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January 30, 2014
CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — Dividing the vacant, 30,000-square-foot former Ace Hardware building into numerous small retail and commercial spaces is more than a field of dreams.

“The function of what we’re trying to is ‘if we build it, they will come,’” said Jim Bellanca, a representative of the building’s owner. “I’m pretty sure I have 7,000 square feet leased.”

Leading off in Bellanca’s lineup is Calico Corners, a fabric and furnishings store.

The retail shop is the first tenant listed for the building to be renovated at the corner of Kercheval and St. Clair in the downtown Village district of the City of Grosse Pointe.

“This month represents the 16th month since we began the process of attempting to repurpose the building vacated by Ace Hardware in January of 2013,” Bellanca said.

He was unable to fill the space in one swoop with a single, large occupant.

“We couldn’t find the right big box to fit,” Bellanca said. “In the end, we have chosen to repurpose the building for potentially as many as 10 to 12 retail and commercial users.”

A unanimous city council approved Bellanca’s site plan on Monday, Jan. 27.

“It’s a substantial improvement to what’s there,” said Councilwoman Jean Wiepert.

The plan includes new facades of brick or stone veneer featuring picture windows, a series of distinctly different entrances and variable roof lines along Kercheval and St. Clair.

Designers intend to add variety and interest to a humdrum structure.

“We are going to invest a considerable amount of money to create this facade in hopes of finding tenants,” Bellanca said.

“The huge benefit of this is the St. Clair facade which now is a blank facade,” said John Jackson, senior vice president of McKenna Associates, the city’s planning consultant.

A storefront on St. Clair has sidewalk seating.

“There’s been talk of having a restaurant,” Jackson said.

“We are in negotiations with several other tenants, including a pub or bar,” Bellanca said.

During the nearly 1 1/2 years the building has been unoccupied, Bellanca sought many ways to fill it.

“Options included a complete demolition of the property to build a new edifice from scratch, (and) the addition of a second or third floor for office or residential use,” he said.

The building is next store to the former Borders Building, an 18,366-square-foot structure that sat empty for three years, but is due to reopen next summer with the rear 55 percent as St. John Providence Health System medical offices.

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

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