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Posted on Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 5:52 a.m.

Former ProQuest property at Zeeb and I-94: Plenty of space for a Costco?

By Paula Gardner

Opportunity is knocking in Scio Township for anyone who wants to bring a Costco to Ann Arbor.

Sure, the high-end warehouse-style retailer has red-lined Michigan.

But that doesn’t mean Ann Arbor needs to give up hope - now that we can finally put 71 acres at an I-94 interchange in the demographically desirable west side of town in front of store siting experts.

After all, how often have we been able to say that?
Possibly never, some would say. That includes developers who have spent a decade salivating over the potential for this land and residents who - despite the complications from major retailers moving in - still long for a Costco in our midst.

The 71 acres at Zeeb Road are now the home of National Archive Publishing Co., which was just acquired by a Detroit-based private equity firm.
NAPC has been trying to sell the property, and now the new owners, Superior Capital Partners, are getting more aggressive about finding a buyer - and planning to drop the asking price from $7.5 million to … well, the number hasn’t been determined.
But it’s pretty clear that NAPC won’t need that much space - it’s seeking a smaller footprint in this area, ranging from 30,000 to 45,000 square feet - and getting cash out of the real estate is at the top of the to-do list of Superior Capital.
The value of the land has been moving in recent years: NAPC bought the 165,000 square-foot buildings on 71.5 acres for just under $8.5 million when the company was created in 2005 out of the former ProQuest.
Today, it’s assessed at  $4.86 million, down from over $5 million in 2008 - which meant that not too long ago, its estimated market value was about $10 million.
This sizeable and very visible property is a rarity for local commercial real estate, and the fact that it’s on the market now - in the midst of an epic downturn - makes this a perfect barometer for the rest of us to gauge a commercial development rebound in Ann Arbor - whenever it does sell.
After all, said local broker Neal Warling of Bluestone Realty Advisors, “It’s not a very friendly environment.”
But a buyer may be attracted to the “long term value of the site, which is phenomenal.”
So maybe Costco officials will change their minds.
If not, there are plenty of options that township officials will welcome to the site: A large, mixed-use complex, for example, or a hotel-conference center or even a private indoor recreation facility.
The township recognizes the potential of the site, which it master-planned to emphasize “development of a corporate, high-tech jobs node,” said planner Doug Lewan.
Already allowed in the industrial zoning are the obvious office and light industrial mix, like what’s there now. So are theaters and some retail uses, like restaurants, if they pass some extra official review.
The goals for the site from the township’s perspective: “Promote business growth and the jobs base,” said Lewan.
Large-scale retail - like a standalone Costco - is not compatible with zoning, he said, though the right mix of other uses with it just might work.
But even that zoning issue shouldn’t make a Costco fan give up hope. That’s especially true given the big-box resistance in Scio from mid-decade that seems to have abated.
“Some shopping is OK (there),” Lewan said, noting that the size and zoning “would allow quite a large … complex there.”
Paula Gardner is Business Director of Contact her at (734) 623-2586 or by email.



Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 8:35 p.m.

Does anyone care that 300 N Zeeb Rd was designed by famed Michigan architect Alden B. Dow? After Midland, Ann Arbor has the most Dow designed buildings of any city and this would be the first one (besides a gas station) to be lost. Mid-century modern architecture is little appreciated at this point in time and the historical significance of Dow's work should be considered before demolishing this building. The property was built in 1963 for University Microfilms International. I'm not saying it's the Taj Mahal, I just think historic preservation should factor into the discussion.


Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 9:24 a.m.

It was Costco before that was debated in the past. Should be interesting to see if that ever comes to fruition. And Costo up 23 is more than 15 minutes away.


Thu, Sep 17, 2009 : 7:21 a.m.

I'm sorry, I no longer live in Washtenaw, however didn't Wal-Mart want to put a Sam's club over in that area? Why would residents embrace a Costco and not a Sam's Club in virtually the same neighborhood? They both are large wharehouse retailers selling many of the same products. There is a Costco in Green Oak Township which is about 15 minutes up US-23 if you have to have a Costco.

David Read

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 4:36 a.m.

If the folks in Ann Arbor think that Costco is such a great organization, then invite Costco to the Georgetown Mall.


Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 2:20 p.m.

"Come for the dog food, stay for the downtown." I love it. Should be a bumpersticker. :)

Kristina Birk

Mon, Sep 14, 2009 : 7:33 p.m.

For various reasons I don't consider Sam's Club an option. A local Costco would be a welcome addition to the area. I'm tired of driving out to Brighton. However, I've also visited stores in Brighton just because I was there already, stores I never would have gone to otherwise. Why not let a big box Costco on the outskirts of town lure shoppers deeper into A2? Come for the dog food, stay for the downtown. I do agree with suswhit though, the connection between the available parcel and Costco implied in yesterday's print headline was spurious at best.

Matt Van Auker

Mon, Sep 14, 2009 : 10:53 a.m.

I would much rather see a Costco there, than the slop, they presently have.


Mon, Sep 14, 2009 : 9:39 a.m.

Costco has not good settle for former ProQuest property. The vehicles will be lot of problem get out on Zeeb Rd. They knew many problem (I work 13 years for Zeeb Rd McDonald's Restaurant cross former ProQuest property.) an accidents between BP Gas Station and McDonalds on Zeeb Rd.


Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 11:05 p.m.

I was curious about the reference to Costco redlining Michigan. There wasn't a link or other explanation. Has this been covered by the News (or before? If so, it would be nice to have a link provided.


Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 7:05 p.m.

Like Scio along Jackson Road has an "urban center" and/or a "sense of community". If you wanted that, you would have never had expanded Jackson Road - it was designed for stores, etc.... GO COSTCO, they are far superior to Sam's Club....

mona Moorman

Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 5:51 p.m.

I agree with Kate. It is a good/fair company. What is so scenic about Zeeb and exit 169? I was more horrified at the Big Boy. Where were the anti-Canton folks with that? Concentrating big boxes is way better than using them as anchors in strip malls. Mona

Raggety Andy

Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 2:26 p.m.

Box stores destroy urban centers and a city's sense of community. Costco can stay far away from this town, as far as I'm concerned.


Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 10:15 a.m.

I would love if Costco moved into our area...they have a great selection of items, and ALSO treat their workers decently by paying a living wage and health insurance unlike some other companies. Afraid of big box stores? I welcome them! It's that or industrial parks/condos...but development there will be. Do I miss going to Farmer Grant's for a Christmas tree? Yes! However, I now support another, smaller farmer for trees and apples - so it's worked out fine regardless.


Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 9:13 a.m.

The way that the township sets the property tax, no investor will bother to do much in this township. According to SEV, this site should be sold at close to $10M and I bet it will go under $4.0M IF they can find someone that might consider to deal with the township over the excessive property tax assessment. So bottomline... probably no costco or anythig will happen here for longest time... so no worry for people who are anti-big box stores and also not much hope either for people who are pro-big box stores..


Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 9:03 a.m.

Ah, yes. NIMBYism is alive and well.

Josh Budde

Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 8:59 a.m.

As much as I enjoy Costco, its not the type of store Ann Arbor needs. The Zeeb road area is already slowly turning into nothing but big box stores. I'm afraid that it will turn into Canton-nothing but huge roads and chain stores. Its not something that I think Ann Arbor should be looking towards.


Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 6:22 a.m.

I would really like to see Costco come to the Ann Arbor area. The closest one is way too far away. We need a store such as this on the westside of town.