County-led project prepares for shopping complex opening

By Ashwini Natarajan, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 18, 2013

This summer, there's a new reason for shoppers all over campus to rejoice.

The upscale Arbor Hills shopping center is expected to open on Aug. 22. It will be located on Washtenaw Avenue between Huron Parkway and Platt Road, directly across from Whole Foods southeast of campus. Twenty-three storefronts will open in the 90,700 square-foot shopping center, including clothing stores such as Anthropologie, Madewell and Lululemon Athletica, as well as many local purveyors such as Glassbox Coffee and Running Fit. Local eateries Café Zola and Pizzeria Biga, among others, will also join the shopping center.

The shopping complex will consist of a series of four buildings, aiming to embody a “downtown” atmosphere.

Tom Stegeman, development manager for Ann Arbor’s Campus Realty and and a partner in the project, said the shopping complex strives to appeal to Ann Arbor locals while also incorporating larger brand retailers.

“Ann Arbor is a unique market, and we definitely want a have a nice combination of national tenants and local tenants who understand Ann Arbor,” Stegeman said.

Project partner Max Reiswerg, principal of Chicago’s North Shore Properties Group, said he hopes that the shopping complex will attract customers with its unique layout that emphasizes trademark features of each store.

“We’re giving the retailers the freedom to do whatever they want on their storefront, like here in Chicago, Lincoln Park, downtown Birmingham, SoHo in New York,” Reiswerg said. “We want the retailers to express themselves.”

Instead of having a parking lot in front of the storefronts, the storefronts themselves will be along the Washtenaw Avenue sidewalk.

Arbor Hills is being constructed in conjunction with the ReImagine Washtenaw Initiative, a Washtenaw County-led project that aims to reinvigorate the area, making it more diverse, more sustainable and better for mass transit.

Nathan Voght, the ReImagine Washtenaw Initiative project manager, said making the shopper center corridor easy to navigate on foot is a key priority.

“We want to make a walkable, more attractive, more functional corridor for all users,” Voght said. “This will definitely help in setting the tone for the corridor in terms of creating a more interesting and walkable commercial environment.”

Although Ann Arbor’s Briarwood Mall is a popular choice for shoppers, Reiswerg said Arbor Hills will not compete with the mall due to fundamental differences in shopper demographics. He emphasized that Arbor Hills favors local Ann Arbor retailers, while Briarwood features large chain retailers.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily competition,” Reiswerg said. “We’re just a different type of shopper.”

LSA senior Emily Schwessinger is looking forward to having the retailers Arbor Hills provides close by.

“I think it would be nice to have those stores locally,” she said. “I think Madewell is relatively new on the scene in Michigan, so I think that would be cool to have around.”

Engineering junior Alec Elsen said Arbor Hills will attract a larger demographic from the greater Ann Arbor area rather than students from the University.

“I don’t think it’ll impact students a ton,” he said. “People who live and work in Ann Arbor will visit there more often — not sure how many students will shop there.”