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Posted on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

University of Michigan to pay $1.5M for Blimpy Burger property and nearby building

By Kellie Woodhouse


Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger at 551 South Division Street in Ann Arbor.

Related article: Owner: Blimpy Burger must move as University of Michigan buys building

The University of Michigan is buying the property that houses Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger for $1.075 million, according to an internal U-M memo.

The agenda item for a U-M Board of Regents meeting confirms what a local business owner told last week— the iconic Blimpy Burger must find a new location if it is to remain open.


The properties that contains Blimpy Burger and two residential houses are owned by Patricia Shafer. She has agreed to sell them to the university for $1.5 million.

Joseph Tobianski |

The U-M memo said the Blimpy Burger property —which sits at the corner of South Division and Madison streets at Packard and includes a 776-square-foot apartment house and the 950-square-foot restaurant— has "no known historical significance."

The deal was brokered between U-M and building owner Patricia Shafer, the widow of Blimpy Burger's original founder, Jim Shafer.

An adjacent 2,434-square-foot building, at 545 S. Division St., also is owned by Shafer and being purchased by the university for $425,000.

Shafer will receive a total of $1.5 million for the two properties, which sit on a combined 0.27 acres of land. According to city records, the properties have an assessed value of $540,900, making the estimated market value about double that.

The Board of Regents will decide whether to approve the purchase of the 551 S. Division St. property, which has housed Blimpy Burger for nearly 60 years, and the 545 parcel during their monthly meeting on Dec. 13.

Thumbnail image for blimpyquint5.jpg

A Blimpy Burger cook prepares one of the restaurant's famous burgers.

Once a purchase price has been determined, it is common practice for the board to approve the purchase.

According to the memo, signed by the school's chief financial officer Timothy Slottow, U-M intends to finalize the two purchases "no later than December 31." The memo says that leases within the two buildings will be honored through August 31, 2013. After that date, "the premises will be vacated."

Blimpy Burger owner Rich Magner says he intends to find a new location for the restaurant.

"We will be trying to put a deal together," said Magner, adding that he hasn't begun looking for a new location. He said he wants to remain downtown near U-M's campus.

"There's no way I could counter the [university's] offer," Magner added.

Blimpy Burger, which usually is crowded at lunchtime and after sporting events, serves small burgers that customers can customize with extra meat and a range of toppings.

It has received national attention as one of the best burger joints in America via the Travel Channel, and it also was featured on Man V. Food.

Ann Arbor native Daniel Lord, 45, created the "Save Blimpy Burger" page on Friday after hearing the eatery will be moving after nearly 60 years on South Division Street. The page had more than 1,200 likes as of Monday afternoon.

Future U-M development?

The two properties are strategically located at the edge of U-M's central campus, between the school's existing West Quadrangle dormitory and Perry Building.


Customers order at Blimpy Burger.

The university owns a large parking lot adjacent to Blimpy Burger's building.

It currently is building a $29 million addition to its Institute for Social Research, just a block north of the site. The nearby 1,180-bed dormitory South Quadrangle will undergo a $60 million renovation starting in May.

The university has declined to comment on the purchases —U-M officials typically don't elaborate on major purchases until they are officially approved regents— and it is unclear whether pending purchases also are in the works for the four other buildings on the block as well as two adjacent buildings on East Madison Street.

"We wouldn't talk about future plans that haven't been approved by the Board of Regents." U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said, adding: "We wouldn't talk about potential property purchases."

Two of the buildings on South Division Street are owned by David Copi and managed by Copi Properties. Copi's son, Sam Copi, said at this point his father still owns the two buildings on South Division Street and has not entered into an agreement to sell to the university.

The four other buildings on the block, two on South Division and two on East Madison Street, are owned by South Division Street Properties LLC, a corporation registered to former University of Michigan athletics director William C. Martin. Those four properties are managed by Arch Realty. reporters Ben Freed and Lizzy Alfs contributed to this report.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


Arno B

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

Back in the days when the UM had just bought the newly-vacated Pfizer property we heard Sue Coleman crowing about about how much money would be "saved" now that the U could move out of several of its rental properties in the City. i haven't been aware of any of this going on. Post-Pfizer the UM moved into the north end of the First St. Argus building which I suppose serves some noble purpose. This Blimpy-area purchase is just more of the same. Oh well I guess it is only money. Just think - now we can have more space to offer "the brightest and most talented" to the University. I suppose that a bigger begging bowl is being prepared for the U to carry to Lansing and Washington looking for more handouts!


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.

Oh, no! Ann Arbor's Krazy Jim's of Blimpy Burger fame has to move!! Hah!! The article says it's "of no historical importance" -- my stomach still feels those Blimpy Burgers decades later -- that's historical for sure ! (I suppose moving means that they'll have to change the grease on the grills....that could really work to kill that old Blimpy gastronomic ambiance....) '70

Gene Alloway

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

While I too understand it was a deal too good to pass up for the owner, I do worry about a vibrant, unique, well-known and respected business being put in danger. I would hope Ms. Shafer might help the survival of her husband's former landmark business in some way, like giving them free rent if the deal goes thru (she'll have made her money from the U) to help them transition to a new location. Heck, maybe the U should even offer free legal help with the transition as well. A little largess from the deal making parties might help PR wise. Right now it looks like the small business owner getting squeezed out by landowner and large organization. If those two don't help, maybe a local property owner could help them out with a good affordable place near campus. The saddest thing is that one more part of unique Ann Arbor is under threat. State street is well on its way to being the highest priced strip mall in the state. Except for students it is hard to see why a resident should fight traffic and parking to visit the shops there when many if the same establishments are open elsewhere on the outskirts of the city.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

That's a whole lotta Blimpy's.

calvin hooper

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

the university can spend millinos of dollars on property but' they cant give the students a break on tuition way to go bord of regions. just have to love them


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:48 a.m.

Mrs. Shafer, enjoy the money! Your husband made a good investment for you. Blimpy will be fine. They will move and get a nice new space to work in. It is hard to update a kitchen while open for business. These save Blimpy people need to respect the current owner of BB who said he is willing to move with no hard feelings to Mrs. Shafer.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:16 a.m.

It's easy to offer far more than the market value when you know you'll never be paying taxes on it.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:20 a.m.

Amazing the U of M couldn't use property on North Campus which there is plenty of. Have to mess with a long time business. If I was dying, I don't want nothing to do with U of M. Let me die.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 3:45 a.m.

Blimpy's, come to downtown Ypsi. We will show you some love here. There is a perfect spot for you on Michigan Ave.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 3:12 a.m.

Interesting that the sale date is "no later than December 31st". I suspect it has something to do with the upcoming tax hikes. Seems like a lot of people are taking investment profits this month.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 1:09 a.m.

UM is not being a good steward of the public resources when they pay double the appraised value for property . What kind of operation can do that? There should be better accountability. I can't buy something that is priced at double what is is worth. Why should the UM be able to do that with the public's money???


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

a2girl, I was responding to MARK: "Why should the UM be able to do that with the public's money???" He wasn't talking about the tax rolls.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

Admiral -- The sale of the property directly effects Ann Arbor taxpayers by taking it off the tax rolls. While it is a drop in the bucket, it is the principle of the matter that is bothering taxpayers like me.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

They didn't use the public's money. They used their own money which is separate from the public's money.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

Do you know anything about property taxes Mark? The SEV is HALF of the market value on just about any property, even your own home (assuming you are an owner). They are paying the market value of the property.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 2:49 a.m.

I agree. Although your accounting is inaccurate (according to the article it is 1.5 times the value), I agree with your assessment. I believe that this transaction is an example of how the University operates in it's own world of finance without much, if any, thought to how their decisions effect Ann Arbor taxpayers (and those of the State). Agreed that without U of M, Ann Arbor would not be what it is today. However, the general attitude toward the public surrounding and supporting the University is sadly one of disrespect. Just look at the statistics for the increasing numbers of not just out of state, but international students. I am curious if the Institute for Social Research has done a study of financial contributions to U of M from international alumni. I hope that the master plan to include the volume of these students doesn't backfire. That would be a problem for all of us.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 12:48 a.m.

Attention....your tax dollars are working. UM is using your "tax dollars" to purchase "taxable property" of Ann Arbor to become "un-taxable" therefore destroying the city of Ann Arbor by depleating the revenue of the city. This takes money away from the city, schools, police, fire, etc....thus resulting in higher taxes, less families being able to afford to live in the city, higher living costs for everyone. Don't forget how this also increases the possibility that a stadium with outrageous noise levels will be built near you with fireworks at night with no additional or low pay to the firefighters, a parking lot, or maybe another gym with unlimited hours. If those Repubs in Lansing want to create more mischief why don't require Universities to pay 50% of the tax revenue of properties purchase in the last 10 years or 50% in taxes of their assets to the state/city where they have bldgs. instead of messing around with the unions, other public schools, teachers, state workers, abortions, tax deductions, emergency laws that twart democracy, and on and on..

John B

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

Land grabbing blood suckers


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Welcome to Ann Arbor and its UM College town. We invited them in in 1836. Almost 10 years after Allen and Rumsey founded the town. Maybe we should go after them?

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 12:32 a.m.

No outcry when the University of Michigan bought up most of Wall street back in the 70s and again in the late 90s to make room for the Kellogg Eye Center and parking. That was a historically African American neighborhood complete with a Baptist Church and numerous home dating back to the 1860s.! Just saying, some perspective would be good.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

Hopefully this report will give some closure to all those who have been impacted by this great loss of a local iconic restaurant.

music to my ear

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 9:16 p.m.

I too would sell 1.5 mil ,l she can live quite comfortable on that,you gotta do what you gotta do. its the name of the game,


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 12:57 a.m.

I was thinking the same thing. What can I do after the IRS gets its hand on its share. Retire?

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

$1.5 million would buy you 294,117 quints, tax and tip not included. That is 2.6 big burgers for each of the 114,925 Ann Arbor residents. I further estimate that if each of us eats 10 quints a month - that's just 2.5 a week - Blimpy could buy out the University in about 267 years.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

We always said Krazy Jim just cleaned out the grease traps every time he needed more burgers. Actually, the reason Blimpy made it on Triple D. Diners, Drive ins and Dives, was that they make all of their menu in-house. Hopefully Rich will find a cool place to go.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

If we all ate 2.5 quints/week, we'd make our cardiologist's very wealthy before we flatline in the OR.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

is that with cheese?

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

It's been a while since my last civics class, but I've always understood that in a democracy/aka free country, the owner of something is allowed to sell it to whatever buyer he/she chooses for whatever sum is offered. Now, do I understand than in Ann Arbor that right has been nullified? Would seem so from the catty, nasty comments.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

Ann Arbor is well aware that they owe most of their existing tax base to the University being in the city. Had they not bought the Pfizer building it would probably be sitting there dormant. But because they can use that space for research, especially the type of research that they are doing, it brings new business opportunities into AA through the Office of Technology Transfer. Also, university towns are always on the top of the "best places to live" lists every year (including Ann Arbor).People coming to live here increase the tax base not only by their own residential property taxes, but also by the businesses that move in to sell to those residents. Yes, it is sad to see BB have to sell, but at least they will be staying local.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

The only catty, nasty comments I see are directed towards the UofM, none toward Mrs. Shafer. In fact there are quite a few in support of Mrs. Shafer. No one's trying to take away any of her rights to sell. In my civics class I learned that speaking out about government abuses (such as a large state sponsored organization hurting the local tax base) is also something we're allowed to do in a free country.

ms 2013

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

do what u gotta do wish them all the best


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

Wait until they find out that the army core of engineers discover that the land has been saturated with grease and that it will take 700 years before they can develop the land ! hehehe

John bovia

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

A Another small business sucked up by the University of Michigan to further deplete the city of Ann Arbor's textbase


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

The U and cities "textbase" is just fine. I sent one minutes ago.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

I wonder how the newly elected Regent Mark Bernstein is going to vote on this issue. Is taking something that is cheaper than food away from the nearby dormitories for $1.5 million going to make education more affordable?


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

I'm very happy that Mrs. Blimpie received so much money, but the U-M should know that buying blimpie is sacrilegious.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 12:56 a.m.

She didn't. The owner did. Ms Blimpie needs to move by July or find a demolished building.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

The Ann Arbor Land Company was formed by greedy speculators to buy land and then make a profit reselling it. Many of the streets still bear their names. Betting their holdings would multiply in value when the State Capitol was chosen to be located here they gave away 40 acres to the University of Michigan to lure it into town and improve their future worth. Federal price for and original Anns Arbour acre - $1.25.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

Maybe one of the first projects of that new U of M "Social Research" center might entail the discussion of how public institutions, specifically universities, displace and affect the community in areas of property taxes, competition, real estate values, small business development, and city services.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

[jns131] Blimpy Burger...charm? I think even the owner would find that amusing.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

I think we also need to include City Council and why AAPS is not downsizing Balais. Sad to Ann Arbors charm go by the way side.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

Well played snapshot. Well played indeed.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

Or how none of the above would exist without the University.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

Thats a huge chunk of change for those two properties and presumably a tidy profit for the seller. I don't fault Ms. Shafer one iota for selling them off.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

Now that what is happening is happening, I just hope they find a good location for new BB. I'm as sentimental as the next, but if they find a better location, I won't be shedding any tears. It's all about them staying close and continuing to provide greatness. I believe BB will be just fine, and continue to be fine eventually.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

why flip burgers when you have $1.5M in your pocket? Get out of Ann Arbor and hit a beach.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

I called it last week. I said they'd offer at least 2 times what the assesed value was. And that's what they did. Not many of us could refuse an offer like that. Although, it would be quite the stand if the owner of the property would have given a metaphorical 'bird' to UofM and said no.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:40 p.m.

"According to city records, the properties have an assessed value of $540,900, making the estimated market value about double that. " That's how it works, you didn't call anything except the obvious.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:10 p.m.

Even better if the owner yelled it....."I DON'T NEED YOUR OFFER YET!!!!!"


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

"making the estimated market value about double that" More like triple that. Anyway, when you order you must quint that


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

Earning a lot of good will in the community there U of M. Nice.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

Must be nice to "spend" money carelessly when it's not yours.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

It really isn't a public belongs to the "populace"...but just another large chunk of tax revenue lost...oh well...


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

"Carelessly" is a careless assertion.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

it IS theirs

Elijah Shalis

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

no known historical significance? Something is wrong with U of M.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

Have to remember this, UM and City Council got rid of two areas that did have historical and guess what? They didn't care. I saw 8 homes that can be given up for Social Research. BTW what is social research anyways?