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Posted on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 : 10:39 p.m.

Georgetown neighborhood association wants foreclosed mall demolished

By James Dickson

Tear down Georgetown Mall.

That was the consensus of members at tonight's annual meeting of the Georgetown of Ann Arbor Condominium Association. The vacant Georgetown Mall complex, which has been empty since Kroger closed its doors Sept. 12, has been in foreclosure since June 2008. Its lender, however, has delayed attempts by the county sheriff's department to auction the property.

Ann Arbor City Councilwoman Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, was the guest of honor and the sounding board for residents concerned that the dilapidated, abandoned mall will hurt their property values.

"I don't want this to become a white whale, like the Michigan Inn," said Jeannine Galetti, an association member. 

The Michigan Inn on Jackson Road, standing empty for years, was a target for vandals before being demolished by the city earlier this year.

Before and during the meeting, association members expressed concerns that Georgetown Mall could fall into similar disrepair. Already, the grassy knoll on Packard Street overlooking the mall area is overgrown with weeds and shrubs.

"But the Michigan Inn was a one-off," said Larry Horvath, the association's social chair. "It was one building off Jackson Road - not a complex that backs up into a neighborhood."

The 83,000-square-foot Georgetown Mall sits on six acres at Packard and Page roads. Becky Lyons, a community resident, said just five years ago, the mall contained a Kroger, a Rite-Aid, a U.S. Post Office, and two dry cleaners. She saw each one of them leave, one by one, until the facility was abandoned.

While association members had a variety of ideas about what should happen to the facility - some wanted a community garden, others wanted a redeveloped retail presence - they were united on one point: Georgetown Mall needs to be torn down as soon as possible.

"It's blight, and Ann Arbor can't be afford to be associated with blight," Horvath said. "That's heading into Detroit and Flint territory."

Higgins gave a short update on the condition of the empty facility. Aside from a broken window and some abandoned trailers behind Kroger, the Georgetown Mall remains relatively empty and quiet, patrolled by city police, especially at night.

Higgins laid out several short-term options for the property, including barricades and a chain-link fence. Police would prefer the chain-link fence not go up so the property can be accessed in case of emergencies. Residents didn't like either option.

Higgins said once a property has reached the foreclosure stage, its owners typically cut off all contact, leaving the city to maintain the property. The city's nuisance committee can ticket the property owner, Harbor Georgetown LLC, for failure to maintain the land. But fines likely mean little to a company that is $15 million in debt and $300,000 behind on its property taxes.

Higgins also made it clear any demolition wouldn't happen quickly. Whether by litigation or navigating the city's demolition process, it could take years to raze the facility - and even then it's unclear whether the city could recoup the expense.

When asked by residents whether the city requested that Harbor Georgetown to tear down the mall on its own accord, Higgins said she wasn't sure. Failing that, residents expressed a desire for the city to encourage Harbor Georgetown to be a "good citizen" and maintain the property as it seeks a buyer.

But residents won't have to rely on the city to convey that message. At the Oct. 5 Ann Arbor City Council meeting, Higgins plans to propose a resolution to form a citizens committee to discuss how the Georgetown Mall issue should be handled. 

That will give residents and stakeholders a voice in the process and, possibly, a chance to work with Harbor Georgetown to assure that the property doesn't become blighted, she said. 

James David Dickson reports on human interest stories for He can be reached at, or on Twitter at



Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 3:08 p.m.

What is the other side of Packard?


Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 11:58 a.m.

Clearly these people have never actually been to Detroit. Or quite possibly to the other side of Packard.


Mon, Sep 28, 2009 : 5:51 a.m.

In other places property like this is used for district courts. Maybe we could do this. I'm sure that city hall bureaucrats would soon find something else to do with the palace now being constructed downtown.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 1:32 p.m.

This should be a lesson to Ann Arbor's government. While retail is anxious to develop just outside of city limits, their anti-business attitude is so prevalent that businesses won't locate closer to their potential clients. Don't know what should be done. The property is obviously over-valued, or it would be bought. It's over-valued because any buyer knows he'll have to deal with Ann Arbor to rebuild. Good luck with that. It's sad. When that mall opened when I was a kid, that's where we went. I became a stamp collector because of Nick at Padare Lane.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 11:27 a.m.

When I lived near this property, I noticed that there was a spring "flow" throughout the Kroger parking lot. This seems like it might be an "artesian" : groundwater that flows UPWARD, usually pressured by "hills" (the higher level of Packard, in this instance). It might be important to CONFINE this flow somehow when MAKING PLANS FOR NEW USES OF THIS PROPERTY. An aside: when I lived on a court on Anderson, water appeared on the court corner. A few blocks east, there was a flow at the top of a rise on that street. Once I knew about 'artesians', I could recognize them in many places. In the "wild", they can sometimes be identified by the growth of skunk cabbage, a plant that likes 'water'. There is a "cabbage" patch ON A HILLl in Bird Hill Park. Pressure from surrounding hills will cause this upward flow. I find it interesting.

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 10:58 a.m.

"What exactly does Ms. Higgins expect to accomplish with this citizens' committee? Why doesn't she consult with the city's legal department before promising upset citizens a "real voice" that will be completely ineffectual?" She's running for reeletion in November....


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 10:47 a.m.

@GoBlueBeatOSU - I doubt WalMart would want to move into that space - it's within city limits. Most sane developers and retail giants don't want to bother with they crazy city government, they just go to the townships around the city.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 10:46 a.m.

Wal mart won't go there due to the plastci bag ban, Costco might be in the running for it though.

Mike Hulsebus

Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 10:26 a.m.

The place looks like it has for a last few years. I don't understand how suddenly taking the Kroger sign down makes the property suddenly unbearable to look at and spreading its greasy unkempt tendris across Georgetown. Let's get something in it, sure, but no need to get all outraged like a week after Kroger splits town. And yeah, I'd just like to echo that putting some sort of barrier around it would only make it look worse


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 10:18 a.m.

Please, please, please, for the sake of our neighborhood, its value and safety; do not let this building get in such disrepair that it becomes a hazard to our community. I shopped there and loved the Mall for years, but it has gotten progressively worse with each season. The property is un kept, the walkways and driveways are dangerous and it looks like to roof is going to collapse. It has so much potential, a garden, shops and deli's, a community center... all will come in time. The people in the live in the Georgetown neighborhood live there because we do talk to our neighbors, walk to the parks and go to the pool. This is the perfect environment for a great Georgetown Mall/Plaza to flourish - but for now, PLEASE KEEP OUR NEIGHBORHOOD SAFE! No red tape, collect the back taxes and tear down the mall!


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 9:53 a.m.

A great place for another Busch's...


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 9:27 a.m.

Maybe the association and other nearby neighbors could spend some of their efforts cleaning up the place.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 9:22 a.m.

Seize it for back taxes and then use it for a homeless/transnational shelter. Make the homeless people staying there maintain the grounds.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 8:02 a.m.

Kill two birds with one stone: seize it for the back tax value and sell it to the City Place crowd for $1 and let him have at it...


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 6:41 a.m.

It is already a blight in the neighborhood! The parking lot is very much in dis-repair. The back of the place looks like a war zone. If chain link will be used to block the entrances...that will even look worse. The city should do something with it....either recyle for a use or tear it down. Such a shame.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 6:36 a.m.

I wonder if the owner has any other properties in Washtenaw county. Maybe that could be used to leverage them into doing something. Protests and boycotts on those properties could get something happening.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 6:21 a.m.

And if you care about the economy of this country you won't spend one DIME at wal-mart.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 5:42 a.m.

"I Don't Need A Nanny" have a great idea there...the GT mall should go...but wouldn't that be a great spot for a new Walmart!!..I say build a Walmart! Speaking of which, the Pittsfield Walmart opens in about 5 days.....


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 2:51 a.m.

It's great a neighborhood association would like to tear down a piece of private property. I bet they'd also like to kick out the neighbors that might have old cars in their driveway, the grass is above 3" tall and shop at Wal-Mart. Fortunately, they don't have the power to do either of those things to the owners of the private property. Unfortunately, government does (even if through a drawn out process). I miss the old GT mall. I used to go there all the time as a kid, walking there from Page Ave. where I lived to go to Anthony's Pizza, quick shopping at Kroger, and I always went to Georgetown Cleaners. I was saddened when I drove through there after I moved away for a couple years (just came back to A2). However, it doesn't matter what a neighborhood association wants to do. It will be sold for back taxes unless the owner comes up with the money or sells it before that. These processes just take time to protect private property. Let's please not lose any more private property rights in this country in the name of expediency.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 2:43 a.m.

@JohnGalt - doesn't sound like something John Galt would say.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 12:15 a.m.

you know, it was an eyesore for years, well before krogers or other tenants left. send them a proposal that you'll forgive thier back taxes if they sign over the property? have they even done that yet? The place is probably full of mold and asbestos.


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 12:12 a.m.

At the Oct. 5 city council meeting, Higgins plans to propose a resolution to form a citizens committee to discuss how the Georgetown Mall issue should be handled. This will give residents and stakeholders a real voice in the process and, possibly, a chance to work with Harbor Georgetown to assure that the property doesn't become blighted, she said. She doesn't anticipate that the measure will have trouble passing.. If city council does pass such a resolution, it will waste its own time and the taxpayers' money. The city has no leverage over the owner of the property to force maintenance or demolition of the property. The owner is a bankrupt limited liability company. The lender has a mortgage on the only property owned by the company. The amount of the mortgage exceeds the value of the property. If and when the property is sold at sheriff's sale, all the proceeds will go to pay the bank and the overdue taxes. There's no money to pay fines for ordinance violations or for demolition. The bank has no legal obligation to maintain or demolish the building.. What exactly does Ms. Higgins expect to accomplish with this citizens' committee? Why doesn't she consult with the city's legal department before promising upset citizens a "real voice" that will be completely ineffectual?


Fri, Sep 25, 2009 : 12:11 a.m.

you know, I have a feeling someones going to pull an oops I dropped a match a al performance network/new ymca.

John Galt

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 : 11:59 p.m.

I drove by the property today, and it is already blighted. A real eyesore. The city should seize it for back taxes and demolish it. Until then, get the city to cut down the weeds and bushes growing across the property and add it to the property tax assessment.