Georgetown Mall owner seeks to demolish shopping center, build $30M retail/apartment complex
Paula Gardner | AnnArbor.com
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.