Change coming to Ann Arbor's South Main Street as 2 restaurant buildings listed for sale
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
Change is afoot on the 300 block of Ann Arbor’s South Main Street, where two restaurant buildings were listed for sale recently.
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.
Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com
“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 obviously...at the end of our five-year lease, it just depends."
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
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.”