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Posted on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Change coming to Ann Arbor's South Main Street as 2 restaurant buildings listed for sale

By Lizzy Alfs


The Middle Kingdom and Prickly Pear buildings in Ann Arbor were both listed for sale recently.

Courtney Sacco |

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information regarding Prickly Pear's current lease agreement.

Change is afoot on the 300 block of Ann Arbor’s South Main Street, where two restaurant buildings were listed for sale recently.

The Prickly Pear building at 328 S. Main and the Middle Kingdom building at 332 S. Main were both put on the market in recent weeks as the long-time owners look to sell and move on.

The price tags: $1.35 million for the 2,400-square-foot Prickly Pear building and $1.3 million for the 2,450-square-foot Middle Kingdom building.

Both buildings — separated by the building that formerly housed the Chocolate House —come onto the market as the city is exploring potential redevelopment opportunities for four city-owned parking lots downtown, including the Kline lot on South Ashley and William streets. The project, spearheaded by the Downtown Development Authority, is termed “Connecting William Street.”

Jim Chaconas of Colliers International, the listing broker for the Prickly Pear property, is marketing the two-story building as a redevelopment opportunity — which could potentially include adding height to the building and over the back patio for condominiums.


Listing broker Mike Giraud said he has received "a lot" of phone calls from potential buyers on the Middle Kingdom building in downtown Ann Arbor.

Lizzy Alfs |

“Once in a lifetime opportunity to own a building in the number one block of Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor,” the real estate listing says. “The lot size…could allow for up to 11,000 square feet of development.”

The Middle Kingdom building is listed for sale with Swisher Commercial’s Mike Giraud and Randy Maas.

Giraud said the building and restaurant owner, Wai Chong Tam, is ready to retire from the restaurant business after 33 years. Middle Kingdom would close when the building is sold, he said.

“It’s zoned and set up for a restaurant with a full kitchen and full basement that supports walk-in refrigerators and equipment,” Giraud said. “For someone who wants to have an opportunity to own their own building and have a restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor, this is it.”

Giraud said he’s received “a lot” of phone calls from people interested in purchasing the building after only 30 days on the market.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” he said.

Two parcels to the north, Kenneth and Margaret Ludwig have owned the two-story Prickly Pear building since 1990, according to city documents. A salon currently occupies the second floor.

Chaconas said the building could be redeveloped to have a first and second floor restaurant and banquet hall, with an addition for condominiums near the back of the building.

Because both the Middle Kingdom and Prickly Pear buildings are located in the city’s D1 zoning district and Main Street Historic District, any sort of redevelopment or addition would need to be reviewed by Ann Arbor’s Historic District Commission.

Wendy Rampson, the city’s planning manager, said an addition on top of the Prickly Pear building would need to be set back from the building’s existing facade so it wouldn’t detract from the historic building.

She compared the site’s development potential to the apartment and condominium addition proposed for the top of the Goodyear Building on South Main Street.

“Something similar to (the Goodyear building addition) would be what we would be looking for as part of this building,” she said. “An addition that goes onto the back and goes up with some height, but at a certain point, the height will impact the view from Main Street, so there may be tempering of that addition by the historic guidelines.”

Chaconas said it’s unclear what a building sale could mean for the Prickly Pear restaurant, which has occupied the building for more than 20 years. It would be dependent upon the new owner's plans.

Lisa Pearce, a Prickly Pear employee and the owner's sister, said they signed a five-year lease agreement in August. When it expires in 2017, it will be up to the new building owners to decide how to move forward, she said.

"Whoever buys the building is going to have to have us for tenants for at least the next five years," she said. "But the end of our five-year lease, it just depends."


The Kline lot abuts the Prickly Pear and Middle Kingdom buildings. There have been talks in recent years of creating a pedestrian pathway that would connect the lot to South Main Street.

Courtney Sacco |

The Kline lot, which abuts the rear of the Prickly Pear and Middle Kingdom buildings, was eyed for development in 2010 with the “Ashley Promenade” concept: a 500,000-square-foot, mixed-use development that centered on the lot and would include a 12-story hotel.

The development vision — which never moved forward with an official proposal — included a pedestrian pathway where the Middle Kingdom and former Chocolate House buildings sit to connect the lot with South Main Street. The Chocolate House building, which is located between Prickly Pear and Middle Kingdom, is vacant after Chocolate House closed in Dec. 2011.

As the city takes a closer look at what to do with the lots, it’s unclear if the Middle Kingdom and Prickly Pear real estate listings could play a role in developer interest.

Council Member Sandi Smith said she’s seen speculative proposals over the years that would connect the Kline lot with Main Street via some of the properties on the 300 bock of South Main. But she said it’s up to developers, not the city, to look at acquiring the privately owned properties.

“Those buildings there have been identified over and over again as potential spots to link,” she said. “Those have been, for the most part, from my memory, things the private sector has been entertaining.”

She continued: “It is probably very good urban practice to do that because it’s also a very long block. People don’t like to walk all the way around long blocks.”

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


the other guy

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

Why can the city justify buying huge tracts of land outside the city for large sums, and not purchase the Middle Kingdom building to open up access to Main Street and improve parking, which is one of the major complaints from residents and visitors to the city?

Jake C

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

Because there'd be a whole lot of angry city residents if the city went and bought and demolished a tax-paying, revenue-generating job-providing $1.3 million property and turned it into a glorified sidewalk. Especially if it doesn't add any new parking spots and just saves people 30 seconds of walking time.


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 9:17 a.m.

I thought Middle Kingdom was good too, until I spoke with an employee that informed me of the difference between employee rice and "customer rice" ie: uneaten rice scraped back into the crock to await next customer, often with stray squares of carrot, etc.


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

GAH! *not... did NOT sit.


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

@ justcurious: Do you know said diner/witness? Please tell me that he/she did sit idly and silently by while floorfood was served to, and eaten by, the hapless customer!


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

Not to mention the diner who saw a dinner dumped on the kitchen floor and then scooped back up to be served to the hapless customer.


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 2:38 a.m.

Evidently you newbies haven't been around long enough to know the real history of the Middle Kingdom building. In the 50's and 60's it was a burger joint known as the White Spot. It must have been expanded over the years because at 2400 sq ft it is much larger than the small room with a few booths that I remember.


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

My dad used to take me there to get fried cakes fresh from the deep fryer. :)


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 12:57 a.m.

This totally makes me miss the Central Cafe. Sigh.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.

I fear change.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

The former Lovin Spoonful house has a four bedroom apartment above it with a tiny Alice in Wonderland type door off of steps on the North side. It's a cool apartment with nice views, I wonder what is going to happen with that place? Since it is empty I am guessing these three parcels will be rolled up together for some kind of monsterous apartment building.... This one hits close to home my wife lived there when we first met... It smelled like Middle Kingdom most all the time, and sometimes they would be making waffle cones downstairs that was pretty great too.


Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 12:36 a.m.

James...Do you mean there are reclusive fairies who live there, or that they just don't like the neighborhood?


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

It's occupied...although the door is ground level on the south side....The fairy door doesnt get used anymore


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 10 p.m.

Aw. It has a fairy door?

jeffrey miller

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

This is another example of poor reporting by Although the building in which the Prickly Pear is indeed for sale, the restaurant will not be closing, as this article strongly implies. I work at the Prickly Pear and we recently renewed our lease for a further five years. A new building owner would not void that contract. I would just like to say that we are still open!! Come on in!


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

places are average, no loss with them leaving like when parthenon did

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

Just a note that I added a few details from a Prickly Pear employee: they have a five-year lease, and when it expires, it's up to the new building owner to decide how to move forward.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Or, perhaps, a new owner may look for a way out of the lease if they want to do something else there. I might bet they won't be in this spot 4 years from now but I'm glad they're not closing right away like MK.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

You know what Main Street could use? A few more stores that sell weird little tchotchkes! You can never have too many of those.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.

I think the Tchotchke District Association in Kerrytown would not like that idea.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

Prickly Pear will not be closing.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

Calling Dr. Rhamani.....


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

Kenneth and Margaret Ludwig ran Chez Crepe in the '70s. They were lovely people and it was a lovely, cozy restaurant. I hope they are doing well and enjoying their retirement.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

I still miss the Central Cafe. It was great to go there for heuvos rancheros after an evening at Mr. Flood's Party.


Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

When I was in High School I always got the breakfast special. Two eggs, chorizo patties, re-fried beans with cheese and flour tortillas. $1.99 !!! Still miss the Central Cafe.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

The crane has already been rented to hoist the cow on top of the middle kingdom building to bring the main street BBQ of hollywood fame to reality. Stay tuned.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

Used to love Prickly Pear, but found the service became very uneven/hit or miss. Nonetheless, I hope it doesn't close, the food is still pretty good.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

Love the Prickly Pear and hope it stays. Will miss Middle Kingdom. Would love to see Bill Goodman's Gun and Knife Show move in to the MK spot.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

"Because both the Middle Kingdom and Prickly Pear buildings are located in the city's D1 zoning district and Main Street Historic District, any sort of redevelopment or addition would need to be reviewed by Ann Arbor's Historic District Commission." Oh, dear. We've seen this movie before.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

They just rubber stamped the Goodyear building addition and the city planner seems to be saying that you could get the same treatment here. Money still trumps "historic" downtown.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

My bet all three buildings get dozed and someone builds a 5 story building.


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 4:08 a.m.

I say the same thing and I'm minus 12...go figure.

Tex Treeder

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

Unfortunately, I'd bet you're right about that, too.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

By the'd be great to see articles about both restaurants, their history and interviews with the owners asking why they are leaving.


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 1:10 a.m.

I read the article and I see Middle Kingdom retiring and Prickley Pear under lease until 2017. There is nothing more to report.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Yeah. Let's all blame Lizzy. It's all her fault.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

Middle Kingdom used to be "The" Central Cafe, read like those OSU footballers who make pro. Great place for, oh to many things to list here. Suffice it to say they weren't all about food. Where's is Raul these days anyway? He still owes me my last paycheck from there!

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

You're right! I'm on it :)


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Journalism has changeed. Sadly. Maybe the Observer will do the story.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

Doze 'em and put up high rises. No one cares.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

Somebody reputable PLEASE purchase these buildings before UM or a head shop owner does!


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

I also ridiculed UM, so I got a two-fer. Score!

Ghost of Tom Joad

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

way to generalize head shop owners. I'm sure that your comment is well within the guidelines... they always are for some reason.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

I love how she suggest that "people don't like to walk all the way around long blocks". The buildings have been there as long as I can remember, that hasn't stopped people from walking all the way around the long block for years now, is that block of Main St not successful? Are the restaurants there barely making it? People walk all the way around the long blocks of downtown daily on every block. The only real "cut through" there is downtown is Nichols Arcade and even then, people will walk all the way around the block if they want to hit the places they want to hit before their destination. Let's complain about people not getting enough excercise and push the whole bike to work thing, pedestrian crossing ordinance and then make short cuts through blocks so they don't have to walk as far, like another 30 feet.


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Really? You have never sauntered guiltily through Conor O'Neill's?

Ghost of Tom Joad

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

it's this same laziness that has led to myriad parking structures being built in this town. We have plenty of parking, if people are willing to walk more than a block to get to their destination.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

"Back in the day" you could cut through Kline's or Sears. As far as the downtown tourists having a walk a little farther - who cares? Maybe the DDA should start up a tourist sherpa service that could just carry the tourists around downtown.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

And actually there is a way to sneak between the Chocolate House and Prickly Pear.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

A favorite recipe from the developer's cookbook: Assemblage: Ingredients: One Part 328 S Main (Prickly Pear) + One Part 330 S Main (Chocolate House/Terry Wolf) + One Part 332 S Main ( Middle Kingdom) Purchase these parcels. Demo. Construct unified historic transitioning facade that connects historic 3-story buildings to north with modern 4-story building to south. Develop combined parcels to highest density for freestanding mixed-use S Main property. Recipe variation: same as above, except utilize Kline's lot for large development. The owner(s) at 330 S Main is in a prime position. They own the central portion of the S Main St frontage. That's likely the key to any redevelopment that could occur, assuming sale of 328 and 332. Could be interesting. . .


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

So sad! Middle Kingdom has the best Chinese in town...


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

Great Lake is also outstanding for the Hong Kong-style dishes, probably better than Middle Kingdom. But Middle Kingdom has a large number of great Szechuan-style dishes that Great Lake doesn't do. We love them both.

Ed Kimball

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

I don't intend to start a flame war, but I stopped going to Middle Kingdom many years ago, because I thought their food was over-rated. I recommend Great Lake [sic] Chinese Seafood Restaurant on the southeast side of town. Their honey-walnut shrimp and their pan-fried noodles are outstanding. They also have dim sum at lunch and at dinner.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

Is the plan to open new restaurants or to raze the buildings and build low income apartments?


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

The original post is a troll.

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

Because the buildings are in the Main Street Historic District, whatever happens need to be approved by the HDC and keep the facades of the existing buildings in tact. Any sort of addition would likely have to be set back and hardly visible from the street. An example I can point to: the condo addition on top of the Vinology building.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

Why would we need more low income housing in downtown A2??? We need MORE reasons to come downtown, not less.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

I am really, really sad about Prickly Pear. I have been going there since they opened and have many wonderful memories of good meals, amazing margaritas and great service. I can't imagine anyone being able to replace them.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

Middle Kingdom has some of the best Chinese food out there if you order from the Chinese menu. It'll be sad to see them go.

Third Coast

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

Unfortunately I can't read Chinese so I'll have to stick to the English menu.

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

Oh, good grief!!! Another wrangle on the horizon with the "Hysterical" District Commission involved. How about a weekly report, rather than a daily, when the fur starts to fly? Maybe monthly, since anything involving them goes on for years.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

Wow. Who is the hysterical one? With the properties being marketed with full disclosure of their location in an historic district, there is absolutely no reason for a "wrangle." Any intelligent buyer will certainly recognize the value of being located on the most successful block in the City, and why that block is so successful. Main Street is often used by planners, developers, and preservationists as a great example of creating a place that is attractive to shoppers, diners, office tenants, and condo buyers/renters. The key reason it is so attractive is the investment made in restoring and preserving the historic buildings with their beautiful architecture.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Middle Kingdom's General Tao's Chicken is going to be missed. :-(


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 2:43 a.m.

Yup. My favorite Chinese food restaurant...


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

I remember when the " Loving Spoonful" was there. They had these blenders, that are now "Blizzards" at Dairy Queen. The best was their homemade butterscott ice cream. Man was I a good boy the times they had it made!!! changes.... blah!


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

I would be very sad to see Prickly Pear go...