Developer Working to Bring Walgreens to Former Borders Location
City Manager Bob Bruner said the city is looking for more dense development in the Triangle District, but this is the first applicant interested in the building since Borders closed in mid-September.
In what City Manager Bob Bruner is calling a quick turnaround, Walgreens has expressed interest in moving into the former Borders location on Woodward Avenue — a plan that potentially could fill a space that's remained vacant for less than two months.
Late last month, the drugstore chain signed a letter of intent with the building's landlord regarding that space, Bruner said. He said he and city staff met Oct. 28 with a local developer and architect interested in transforming the space.
Bruner said the landlord has plans to make the first floor retail while installing corporate offices on the second floor.
The building at 34300 Woodward Ave. has been empty since Sept. 12, when the Ann Arbor-based Borders finally closed its Birmingham store as part of its bankruptcy and liquidation proceedings.
The architect's plans call for a drive-thru window for the pharmacy in the back, Bruner said, in addition to a new entrance facing Woodward.
This isn't the first time Walgreens has expressed an interest in Birmingham. According to the Bruner, the drugstore was in the process of moving into the first floor of a new hotel that was to occupy the former Barclay Inn site a few years ago, but the deal fell apart.
Bruner said that despite Borders' dramatic bankruptcy and closure, he wasn't worried about the site remaining empty for long.
"Given the state of the economy, I'd call this a relatively quick turnaround," he said. "I thought it would get snatched up rather quickly because it has a prime location on Woodward in Birmingham."
Bruner said Walgreens is the first interested applicant, to his knowledge, looking to move into the old Borders location.
If Walgreens moves into Birmingham, it will have some competition. Sav-On Birmingham Drugs sits on the other side of Woodward Avenue half a mile down the road, while CVS has a home on South Old Woodward Avenue.
Bruner said it's not up to the city to decide what kind of businesses go where. He said he has received emails from residents urging that another bookstore should move into the old Borders space. However, a drugstore and bookstore fall under the same definition of retail — a permitted use in the Triangle District, where the building is located.
"Whether or not Birmingham needs another drugstore, I don't know," he said. "Do we need another salon? Do we need another anything?"
Bruner said the developer could potentially apply to the Planning Board for a final site plan review by December or early next year.
In an ideal world, though, he said the city is looking to develop the Triangle District more densely, featuring more tall, multiuse buildings.
"In our ideal world, the zoning has changed there so that they could now build a taller building," he said. "But that's not realistic right now."
In fact, Bruner said the old Borders building is probably the best location for a Walgreens to move into Birmingham, and he's happy someone is willing to put the building back into active use.
"It's not like they have to tear it down and start over," he said. "It's about the best we can do right now."