place: people and present- Ann Arbor: Borders Books

The Borders Bookstore in Ann Arbor Michigan was the first Borders to ever open. The neighborhood, judging by the street view on “Google Earth,” looks like a place where people interested in the arts would go to hang out. A movie-theater resides across the street from where the Borders was. Technically, the Borders Bookstore building still stands, but it no longer functions as a bookstore due to the company going out of business.

The Ann Arbor area seems to be a place that is heavily grounded in the Arts. Several art galleries, museums, music centers, a library, and a movie theater stand near where the Borders Bookstore once stood. Several restaurants, fitness centers, and beauty salons also line the nearby streets. In the map I placed in the link below, you will see that I pinpointed where the coffee shops, fitness centers, bookshops/libraries, hair salons, and the arts-related places (galleries, museums, music centers, etc.) are.

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What Google’s street view screenshots (the above photos) fail to show is the updated view of 612 E. Liberty Street. After the store closed in September of 2011 due to bankruptcy, construction workers began to renovate it. In December 2012, the Borders signs were taken off the building  (visible in the top photo) and donated to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

Marlene Lacasse/Daily "An Ann Arbor construction worker continues development on former Borders Bookstore Wednesday. The space will house five restaurants and two offices"

Marlene Lacasse/Daily
“An Ann Arbor construction worker continues development on former Borders Bookstore Wednesday. The space will house five restaurants and two offices”

The whole building is being transformed. Instead of becoming another retail shop, it is going to house five restaurants on the first floor and Prime Research and Michigan University’s School of Information on the second floor (Greenberg). The building is undergoing major reconstruction as both the interior and exterior need to be entirely redone to accommodate the new tenants  The builders are going to add “an entrance on Maynard Street and walls to divide the new businesses” (Greenberg). By now, these renovations could be done as Greenberg stated that the building was supposed to be able to house its tenants in September, but the restaurants have not yet opened. I would assume there is still more work to be done on the building given that this article was written in July, 2013.

“Iron Chef participant and Chicago-based restaurateur Takashi Yagihashi announced…that he has signed a lease for 5,296 square feet in the former Borders flagship store to open a Slurping Turtle restaurant. The new restaurant will join Knight’s Steakhouse… as the space begins to take on a theme of expanding Ann Arbor’s downtown culinary offerings” (Freed).


It seems almost silly to open more restaurants as there are already so many located in this area. But, I suppose that for the residents of Ann Arbor, the more choices they have, the better.

Apparently, East Liberty Street, the site at which Borders was located, has had ten different businesses close in the last  two years. When one of the restaurant owners who is moving into the Borders space was asked about it, he said: “We track volumes of sales figures of all the other restaurants down there and all of them are very healthy… It was easy to blame Borders when they closed for the decline but in my opinion that’s not what closed these other businesses” (Cavendar via Greenberg).

It seems interesting that Cavendar would think this when so many other businesses have shut down. According to some short interviews that Alyssa Adler did for her article (“Liberty St. sees changing stores” in The Michigan Daily) a few storefront owners do not think that Liberty street is a good location anymore. Adler quotes one store owner: “Liberty is a great location because of the Michigan Theatre… It was a good location because of Borders, but I don’t think Liberty is really a great location anymore. If I could, I would move tomorrow to State Street.”

I cannot help but think about place and how it is thought to be somewhere people can go. But for many, a place is somewhere that is important to somebody for a particular reason (Creswell). Ann Arbor, especially on Liberty Street, changes are everywhere. When we talk about place we tend to think of it as an almost static environment. The way we remember a favorite vacation spot, is the way we want to think about it forever. That vacation spot would be referred to as a place- somewhere with emotional attachment (Creswell). For many, they’ll probably remember Liberty Street as a place with little boutiques and the big Borders store. This raises the question of whether or not Liberty Street can still be a “place” when buildings are constantly being torn down and businesses keep changing hands.

When Borders closed it had an impact on the other stores surrounding it. The University of Michigan is very near Liberty street, and I would think that much of the bookstore’s clientele was college students. College students are often stereotyped as “poor,” but they tend to drop money on the things they see as necessary (books for school and for fun, clothing, food, etc). Borders was a place for that and when the college kids stopped walking down to the bookstore, the other stores surrounding it probably took a major hit.

The store owner that Adler quoted in her piece also said that the rent raises one or two percent each year and with the economy, it doesn’t seem worth it anymore. The surrounding stores made the price of staying on liberty street made it worth it. But if what Cavendar says about the economy picking back up and restaurants being okay, maybe the restaurants will thrive.



Defining Place by Tim Creswell



Google Earth Street View (screen shots)

Google maps