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A2 Real Estate: This Post-Borders Town Fills Three Big Boxes

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This post was authored by Daniel Feinglos.

Greetings from exotic Ann Arbor, whose major exports include football, college graduates, and sandwiches. Home to a university that fled Detroit over a century before that was the cool thing to do, Ann Arbor also proudly hosts the headquarters of Domino’s Pizza, a major Google AdWords office, and fairy doors. To improve our coverage of Metro Detroit’s resident college town, Curbed is starting up the weekly(ish) Ann Arbor Report, a compilation of development news from Ann Arbor and parts nearby. In a city awash in proposals for new parks, retail, and high-rise residential, we hope we can help Curbed readers keep track of what’s what.
In A2, it would seem new development is not afraid of the ashes of a defunct big-box book retailer. Borders, an Ann-Arbor based chain, went bankrupt in 2011. But just this spring, all three of the former hometown bookseller’s local stores are host to a level of excitement they haven’t seen since the release of the last Harry Potter. At the onetime flagship store on East Liberty [top], the developer of the Landmark student high-rise has acquired development rights for the 44,000 square foot retail portion of the space, which had been subject to a months-long ownership dispute after Borders’ bankruptcy. No plans as of yet, but stay tuned. []

At the area’s other two former Borders, specific plans are already underway. For those who enjoy random closeout sales with their big box purchases, the store in the Waters Place shopping center on Lohr Road in Pittsfield Township is set to be replaced by the nationally famous purveyor of random stuff, Big Lots. []

Not to be outdone, Arborland’s Borders vacancy will be getting its own discount store: the space will be subdivided between the discounter Five Below (targeted at teens) and an Ulta cosmetics store (Ann Arbor’s second). []

A Mall down, a Menards up, and an Old Navy partially scuttled. >>

The long-in-the-works Packard Square project has received a million dollar grant towards the demolition of the old Georgetown Mall. The grant was awarded on the condition that the developer show how the project would be financed within 120 days, so there should be more details by early fall. []

The Scio Township Menards is moving along. The township's planning commission unanimously recommended a rezoning to allow a big box hardware store at the intersection of Jackson and Staebler Roads, and the decision now goes to the Board of Trustees. The planned store is part of a major expansion for the Wisconsin-based chain, which is opening two other Metro Detroit locations in Warren and Livonia. []

National downsizing has led to Old Navy taking up less space at Arborland, with a new 6,000 square foot parcel being created out of the old one. According to, Arborland’s owner is hoping for a soft goods (as opposed to durable goods) company to fill the space. []

So there you have it. Over in Ann Arbor, bookstores are the new defunct auto plants. Maybe if Detroiters had had Big Lots around in the 1950s, the Packard Plant might be a little prettier today. Thanks for taking this short trip down I-94 with us, and let us know what you thought.

· Deal signed for redevelopment of downtown Ann Arbor's ex-Borders store []
· New retailer will move into ex-Borders store near Ann Arbor []
· Two retail tenants sign deals to open in Arborland's former Borders store []
· $1M state grant will fund demolition of blighted Georgetown Mall property in Ann Arbor []
· Menards store: Planners approve rezoning request for Scio Township store []
· Arborland's Old Navy downsizes, creating room for new retailer in shopping center[]