EDITORIAL: Former Borders store an important ingredient in downtown Ann Arbor's future
Steve Pepple | AnnArbor.com
AnnArbor.com reported that Hughes Properties, based in Bingham Farms, has acquired long-term rights to redevelop the two-story, 44,000-square-foot retail space at Liberty and Maynard.Hughes hasn’t indicated its plans for the property, which has been an anchor for East Liberty retail as far back as most people can remember, hosting two of downtown Ann Arbor’s more iconic businesses - Borders, and before that, Jacobson’s.
In a reader poll conducted by AnnArbor.com, we saw an array of preferences for the future use of the building. More than 1,000 people responded, and they were split among such options as a student high-rise, a national retailer, a full-service grocery store or a retail/restaurant mix. Some commenters called for another bookstore, and a few wished for a return of Jacobson’s.
The desire to retain or recapture what we’ve had in the past is human nature, but the vitality of downtown depends on being able to look toward the future. It’s been disconcerting to see several small, locally owned retail shops close on Liberty Street over the past year. Some have blamed lower foot traffic and concerns about parking or panhandling. We’re not myopic, but it’s easy to overstate such concerns, which have existed to varying degrees over time.
Overall, we see downtown evolving, not regressing. What happens to the former Borders building will be an important ingredient in the reshaping of Liberty Street. We hope to see some creative, forward-looking use of the property that can help solidify the retail environment on the street and continue to point downtown in the right direction for the future.
(This editorial reflects the opinion of the Editorial Board at AnnArbor.com.)