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Posted on Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 6:03 a.m.

Prime Scio Township property at Zeeb and I-94 now listed for $4.4M

By Paula Gardner

What's 70 acres at the first I-94 interchange west of Ann Arbor worth?

Earlier this year, the answer was $7.5 million.

Today, not as much.

The former National Archive Publishing Co. (and, before that, Proquest and UMI) headquarters at 300 N. Zeeb Road in Scio Township has a new listing, new brokers and a new price of $4.4 million.

And that price, the new owners say, is enough to spur some activity.

"We are getting positive interest," said Mark Carroll, managing partner of Superior Capital Partners, which bought the building this summer when it acquired National Archive Publishing Co. from lender National City, now PNC Bank.

The location has long inspired development fantasies within the southeast Michigan real estate community. It's close enough to the prized Jackson Road corridor to be a part of that still-emerging retail center - and the highway frontage gives it even more cachet.

Plus, it's located in a township where the chase for a big enough development parcel - with sewer access - inspired some active negotiations over the past decade.

In a normal market, these 70 acres (about 40 acres are wetlands) would be a prize. And possibly quite attractive at $7.5 million.

Today, with the new listing price, "I think there's a deal here to be had," said co-listing broker John Fricke of Signature Associates in Southfield.

"Under most circumstances, this would be a very reasonable price to be paid for the property," Fricke said.

But these aren't normal times. Lending options remain extremely limited in Michigan, and the business outlook is uncertain.

Still, the location of this property resonates. Regional and national buyers who've wanted proximity to Ann Arbor in the past will be familiar with it, and Signature is trying to reach all of them.

The potential for the property - including the building on the site, one of 17 in Ann Arbor designed by Michigan architect Alden Dow for what was then University Microfilm - will be limited by township zoning. But officials have said they'd consider many proposals, up to (but still likely excluding) a "big box" retailer.

And it doesn't have to involve tearing down the building, at least not yet.

"The building is inhabitable," Fricke said. "It's not the highest and best use for the site long-term. But as a way to weather the short-term economic situation, an investor could generate some income from a lease on the building."

So far, one offer has come in, and the group is negotiating it while seeing what additional activity is generated.

But Fricke said he's convinced this property can transcend the lulls in today's market - and serve as a turnaround indicator.

"Ann Arbor has weathered what we're going through better than any area in Michigan," he said. "When things turn ... this will be one of the first properties to go."

Paula Gardner is Business Director of, where she covers real estate and development. Contact her at (734) 623-2586 or by email. Follow her on Twitter.



Sat, Dec 5, 2009 : 7:12 a.m.

When things turn... a turnaround indicator... those occurrences would be nice, eh?