The owners of Encore Records have been bracing themselves for the worst since the ground under their building on Liberty at Thompson was listed for lease last summer. The listing calls it “one of the last student high-rise opportunities in downtown Ann Arbor.” Encore’s yearlong lease was ending as we went to press, and Jim Dwyer, who bought the store in 2011 with his then-coworker Bill McClelland, says he has no idea if he’ll be able to renew.
Under a ground lease, owners Douglas and Dolores Nollar would still own the land, but the tenant would have the right to construct a building on it. Instead of a lump sum, they and their heirs would get a long-term income–a recent ground lease on W. Stadium has a term of ninety-nine years–and the developers need less money up front. The downside is figuring out what happens to the building at the end of the lease–but none of the signers are likely to be around to worry about that.
Realtor Jim Chaconas says that the site’s redevelopment doesn’t have to mean the end for Encore. “I love that place!” he says. “I’d hate to see it go.” But even if the owner of the new building agreed to lease to Encore–and the store could afford the rent–it would mean a long-term hiatus.
Dwyer and McClelland say that if the deal goes through, they’ll try to take the award-winning record store somewhere else. “We’d like to stay downtown if we can,” says Dwyer.