Back in 2006, the Ann Arbor City Council approved a plan for an ambitious 138,000-square-foot retail and residential project called The Shops at Arlington. The project was to replace vacant commercial buildings and a former car dealership in an attempt to redevelop a growing area. But when the economy tanked, the project fell apart and the property needed to be sold.

Where some people saw an eyesore-just a collection of empty buildings-developer Tom Stegeman of Ann Arbor’s Campus Realty saw an opportunity to change the appearance of Washtenaw Avenue. So in 2010, Stegeman partnered with Max Reiswerg from North Shore Properties Group and bought the commercial property for $3 million. The two later proposed the idea for Arbor Hills.

The new plan was going to be vastly different than the previous project. Arbor Hills was going to be smaller-a more manageable 90,700 square feet-featuring shops reminiscent of the upscale Somerset Collection in Troy. Since the project first broke ground in 2012, the four-building shopping center has quickly taken shape and developers think that tenants may be able to take over spaces as soon as the end of this month. Ultimately, the center’s grand opening will be on Aug. 22 though.

It may seem risky to purchase a commercial real estate property on the tail end of a recession-some people may even call it crazy-but for Stegeman, who grew up in Ann Arbor, this was a necessary project. Ann Arbor has been pushing for a more upscale feel in past decades; this new project will hopefully reflect that push even more.

Source: annarbor.com, “Arbor Hills shopping center poised to alter Ann Arbor’s retail landscape,” Lizzy Alfs, April 14, 2013