Kerrytown owners invest in Ypsilanti retail building on edge of EMU campus, plan major renovations
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
O’Neal Inc. bought the former Campus Drugs building from the late Ted Tangalakis at the end of December, starting plans to overhaul the property that serves Ypsilanti’s gateway to Eastern Michigan University’s main campus.
The vision, said Andrew O’Neal, is to renovate the building while retaining its historic feel, along with modernizing the upper level apartments. At the same time, it’ll create a new retail hub on that end of campus.
“This is a cool, old building,” O’Neal said. “With a little fixing up, it could go another 60 years.”
By the time construction is completed, three new retail spaces will take shape in the building at 729-735 W. Cross, with the potential for outside seating and west-side windows in the anchor position on the northwest corner of the building.
“You can’t beat this location next to EMU,” O’Neal said.
The building had been in the Tangalakis family for decades, though it was listed for sale - along with Theo Doors Inc. bar, just east of Campus Drugs - during the summer.
Tangalakis died Jan. 13, a few weeks after the deal for the building closed. But he appreciated the vision for the building that O’Neal brought to the deal, participants said.
“He’ll be a good steward of the legacy of all that Ted created on the corner,” said Tony Caprarese of Swisher Commercial, who still has Theo’s for sale.
Quinn Evans Architects
It’s also the first significant renovation project along West Cross, which will undergo construction this spring as the city spends about $770,000 in grant funds to enhance the corridor from Depot Town west to the edge of EMU’s campus.
The corridor also is attracting improvement efforts via the Downtown Development Authority and Washtenaw County, including $30,000 in building faÃ§ade and renovation grants that will be awarded this year.
For O’Neal, the location fulfils a year-long search for a renovation project. O’Neal Inc. - primarily a commercial construction firm - redeveloped Kerrytown in Ann Arbor several years ago, and Andrew O’Neal spent much of the past year searching for a new redevelopment opportunity.
He considered multiple locations across the region, but the Ypsilanti building seemed to have tremendous potential, he said.
“This one excited us the most from the beginning,” O’Neal said.
However, as he developed the vision for the property, he also wanted to own the entire building: Tangalakis’ portion covered Â¾ of the building, so he approached the other owner about buying out that share.
The transaction, which closed on Dec. 20, totaled $530,000 for both portions of the building, according to city assessor records.
So far, O’Neal has removed remaining equipment from the retail spaces and has been working to relocate the 10 apartment tenants. He expects to file permits to begin construction in coming weeks, with construction to fully modernize the upper level starting this spring.
The efficiency apartments will be reconfigured into 3- or 4-bedroom units, he said, by removing the warren of hallways and underutilized spaces on the 2nd floor. Doing that will allow up to 15 bedrooms, according to early estimates.
He’s also working from designs by architect Lis Knibbe of Quinn Evans Architects to restore the exterior with expansive windows, while aiming for a more open, level feel to both the retail and residential spaces.
One of his early goals is to find a way to retain the look of the vintage tin ceiling in the storefronts while also creating a more expansive, open interior feel.
He’s also listing the retail space for lease, anticipating a fall opening.
EMU students, O’Neal said, have few off-campus areas to hang out. He’s hoping a coffee shop operator will anchor the 2,200-square-foot west corner space, which is listed at $25 per square foot.
O’Neal said his company’s track record with Kerrytown shows its long-term commitment to projects - and he expects to own the Ypsilanti property for decades.
Bob Andrus of Michigan Commercial Realty, who now has the retail space listed for rent, describes the transition as “a contribution to the community.”
The building, said O’Neal CFO Bob Fesmire, “will be done right It will be quite a bit different.”