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September 19, 2013
CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — Fresh investment turned the page this week on the vacant Borders Books building in the Village.

The 18,366-square-foot structure, empty for three years, is due to reopen next summer with the rear 55 percent as St. John Providence Health System medical offices.

The front 45 percent off Kercheval is reserved for up to three retail shops or similar businesses.

Richard Abbott, St. John director of corporate real estate design and construction, anticipates the $5.4 million facility attracting "substantial retailers."

To ensure that, he said he's retaining Mid-America Real Estate Group retail brokers to recruit tenants.

"We'll be very sensitive to the tenants and be careful in selecting them," Abbot said. "Who is there reflects on ourselves."

St. John is executing an option to buy the property, according to David Brooks, president of St. John Hospital and Medical Center.

Renovation is expected to start in 90 days and take six months, Abbott said.

A united City of Grosse Pointe Council approved the development Monday, Sept. 16.

"This is a textbook example of people cooperating to get a great result," said Mayor Dale Scrace.

"It will reset the bar and hopefully give some other landlords something to shoot for in terms of aesthetics and overall look and appeal of the Village," said Councilman Andrew Turnbull.

With council approval came conditions:

Because St. John is a tax-exempt entity, it must pay the city $66,000 annually to compensate for lost tax revenue.

Payments will be adjusted by the Michigan Tax Commission for inflation, said City Manager Peter Dame.

St. John must also pay the city $81,000 in lieu of meeting anticipated demand for nine additional parking spaces generated by the medical office use.

St. John must help the city buy a trash compactor being located behind the building;

urgent care services are forbidden and

hours of operation for medical offices can't exceed 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.

Health system officials retained Robert Wood, of the City, to redesign the building's bland facade into something of higher quality.

Wood chose European characteristics intended to outlive fads and complement a variety of retailers.

"The building's always going to look like it belongs in Grosse Pointe," Wood said. "This isn't something you're going to redo in five or 10 years because of a trendy design."

"It's a big step forward with the Borders building," said Councilman Chris Walsh. "It's going to bring improvement that's duly needed in that block."

Councilman Donald Parthum Jr. cast the lone "no" vote earlier this month against zoning changes that allowed medical offices in some Village buildings at the expense of retail space.

His "yes" vote this week for the Borders transformation was more procedural than supportive.

"I'm still against it," Parthum said.

He backed St. John "because they complied with the zoning ordinance," Parthum said. "We were voting on the aesthetics of the building. The aesthetics are fine. I have no say over what goes into it."

The Downtown Development Authority's marketing consultant, Edward Nakfoor, opposes medical offices in the Village.

He advised municipal leaders during recent months to reserve the Borders location for retail, even though retailers aren't willing to rent such a large space, said Jim Bellanca, it's landlord.

"The council has performed what it's elected to perform," said Scrace, a member of the DDA board. "The marketing consultant comes from a perspective of simply marketing. It's a different perspective than where we're coming from."

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