Barnes & Noble Site is Back on City Commission Agenda

A global design and technology firm eyes the second floor space at 500 S. Main St.

Royal Oak-based Vectorform LLC wants to move its headquarters to  500 S. Main St.
Royal Oak-based Vectorform LLC wants to move its headquarters to 500 S. Main St.
The Barnes & Noble site is back on the agenda when the Royal Oak City Commission meets at 7:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

City officials will review a request from Royal Oak-based Vectorform LLC. The rapidly expanding technology firm is hoping to relocate its 3905 Rochester Road headquarters into the second floor space at 500 S. Main Street.

"In an effort to maintain this company and its employees in Michigan, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has extended a cash grant offer of $375,000 under its Business Development Program to Vectorform LLC.," wrote City Manager Don Johnson in a memo to commissioners.

One of the program requirements is local government participation, he said.

Vectorform is requesting the city provide 75 parking permits at no cost during the first year of its lease and install two EV (electric vehicle) charging stations at the site, according to Johnson.

Vectorform currently has 70 employees in Michigan and plans to double that number in the next three years, according to Jason Vazzano, president and CEO of Vectorform. Headquartered in Royal Oak, the global design and technology firm also has studios in Seattle, New York, Munich and Hyderabad, India.

"As we continue our rapid expansion, our leading plan is to keep our global headquarters in Royal Oak, Michigan by moving our facility into the downtown area," wrote Vazzano in an overview to city officials. "Our goal is to build a world class facility that will provide a revolutionary work environment and attract top talent prospects from around the world."

Students at Upton Elementary recently had the chance to see what Vectorform does when Kevin Foreman, director of product vision at Vectorform, showed off his pair of Google Glass to students. The wearable computer with a head-mounted display will be available to the public next summer.

Vectorform was the only Michigan company chosen to take part in Google's Glass Explorer Program.

[Read: Have You Seen Google Glass in Royal Oak? Students at Upton Elementary Have!]

Vectorform's clients include Coca-Cola, Mircosoft, Walt Disney, New York Times, Estee, Lauder, American Express, Nike, the United States State Department, Chrysler GroupKelly Services, DTE Energy, 3M, Cargill, Red Bull, Nokia and many others, according to Vazzano.

What's the future of Barnes & Noble?

One month ago, residents learned the future of the Barnes & Noble was on shaky ground when a petitioner requested to transfer a Class C license to 500 S. Main Street and convert the book store into a 270-seat Italian restaurant and night club on the first level and office space on the second level. 

The petitioner, SV One, LLC., ultimately sent a letter via electronic mail to city officials withdrawing the request without explanation. For many, it was good news.

However, the building's owner, Tim Blum, told commissioners that Barnes & Noble's sales performance was lackluster.

"I can't keep subsidizing that space forever," Blum said.


Cbgb December 13, 2013 at 01:33 AM
Why could not Vectorform move into one of the (many, many) other available Main Street complexes (eg, the old Hollywood Video, etc..) in lieu of B&N? Why? And why on this earth would the City Manager effectively advocate the demise of a bookstore? OUR (very-own-Royal-Oak-based) only bookstore? That is nonsensical--and is indicative of a governing body essentially out of touch with its constituents. If this goes through, then shame on me and my family in our reliance on one of the only consistently age-appropriate, friendly places in town. Judy: is it correct that although Mr. Blum has the ability to pull the B&N lease in favor of a more financially-beneficial arrangement, this can be done only WITH the approval of the Commission? Apologies for the ignorance, but can you give a timetable as to how this could happen (eg, Vectorframe makes its proposal, the Commission considers it, the Thomas the Tank Engine train table on the 2nd floor is smashed to bits...?) Thanks so much for bringing this issue to light.
Timmy Turdburglar December 13, 2013 at 04:19 AM
All they have to do is to give some cash to Royal Oak officials in a plain envelope and it's a done deal.
Rob K December 13, 2013 at 08:21 AM
Hate to bring a dose of reality, but it is quite simple why B&N cannot remain... 1)Lender needs Landlord to cover monthly loan 2)Landlord needs tenant to cover monthly rent 3)Tenant needs customers to cover necessary sales to justify rent. If tenant cannot generate the sales, Landlord must find a user that can so he can cover the loan. I love having a bookstore in town, but the market (customers) determines what uses can be sustained, and what cannot. Good news is this... local, well paid jobs lead to strong disposable income, which leads to the need for retail/restaurants/services/entertainment. Out with the old, in with the new!
Ron Arnold December 13, 2013 at 09:15 AM
Wait, what? MDEC is paying someone to fill a business site that is currently occupied and is literally at the heart of our business district. For an office? And what's this about the parking a spaces? How will they ensure that these spaces are just for people in the new business? And how the recharging station will work? Lots of questions here, this shouldn't be rammed through like the Harper furniture "deal." We are watching, guys.
Lynn M. December 13, 2013 at 09:39 AM
It is only a matter of time before B&N closes and I would rather see them replace B&N now than have it sit empty waiting for a new tenant. I also like the idea of a company moving it's headquarters to the heart of downtown Royal Oak. Seventy new people working in downtown will definitely help the lunchtime restaurant crowd and the retail shops.
Ron Arnold December 13, 2013 at 09:44 AM
And what of the bottom floor? Is it to retain a smaller B&N? It's not EVER going to be another mega bar, it's just not going to happen.
Wm. Allen December 13, 2013 at 10:20 AM
I'm having a hard time seeing "the dose of reality" and "free market determines" when the state is providing $375,000 and asking the City to provide 75 free parking permits for a year and install two EV charging stations. It just doesn't sound like market forces are at work in this particular instance.
Tim H December 13, 2013 at 10:20 AM
OK. Everybody!! It is awful that Barns & Noble may close, but the landlord has already come out and said he is basically waiting for its lease to end in order to kick them out. So, what are the options... Well, he has already tried to solicit business from a HORRIBLE party club chain with a history of violence and crime. He is looking to move the property to make more money. There is no way of slicing it another way. Vectorform however, is EXACTLY the type of business we need downtown. This showcases our ability to develop and retain talent. The people who will work at this location will also serve as patrons to the local shops and restaurants throughout the day. Which will make them less reliable on the "liquor serving" nightclub scene. This is a Global brand that is growing. Why the hell wouldn't you want the next Google or Microsoft in downtown Royal Oak? This will only make our downtown stronger, more resilient, and more successful. Not to mention help our property values grow in a sustainable way. Look at the high-end shops and restaurants Birmingham can keep because of its professional offices during the day. Don't you all want that? I do. I love B&N but considering our options, this the best thing that can happen to Royal Oak.
Andy S. December 13, 2013 at 11:48 AM
Yep... Tim's right on with this.
B Lans December 13, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Tim nailed it. We'll miss B&N but this scenario makes perfect sense.
Traci McGowan December 13, 2013 at 06:24 PM
There are other vacant buildings in Royal Oak, and they have been vacant for a really long time. Why can't Vectorform renovate those spaces? Plenty of square footage. B & N doesn't have to chased out, AND Vectorform can move its Rochester location to Royal Oak.
jthall December 13, 2013 at 10:58 PM
The main floor appears to stay with B and N for the time being and the reduced footprint might make the nut manageable: which could mean they might stay. Sounds like a win-win. As for the parking spaces from the city, it's just a cost of attracting business. Maybe a couple bike racks, too.
Pbrzez December 13, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Where will the city gets these 75 parking spaces from? Hmmm..... As I recall, There was a recent discussion on the patch regarding the city enforcing parking permits on the south end senior apartment complex. The city took away the few free permits they needed saying RO could not afford the dollars lost in revenue. Making the seniors pay for their over flow parking needs. Now a large company wants to come in and get free parking ...what the hey? I'm all for business (sorry to see B&N go and no more mega bars) but what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong.
Ron Arnold December 16, 2013 at 10:04 AM
If it saves one floor of B&N, I'm for it. As far as Vectorform, there could be much worse tenants. I'd like to learn more about the subsidy and parking spaces, but it looks like a win/win if we can keep B&N with half the space, half the books and moving the coffee downstairs (and making it much smaller.) One note - if Vectorform is planning on recording sound in their proposed studio, they had better budget for a bunch of soundproofing. Twenty-six plus trains a day go by 30 feet behind the building.


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