Bid planned for 16.7-acre lot on S. State Street

By Jennifer Calfas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 2, 2013

The University has plans to purchase a 16.7-acre property at 2500 South State St. previously owned by the Edwards Brothers Malloy printing for $12.8 million.

Edwards Brothers, a 120-year-old company, has used the 185,000-square-foot facility as a manufacturing plant. The company is the fifth-largest book and journal manufacturer in the country and has more than $100 million in annual sales.

The company plans to merge the State Street plant with its other Ann Arbor location, an 180,000-square-foot plant on Jackson Road. Edwards Brothers announced the State Street plant’s closure in July.

The property is located one mile from the University’s athletics facilities on South Campus and sits near a University commuter lot.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the property is in a key location for the University, as it is surrounded by the Athletics Campus and other University buildings.

“When strategic pieces of property like this become available, it makes good sense for the University to pursue properties that would be in such strategic locations,” Fitzgerald said.

Since the purchase has not yet been finalized, Fitzgerald said it is too early for him to disclose what the University might use the building for.

The purchase must be approved by the University’s Board of Regents before it is finalized. Additionally, Edwards Brothers approved a right of first refusal from the Ann Arbor City Council, or the right for the city to be able to purchase the building before any other party. The city could purchase the property within a 60-day period of the agreement between the company and the University.

The city would have to match the University’s offer on the property. While the company made this agreement with the city, Fitzgerald said Edwards Brothers also approached the University about purchasing the property.

If the University does purchase the property, the city won't be able to collect property taxes on the large plot of land. Past land purchases by the administration have brought criticism from city officials, who are concerned that the city is losing significant amounts of tax revenue. The city's request for right of first refusal may be an attempt to prevent the University from taking the land off the tax rolls.

John Edwards, president and CEO of Edward Brothers, said in a statement that he is pleased with the deal.

“It helps us protect jobs, stay here in Washtenaw County and be competitive in a very difficult industry,” Edwards said.

Edwards’s grandfather built the State Street plant in the 1950s, so leaving the plant has been a difficult task.

“Moving out of here will not be an easy thing for me to do, but it is the right move for our company,” Edwards said.

As part of an effort to improve and enhance the Athletics Campus, the Board of Regents approved a $6 million construction project to create a new building to centralize its operations on the Athletic Campus. Moreover, the Athletics Campus will undergo a slew of renovations over the next few years, including 16 improvement projects.