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Posted on Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 6:20 p.m.

Georgetown Mall owner seeks to demolish shopping center, build $30M retail/apartment complex

By Paula Gardner


Developer Craig Schubiner of The Harbor Cos. of Bloomfield Hills talks with Dr. Joseph Meadows of Ann Arbor as they look at a video screen showing the rendering of Schubiner's plan for Georgetown Mall. The pair spoke after Monday's meeting for Georgetown residents at the Mallet's Creek branch of the Ann Arbor District Library.

Paula Gardner |

The owner of Georgetown Mall in Ann Arbor wants to redevelop the closed shopping center on Packard Road into a $30 million retail/apartment complex called Packard Square.

The site plan for the project should be submitted to the city of Ann Arbor within two weeks, Craig Schubiner told the crowd of about 100 residents Monday evening at a public meeting to unveil the proposal.

Schubiner showed renderings that displayed a U-shaped building about 20 feet from Packard Road, with about 20,000 square feet of retail space on the lower level and 230 apartments in the floors above. The total square footage is about 300,000.

If plans are approved this spring, Schubiner said he'd like to demolish the former shopping center and the offices behind it by the end of the summer.

The entire project is four stories, though renderings show the appearance of three from the Packard side due to the higher ceiling height of the retail space.

Schubiner also said he has a "financing invitation" for the project from Texas-based Greystone Co.

He and his development team — including attorney Bruce Measom and Anne Jamieson of AKT Peerless Environmental and Energy Services — fielded several questions from the audience in a meeting room at the Mallet's Creek branch of the Ann Arbor District Library as residents asked about building size, parking, timetables and viability.

At the end of the presentation, several in the audience applauded. Afterward, many neighbors seemed pleased that the vacant buildings would be demolished and a mixed-use plan would follow if the plans are approved.

"I think neighbors were genuinely pleased," said Mary Krasan, a nearby homeowner who organized a neighborhood group to monitor conditions of the property.

The plans "are such an improvement over nothing being there," said Debbie Grifka, who lives on nearby Esch Court. "I think it has the potential to be really great."

However, she added she has some concern about the density of the apartments and regrets that the changing grocery industry isn't building new, smaller store footprints in neighborhood centers.

In that climate, the project details as laid out by Schubiner "seem like reasonable options," she said.

Schubiner outlined the project's history, including an unanticipated delay in proceeding with a previous plan.

"We have been sitting with a vacant site, trying to figure out what to do with it," he said.

A recent market analysis indicated no market for for-sale housing in Ann Arbor and a limited market for new retail space.

"But there is a very strong market for rental apartments," he said. Part of the reason, he added, is that many units in Ann Arbor are older, leaving room for upgrades in the apartment stock.

The mix of units — all offered at market rate — would be 109 1-bedroom, 113 2-bedroom, and 8 3-bedroom apartments.

The retailers are likely to be a neighborhood service mix. Examples of the types of stores that could end up in the center: small market, coffee shop, pizza shop, card store, bike shop and beauty salon.

"We’d love your input on ... the types of retailers that you think would be good for the neighborhood," Schubiner told the crowd.

The retail space would surround a public square, with a small amount of park space and some benches, he added. Beyond the retail space, the apartments would surround a pool area.

Parking would be largely around the perimeter of the property, with a total of 450 spaces and some located under the basement of the apartments. A 15-foot buffer on the southern property line — where single-family homes back up to the mall area — would be added.

The design fits the city's new zoning, which encourages more density, height and mixed-use buildings, he said.

Responding to a skeptical question that the project will happen, Schubiner said, "I think this project’s going to get built."

The project's financing is contingent on city approvals of the site plan and also getting brownfield tax credit approvals.

Jamieson said a contamination plume on the property appears to be contained and is not generating groundwater contamination.

However, cleaning the site is a priority and the team is working with city, county and state officials to determine an action plan and get approvel to set up a tax capture to pay for the cleanup, she said.

Any increase in taxable value after construction would fund the cleanup, Jamieson said. After the cleanup costs are fully paid, the tax increases then shift to the regular taxing bodies.

The mall has been vacant since Kroger closed its store there in fall 2009, leaving neighbors and both city and county officials concerned about the condition and future of the property. Regular meetings have been held among those groups and the owner's representative.

In 2007, Schubiner — managing partner of mall owner Harbor Georgetown LLC — proposed a tear-down of the existing mall, which was to be replaced with 90,000 square feet of retail space in three buildings. That was approved by the city.

Then in 2008, he explored $30 million plans for a mixed-use redevelopment that was to include a 45,000-square-foot grocery, underground parking, small retail spaces and up to 150 apartments. Those plans included brownfield financing.

Meanwhile, back taxes owned on the 6.5-acre property must be paid before the project can proceed, Schubiner said. They totaled just more than $277,000 in late December.

"They have to be paid, and they will be paid," Schubiner said.

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by email. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.



Sat, Feb 12, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

I seriously hope that they construct retail spaces at road grade. Retail below road grade obviously did not work. In order for it to work they have to build some serious retaining walls, bring in massive fill or make the whole thing a swamp with a retail and residential on stilts and connect the backside of the adjacent neighborhood to Packard with an exemplary walking mall possibly in conjunction with a series of boardwalks. Bottom line, If you want occupancy, that place has to have some balls out focal points above grade.

Paper or Plastic

Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 8:43 a.m.

Who are the architect and engineer for the project?


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

@Speechless..your concern about financing gives me a new insight to this project. As thrilled as I am like the rest of the neigborhood with the prospect of something finally happening in Georgetown, I hate to be skeptical. Google Craig Schubiner's name and a few articles about his Bloomfield Park development shows an abandoned project which will cost the city of Pontiac $200 million to tear down. Lets just hope this won't be another unfinished Schubiner project where Ann Arbor will be left out of pocket the cost of giving him Brownfield financing and picking up someone else's mess. I don't know how Brownfield financing works but I sure hope the city will not be advancing money freely before the project is completed. Maybe an escrow account where funds can be scrutinized closely?


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

From further above: "... But then again, this is Ann Arbor.... There got to be something wrong with this proposal. How can the neighbours be happy? No one is happy with any sort of new development in Ann Arbor...." It's one thing to propose a replacement for a crumbling shopping mall that's now inhabited by tumbleweeds. It's another thing altogether, for instance, to suggest tearing down seven historic homes on a tree-lined street, or else constructing a gigantic box in their backyards. There's a world of difference. Meanwhile, It's my understanding that a complex like The Moravian could have gone forward without city council approval. Instead, the developers pushed for a larger project requiring a PUD process. Trying to maximize their payday via oversized development was more important than providing new student housing that fit in well with the surrounding residential zone. Around the same time, the city did approve the Near North project close to downtown. Unlike The Moravian, a series of meetings between neighbors and developers preceded the final decision, leading to compromises which modestly reduced the project's scope. That exemplified a far better process. The Zaragon II student complex sailed through its approval process. Other than a few worried campus slumlords, virtually no one complained or came to the defense of the vacant, abandoned bank branch. In regard to the latest Harbor/Schubiner development idea for Georgetown, the report above makes the overall proposal actually sound promising. The emphasis on apartment units makes much more sense than trying to rely on reviving a former commercial strip in a chronically depressed economy. I'd hope that nearby residents will be able to monitor how the financing is coming along, as well as further examine the particulars to assess whether or not the current version of the proposal tries to do too much on top of available space. It's a huge understatement to state that Schubiner's track record is poor; he needs to prove he can do radically better than in the past.

Dog Guy

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 4:37 p.m.

Quick! Paint out traffic lanes on Packard and add bike lanes for the residents of this proposal.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

Is there really a need for more apartments in Ann Arbor? I hope for the neighborhood homeowners' sake that the existing decrepit buildings are taken down soon, but with back taxes to be paid and cost of demolition, I don't see new construction happening any time soon. Also, the current state of the economy makes this all seem like a trial balloon to me, with the developers testing the waters of the community to see if the risk is worth taking. Ditto for the developers of the "boutique" hotel on Division.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 10:38 a.m.

In a world (or a place like Ann Arbor) where sustainability is championed, it is strange that a local grocery store shuts down forcing people to drive further to get basic needs of life. To live in an area where you can walk or bike to get what you need, priority one is access to groceries that you can walk to. Was the failure the management of the previous grocery store, or the concept of a grocery store?

John Q

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 10:11 a.m.

Can anyone point to one successful development by Mr. Schubiner? It sounds like a lot of people are putting a lot of faith into someone who to the best of my knowledge can't point to one successful project.

Bob Bethune

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 9:28 a.m.

I'm skeptical. This is the same management that let a perfectly viable shopping center go to the dogs through systematic mismanagement and failure to do ordinary maintenance and upgrades. According to former tenants and personal observation, they let the parking lot become a pothole jungle and never did any upgrades on the buildings. As their tenants moved out due to the deteriorating conditions, their response was to try to charge the remaining tenants higher rents! So, when they finally ran the whole thing dead into the ground and the last tenant left, what did they do? They left it empty for years while it deteriorated further and they "tried to figure out what to do with it." Is this the kind of management you want for a landlord? Is this the kind of management you want running a residential complex in your neighborhood? If this goes through, I predict the city will have a mini-slum on its hands within ten years.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 9:09 a.m.

Is there really a need for more apts there? I like the idea of retail but wonder if there's a market for more apartments...


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 9:05 a.m.

Good luck.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 8:54 a.m.

as a neighborhood resident I think this would be a great plan. i'd be happy to have these smaller shops in the neighborhood. though it does sound a lot like some of the types of stores we had before -- card shop, beauty parlor, etc. I hope that THIS plan is actually enacted.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 8:41 a.m.

As a long-time neighborhood resident, I'm pretty excited about the new plan and what sounds like solid financial backing. I think the plan was received well by the many attendees and I think the neighborhoods will be supportive. It's already a diverse housing area, so it seems like it would fit in well. Plus we'd love to have some convenient retail in the area again.

John Alan

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 7:01 a.m.

Seems like a decent and good plan. If the financing is there, the city should jump on it and get ride of that vacant area... But then again, this is Ann Arbor.... There got to be something wrong with this propsal. How can the neighbours be happy? No one is happy with any sort of new development in Ann Arbor.... What is happening here?

rusty shackelford

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 5:47 a.m.

Good to see a reasonable proposal met with reasonable support, rather than unreasonable kvetching. The harpies of the nonexistent "Germantown" could learn a thing or two.

Esch Park

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 4:57 a.m.

It was great to see such a big turnout at yesterday's meeting. Living in the neighborhood I welcome the proposed development. I too miss the Krogers right here in our neighborhood but we need to move on to other opportunities that will benefit our community. Adding 230 residential units along with this overall investment of $30 million will add economic demand to improve the retail buildings along Packard which will benefit our community.

John Q

Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 11:17 p.m.

Maybe he could work on his project in Pontiac first.

Matt Whale

Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 11:12 p.m.

@frozenhotchocolate There is a Packard Square in New York. @ummsw I agree with you. I want Krogers back.


Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 11:01 p.m.

@frozenhotchocolate No one's forcing you to live there, just like no one's forcing you to eat pizza. I bet they picked the name Packard Square for the "public square, with a small amount of park space and some benches" that is proposed for the center of the retail space.


Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

I would still prefer a grocery store like Busch's, basically what the had before just updated...As someone who lives in that neighborhood I really miss not having the convenience of a small shopping center.


Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

just what we need, more places ending with the word 'square.' the building is shaped like a u so why name it after a shape which it is not. so if i lived there and could not find a parking spot i would have to wait for some chick to get done with her facial at the beauty salon who is also into playing magic the gathering at the card shop next door when she finishes her beauty treatments. that makes no sense. they need to put a 24 hour arbys like they have on baker road there instead, that would make sense. and whats up with every strip mall in ann arbor having to have a pizza place. i am lactose intolerant and would never live directly above such a temptation.


Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

I think the salamanders from the old Gladstone pond across the street may have migrated to that property. There may also be a frog mouth turtle or two that needs to be considered before development begins.

Matt Whale

Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

@aamom Schubiner said their would be some grad students and some undergrads living in the apts. I'm thinking it will be half full of college age students. My personal opinion.


Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

Was there any mention of whether the apartments are targeted towards families or the "yuppie single" crowd? If they plan on 230 more families, I'm wondering what the impact will be on the local schools. I believe it would be Bryant/Pattengill and they already have a high percentage of at risk kids from the apartments currently in their attendance boundary. I hope someone in charge is considering the impact on the schools. I agree that I would love to see something built there but 230 apartments sure sounds like a lot.


Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 9:32 p.m.

Oh I'm sure the Ann arborites will find something drastically wrong with an idea that will revitalize an antiquated area. I'm sure it will be something like wheres the section 8 housing in it and where's the living roof and it's gonna change the view of the migrating geese when they cross king George blvd. Then the city will have to fund a study to see if it will screw up their flight path. oh all the things to consider to try and keep townies happy

Bob Martel

Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 8:38 p.m.

At $100 per square foot this project would appear to be economically feasible based on local rents for apartments and retail space. How refreshing!


Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

The proposal includes 450 parking spaces, according to Schubiner. Given that there will be 230 apt. units, some of which will be allotted 2 spaces each, I wonder if there will be enough spaces for the projected retail (think Whole Foods on Washtenaw parking). He said those spaces would be "shared"; that is, as the retail day is ending, the apt. owners will be returning from work. Hope that works out. Schubiner gave this web address for community members to offer their suggestions for retail interest (he mentioned a pipe shop!) and other suggestions for the development: