Ann Arbor city officials consider ways to secure vacant Georgetown Mall
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 email@example.com.