By K.C. Wassman, Daily News Editor
Published January 22, 2013
Upon completion of a major remodel, the former, original Borders store on East Liberty Street will once again have tenants.
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Brendan Cavender, a real-estate broker at Colliers International, said the space is being renovated to fit retail shops and restaurants on the ground floor and offices on the second floor.
The construction, which started in late November, is expected to be completed this summer and will include between five and seven new storefronts on the East Liberty side of the building, Cavender said.
“Right now what’s happening is the landlord is demo-ing out the whole building,” Cavender said. “They have plans to do major upgrades on the outside and completely update and redo the interior.”
The space is being developed by Hughes Properties, which took control of the building in June 2012. Ron Hughes, the company's executive, said they have had many businesses express interest in the property, and he hopes to have tenants move in by the middle of 2013.
“We’ve had tremendous response for leasing the building,” Hughes said. “We have in various stages, about 80 percent of the building pre-leased.”
Cavender said Colliers is in “final negotiations” with multiple businesses, but couldn't disclose the names of the potential tenants. He added that they hope to have a mix of local and national businesses in the space.
Rich Bellas, board president of the State Street Area Association, said he hopes the new businesses will help the other local shops more than Borders helped in its final years.
“Borders was great in its heyday, but of course over the last few years — even before their demise — they had steadily gone downhill,” Bellas said. “We’re just glad to have that space filled.”
Sean Havera, senior project manager at Hughes Properties, said the initial construction is going well so far, and they hope to start phase two of the demolition in the coming weeks.
“Everything is going smoothly,” he said.
Havera, who last worked on the Landmark apartment building with Hughes Properties, said they are keeping the original façade but added windows, multiple entryways and updated fixtures in order to change the look of the building.
Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, wrote in an e-mail interview that she thinks the breaking up of the building into smaller business spaces is a wise decision in the present economic climate.
“The continuing evolution of downtown appears to indicate that the marketplace right now can support smaller store-front sizes than we had previously,” Pollay wrote.
Bellas said the construction workers downtown have been supporting current businesses already, and he hopes the trend will continue once the new tenants move in.
“Having workers here every day is very important to the neighborhood,” Bellas said. “Having people shop and eat where they live and where they work — to have that number of people here on a daily basis, just benefits everybody.”
Pollay is glad such an important downtown building will be filled again.
“It is a terrific thing to see the former Borders building filled with tenants, as it has been an anchor location for the neighborhood for more than 40 years,” Pollay wrote. “Downtown is at its heart a commercial district, and it’s great to see new businesses moving into the building.”
Follow K.C. Wassman on Twitter at @kcwassman
Correction Appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Hughes Properties owned the building on East Liberty.