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Posted on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 6:01 a.m.

Georgetown Mall owner objects to someone else's Ann Arbor development

By Paula Gardner

Who wouldn't oppose a "detriment to the neighborhood?"

But if you're making that claim to keep someone from developing their property, it stands to reason that you might be doing your own part to keep your own property - say a mall on 6.57 acres - from becoming a vacant, neighborhood eyesore.

And that's why I had to do a double-take when I saw that Craig Schubiner, owner of Georgetown Mall in Ann Arbor, filed a letter with the city to oppose the expansion of Casa Dominick's.

Dominick's - home of the closest bar to both the University of Michigan Law School and Business School and favored local sangria-server - just got City Council approval to cluster several neighboring lots into a single parcel that will let the owners expand uses on the site. One of the first, owner Richard DeVarti said recently, could be more retail.

The council notices look routine enough, and the measure passed easily during the Oct. 19 vote.

But among the public documents associated with the approval stands one letter opposing the project.

That letter is from Schubiner, on his Harbor Companies letterhead, stating his opposition to the Dominick's move under the bold, underlined header: "OBJECTION."

Apparently, having Dominick's close to his four-bedroom rental house at 702 Tappan can be an imposition. It gets noisy. And patrons wander into the backyard.

So Schubiner, from his Bloomfield Hills office, took issue and fired off the letter, saying "We OBJECT to the increased density and the ... rezoning request."

He's owned the house since 1991, according to city records, and he's current on the taxes.

Which brings me to the ironic part of the letter: Schubiner's Georgetown Mall is in foreclosure, has been three years behind on taxes and is now vacant, thanks to September's move-out by Kroger.

So while he's complaining about a local business expanding into properties that business has owned and operated for years, Schubiner also has ties to one of the biggest vacant eyesores in Ann Arbor. He's owned Georgetown Mall, located on Packard in the Georgetown neighborhood, since 2001.

The neighbors next to Georgetown Mall get to worry about 85,000 square feet of vacant mall in their backyard. Some of it has little visibility from Packard, making it not just an eyesore but also a potential magnet for vagrants. They're wondering if the buildings will be left to rot, since Schubiner didn't pay taxes on the property (it looks like the bank has started to write those checks) and likely isn't prepared to pay for routine maintenance.

And many have expressed concerns that even if he's fined, he may not be collectible, and then the city would have to pursue lengthy and expensive means to keep the building from becoming a long-term hazard for the city, ala the former Michigan Inn.

Georgetown Mall could be a serious concern for the city - not just neighbors - for years, thanks to its lack of marketability in the current downturn. And also thanks to how it was overpriced by Schubiner for years, destroying the potential for any deal even when financing was available.

So it's interesting to see Schubiner seek a voice in the city processes. He didn't return my call for comment. And he hasn't talked about Georgetown on the record in some time, since he tried to lauch his own redevelopment of the property.

But at least he cares about whether the city is looking out for neighbors.

Paula Gardner is Business Director for Email her, call her at (734) 623-2586 or follow her on Twitter. Sign up for the weekly Business Review email here.


Paula Gardner

Mon, Nov 2, 2009 : 6:52 a.m.

There's an article in today's Crain's Detroit Business about Schubiner suing the developers who took over the Bloomfield Park project:

Ron Torrella

Sun, Nov 1, 2009 : 10:58 p.m.

Instead of pontificating, Craig Schubiner et al should JUST CLAM UP AND PAY THEIR TAXES. Carp about others when you've got your own house in order, you hypocrite.

Paula Gardner

Fri, Oct 30, 2009 : 12:41 p.m.

I also want to offer some clarification on the phrase "in foreclosure" Harbor Georgetown LLC has been a part of two different foreclosure tracks since 2008. The first was a filing by its lender in 2008 that meant the property "entered foreclosure" when the bank started proceedings against Harbor Georgetown by posting its intent to foreclose. Several postings are required before there's a sheriff's sale, and the lender did not proceed to a sheriff's sale. At the time, the owner owed $15.1 million at a 20 percent interest rate to lender to Compass USA SPE LLC - on an original $8.8 million loan. While that foreclosure did not proceed, there are no public filings to indicate the outcome of that - the loan may have been modified, the partnership ownership stakes may have shifted and the outstanding balance may have been written down as a loss, among the options. We simply don't know based on public record. The second foreclosure track involves forfeiture due to back taxes. The Washtenaw County treasurer's records indicate that $638,429.16 are owed as of today in taxes, interest and penalties. Taxes for 2006 are unpaid, and the owners have received a deadline extension before the property goes to a tax sale (it would have been on the list this year). 2007 taxes are unpaid and in forfeiture, and that also would prompt a tax foreclosure if unpaid (or not extended) by March 31, 2010. 2008 taxes are delinquent. And a payment was made in February.

Paula Gardner

Fri, Oct 30, 2009 : 12:30 p.m.

I received an email from Craig Schubiner today giving his reaction to this. We agreed by email that I would post it. It follows here: The media should seek to inform, not mislead. Inaccuracies and mischaracterizations in your articles regarding the Georgetown Mall create damaging rumors that impact the property, the City and the neighborhood. I am away from the office and received no message from you until after your story was released. Just because your call was not returned on a moments notice does not give you the right to manipulate public opinion with false statements regarding how the mall was "overpriced", the bank has started to write checks or the property is in foreclosure. Unless you are a licensed appraiser who has completed recently a comprehensive market analysis, you lack the knowledge to assess whether any asking rates are at market levels; and, no bank has written any checks as you suggest and the property is not in foreclosure. We are fully aware of the issues associated with a vacant property and have been communicating frequently with the City. While Kroger only closed last month and still has not fully vacated, we have already begun regularly scheduled meetings with the Citys fire, police, planning and other departments to discuss and deal with any issues. We have even given the police department keys for their canine unit training. The Mall was tired and dated prior to our ownership. The purpose of the acquisition was and continues to be to create a thoughtful new development. For the better part of a decade, with the leases of former anchor tenants, Kroger and Rite-Aid, set to expire, we had hundreds of interactions with their real estate representatives to include their stores in a new center that meets the goals of the City, the neighbors and the retailers. The Citys pending ordinance changes prohibit Kroger's desired plan with a large parking field in front and Rite-Aid chose to move to a nearby corner. In the end, it seems that Krogers market analysis did not warrant a new store in any configuration. The pending zoning ordinance changes may be wise but they also generate some paralysis as the rules of the game may change midway through the approval process. Plan preparation and application fees cost more than $100,000 each time we have met with the neighbors and the City regarding potential site plans. Given the current economic environment and the zoning in flux, we plan to seek again the Citys and neighbors input on a new concept as soon as it is warranted. Just because one site is a challenge does not mean that I lose my constitutional right to free speech, and to object to another project that could have a detrimental effect on another investment in the City. In fact, my objection was to keep that investment from becoming the very sort of blight of which you are concerned. If you would have researched the matter, you would have discovered that the Tappan property is completely surrounded by the Dominicks PUD on all sides except the street. If this house is subjected to increasingly loud bar noise and even more late night drunks trespassing on this private property, then the rights of the residential tenants to a peaceful occupancy will be denied. If someone were to propose a noisy bar surrounding your residence and ask for special zoning to do it, I doubt youd stand idle. The public relies on reporters like you to do their homework and report the facts. The sensationalism and misrepresentations in your article poison public opinion and will only serve to slow redevelopment - the shared goal of the City, the neighbors and ownership.

Go Blue

Fri, Oct 30, 2009 : 11 a.m.

Huh? So, he's upset because his RENTAL house (and it has been rental property for what, 35 or so years in an area that is primarily student rentals?) that looks like low end housing, will experience more noise - he doesn't even live there - students do and they do party! Property was purchased as income one would assume, with everything existing then as it does now, but now he is surprised? Were there complaints about the upheaval and noise when Bus Ad was being torn down and new construction going up and all that noise and chaos? Hmmm, thought not. Maybe the concern could be re-directed to the blight on Packard Road. As to Dominick's, the original PUD was passed years ago, it is public knowledge and not like some big hidden secret. Dominick's does a lot of giving back to the community as a local business and unfortunately we can't say that about all business entities.

The Picker

Fri, Oct 30, 2009 : 7:28 a.m.

Paula, This is your opinion! You should have commented on your own article, after you had written it with journalistic integrity, Just the facts, Please

Pete Bigelow

Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 1:27 p.m.

A comment has been removed from this thread because it contained a personal attack.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 12:36 p.m.

We did add "column" to the headline in late morning to clarify. It's also marked as a column in the Business Review newsletter, which went out this morning.


Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 12:02 p.m.

he has every right to treat this as a seprate event. rake him over the coals about the mall but he has a right to protect his rental and it realy has nothing to do with the mall.


Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 10:37 a.m.

The grass next to the street at Georgetown mall wasn't being cut after Kroger moved out. I hope they have finally fixed that.


Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 9:34 a.m.

Is this a news article or an opinion piece? To me, it reads as an op-ed but is not listed as such.


Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 8:05 a.m.

Is it any wonder that the general public is usually skeptical of developers and their grandiose plans? Shubiner seems to to fulfill the low expectations of both the stereotypical slumlord and the forked tongue developer. One of the good outcomes of this down economy is the weeding out of some of these people.


Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 8:04 a.m.

Couple of comments: First, shouldn't this piece be labeled an opinion piece, or a column, or whatever? No comments from the individuals mentioned in the piece either. Were they interviewed? Second, what the heck is the City up to with approving a PUD rezoning for Dominicks with absolutely no idea of what they intend to do with the site? I thought PUDs were project specific? None of the above is intended to defend this Georgetown guy, but if I was a neighbor of Dominick's, I would want to know how the City is justifying a rezoning to PUD without a site plan and PUD agreement in place. PUDs are supposed to only be granted for special circumstances as a way of achieving something innovative with respect to new development. Because PUDs entitle a developer to bypass underlying zoning, and thereby increase the income potential for a specific site, they are supposed to be tied to a substantial public benefit. Where is the site plan? Where is the public benefit? Where is the innovation? Where is the project that the site has been rezoned to accommodate? I don't get it. Is this a new strategy for development (separating the rezoning from the site plan) that will somehow make it easier to get the project through the approval process? What ward is this in?


Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 7:41 a.m.

Let's call Mr. Schubiner what he is, "A Bloomfield Hills Carpetbagger." His Harbor Company letterhead isn't worth the paper its printed on.

Chelsea Larry

Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 7:26 a.m.

The ultimate A2 NIMBY!


Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 7:13 a.m.



Thu, Oct 29, 2009 : 6:24 a.m.

"say an 6.57-acre mall" say A 6.57-acre mall?