbor Hills was proposed. Ann Arbor City Council approved a site plan in 2006 for The Shops at Arlington — an ambitious 138,000-square-foot retail and residential project with underground parking that would replace vacant commercial buildings and a former car dealership.

But as the economy spiraled, the project fell apart and lender Comerica Bank sought to sell the property following foreclosure. One local developer didn’t hesitate.

“You had this site that was just sitting there doing nothing…but at the same time, it seemed to be an attractive location with Whole Foods across the street now and (adjacent to) County Farm Park,” said Tom Stegeman of Ann Arbor’s Campus Realty.


The former Arbor Hills property, shown in May 2010, when it was sold to the current developers. file photo

“Personally, being from Ann Arbor, it seemed like a nice opportunity to clean up an eyesore on Washtenaw Avenue,” he continued.

In 2010, Stegeman partnered with North Shore Properties Group co-founder Max Reiswerg, who has decades of experience in retail leasing, to purchase the property for $3 million and propose Arbor Hills — a scaled-back version of the project originally planned for the site. Their offer on the property beat out several development groups.

A brownfield plan was later approved for the project that included $6.7 million in tax-increment financing over a period of 19 years. Of that total, $5.4 million would reimburse the developer for eligible expenditures, including removal of contaminated soils at the site, which are a result of the former car dealership and gas station.

Reiswerg and Stegeman declined to reveal the total cost of the Arbor Hills development. In comparison, the Huron Village shopping center across the street has an estimated market value of about $21.5 million based on its 2013 assessment, city records show.

In June 2012, the project broke ground. Originally called Arbor Hills Crossing, Arbor Hills totals 90,700 square feet spread across four buildings. It’s mostly retail and restaurant space, with about 9,000 square feet of offices.

“We took the (original) proposed plan, and we just simplified it,” Reiswerg explained. “We thought there was just too much in there…we revamped it as far as tenant mix and scale of the project.”

The four buildings are quickly taking shape on the site, and the developers hope to turn individual spaces over to tenants this month. The center’s grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 22.

The design of Arbor Hills is unusual for Ann Arbor’s shopping centers; three of the buildings are only a few feet from the sidewalk along Washtenaw Avenue, and parking is dispersed next to and behind the buildings. It diverges from the typical shopping center layout, with buildings set far back from the road and a sea of parking in front.

“Specifically, from day one, what we heard was that the city wanted to see buildings right on Washtenaw,” Stegeman said. “Another thing we heard a lot that we incorporated into our design was connectivity.”


A map of the Arbor Hills development shows how the buildings are situated on the site.

The developers worked to meet some goals of the ReImagine Washtenaw initiative, including putting the buildings close to the street and breaking the center into several smaller buildings.

Nathan Voght, project manager for ReImagine Washtenaw, said that kind of design helps to create a walkable environment and promotes sidewalk interest. It also consolidates curb cuts so it’s safer for bikers and walkers.

“There was a time, for a few decades, where the thinking was we need berms and landscaping so nobody driving down the street sees ugly stores…it ignored walkability and bicyclists. This development definitely moves the ball forward in that regard,” he said.

The eventual goal, Voght said, is that developments in the Washtenaw corridor will have stores with direct entrances from the sidewalk and zero or minimal setbacks. Most of the Arbor Hills stores won’t have sidewalk entrances, but the buildings have windows that give the tenants exposure from Washtenaw.

“I think when they’re done, with the windows put in and active stores inside, it’s going to make a big difference (to the corridor),” Voght said.

As part of the plans, a traffic light is being installed at the Platt Road intersection, and a covered bus stop will be located on Washtenaw outside the center. There will be 30 covered bicycle spaces and new public sidewalks. The developers are restoring the wetlands on the site, which will have a viewing platform for the public. The approved plans include 310 parking spaces, but Reiswerg said there could be slightly more than that.

The tenants in the center include a mix of national, regional and local businesses, many of which have been circling the Ann Arbor real estate market for years. The developers have 15 signed leases and Reiswerg said he is in various stages of negotiations with other tenants. There is room for about 22 or 23 businesses, depending on how space is divided.

The developers declined to reveal their asking lease rate. Online marketing materials don’t list a rate, either, but it markets the property as the “dominant retail center of its type in the Ann Arbor market.”

There will be three restaurants with outdoor patios and two of those are confirmed: Metro Detroit’s Pizzeria Biga and a restaurant by Ann Arbor’s Cafe Zola owners.

“(Michigan has) great local restaurants, and we would be selling ourselves very short if we would had put a chain in there,” Reiswerg said.

Retail tenants include: Running Fit, Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers’ Flatiron Shop, Sur La Table, The North Face, and Bluemercury, among others. (See a full list of Arbor Hills tenants) The developers intentionally did not sign a lease for an “anchor” store, choosing instead to have a mix of stores with smaller footprints.


The interior of the Brooks Brothers Flatiron location in New York City shortly after its grand opening in the fall of 2011.

Photo Courtesy Of: Phaon Spurlock |

For many of the tenants, this will be their first location in Ann Arbor, although about half are located in the Somerset Collection. Reiswerg and Stegeman said because Arbor Hills is a “design-driven development,” they were able to attract tenants that otherwise may not have come to Ann Arbor.

“Typically, the tenants that we’re bringing in are street tenants,” Reiswerg said. “They’re really sensitive to the architecture; they have a brand…If we would have done a typical strip center, there’s no way we would have gotten these guys, no matter how good the location was.”

Added Stegeman: “Some of these (tenants) have been looking in (Ann Arbor) for years…they just haven’t been able to find the right venue.”

Greg Teed, chief operating officer of Arhaus Furniture, said his store is making the jump from Arborland Center to Arbor Hills for one main reason: the architecture of the new development.

“Our company (has been) moving forward in the last three, four, five years in a more upscale direction. A lot of the stores we’ve been building out over the past few years have very cool architectural elements to it,” he continued. The architecture at the Arbor Hills development fits well with that vision, he added.

So what does this mean for the region’s retail landscape?

Retail is a constantly evolving industry. The big-box heyday has likely passed, and some independent retailers in downtown Ann Arbor have struggled to compete with larger chains and the rise of online shopping.


One of the under-construction Arbor Hills buildings on Washtenaw Avenue. file photo

A retail project of this scale hasn’t been constructed in Ann Arbor in a decade, and nationwide, retail development has slowed significantly since 2008.

Arbor Hills will create competition for Briarwood Mall, which has stood firm as many residents’ go-to shopping destination for decades. Briarwood already has responded to that pressure with the announcement of several upscale tenants and a plan to renovate the mall this year.

"We certainly pay attention to our competition and we do consider (Arbor Hills) competition," Denise Murray, Briarwood Mall’s director of marketing and business development, told in March. "But (our renovation plan) has been in the works for about 2.5 years now."

It also will be interesting to see how the development alters the traffic on Washtenaw, which some residents say is already congested during peak hours due to its role as a key connector from U.S. 23 to downtown Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus.

Mostly, Reiswerg believes Arbor Hills will fill the upscale niche for shoppers in the Ann Arbor area.

“If you’re a mall shopper, Briarwood is a good center…if you’re a big-box guy, you have Arborland…Ann Arbor is fortunate to have a lot of cool independent retailers in Kerrytown and downtown. We’ve come in, and we’ve given that Ann Arbor shopper another choice. I think what we’ve done is completed the menu,” he said.


An aerial photo of the Arbor Hills property shows the buildings in relation to the Huron Village center across the street.

Melanie Maxwell |

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 4:15 p.m.

It seems to me that all these stores are nothing new to the Ann Arbor retail landscape. Ann Arbor has a very high median income - why not bring more upscale stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, or smaller luxury brand stores? Again, the big money will be spent outside of Ann Arbor which is a shame.


Tue, Apr 16, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

I live in the area near this new shopping center. Have you ever tried to go through the Washtenaw/Huron Parkway intersection during rush hour? Have you ever tried to turn onto Washtenaw from Arlington? Have you had to wait a very long time for the traffic light at that intersection? Do you know the number of accidents that already occur in that area? THis is a disaster for traffic. Does the city council really believe that one traffic light at Platt and some bicycle parking spots will handle this?Are they delusional? One comment talks about "slowing traffic" on Washtenaw- THis is an understatement. I am not opposed to developing Ann Arbor, however, this seems like an unbelieveably poor decision. I do not see a real plan for handling traffic that is already horrible in that location. Why is no one addressing this? I just don't understand why this isn't being dealt with. Where are you City Council??!!! I think the plan is to make our everyday life more difficult with horrendous traffic. Please wake up.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 2 p.m.

Good thing I live within walking distance. Parking could be a drag.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

they should take a bunch of scrap metal, weld it together, place it along Washtenaw and call it "art".


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 4:56 a.m.

I know it is very common for Michiganders to never leave Michigan, and for Ann Arborites to always keep everything exactly as it has always been, but if the populace might travel to Boston, for instance, they would find all sorts of "boutique" stores tucked in along roadways that are not only terribly congested but contestably even worse in repair that what we see in Michigan. Yet those shops still have plenty of business. To each his own tastes. This complex brings diversity to the city. No point focusing on one big Borders store to fail at a future date. Let's avoid leaning on the car horn though, as much as Bostonians do.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 11:22 a.m.

I've travelled to Boston,and recently. i left the car at the hotel and took public transport for 2 days-day passes allow any number of on/off. boston is a series of smaller communities/neighborhoods-is that what you mean by"boutiques along roadways"? small groceries/pharmacies/hardware stores/cafes/ mixed in with some "boutiques" are part of real neighborhoods. We have here a strip mall on a sprawly thoroughfare in atown of 114000 where the downtown has veen converted into food establishments and expensive housing hirises for students. Strip malls are the pizza restaurant and a coffee joint makes this marginal.

Anthony Clark

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 2:44 a.m.

Wow! Just what this area needs - more retail space. There isn't enough vacant space already?

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 11:40 a.m.

I would argue that these tenants are different. I expect there won't be much vacancy in this center. Many of the tenants going in here probably have long-term corporately backed leases and are the kinds of stores (Anthropologie, Lulu, Brooks Brothers) that don't close before their leases expire. The two restaurants going in have proven track records and are very successful.

Jim Mulchay

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:43 a.m.

This would appear to be a plus for the "Washtenaw" strip - assuming the traffic issue does not become a problem; Brick walls along Washtenaw? - just the place for some creative art! Might be interesting to know why these exciting businesses opted for Washtenaw as opposed to State, Liberty or Main street?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 11:34 p.m.

I think what is interesting is that some of my Ann Arbor neighbors just can't wrap their heads around something that isn't necessarily being developed FOR THEM....just like the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium that isn't marketed toward Ann Arborites, here's another awesome development that will bring in lots of tax dollars for Ann Arbor, but isn't necessarily geared TOWARD them...and bring on the complaints and cryptic comments --

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

One of the reasons I'm positive about this development is that the developers have been cooperating with AATA (and, I'm guessing, with ReImagine Washtenaw) so that an improved bus stop is present. The signalization of the intersection at Platt is a big plus too. As Lou Glorie mentions, there are a lot of people living nearby and this will be relatively accessible - plus the new traffic signal should make it much more feasible for pedestrian access to the other side of the road as well. Yes, I wish we still had a thriving retail downtown, but that seems to be a thing of the past. A concentration of shops in a place where at least some walking is possible is a good thing.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

I'm with you @Vivienne. I'm sure some of these tenants must have looked downtown, too, but instead chose to be in a center with some other like-minded businesses. I do wish downtown retail could thrive! It's where I spend all my time.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

WOW! Alot of hooplah about this fancy strip mall which, is at least being built. If you all want to comment on something and take up a cause, go over and take a look at poor old GeorgeTown Mall. Oh yes, it's still there on Packard near King George Blvd.Still rotting away in that hole in the ground.The ownerof that property must be related to all of City Council and the Mayor.He continues to get away with urban murder.Let's get some hooplah going again on this disaster. A BIG BOO to the A2 politcians on this one!


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

@Law is right about the Georgetown Mall. It was supposed to be demolished last September or October or February or March. And now it's April, and it still has that idiot "Opening Spring 2013" sign in front. The one that is never standing vertical. And recently it received a cosmetic upgrade with some graffiti that the city will do nothing about. Why? Because it isn't downtown. Last week I sent e-mails to my 4th ward "representatives" and the mayor asking for an update on the mall situation. Still waiting for my first reply ...

Scott Reed

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:10 p.m.

This is still not very accessible without a car. Taking the bus is also not that convenient; a round trip by bus requires that you cross Washtenaw on foot (maybe with your hands full of shopping bags) to get to the stop on the other side for your return trip. I am not optimistic about this shopping center.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 10:59 p.m.

Per Google Earth "how far you have to walk" is 64 feet across Washtenaw. Tricky weather or not I think you can make that.

Scott Reed

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 10:45 p.m.

The point is, it's just another strip mall. More of the same sprawl-inducing type of development that already plagues southeast Michigan. Of course, it could be worse.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

This is the silliness I'm talking about. You can't walk across the street from the bus stop?? Don't take the bus if don't want to --- and I don't either --- but recognize that thousands of people here and millions elsewhere do it each day with no difficulties.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 8:57 p.m.

.... depending on how far you have to walk and Ann Arbor's often tricky weather conditions.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 8:42 p.m.

You will be crossing Washtenaw on foot at a newly-installed controlled intersection at Platt. Even with your hands full of lululemon bags you should still be able to negotiate it.

Jamie Pitts

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:10 p.m.

A very good start. I do think that city government policy and greater real estate trends both contributed to this more community and pedestrian-friendly layout. I hope that other shopping centers in the region will head in this direction when they upgrade their properties.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

What makes you believe that Arbor Hills more community and pedestrian-friendly? The distances from other destinations along Washtenaw Avenue are too great for most pedestrians to travel, especially if they will be carrying packages. Certainly the new mall can ad to congestion along Washtenaw Avenue which will also be slowed by the additional traffic light at Platt and Washtenaw.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

It's so tiring to read again and again about the horrible traffic and parking, about how no one will go there because too many people are going there (Yogi Berra applauds you). Have you never been outside Washtenaw County? The rest of the world, you know, with thriving economies, deals with traffic that makes this stretch look like a simple country lane I'm excited to see this development.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 2:34 a.m.

Seems like most of the roads I've seen in the rest of the world are a lot better too, though; even though the rest of the world also seems to have lower property taxes somehow.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 2:07 a.m.

Just because the rest of the world lives with bad traffic doesn't mean that we should rush to join them.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

You got it right, Goofus!


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

You know that the world is flat, don't you?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

I think alot of people like that Ann Arbor --- which has the most thriving economy in the whole state btw --- is not like everywhere else in "the rest of the world".


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

Many places sell North Face clothing. Even the outlet malls. Go figure!


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

Unless they solve the traffic problem on Washtenaw Avenue, you won't catch me shopping there anytime soon. Bad enough trying to find parking to shop at Whole Foods, let alone now trying to shop at this new retail center.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

I think this development is a great idea and reflects a different development mindset from the big box/chain construction. I would suggest that maybe "down the road" the city might consider overhead bridge crosswalks across Washtenaw, one in front of the Rec Center and one to the Whole Foods shopping center. Maybe even enclosed cross walks with rooftop access would spark more pedestrian traffic from Ann Arbor Hills residents. I'd also like to point out a phenomenon I've discovered with developments that are below heavily traveled roads; That is the settling of exhaust fumes which I guess are heavier than air. I noticed this at the park on the corner of Ellsworth and Platt roads, across from the refuse station. The park sits well below road level and the exhaust fumes are more than noticeable. Seems this might be an issue since it looks like part of this development will be below Washtenaw road level too.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

The list of tenants link in the article doesn't work. I'd like to know if there is any reason for me to ever shop here or not. If this ends up being nothing more than another collection of restaurants and women's clothing and accessory stores, count me out.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

Sorry it took so long. I corrected the link.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

Nothing upscale for men? Has anyone noticed at cultural affairs and major social functions, the women are usually a class act and the men look like they just came in off the back forty. look in a mirror once in a while guys or is it too demoralizing.Yeah !! A2 men wouldn't shop there anyway.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

Brooks Brothers Flatiron is supposed to be upscale mens.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 6:07 p.m.

There's going to be a Brooks Brothers.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

It's gonna alter the traffic patterns, that's for sure...from busy at rush hour to absolute parking lot.

Up in Northfield

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

I am a regular shopper at Whole Foods and guess I am the demographic these stores are aiming for -- but I hate driving on Washtenaw Avenue. It would have been great if these stores went into the old Jacobson's/Borders building downtown, but in the alternative the only way I see myself shopping at Arbor Hills is if they build a pedestrian bridge over Washtenaw. Even though I'm "right there" at least once a week, I will not try to negotiate crossing Washtenaw by car or foot.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

I was going to suggest taking Platt and entering the shopping center from there, but since you won't even cross Washtenaw by car, I guess that option is out. No worries, though, I'm sure, in order to appease your demographic, a pedestrian bridge is in the works.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

I am very excited about a new traffic light at Platt and Washtenaw. We don't need any more people killed at a badly planned pedestrian crosswalk. In fact, the city of AA should put push-button lights at every pedestrian crosswalk (like the one on Huron) and it won't cost a penny. Just recycle/reuse the lights you are taking out at all the new Round-abouts.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

Washtenaw (17) is a state trunk line road. As such, a2 would need permission from the State of Michigan to install push-button lights. The way I read the law that existing pedestrian cross walk isn't even legal unless the state approved it.

lou glorie

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

There are thousands of people who live within walking/biking distance of this commercial district. I hope that this new mall will persuade them that they don't need their cars to get there. I hope that a resurgence of people shopping where they live will rouse the locals to get council to do something about the car-centered design of the Huron Pky / Washtenaw intersection. Otherwise efforts to draw pedestrians to the area could be thwarted by the oppressiveness of that infrastructure. Maybe this mall would be willing to work with Jeannine Palms in starting a farmers market on the parking lot. Hey Jeannine--what do you think? Lots of possibilities here.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 11:02 p.m.

@lou - what are the accepted definitions of walking and biking distances? Just curious as to how they are measured.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 9:01 p.m.

Dream on hippies. Unless the tenants are clothing stores and card shops, any successful retailer will fill those little parking lots in no time. With the Gulag style concrete and gray stone walls "right up on the street", Washtenaw Ave in this area will be about as pedestrian friendly as I-94. The only thing the City can do now is for City Council and the City Planning Department to write open letters to residents apologizing for their incompetence and explain to us all how they will avoid screwing up the next one!!

Steve Bean

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

Lou, that's a very positive vision. Thanks for sharing it. I'm not clear on what council would have the power to do relative to that intersection. Do you have something in mind beyond what's already in place, policy-wise (and is just beginning to get implemented)?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

PART 2 In this case, the architects understanding of the City's planning cook book appears to have caused massive stone walls along Washtenaw Ave, something we all know pedestrians love when sandwiched against a 5 lane suburban highway. The eventual goal, Voght said, is that developments in the Washtenaw corridor will have stores with direct entrances from the sidewalk and zero or minimal setbacks. ….it's going to make a big difference (to the corridor)," Voght said."" Oh really? Why was the architect who designed the Whole Foods shopping center across the street able to tell last year's green fashion conscious planner his ordinance cook book was moronic and the stores needed to set far back from the highway? A generation following those who forced retail isolated from neighborhoods and surrounded by landscape berms (Novi, Canton, Farmington Hills), now present Michigan with the next gimmick - cramming stores up to sidewalks as they imagine high speed, 5 lane Washenaw Avenue highway becomes a strolling storefront shopping of Birmingham! Questioned with any depth or common sense, this gimmick quickly falls apart into what it is, utter nonsense. So after this train wreck is cemented into Ann Arbor for generations, will planner's of Washtenaw County and City of Ann Arbor leaned from their incompetence? …probably not. Will retailers hire better architects next time? Probably not.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

@ Lou Glorie, what do you mean by "retail isolated from the neighborhoods?" I live on Huron Parkway near Washtenaw and there are plenty of residents who live within walking distance of that shopping center.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 8:52 p.m.

Regarding: "A generation following those who forced retail isolated from neighborhoods". This is only one of many many examples of the government based planners making a mess of our communities. The answer is the opposite - that zoning ordinances should be vastly more flexible and embrace good planning and design from the private sector rather then crush it into much of the mindless crap we see today. If you need to get into your car and drive somewhere to get loaf of bread or gallon of milk, someone at City Hall screwed up.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

"our codes need to be changed.." proves you're not getting it Lou – it is the codes that are the problem, combined with arrogant, clueless government. AA liberals live in a make believe land where government knows best, business exists to fund their grand plans – see Communist Manifesto – and good design is only possible after the volumes of regulatory cook books tell private business what to do. It would not be surprising in the least for government to demand private retail business put windows on all sides and even wider sidewalks. No knowledge of retail operation, design or quality urban planning necessary!! LOL Washtenaw Avenue is a highway! It will never be "pedestrian friendly" – that is not it's function and that will never be it's reality. Your point that there are thousands living near by who can't wait to jump on their bikes and ride over is hilariously misguided as it is irrelevant. Nobody but a few nuts would ride their bikes or walk in that area. Stay tuned for decades more embarrassing garbage to be constructed in Ann Arbor for years to come….or until the adults return and send this bunch to the corner.

lou glorie

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

Sorry Shep. this sentence jumped out at me from your post "A generation following those who forced retail isolated from neighborhoods". Couldn't agree more that the strict segregation of "uses" has not only caused our residential districts to be boring deserts, but also has contributed to our extreme alienation. I'd like to see Ann Arbor begin a voluntary "opt-in" for the reintroduction of appropriately scaled non-noxious businesses within neighborhoods. I think my neighborhood would sign in and eventually others.

lou glorie

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

I'm with you on the blank walls facing Washtenaw. I've tried focusing on the positive aspects of this development, but this is a major flaw. Our codes need to be changed to require windows on all frontages and buildings pushed closer to the roads/streets. Sidewalks need to be wider to promote flanerie.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

PART 1 I hope this shopping center is another great success for Ann Arbor business. Certainly we don't know how the final expression will come together yet, but so far the image along Washtenaw is something like an urban prison. We may be close to one more very painful lesson about the kind of clueless, cook book planning and weak willed architects that brought us so many horrible environments in southeast Michigan we are now collectively stuck with for generations. Anyone could see that the site was complicated, with significant slopes in several directions. Planners don't get slopes – they like nice, simple, 2D site plans. The first alarm was a reference by the owner to doing something "they wanted", referring to the City. If the democrat's deconstruction of America has taught us anything, it's that mother government knows best. In this case, public employee Nathan Voght thinks he is concerned with trendy "walkable environment" that "promotes sidewalk interest" and worried about all the "…walkability and bicyclists" along suburban highway Washtenaw Avenue. Certainly such inspired government planning, what could go wrong!?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

Every time I drive by there it still shocks me to see buildings there. Especially by the park center across from Arby's. Wow. Very immense. Just hope the traffic does not increase, which it will.

Ann English

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:22 a.m.

You just drive by it? The gas station across from it was really attracting motorists today, selling gasoline for 20 cents less than all the other gas stations on Washtenaw to the east, at least up to US-23. It was more difficult than usual to turn either left or right out of it this afternoon.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

I wish that PF Changs would consider opening a restaurant in Ann Arbor.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 4:10 a.m.

I agree! I hear they have a gluten free menu and I'd love to try it!


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

We don't have enough restaurants in the immediate area, I completely agree with you (sarcasm)


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:25 p.m.

ChrisW, according to the 2010 census Ann Arbor has 16,353 Asians. That's a few more than the 50 you claim.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

Try an Asian restaurant run by actual Asians instead. We have 50 of them.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

I've always liked that place. "Oh no it's a chain bad baaad baaaaaaaaaad."


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

From the looks of it, there is no dedicated right-turn lane on east-bound Washtenaw. Seems odd. You would think that they would at least acknowledge the traffic issue with something else besides a nearby traffic light.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Right now they "acknowledge" that traffic with a crazy-dangerous pedestrian crossing just west of Platt. A light will be a huge improvement.

Dirty Mouth

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

Any unique qualities with regard to how Ann Arbor had previously differentiated itself from other cities like Birmingham or Royal Oak has no completely vanished. We are, in a word, a one trick pony just like our neighbors. Sad.

Steve Bean

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Uh, Brad, do you mean like Boulder? ;-)


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

@Dirty Mouth: You should drop the dream of streetcars, trains and bicycles everywhere taking us to unique little boutique shops where craftsmen create one-of-a-kind items in their attics. Wherever this utopia existed in America, you won't find it anywhere anymore. We're a car nation, in a car state, outside of the motor city. Others have adequately addressed your "one trick pony" comment.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

Who is it that wants to compare us to Birmingham and Royal Oak anyway? Let's set the bar higher than that.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

except for a world class University, the largest Stadium in the United states and the fact that I can see cornfields 10 minutes out of town.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

Somehow the line up of stores doesn't shout out pedestrians, bicycles and bus riders as clientele. It seems more in keeping with the Lexus, Audi, BMW crowd. Just an observation folks... not a shot across the class warfare bow. ;)


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:29 a.m.

Ann - what you think is a reasonable walking distance?

Ann English

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:16 a.m.

By "pedestrians" do you mean the residents on Glenwood, Arlington, Kenilworth, Overridge, Warwick, Exmoor and Bedford? They can walk from home to the stores, all right.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

let me try to make it clear one more time GoNavy, I don't begrudge anyone for the car they drive nor do i begrudge the amount they spend on body wash or pants. I do think the more money you make the nicer your car, the more discretionary income you have and here is the kicker....the less likely you are to take a bus,or bike or walk to buy your stuff. i just find it pointless that they designed a mall to acknowledge what I suggest will be a nearly nonexistent pedestrian customer base.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

GoNavy, If I was sneering at anything it was that the powers that be would "force" or encourage a layout that would be conducive to foot traffic on Washtenaw peaking in the windows. Help me out here GoNavy, do you think foot traffic on Washtenaw is going to be a significant part of the shoppers in that Mall. Describe that to me please. Where are these folks walking from, what are they going to buy and then walk home? How is that going to work? How much of the net sales do you think will come from people who showed up on foot or a bike or in a bus? Give me a number GoNavy. 20%? 50%? 75% ? I just don't see why catering to foot traffic in the design matters. Tell me why you think it does.

Boo Radley

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

I guess I am guilty of being "cheap" like Craig. And while not sneering at those who drive foreign, I definitely think more highly of those NOT driving foreign cars.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

Craig- We get it. You're cheap - you've said as much above ("$3 body wash, trousers at Meijer"). Must you also sneer at those who prefer quality German and Japanese cars? If you look deeper into the human psyche, nearly every person "rockets" in spending in one category or another. You might rock the disheveled low-cost Meijer look after taking an Axe body spray shower, while simultaneously blowing some insane amount of money elsewhere.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Sorry, it just isn't much of a pedestrian area there. Not that much housing nearby, not on the way to anything. But it does have really nice paved paths on both sides of Washtenaw.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

except the design and positioning of stores was a nod to pedestrians in this case.

Dirty Mouth

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

Pedestrians have never been a priority in Ann Arbor.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

so is this needed? no. does this "walkability" make sense along 5 lanes of main road connecting commuters to Ann Arbor from a Highway? no. and more turing traffic directly from this road is a poor plan. this is more 'in the way' than progress and an impracticle design and not in keeping with the area and its uses.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

fanny- Jobs will be created only if these stores are financially successful. Since TIF payments will be returned to the mall's owner for nineteen years the city gains no taxes or other direct financial benefit from this development. I must agree that the mall should be more visually appealing than what existed previously on the property. Michael- Depending on the time of day traffic includes cars which are commuting to and from work elsewhere in Southeast Michigan. Access to US 23 in order to connect with I94 or I96 is an important use of Washtenaw Avenue. Unfortunately, alternative transportation is time consuming and inconvenient for many Ann Arborites who wish to shop along Washtenaw Avenue.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Whose goal? Speak for yourself.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

The goal is not to make it easier to drive. The goal is to make it more difficult to drive so people will be more apt to use an alternative form of transportation other than their car. The car is what destroyed Washtenaw Avenue in the first place. It's time to restore Washtenaw Avenue into a Complete Street, where people want to be. Not just drive their car through. Just because there are 5 lanes of traffic now, does not mean that it cannot or will not change. If the road received a road diet, as well as increased focus on bus use, bicycle use, as well as pedestrian use, the car becomes of secondary concern.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

I am just amazed at all of the negative comments. Can't we just be happy that this venture will create jobs, add to the tax base, and will replace an existing eyesore.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

While everyone hopes for Arbor Hills Crossing to be successful, the shopping mall lacks a major anchor store that will attract many customers. Most lessees are niche stores and tend to be high-end. With leasing rates likely to be high because new construction is expensive, the stores will likely not be selling cheap goods. In several years we will know if these enterprises will be profitable. No doubt traffic along Washtenaw will be slowed by the new traffic light at Platt and Washtenaw. The entrance to the shopping center on Washtenaw Avenue will slow traffic in the right hand lane where vehicles will enter and exit the shopping center. This deterioration in traffic movement is not consistent with the original Reimaging Washtenaw Avenue plans.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 11:32 a.m.

@Brad: Yes, there is that much demand for insufficient pants. I went to two Lululemon stores (Troy, Birmingham) last weekend and both were packed to the brim with people shopping. That store has an unbelievable following. As for no anchor store in the mall: That was an intentional move, and I think many of these stores are big traffic drivers. I drive to Birmingham every month or so just to go to some of these stores.

Ann English

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

The affluent people living across from it to the northwest can walk to it and keep Arbor Hills Crossing in business.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 8:58 p.m.

There's that much demand for insufficient pants?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3 p.m.

Lulu could swing that place all by themselves.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

I don't think that high end stores jib with bus commuters, at least not right now.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

Washtenaw Avenue will likely get worse before it gets better. The goal is that more infill development occurs, as well as less reliance on the automobile for trips around the Ann Arbor area. There needs to be more emphasis on fewer parking spaces, with the goal of encouraging motorists to leave their car at home and find an alternative means of transportation. Hopefully one day, Washtenaw Avenue will have 2 driving lanes, dedicated bus lanes, bicycle lanes, and nice wide sidewalks lined with trees, lights, and seating.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

Good luck to all. But as a guy who spends 3 bucks on body wash and buys his trousers at Meijers (unless I'm feeling spunky,then I go to Marshall ) it looks like pizza is about it for me in there.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

Craig and Brad are making my day.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

Thanks Craig you obviously saw the intent of my comment


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

@Craig - :)


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

Same here. None of the stores coming really hold much of an interest to me. I'll stick with Briarwood, Arborland, and other shopping areas in AA.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.



Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Body wash ???? do you get your hair styling cream there also ?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

What do you mean that "some residents" say that Washtenaw gets congested during peak hours? I don't think most people would say there isn't a serious traffic problem there, especially if they saw or had to drive through this area at 5:00 themselves.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

@Penz1111- I've lived here for about 6 years so, yes, I understand the role Washtenaw Ave. plays. Any other streets I should be aware of?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

@GoNavy -- Getting home or getting to work is exactly what I'm trying to do during those peak hours, along with countless others so it's not an issue of me going to the mall during rush hour. I don't think you realize that Washtenaw is the main connector for Ann Arbor to US 23 as well as Ypsi. That is what ultimately causes the traffic (I haven't been up there during rush hour in a while, but Geddes and 23 used to be congested at that time as well despite having no shopping around it). But the shopping between Whole Foods and Arborland makes Washtenaw much worse.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

Don't go to the mall during rush hour. If you're working, don't you have better things to do - such as getting home?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

Penz? You would think that this would be this case. But really? Really?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2 p.m.

It's going to be dangerous! I'm all for new businesses opening but this is a bad spot!


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

I thought that was odd as well. Apparently the writer doesn't get out that way much.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

Still waiting for a Container Store....


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 12:05 p.m.

I still wonder if that's enough parking spots for the type of stores and restaurants they're bringing in. I hope it's not a nightmare, but a success.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:27 a.m.

That area has always been known as Ann Arbor Hills. As far as the walkable density in that area I am guessing it isn't that great.

Ann English

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1 a.m.

Arbor Hills subdivision residents live just to the northwest of Arbor Hills retail stores going in. They can afford to give them business. How about walking to the stores whenever convenient? I know, there'll be a lot more pedestrian traffic, but there'll be even more vehicular traffic. Getting a bite to eat shouldn't necessitate driving for a resident on Glenwood, Kenilworth or Exmoor, once the businesses are completed.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

All right! Another bunch of over-priced, trendy shops that I'll never shop at. I can hardly wait.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

Walmart. I'm hurt! Even I don't shop there. Target is my speed;-)


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

Look Man, it is too early in the morning to be hitting me with those negative waves.

Tim Hornton

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

Don't worry. The walmart in ypsi isn't going anywhere for you.

Matt Lang

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

I wish they would open a Patagonia outlet store around here, i went to the one in Chicago last month, it was fantastic. i guess in the long run North Face and Patagonia stores will take business away from REI and Bivouac, don't want that!


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

I like REI OK, but their "dividend" isn't that valuable. You get a kickback only on things you pay full price for, and can only apply the dividend on full price items I believe.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 6:14 p.m.

REI offers a dividend and has a great 'garage sale' section and you can jet into Whole Foods at the same time. I've seen some good sales in Bivouac, but the location is great for students and not for residents, making it a difficult stop unless you're already there.

Dirty Mouth

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

Bivouac will go out of business in 3, 2, 1..

Chip Reed

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 11:11 a.m.

Our feelings of inferiority vis-a-vis Troy will be eased to a considerable degree...


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

We'll always have Boulder. And here's looking at you, Brad.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

But there will still be Boulder ...


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 10:29 a.m.

With every shop that has announced opening here its gotten better and better. Good planning and good for Ann Arbor --


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 10:19 a.m.

Watch out Birmingham here we come!

Bertha Venation

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

HA! No Rose..... Birmingham, Idaho!


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

Birmingham, Alabama?