Start to demolition of Georgetown Mall delights neighbors
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The long-awaited demolition of Georgetown Mall began Tuesday. The vacant and blighted site on Packard Road will be redeveloped in to Packard Square, which is set to include 230 apartments and 23,790 square feet of retail space. The redevelopment is estimated to cost more than $46 million.
“Certainly I’m happy to see that they are finally going to demolish the old buildings, but I’m not so sure that this is any indication that new development will begin,” said Jack Eaton, neighborhood activist and 4th Ward candidate for Ann Arbor City Council.
Eaton said Harbor Georgetown LLC developer Craig Schubiner has been making promises about the project, at 2502 Packard Road, for the last five years with little follow-through. According to Eaton, Schubiner also has a separate Michigan development that never finished.
“Demolition is happening primarily because the government is coming through with grants, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the developer,” Eaton said.
Attempts to reach Schubiner for comments were unsuccessful.
Schubiner originally planned to begin demolition in August 2011 after winning the approval of City Council in May 2011. Planning for the development began prior to the closing of Kroger in 2009.
A series of financial setbacks have slowed project progress. Redevelopment was stalled because the property faced tax foreclosure after the bankruptcy of a lender and last year Schubiner was unable to demonstrate project financing to the satisfaction of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Schubiner was given until April to prove he had proper funding. He was able to meet this deadline and in January 2013, Schubiner was optimistic the mall would be demolished by February.
Nathan Voght told AnnArbor.com in a previous interview that the only thing standing in the way of demolition as of March 20 was the need for grant-funded and non-grant-funded work to concurrently move forward.
The demolition and environmental cleanup partially will be paid for by a $1 million state grant. The remaining $250,000 of non-grant work covers demolition of about half the site, demolition of a dry-cleaning building, and remediation of the worst on-site contaminated soil.
City Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, said she hopes demolition is an indicator financing to entirely complete the project is in line, but because of how everything has gone with this developer she said she can’t predict what is going to happen.
“It’s been very frustrating to have to wait as long as we’ve had to,” Teall said. “My hope two years ago was that they would just get the buildings down because they are so unsafe. At least we would have a clean site. It looks like we’re finally getting that.”
Even if redevelopment — which is estimated to annually bring an additional $500,000 in tax revenue — is not completed as planned, Eaton said the neighborhood still will be happy to see the buildings knocked down.
“I think that generally the people in the neighborhood are delighted the buildings will finally come down,” Eaton said. “Having an empty field is preferable to having blight in the neighborhood. We’ve been waiting a long time for this and there’s some regret there especially if what we gain from all this is an empty lot.”