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