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Posted on Thu, May 24, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

Deal signed for redevelopment of downtown Ann Arbor's ex-Borders store

By Lizzy Alfs


The former flagship Borders store in downtown Ann Arbor. file photo

Editor's note: This story has been updated several times with additional information.

The developer behind the Landmark student high-rise — formerly 601 Forest — in downtown Ann Arbor just acquired long-term rights to redevelop the former Borders store on East Liberty.

“We are currently evaluating all uses for the property in order to maximize the benefit of this core property to the city and its residents.” said Ron Hughes of Hughes Properties, in a release.

Hughes told no plans are finalized for the building yet and no timeline has been established. But, he said: "Whatever we finally do on that site will be a benefit to the city and its residents," adding that it's a "core location" in Ann Arbor.

The long-term lease affects the two-story, 44,000-square-foot retail space at the corner of East Liberty and Maynard.

The building — once a Jacobson's department store — was Borders' flagship store before the Ann Arbor-based bookseller went out of business in 2011. The property also represents an anchor-store location.

The other portion of the building, formerly a portion of Borders' corporate headquarters, is office space that recently was acquired by First Martin Corp.

First Martin purchased the space, which is located on three levels, for an undisclosed price from Farmington-Hills based real estate firm Agree Realty Corp., which still owned this portion of the property.

Due to a complex land-lease deal, Agree also once controlled the front retail space, but the ownership of that space shifted recently after Malcolm Properties LLC, a company partly owned by a family trust, struck a deal with Agree.

Agree also defaulted on a loan in 2011 for the bookstore chain’s former Phoenix Drive headquarters. That 330,000-square-foot property was listed for sale for $6.9 million with Colliers International's Ann Arbor office in April after Ann Arbor-based McKinley Inc. was appointed to serve as property and asset manager for the building.

John Fingerle, owner of Fingerle Lumber Co. and manager of Malcolm Properties, said in an email that Malcolm Properties is "not involved in the determination of the (downtown) property's use" moving forward. He directed questions about the future of the property to Hughes.

Colliers has also been retained as the broker of the East Liberty Street property as it is redeveloped.

The news comes shortly after deals were finalized for tenants to take over Washtenaw County's two other former Borders locations: Lohr Road in the Waters Place Shopping Center and Washtenaw Avenue in the Arborland Center.

Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots, a retail chain that specializes in closeout and overstock merchandise, signed a lease for the 28,500-square-foot Lohr Road space in April.

Two days later, it was announced that Five Below, a discount retailer that targets teen and pre-teen customers, and beauty superstore Ulta signed leases to split the 22,941-square-foot space in Arborland.'s Paula Gardner contributed to this report.

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



Fri, May 25, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

We recently went to that area during the day for the first time in years. It really looks shabby compared to what it once was. Beggars everywhere, stores closed, trash. So sad. It would be nice if something classy were put there that would be a draw. Liberty Street really needs revitalizing.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

Yes! Schuler Books!


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.


David Frye

Fri, May 25, 2012 : 1:47 a.m.

When did 601 Forest become "downtown Ann Arbor"? It looks about a mile east of downtown as I know it. Maybe I've lived in Ann Arbor too long...


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:19 a.m.

How about a Hooters?


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:16 a.m.

Please, no more tall buildings. Really sad to see all traces of sunlight slowly disappearing from the downtown area.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Oh please. Roll back your hyperbole. What's next, a moratorium on sunset?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

I'd love to see Schuler Books (a small Michigan chain) move in there!

Lynn Liston

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

If they dedicate the lower level to some upscale merchants and convert the upper levels to luxury lofts, I can guarantee those lofts will be leased in the first hour!


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

by the hour?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

I'd love to see a project like the Somerset CityLoft in Detroit: I think the site is perfect for a development of this sort; the building was originally constructed as a department store so the design should be fairly conducive, there are plenty of affluent customers right in the neighborhood who would enjoy something like this and Briarwood doesn't really meet the needs of the high-luxury market.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 7:05 p.m.

Maybe it's the right time for Stanger's and Marti Walker.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

Would make a great location for corporate headquarters for someone.....


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

...or something that rhymes with "oogle?"


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

How about a "twin peaks" restaurant? visit it frequently if it opened


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

IF it was a great eatery on the top of approx 10 or 12 stories with a revolving dining area!!...with reasonable prices for all to enjoy a meal and a great 360 degree view of the city!! ...I'd be in favor of another "high-rise building in AA.

John of Saline

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

Only if it had a damn fine cup of coffee.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

How about a Target!


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

After thought here. When I was in San Diego, someone took me to a Target and you won't believe this one. It had two stories. An elevator to get to the top. Never forgot that one.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 9:57 p.m.

Target and Wal Mart both have grocery stores. Might be an excellent idea.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

Probably the best idea I've heard yet.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

How about a cool downtown retirement type condo building?


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

That would be cool, but you although there is a cvs on campus (at least I think that's what it is) you still need a grocery store within walking distance. But perhaps AATA can get people out to shops...


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

Is the Borders/Jacobson's building cursed? Both went bankrupt, who's next?

John of Saline

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

I wish Jacobson's was still around. I bet a department store would do well there.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

I see no issue will building onto the site with some housing to create more urban density. As long as the first two-three stories are reserved for prime downtown retail space it could be a win-win. As for who should move into the space, my fantasy is that Powell's Book from Portland Oregon would move in, or Book People ( pf Austin Texas.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

I was certainly hoping that a great retail establishment would locate here. A student high rise is most definitely not going to fix the troubled retail environment that Liberty and State has become.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 7:04 p.m.

Nobody is foolish enough to put housing on the ground floor of that corner. But a tower of students, or whoever else is willing and able to rent, puts customers directly inside the retail trade area. Any kind of residential density is good for retailers in this area.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

I don't see anything in the article suggesting plans to make it a student high rise. It's just the same developer.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

@Ron Burgundy - Just want to clarify: Hughes is notable in Ann Arbor for the Landmark student high-rise development, but that's not necessary his plans for the Borders site.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

you mean "necessarily".


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

On the other hand, the Downtown Development Authority has specifically zoned that area of Ann Arbor for high-density housing. Considering the values of Zaragon 1 & 2, and the fact that beds (not rooms) can now be rented out for $1,000 apiece, don't think for a minute that we're going to get something in that spot that doesn't maximize revenue for the developers, and that means housing.