Borders Books Goes Downtown

Feb 25, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Borders Books and Music is following the spirit of Wee Willie Keeler’s advice and hittin’ em’ where they ain’t with two new store openings in underserved neighborhoods in Detroit and Chicago.

The Detroit location, an 8,000-square-foot store, is unique because of an almost total lack of any retail in the downtown area, according to the New York Times.

Charles Maday, chief executive of Exclusive Realty, a commercial brokerage firm agrees. “All the retailers left. It’s the only major city that doesn’t have even a hardware store.”

Alex Lelli, vice president for development of Borders said, “There’s no doubt that there’s certain rough spots in these trade areas. But there’s a lot of change coming.”

The Detroit store is in the building housing the new world headquarters of Compuware Corporation. Approximately 4,000 people currently work in the building according to the Times.

“We feel the population is just unserved,” Mr. Lelli said. “They have no alternatives on their lunch hour in terms of retail. Our feeling is that if we’re careful about our operational discipline in terms of hours of operation, we will be successful.”

Mr. Lelli said the Detroit location is performing up to expectations, having reached break-even in its first year, and the company is looking for it to make money in the second.

Borders’ Chicago store is the anchor for a new mixed-use retail and residential complex on the city’s North Side.

Moderator’s Comment: How are downtown revitalization projects affecting the retail industry?

Urban planning and retail development have never been more intertwined. George
Anderson – Moderator

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