Georgetown Mall visit prioritizes property's maintenance until its demolition or redevelopment
The springtime tax foreclosure urgency facing Georgetown Mall has faded, yet many questions still remain for the vacant property along Packard Road in Ann Arbor.
What’s changing, however, is that neighbors are getting some answers.
No one knows the ultimate outcome yet - like what will end up on the 6.5-acre property along Packard Road - but city officials, neighbors and the owner’s representative have begun meeting around realizing a common goal.
That goal, at the very least, is keeping the mall and everything associated with it in decent repair until it can be redeveloped back into a neighborhood asset.
The Georgetown Mall Citizen’s Committee was formed this spring and met in April. Then, on June 3, the group - including city planner Jeff Kahan, Council Member Margie Teall, county Treasurer Catherine McClary and neighborhood representative Mary Krasan - walked through the property with Bruce Measom, who represented the owner.
Measom told the group that owner Harbor Georgetown LLC, under managing partner Craig Schubiner, still intends to redevelop the property.
The vision, said Kahan, centers on a mixed-use facility with residences and a smaller retail area than the mall’s existing 84,000 square feet.
The timeline is still several months away - fall at earliest - and Kahan said it’s possible that city processes could open up more incentive to develop the property in the meantime.
Kahan will present a city report Wednesday on proposed zoning changes resulting from the Area, Height and Placement Study, completed by the city’s Planning and Development Services Unit.
Among the proposed changes will be changes to zoning for commercial areas - like Georgetown - to encourage less 1960s-style sprawl over the entire lot and more vertical development. Encouraging mass transit and redevelopment are also goals.
In planning terms, if the AHP study is enacted, Georgetown would change from a property that could have 40 percent of its area built upon to one where a structure on the site could cover an area equivalent to 200 percent of its land area. That’s a formula proposed for many similar zoning districts across the city.
So the next development on the Georgetown property could reflect that encouragement for a developer to construct a mixed-use building with moderate height, instead of the single-story retail center surrounded by parking found on the site today.
It’s still early to talk about what any specific proposal could look like. While the developers are discussing the concept in general terms, the public won’t see them until Schubiner sets a neighborhood meeting before they’re submitted.
Financing also remains a concern, as Measom told the group and as the capital markets remind developers daily. I’ve reported on several local projects that have been stalled due to financing, so no one should expect Georgetown - which has had obvious financial issues due to late tax payments - to avoid that.
The best-case timeline presented to neighbors was that they could see construction begin in 18 months.
Amid those plans for Georgetown, the property remains listed for sale, retaining the possibility that a new owner could step into the process. Among the Harbor Co.’s other real estate, its Bloomfield Hills office is listed for sale and its Bloomfield Park development is partially built and in litigation.
Yet in the meantime, the walkthrough also may keep the pending changes to the Georgetown property in perspective.
All have mobilized so far around efforts to focus attention on the property to keep it from decay. Kahan said only some minor issues came up and they’re finding solutions for them.
At the same time, the neighbors are turning it into an opportunity that goes beyond the empty mall: They’re building support among themselves to unify as a recognized neighborhood association in Ann Arbor. The next meeting is coming in mid-July, with the date to be announced.
The result, they hope, will be “steady but sure pressure” to advance the cause and make either demolition or redevelopment the best option for the site’s owner.
“It’s the uncertainty of the timeline that makes all of us crazy,” Krasan said.
For information on the Georgetown Neighborhood Association, e-mail Mary Krasan.
Paula Gardner is business news director at AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at 734-623-2586 or email@example.com.