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Is this empty Hall Road storefront the site of Amazon Fresh’s first Michigan location?

The proposed remodeling of the former Gander Outdoors store in Shelby Township could be a harbinger of a new grocery option making its way across the country: Amazon Fresh.

A site plan I obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request to Shelby Township shows a new exterior to the building at 13975 Hall Road that looks almost exactly like exterior photographs I’ve seen of Amazon Fresh locations.

Assuming it is Amazon Fresh, it would be the first known Michigan location for Jeff Bezos’ company’s chain of brick-and-mortar grocery stores.

However, to be clear, the name of the tenant in the 36,500-square-foot space is not identified in the site plan or on building permits, and multiple people involved in the plan — property owner Nikolaos Moschouris, Farmington Hills-based brokerage Landmark Commercial Real Estate, Bingham Farms-based Rogvoy Architects PC and certainly the Seattle-based online retail juggernaut Inc. — have all declined to comment.

I have been told, however, by someone briefed on the matter — but not directly involved — that the ultimate end user is, indeed, Amazon Fresh.

The building is in the Hall Road Crossings strip center along Hall Road/M-59 at the state trunkline’s northeast corner with Schoenherr Road across from Lakeside Mall.

Minutes from the Dec. 14 Shelby Township Planning Commission detail a discussion about the building’s proposed “exterior metal panel system” facade with the project architect. One commissioner questioned the architect about the corrugated steel, referencing “the national appeal of this grocery store.” The commissioner, Phillip Turner, told me about 10 days ago that he did not know the identity of the grocery store chain but was trying to ferret that information out of the presenters.

The storefront would have things like corrugated metal siding like some Amazon Fresh locations, paneling like some Amazon Fresh locations, sconces like some Amazon Fresh locations and slats above the entrance and below the signage, again like some Amazon Fresh locations.

In short, the site plan shows a building that, minus the words “Amazon Fresh,” is an Amazon Fresh.

If it comes to fruition, the concept would be another testament to the staying power of the Hall Road retail corridor — which draws 90,000 to 100,000 cars per day along its 10.5 miles east to I-94 with at least 5.1 million square feet of retail space commanding shoppers’ attention.

There are two regional malls, The Mall at Partridge Creek and Lakeside Mall, plus big-box stores like Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Meijer Inc. and numerous power centers.

Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) has opened 11 of its grocery stores and has at least 28 more in the works around the country. The report says that the first location opened in Los Angeles last year with the most recent opening a week ago.

The Amazon Fresh website says its existing locations are in California and Illinois.

Bloomberg described the Amazon Fresh stores as having “the polished concrete floors and industrial vibe of an upscale grocer,” plus “digital price tags and smart ‘Dash’ shopping carts that tally up smaller purchases as customers browse the aisles.”

The story also says that prices are in line with an Aldi or a Walmart.

The Shelby Township Planning Commission approved changes to the former Gander Outdoors building’s facade for the project in December but the grocery store tenant is not identified in minutes from the meeting.

“As new tenants come into the plaza, they like to have their own unique look and they are looking to make this space correspond with the tenant’s brand,” the minutes say. “This remodel will consist of an exterior metal panel system.”

This isn’t Bezos’ company’s first foray into the grocery space.

Last year, MiBiz reported that Amazon, through a subsidiary called NV Investment Holdings LLC, has the option to purchase up to 5.4 million shares of Byron Center-based distributor SpartanNash Co. or about 12.5 percent of the company.

In addition, Amazon paid $13.7 billion for Whole Foods in 2017.

“It would make sense to put it on the east side because they don’t have a Whole Foods location there,” said Peter Vanderkaay, an associate with Southfield-based brokerage house Signature Associates, Inc. specializing in Macomb County retail. “It’s a good place for them not to cut into the market where they have Whole Foods already. The demographics of the area are great with retail and population density, traffic counts, etc.”

There are Whole Foods locations at 990 W. Eisenhower Parkway in Ann Arbor; 3135 Washtenaw Ave. in Ann Arbor; 7350 Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield Township; 2100 E. Maple Road in Birmingham; 2918 Walton Blvd. in Rochester Hills; and 115 Mack Ave. in Detroit.

An entity Moschouris registered called Hall Road Crossing Owner LLC paid $22.135 million for the property in 2017, according to Shelby Township land records.

Other Hall Road Crossing tenants include Bob’s Furniture, Michael’s, Old Navy, Ulta and Famous Footwear, and the outlot includes Shelby Township’s new Chick-Fil-A restaurant.  Gander Outdoors replaced Gander Mountain, which went bankrupt.  Marcus Lemonis of the CNBC business turnaround show “The Profit” bought Gander Mountain’s assets through Camping World Holdings Inc. in May 2017, Crain’s reported in January 2018.

St. Paul, Minn.-based Gander Mountain and subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March due to challenges from lack of traffic, shifting customer demand and the success of e-commerce, a news release at the time said.


Posted By: Crain’s Detroit Business on March 22, 2021.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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