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Posted on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 2:57 p.m.

Ann Arbor city officials consider ways to secure vacant Georgetown Mall

By Dan Meisler

City officials are considering several ways to secure the vacant Georgetown Mall property on Packard Road, including fencing the entire 6.5-acre site and blocking vehicle traffic through the parking lots, according to a memo to local neighborhood associations from two city councilors.

The update from Ann Arbor building official Tony Savoni to council members Margie Teall and Marcia Higgins and also forwarded to several neighborhood groups outlined possible next steps for the property, which is in foreclosure.

The memo said that despite the deteriorating conditions at the mall, which is now empty since Kroger closed Sept. 12, there are no building code or community standard violations. But because there are no longer any tenants, city officials expressed concern that larger issues would crop up quickly.

"If the site begins to deteriorate and the owners do not respond, we act fast to either board up the buildings or to fence the site so, it does not turn into another 2800 Jackson Road," the memo said, referring to the old Michigan Inn that became a haven for squatters and vandals. "It is important to note that putting up an 8-foot chain link fence may not be well received in a residential neighborhood. If we board up the buildings and that is not sufficient, fencing will be used as our back-up plan."

Another measure potentially in the more immediate future would be blocking off the mall parking lot to vehicle traffic to prevent drivers from using it as a shortcut between Packard and Page roads. One planning official, Savoni wrote, considers it "almost a necessity" to do that.

Other issues identified at the site include roof deterioration and whether the offices at the 83,000-square-foot mall are secure.

"The owners already have a running battle to keep people out of the offices," the memo said.

The property is owned by Harbor Georgetown LLC, a company associated with Craig Schubiner, who had been planning a redevelopment project. The property has been in foreclosure since June 2008, but a sheriff's auction has been continuously postponed by the lender, said Special Deputy Jim Damron of the Washtenaw County Sheriff Department. The loan servicer is Asset Resolution, a New York company.

Damron said an auction could take place any time the lender decides to do it.

Savoni's memo also said the city is considering taking the owners to court to recoup costs if it the buildings must be demolished, rather than going through the building board of appeals process.

Savoni referred a request for futher comment to Jayne Miller, administrator of the city's Community Service Area, who did not return a phone message Tuesday.

Jeanne Horvath of the Georgetown of Ann Arbor Condominium Association, which abuts the mall property, had read the memo and said she didn't know what more the city can do.

"We're real concerned about the state of the mall," she said. "It did sound like at least the city is trying to move it along."

Horvath said Teall and Higgins are scheduled to address the condo group this week to discuss the situation. She said her opinion is that redevelopment would be the best option.

"Personally, I don't see how it could be fixed up," she said. "It's an old-fashioned design ... it's more of a car design than a pedestrian design."

Horvath said Schubiner's previous redevelopment ideas were an improvement over the existing mall.

"I thought the plans were pretty good," she said.

On the city memo, Horvath commented, "It's never good when you compare something to the Michigan Inn."

The property is currently for sale through Income Property Organization of Bloomfield Hills, which does not list an asking price, but puts the value of the property at $6.3 million in its sales material. Agent J.J. Zwada declined to comment.

The June 2008 foreclosure notice listed the outstanding debt on the property at more than $15 million with a 20 percent interest rate.

The property also has unpaid taxes totaling close to $300,000, and the county has granted a one-year extension to pay that back by February.

Freelance reporter Dan Meisler can be reached at



Mon, May 3, 2010 : 1:29 p.m.

Why don't they turn the area into a solar energy farm?


Tue, Dec 29, 2009 : 10:39 a.m.

Back in the mid 70s that place was my own private skate park. I remember biting it bad at the bottom of the hill once and the nice folks at Kroger patched me up with peroxide and gauze pads from the first aid aisle. I grew up just a few blocks from the mall but I moved away from Ann Arbor about 25 years ago I can't even imagine it being in a state of disrepair. Sad. Cunningham Drugs used to let me sit for hours and read comic books. The funnest thing to do there was to kneel in a shopping cart and hold another in front of you to steer, start at the top of the hill and crash at the bottom. I swear we hit 30 mph.


Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 12:05 p.m.

Given the location, the vast majority of customers will be driving to the businesses here, the idea that more than a handfull of customers are within walking distance of this location just is not in touch with reality.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 6:40 a.m.

Who's supposed to do all this "Parks" work? Who pays for it? That kind of demolition and landscaping costs real money. It's time to force the owners into doing something!


Thu, Sep 24, 2009 : 8:27 p.m.

First of all turning it into a park or a parking lot requires rezoning. A park does not generate jobs or money, just laziness. Empty lots full of debris don't "generate" jobs or money, either. The property owners still owe $15M to their lenders and are $300,000 delinquent in taxes to the county. So even when it was still occupied last month, it wasn't "generating money". Parks don't generate laziness any more than sofas cause obesity. So until sofas are outlawed to increase the Average Citizen Productivity Index, flat, open space (a.k.a. "a park") is an easy, cheap interim solution until something long term happens with that lot. The people who live in the neighborhood are tired of seeing it slowly fall apart over the past 10-15 years. Don't dawdle for years hemming and hawing... Tear it down, fill the hole with dirt, and throw down some grass seed. Then developers will see potential, instead of headaches. It would be a far better solution than leaving the decrepit, undesireable, apparently unleaseable buildings in place to turn the neighborhood into a blighted one.


Thu, Sep 24, 2009 : 2:21 p.m.

Even if razing the buildings and creating a park was temporary that is more favorable than leaving the building their to fall into further demise. Additionally as someone else stated the site is not prime for a developer to move in, the fact that it is not street front property is enough, unless the they put the building up high at the street with parking behind it down the hill, and then it will look like the back side of the shopping area on plymouth, where cafe marie is.


Thu, Sep 24, 2009 : 1:52 p.m.

"Is that everyone's solution to problem property in Ann Arbor, turn it into a park? Eventually all of Ann Arbor will be parks!" and the problem with this is? does anyone know how those of us who live in this area can have input about what would happen there. Razing the buildings would be preferable to keeping those empty buildings there. Maybe the lovely old homes that are up to be razed on s. 5th for the "city place" development can be moved to the georgetown property in the way that the old victorians were moved in the late 1980's from s. Main to Platt.


Thu, Sep 24, 2009 : 11:51 a.m.

First of all turning it into a park or a parking lot requires rezoning. A park does not generate jobs or money, just laziness. Leave it zoned as is. The buildings are old and badly designed. So level, figuratively speaking, the property and then allow a reputable developer to bring it up to 2009 standards and usage. That will generate jobs and tax revenues. Is that everyone's solution to problem property in Ann Arbor, turn it into a park? Eventually all of Ann Arbor will be parks!

George or Barbara Perkins

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 : 10:15 a.m.

Georgetown is a much mistreated neighborhood. We have lost both our public elementary schools, our walk-to drugstore and supermarket, and our two city council representatives have approved an airport layout plan that would bring larger and heavier planes over the neighborhood as well as imperil the city wells on the airport property. I'm glad to see Mss. Higgins and Teall have contacted someone about the Georgetown Mall. Their willingness to hear from neighborhood voters has been notably missing in the past. Barbara Perkins


Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 9:30 p.m.

PR of AA, the whole thing doesn't need to be a dog park, on the contray, part of it could be though. People who frequent dog parks for one don't all lack a back yard or sidewalks with which to walk a dog. They just like an additional place where their dog can run free (safely within city limits) and interact with other dogs safely. Additionally, their are apartments and condos across the street from the site. Whether or not you agree with people living in those to own dogs they do and would probably like the idea of a park with a dog park at the Georgetown site. Also, A2 is pushing for all this downtown developement/mixed use buildings with all these floors of condos and apartments. It is unreasonable to assume that these people will all be dog free. Some people may have to move into the area and already have a dog. Most people would only rehome of give up a dog in severe hardship. These people need central urban area dog parks. That is one responsibility of City Council to consider when they push their urban living planning. For all the glorious talk of how banning plastic bags falls in line with places like San Francisco maybe A2 should look at places like SF, NY, Boston etc. and how they have put in dog parks for thier urban dwellers. Central Park has more than one dog park. Small patches of land between big buildings have been made into dog parks. The ones in NY have less micro managing than the ones here in A2, which are not in convienient areas. Even Canton, which is building a dog park as we speak is doing a better job of it than A2. There is a better one in Westland. Yet A2 in all it's hoity toitiness lacks behind these "inferior to the supreme A2"


Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 4:28 p.m.

I support these ideas for making this area more of a community asset than a community hazard or eyesore. the slope could make a great sledding hill in the winter! I like the idea of some sort of park, even if it is temporary. will there be any public hearing where the community can have input on this?

PR of AA

Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 2:14 p.m.

Yea right, another dog park!!! Dog parks and skate parks are the biggest waste of land and tax payer money. Skate parks appeal to such a small percentage of kids-adults. And dog parks are a joke, I think I'll get a dog but since I don't have the property for it to run and play I'll just make the city buy more expensive land so they'll build a dog park. Tear down Georgetown Mall....Just like Tiger Stadium but don't wait 10 years to do it.


Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 1:24 p.m.

Turn it into a park!


Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 10:52 a.m.

tisherwood, I don't think filling it in with dirt would work. Yes, it is this really big downslope, but the neighborhood behind it is level with that. The area being called a moraine* created with glacial receding. That had the area of 7th street were pointed out to us in the 5th grade when we studied all that. Dirt would just run off into the neighborhood. I agree with other posts, it will be years before someone actually does do something if it sells. Look at how long it took for them to tear down the unsightly sqauters hotel on jackson and 94, (michigan inn?) YEARS. Way longer than 2 years. The Georgetown mall should be demolished and turned into a park with a dog park with amble parking. Heck put in a small lawn ampitheater. Demolish it. And do a cheap park for now and then do more later. council should spend effort on this and not discussing the micro managing of plastic bags. THIS is a real issue a city council should be working on. if $750,000 plus can be spent on recycled rainwater in some stupid artsy fartsy project and they can spend money on the greenbelt and are considering turning the area of the old parking structure near 1st/washington into a park I don't see why they would fence off this area to create an eyesore, haven for vermin (both the two legged and four legged kind) and let it sit as this unsightly thing for years like they complained about the owner of the inn did. council thinks that banning bags, and artsy projects will bring business to town with their jobs for people. Meanwhile they will look at this eyesore and think none of thier employees would want to live next to that mess.


Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 8:03 a.m.

I have heard that the city doesn't know what to do with the dirt that will be dug to build the new underground parking garage next to the library. I have also heard that the Geogetown Mall site is not attractive to developers given its rapid slope downward and away from Packard Road. Is there any way to use the dirt to level the Georgetown Mall site to make that site more attractive to developers?

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 6:17 a.m.

"Another measure potentially in the more immediate future would be blocking off the mall parking lot to vehicle traffic to prevent drivers from using it as a shortcut between Packard and Page roads. One planning official, Savoni wrote, considers it "almost a necessity" to do that." We must proceed immediately to prevent the unwashed masses from using this as a short cut. Can you imagine the ramifications of dozens of people a day driving through the parking lot? Ummm...errrr... I'm drawing a blank at the moment but I'm sure there is a slippery slope of civil anarchy there somewhere.

Alan Benard

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 10:55 p.m.

The property has been in foreclosure since June 2008, but a sheriff's auction has been continuously postponed by the lender, said Special Deputy Jim Damron of the Washtenaw County Sheriff Department.This in a city that puts a lien on your deed if you don't fix your sidewalk and it's done for you. Private property is swell and all, but these companies are tax delinquent on many levels. Time to take it over. If the city won't administer it, don't we have a county land bank now?Count this as another voice demanding action. The owners are out of time.


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 10:28 p.m.

Tear it down, make a park and add the cost to the property taxes. Make a future developer pay for it. No need to make the public suffer through the blight.


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 9:57 p.m.

Tear down the buildings. Make it a park, at least temporarily. Maybe use the parking lot for an AATA Park and Ride to downtown.


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 4:12 p.m.

Tear it down, it is a danger even with eight foot fences, maybe even more so, it's a residential area... If you block it off, that'll make it attractive to squatters... Buy it and make it a park...


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 4:11 p.m.

Tear down the buildings and turn it into a dog park!


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 3:44 p.m.

This blight on the neighborhood is a real shame. Even before Kroger closed, the rest of the mall was in a horrible state. It brings down the whole area. It would be great if the city could somehow find a way to speed up the demolition process. Boarding up the mall, and especially adding a fence, would only attract attention to this sore spot of Ann Arbor.

Bob Dively

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 3:36 p.m.

"Ann Arbor city officials considers" == headline subject-verb disagreement.


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 3:35 p.m.

please tear down the buildings!!!!


Tue, Sep 22, 2009 : 3:28 p.m.

blocking the parking lot isn't enough to keep squaters or kids out. I suggest a police "sub station" temporarially. As they owe back taxes it wouldn't cost rent money and it could be operated with a small amount of electricty, water and phones? At least cops around might keep people away.