Council Gathers Data on Edwards Brothers Land

The Ann Arbor city council is moving ahead with its exploration of the possibility of purchasing the 16.7-acre Edwards Brothers Malloy property on South State Street.

In action taken at the council’s Jan. 21, 2014 meeting, councilmembers approved a $25,550 contract with Atwell LLC for environmental site assessment services to evaluate the property. The University of Michigan has made an offer to Edwards Brothers to purchase the property for $12.8 million, but the city has a right of first refusal.

At its Jan. 6, 2014 meeting, the council directed the city administrator and the city attorney to explore options and gather information. So the site assessment by Atwell is part of that effort. The council is working within a 60-business-day window that began Nov. 27, 2013.

By way of background, the pending sale of the property to UM was announced in a Nov. 27, 2013 press release. The business – a fourth-generation Ann Arbor publishing and printing firm – had signaled its intent to put the property on the market in late July.

The city’s right of first refusal on the property was a condition of a tax abatement granted by the city council almost three years ago, on Jan. 18, 2011. Purchase by the university would remove the property from the tax rolls. Washtenaw County records show the taxable value of the property at just over $3 million.

According to the tax abatement agreement, the event triggering the city’s 60-day right-of-first-refusal window is a formal notification to the city by Edwards Brothers, which was made on Nov. 27, 2013.

Discussion at the city council’s Sunday night caucus on Jan. 19 indicated that conversations are taking place between city officials and the university about UM’s needs and how the Edwards Brothers property meets those needs – with an eye towards the possibility of the city and the university arriving at a mutually agreeable outcome where the city acquired only a portion of the property.

Caucus discussion also indicated that talks are taking place between the city and developers who might have an interest in purchasing the property from the city. One obstacle in those conversations is the fact that the university could still eventually exercise its right of eminent domain to acquire the property from a developer, even after purchasing it from the city. But that would require convincing a court that the expansion of the university’s athletic campus at that location would be in the public interest.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]