Former Borders Books building to welcome many new tenants

Marlene Lacasse/Daily
An Ann Arbor construction worker continues development on former Borders Bookstore Wednesday. The space will house five restaurants and two offices. Buy this photo

By Will Greenberg, Daily Staff Reporter
Published July 10, 2013

Though the building that housed Borders Books on East Liberty Street now features boarded-up windows and ongoing construction, the space will soon be home to several new restaurants and offices.

Five new restaurants will move into the first floor, while Prime Research and the University’s School of Information will occupy the second floor.

The 44,000 square-foot building is currently undergoing extensive interior and exterior renovations to accommodate the new tenants, including the addition of an entrance on Maynard Street and walls to divide the new businesses.

Brendan Cavender of Colliers International — the company representing the building owner — said construction would be completed in time for tenants to move in September.

5,296 square-feet of the property have been leased to Takashi Yagihashi, a chef who fuses Japanese and French cuisine and has owned and run multiple restaurants across the country. Yagihashi, who spent nine years in Ann Arbor, will open another location of the Slurping Turtle, a sit-down ramen restaurant based in Chicago.

Joining the Slurping Turtle will be Knight’s Steakhouse, which is opening its second Ann Arbor location. Owner and manager Don Knight said he looks forward to sharing the space with Yagihashi and other restaurants within the complex.

“(It’s) a win-win for both of us,” he said. “Think of the car industry: they put everything right next to each other and people tend to flock to places where there’s more options.”

The last three restaurants that will join Knight’s Steakhouse and the Slurping Turtle have yet to be named.

Prime Research, a strategic communication research firm, will take 20,000 square-feet on the second floor. Cavender said the area has become a popular location for technology companies as they are able to find a large pool of young talent coming out of the University.

Despite Prime Research predominantly operating remotely through the Internet and news, Julie Beach, senior accounting and human resources manager, said Ann Arbor was chosen as a strategic location for the business.

“Here at Prime Research, having a good education is important and so obviously having our business in a town that is located nearby the University of Michigan was one of the big pushes for us to originally choose Ann Arbor for our North American operation,” Beach said.

East Liberty Street has seen 10 businesses close in the last two years, raising the question of the viability of opening a business there. Cavender said he is not worried about these new businesses seeing success, as many of the recent closures were due to factors besides location.

“We track volumes of sales figures of all the other restaurants down there and all of them are very healthy,” Cavender said. “It was easy to blame Borders when they closed for the decline but in my opinion that’s not what closed these other businesses.”

Don Knight said he was enthusiastic about the location, as the area has been making a come back.

“More people are getting up there,” Knight said. “They don’t just stick to Main Street any more.”