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Posted on Mon, May 7, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Ypsilanti DDA offers new round of business grants as heavy investment continues

By Tom Perkins

The Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority and Eastern Leader’s Group is offering a new round of grants for significant physical upgrades around the DDA’s three districts.

It’s an expansion of a program that offered $30,000 for improvements to businesses along West Cross Street corridor each of the past two years.

Business owners can use the grants for structural improvements, mechanical improvements, fire suppression and other upgrades that DDA Director Tim Colbeck says are especially beneficial because they boost properties’ assessed values.


Crossroads is among the businesses that are a part of the revitalization of Ypsilanti's downtown districts.

Tom Perkins | For

In 2011, grants of $10,000 each were awarded to businesses from 500 to 800 W. Cross, where vacancy rates and high turnover has been an issue over the past decade, but there is no limit to how much businesses can apply for this year. There also is $45,000 available to businesses in all three DDA districts.

Additionally, the Eastern Leaders offered a 2 to 1 match because of the program’s success, Colbeck said. That’s up from a 1 to 1 match.

“On all fronts we’ve been really pleased, and so has the county,” Colbeck said. “They’ve been pleased enough that they think it’s a good enough program to leverage $30,000 to $15,000 and they’ve asked us to extend the boundaries.”

The first round of grants were awarded to the owners of the former Magazine Rack Adult Bookstore, the Tower Inn Café, the owners of the former Ted’s in the building at 729-735 W. Cross St., Eagle’s Market and the owners of the former Cross Street Station, who Colbeck said are planning to lease the space for a small grocery store.

This year follows up on what was a huge year of investment in Ypsilanti’s DDA districts in 2011. The DDA also offered its Building Rehabilitation and Façade Improvement Program, which awarded businesses $40,000 to help spruce up exteriors and façades. Officials say that led to $125,000 worth of investment.

Through that program, the DDA provided matching funds for cosmetic façade improvement projects up to $2,500. Those included fresh coats of paint, signage improvements, exterior lighting improvements, new doors, window replacement, trim work, masonry and other cosmetic projects.

Last year saw the DDA, EMU, city and private business invest particularly heavy in the Cross Street corridor.

The city received around $900,000 in grant money for the “Cross Street corridor non-motorized enhancement project” that helped improve infrastructure and the street's general appearance. EMU contributed to a rebuild of College Place and several other renovations are complete or will soon be complete at the former Cross Street Station and Ted’s Campus Drugs building. A Subway will open there.

Additionally, The Wurst Bar, at 705 West Cross, has quickly become a popular hang out, and the Crossroads Bar is expanding.

The Thompson Block's façade along River Street has seen major cosmetic and structural improvements, and the Cross Street bridge over the Huron River will be paved this summer.

“Last year was our big gangbuster year for the Cross Street corridor in particular,” Colbeck said. “It was a nice, perfect storm of coming everything together and this spring is when everyone is going to say ‘Man, this looks great down there.’

"We’re starting to see some action in downtown, and we’ve got some new businesses opening, like Red Rock and the fly fishing shop in Depot Town. I won’t make the claim they came here because of streetscape improvement, but it didn’t hurt anything; it has to help.”

Applications for the new grants are due by May 18.



Mon, May 7, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

Hopefully Cross Street will look like it did back in the mid 60's. I think this is great!!


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Anything that helps has my vote!


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

This sounds great. I've been planning a trip to the Wurst Bar for a long time now.