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Posted on Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:08 a.m.

Developer of Packard Square project asks Ann Arbor City Council for revisions to plans

By Ryan J. Stanton


Renderings by Built Form LLC

The developer hoping to construct new apartments and retail space on the former Georgetown Mall site in Ann Arbor is asking the city for approval of revisions to the plans.

The Ann Arbor City Council discussed the requested changes Monday night but ultimately postponed consideration until the council's first meeting in January.

Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, asked for the postponement after expressing displeasure in the building's new look.

"I just don't like it," she said, speaking bluntly.

"It looks like a dorm now," Teall said. "I liked the articulation of the windows before. I liked the variation in the first floor."

As for the different colors proposed, Teall said it looks a little bit like "Disney World" now. She said she wanted to give neighbors a chance to weigh in before the council votes.

Other council members agreed the revised plans for Packard Square don't seem to measure up to what the City Council approved more than a year ago.

"The previously approved version had a lot more activity to it," said Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward.

Mayor John Hieftje encouraged a representative of the development team to take to heart the council's comments about the building appearing "dumbed down."

Bloomfield Hills-based developer Craig Schubiner of Harbor Georgetown LLC won approval from the City Council in May 2011 to redevelop the Packard Road site and build a mixed-use project called Packard Square that includes a four-story building containing 230 apartment units and 23,790 square feet of retail space. A year and a half later, Schubiner still hasn't demolished the blighted mall and has requested multiple extensions to a deadline to demonstrate financing for the project.

Attorney Bruce Measom appeared before council on behalf of the developer Monday night. He said the development team has spent more than $40,000 in the last two weeks on applications for building permits and is hoping to be able to move forward with the project soon.

He said new three-dimensional renderings of the revised designs should be available before the council meets again to vote on the project.


Renderings by Built Form LLC

The modifications to the building elevations now before council must be approved before Schubiner can proceed and obtain building permits with the revised plans.

According to a memo from City Planner Jeff Kahan, the developer submitted a petition for an administrative amendment to move the upper level residential portion of the Packard Road facade 10 feet to the east and to increase the size of the building by 4,720 square feet or 1.3 percent.

As a result of the changes to the building footprint, the developer is seeking to modify the facade, which can't be addressed through an administrative amendment, Kahan said.

The facade changes the council is being asked to approve include a 33 percent reduction in the number of balconies and replacement of the brick along the corners of the building on the Packard Road side with what's referred to as a "Hardi-board" siding.

The windows also have been modified, but the total amount of glazing will remain about the same as previously approved, Kahan said. Additionally, he said, the color of the siding has been modified to help break up the longer sides of the building. The city's planning staff supports the changes.

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, shared her own concerns Monday night, saying removing the balconies also removed some of the visual interest of the facade.

"The lack of balconies created a much flatter appearance," she said. "And the lack of windows in certain areas made me mourn the loss of those windows frankly for the future tenants."

According to a memo from the developer, there are three main reasons for wanting to eliminate a third of the balconies. First, it's responsive to neighbor comments about wanting to maintain privacy. With the elimination of some balconies, there will be more privacy for neighboring homes.

Secondly, when unit floor plans were finalized, it became necessary to eliminate some balconies due to waterproofing issues. And lastly, there was an aesthetic challenge with designing balconies over the retail stores that would both look good and be functional for residents.

As for the change in building materials, the developer communicated that having brick at the front would appear too "heavy" and would likely distract from the public retail square, which is intended to be light, lively, and colorful. The brick's replacement with the same material as the rest of the project, the developer said, was a logical step as the final construction plans took shape.

In order to break up the longer elevations and create a rhythm, the developer said, a pallet of three colors will be used: Alpine Frost, Monterey Taupe and Evening Blue. The developer believes the new color scheme will provide more contrast and an interesting final product.


Renderings by Built Form LLC

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 11:43 p.m.

The new plans are awful. Yes, the property currently looks bad, but I don't see the proposed structure as looking good either. With a bigger footprint how will parking be affected? The nice thing about the old mall was plenty of parking. Will shoppers be parking on the neighborhood streets? The colors look cheap. Brick will weather better. The flat front is institutional. Leave the lot empty if you can't find someone to construct the appropriate building structure. Someone mentioned an earlier rendition with a u shaped appearance. What happened to that? Making money on the cheap seems to be what the developer wants.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Memo to council, quit micro-managing.

Esch Park

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 10:57 a.m.

He is in default of his development agreement and this is another delay. With all the apartments being developed around town, I seriously doubt the additional 230 apartments in this project would lease up. Deny it and move on to a capable developer that can get this site developed.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:36 a.m.

Let's talk about this after the current place is torn down.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:47 a.m.

I think both versions look like the Meijer's on Jackson Rd at Zeeb. Not impressed.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:16 a.m.

Alpine Frost, Monterey Taupe and Evening Blue are impossible for "Street punks" to coordinate with "dollar store" graffiti paint!

P. J. Murphy

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:10 a.m.

A less than mediocre design slips into being downright ugly. It's hard to believe the real motive here is anything more than simple cost cutting. The timing, supposedly just prior to starting, is very suspicious. It reminds me of the classic "bait and switch" technique of disreputable vendors. As a constituent of Councilperson Teall, I salute her position and encourage further resistance to this odious maneuver. This location and the neighborhood deserve better. Replacing an existing eyesore with future eyesore is unacceptable.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 11:17 p.m.

And the invisible 4th ward councilperson has voiced her usual inaudible concerns on the Georgetown Mall eyesore. So can we just bulldoze it now? These clowns are never going to build anything reasonable there. Can we just quit kidding ourselves?

Ron Granger

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

This project seems to be on a multi-year downward spiral, and it does not bode well for the future prospects of completion and operation. In fact, I will be surprised if the next revision does not include a special permit request for outhouses.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

Ypsi will be leasing a 4.5 acre landfill site for $44k per year after a green builder spends $4M to build a 1.8 megawatt solar power station for DTE. The Georgetown site is over 9 acres. Gov. Snyder & co. are giving out a cool $1M brownfield gift plus $2M tax kickback to the developer for what looks like the a State Prison architectural style. Oddly, Teall is right this time - the new plan is pure junk. The previous approved plan was a little less than pure junk. Neither look anything like the nice U-shape 3 story brick courtyard that was depicted originally (see past articles). Personally I'd rather see some pine trees fencing in a solar station pumping out 3 1/2 megawatts of "green" power.

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

Isn't this the same wonderful group that has been choosing "art" for the outdoors around town?


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

These proposed changes are awful ..... go back to the original and find a way to make it work !

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

I think it's kind of Teall to delay this project in the hopes that maybe a new developer can be found who can provide less of a Disney experience. After all, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of private developers lining up to bring the renaissance to outbound Packard and vicinity - a place one of the largest private companies in the free world so lovingly abandoned years ago. Teall has a remarkable understanding of city aesthetics, and, I understand, was heard to comment that all she hoped for in life was to have a giant urinal erected in her front yard (not a Disney-style urinal, of course) just like the one in front of her workplace.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

If you want to know what the site will look like in a couple years head out to Telegraph Road in Oakland County and look at their ongoing project called Bloomfield Park.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

Just one more stalling technique. Perhaps the city should further investigate Schubner's history and reputation. He has left a bad taste in the mouths of many communities.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

Some of this may seem petty, but I am glad Council is finally putting its foot down on cheap bad architecture. I only wish they had found their voice sooner and done something about some of the the architectural garbage they have approved for downtown.

P. J. Murphy

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:23 a.m.

Unfortunately illustrations are only small depictions of the building sides. You can find a complete set at AAChronicle. These include the Front (East) elevation, and can be enlarged. What's happening is a dramatic change that makes the building look much cheaper. Balconies are eliminated, window treatments have been greatly simplified, brick replaced by cheaper materials. When a councilperson asked the developer's attorney if the changes were the result of "value engineering" and if the developer was "trying to save money" the gentleman replied, "Exactly.". You can see this for yourself by clicking on the "revisions to plans" link above and going to the video which begins at 2:07:40. It wasn't only Teall who could see that what was being proposed was significantly different, and less appealing than the original plan. Several echoed her concerns, nobody endorsed them, the vote to postpone approval was unanimous. The Mayor summed it up as a "dumbing down" of the original plan, and he was on target. Trying to portray this as simply a quibble about aesthetics is rank oversimplification. The developer committed to build one building, at the 11th hour he is trying to slide through something cheaper and far less attractive. The Council isn't making nit picking arguments about design here, they're protecting the city and it's neighborhoods.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.

"City Council isn't setting itself up as a design critic" Sure they are. She didn't say it wasn't approved because it strayed from the original plan, she said it wasn't approved "because I don't like it". How much more plain could it be?

P. J. Murphy

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:28 a.m.

2Wheels, You don't have to be a architectural connoisseur to see what's happening here. An approved design is being swapped out for something cheaper and uglier. Nobody will benefit from these proposed changes except the developer. Seriously, would you stand still for this kind of shabby behavior in a transaction? City Council isn't setting itself up as a design critic, they're simply insisting that a developer live up to his promises. It's their job, and I'm glad they are taking it seriously.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:05 a.m.

Like that funny feeling of getting fired if you don't do what the boss wants? I am pretty sure that most voters dislike the recent "architecture" popping up downtown. And around the periphery. In fact, not too many have openly declared tthat they actually "liked" any of it. Not even the professionals. No awards. Nothing.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:35 p.m.

So your solution is to let the City Council-who are neither professional artists nor professional architects-make those decisions based on nothing more than a feeling. Awesome.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

So you think that City Place and the horror on Huron are examples of great architecture? If so, we shall have to agree to disagree. The city is being destroyed because of developers who only seem to have the bottom line in mind; it is possible to make money building things that are not this bad!


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

Because the Council is made up of professional, qualified architects? No, I didn't think so. Reading an IKEA catalog doesn't make you a qualified judge of bad architecture. Even professional architects don't agree on what is bad architecture. Some even dislike Frank Lloyd Wright.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

This thing will never get built anyway. If it even gets to the stage of a hole in the ground, I would be astonished. If that even happens, I see the developers pleading "poor market conditions" and building a City Place type place and trying to throw students in there. Remember, it's all about the money.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

I hope you are wrong ... but it seems there is no such thing as failure around here-


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

If you really think micro-managing reasonably normal colors is part of your job description, then I am going to take pleasure in recruiting, contributing to, and volunteering for a pragmatic candidate to replace you. Get some perspective. Few colors are worse than the current state of that eyesore. Fast track this project and get on to the many other issues that need attention.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

What next, Margie? If I want to paint my house I'll have to get your approval on the color? Buy hey, it sure is aesthetically pleasing the way it is now.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

Yeah, kinda funny that this town prides itself on its diversity and supposed acceptance of others' ways of thinking. My arse.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

2wheelsgood, depending on where you live in A2, that is exactly the case. Some areas are very picky on house colors.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4 p.m.

It adds color and is more like you would see downtown with different buildings having different colors. While it may not be a classy looking, remember that renderings always look different than the end result.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

Judging from the looks of many new Ann Arbor buildings that have gone up with City Council approval in the past few years, these guys wouldn't know good-looking construction if the Chrysler Building magically replaced the Embassy Hotel across the street from the truly atrocious City Hall.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

The revision has all the charm and good taste of the departed but so very much beloved and lamented Halo around Michigan Stadium.