You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Major renovations to Cross Street corridor set to begin in Ypsilanti

By Tom Perkins


The city of Ypsilanti is planning a series of improvements around Depot Town and the Cross Street corridor to boost the area's walkability, appeal and stormwater drainage.

Angela J. Cesere |

Ypsilanti’s Cross Street is about to experience what Downtown Development Authority Director Tim Colbeck is calling a "transformational year.''

Six projects equating to millions of dollars in investment are aimed at significantly improving the street’s appearance, accessibility, infrastructure and buildings.

Late this month, construction will begin on the “Cross Street corridor non-motorized enhancement project,” which is an effort the DDA has pursued for at least five years. The roughly $1 million project is broken up into two sections. The first is on East Cross in Depot Town from Rice Street to River Street, and the second is on West Cross from Washington Street to Normal Street.

The segment receiving the most attention is the West Cross business district. Streetscape plans there call for the installation of stamp concrete crosswalks and "bump outs,'' which are curb extensions designed to slow traffic and shorten a crosswalk’s distance. Additionally, all curbs will be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • Click here to see a map and description of the project plans.

The plans also call for the planting of approximately 70 trees in the six-block span, and new LED street lighting to replace old street lamps.

“We’re looking for total visual change in that area,” City Planner Teresa Gillotti said. “It will be a lot more pedestrian-friendly, and it will just look a lot more attractive.”

Gillotti said the changes will complement the reconstruction and beautification of College Place completed last summer.

Simultaneously, several businesses between Ballard Street and College Place are utilizing DDA and Eastern Leaders’ “West Cross building rehabilitation and facade” grants of $10,000 each to renovate their stores and facades.

Those were awarded to the owners of the former Magazine Rack Adult Bookstore, the owner of the building that formerly housed Ted’s Campus Store and the Tower Inn Cafe. A second round of grants will be available on July 1.

O'Neal Construction recently unveiled a large-scale plan for the former Ted's in the building at 729- 735 W. Cross St.

That development calls for modernized apartments in the upper level and three new retail spaces with the potential for outside seating and west-side windows in the anchor position on the northwest corner of the building.

Renovations are also under way at the former Cross Street Station, which has sat mostly vacant for about a decade. Colbeck said the owners there will offer apartments in the second story and commercial space on the ground floor.

“The word I keep throwing out is ‘transformational,’” Colbeck said. “This is going to be a transformational year for Cross Street. It’s going to be big. The timing is perfect, with this streetscape being five years in the making. I’m excited because at the same you’re going to see a couple key buildings that are vacant be renovated.”

Among the enhancements to East Cross in Depot Town will be stamped concrete crosswalks placed at the intersection of Rice and Cross; one at Ninde Street and Cross; replacements of the current crosswalks at the clock tower and the intersection before the train tracks; and one on River Street that will run from near the Ypsilanti Food Co-op to Sidetrack's second parking lot.

Plans also call for a “seat wall” on the north side of the Cross Street that starts just east of Aubree’s and wraps around the corner of the intersection at River and Cross. The decorative wall is a spot where pedestrians and visitors could, for example, sit and eat an ice cream cone or relax for a few minutes, Gillotti said.

A network of rain gardens will be installed to help collect stormwater and filter it into the ground instead of relying solely on drains that empty into the Huron River. Currently the drainage in Depot Town during heavy rain can be slow, and the gardens, which are essentially large planters filled with aesthetically pleasing native plants, will help address the issue.

A Federal Transportation Enhancement grant administered by the state through the Michigan Department of Transportation in part funded the project. The city and the DDA provided $179,000 and $87,500 in matching funds, respectively.

Sidetrack owner Linda French said she expects the makeover will provide a boost in visitors. She also said she thinks it will help attract students into the city from Eastern Michigan University’s campus.

“This is all exciting and good stuff,” she said. “I think it will make this area seem safer and people will venture into Ypsilanti more. Depot Town is already pretty safe, but when people get the perception more parts of Ypsilanti are safe and it’s walkable, and walkable for kids, then more people will come here.”

East of Depot Town, the stretch of road between Prospect Road and North River will be repaved and bike lanes added. Department Public Works Director Stan Kirton received approval from the City Council on Tuesday to seek requests for proposals on that project.

Kirton said he doesn’t have an exact time frame for the project, which will be funded with federal dollars through the State Transportation Improvement program, but he expects it will be completed by late August.

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.


Andrew Claydon

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

Non-motorized enhancement? Nothing says ride against traffic like a bike lane on one side of the street. We'll see how many people get hit before they repaint that stupid idea.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 9:36 p.m.

With all of the improvements happening this summer, you can bet SOME people will have jobs! This is a good thing! Many people don't know how the funding for these projects works. There is not one big state or federal fund that is used for everything. Grants and other funding venues are often VERY specific how the money is to be used, so we can't just say, for example: "Yes, I know we got this grant for making rainwater gardens, but we are going to use it to repave Cross Street." It simply doesn't work that way. Procurring funds is often a several-years-long process; much of this money was lined up before the economy tanked. Does that mean we should say no to those particular improvements because the economy is worse than it was three years ago? Across the board, if you don't use it, you lose it - why would we throw money away? Let's be happy that Ypsilanti can benefit during the tough times, which in turn, will help our image and hopefully start an upward trend of people who want to come back and spend more time in lovely Ypsilanti. Many people coming from I-94 use Huron St and Cross St as their main entrance into Ypsilanti and EMU, treating these roads as an extension of the freeway, preferring to drive way over the speed limits. Narrowing of the streets, using bump-out curbs, etc., are 'traffic-calming' practices that will help make these streets more pedestrian-friendly. It all sounds great!!!


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 6:29 p.m.

First: Depot town it the bomb. I hope Ypsi takes care of this area. I find I like it more than downtown AA, for a lot of reasons, including less traffic. I think shutting down Main Street AA or Cross St. Ypsi to vehicle traffic after, say 7:00 PM would be great. Jimmy McNulty, in answer to your question, here is the fate of &quot;Beals folly&quot;, from a photgraph taken, curiously enough on Beale St. in Memphis. If the link doesn't work for some reason, google: Silky O'Sullivan's bar <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Pete Murdock

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

@Jay Nugent &quot;WHEN will they build a road up the hill (where Cross Street should be) to the East of Depot Town???&quot; THIS SUMMER! The contract to repave East Cross Street from River to Prospect will be awarded shortly by MDOT. Construction should begin by the end of May or early June. Water service lines will also be replaced as part of the project.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

Fantastic news. Hopefully next they'll fix Prospect between Cross and Clark Rds. Horribly deteriorated stretch of road.

Jay Nugent

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

This is all fine and good, but WHEN will they build a road up the hill (where Cross Street should be) to the East of Depot Town??? That's NOT a road! Myself and hundreds of other drivers drive down the MIDDLE of that thoroughfare to avoid the thousands of pot holes in the east-bound lane. It NEEDS to be paved from River Street all the way up to Prospect. Seems to me, that would be good use of taxpayers money.

steve h

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 5:40 p.m.

read the 2nd to last paragraph. there you will find your answer

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

Beal = Eysore. Yeah, and his building too.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 4:38 p.m.

I'm all for beautification aka. Facelift to the central Depot Town area. However, to really make a big difference and restore some of the former luster that Depot Town was famous for back in 1920s, consider rehabbing the ruined Train Station? Removing the charred remnants Thompson Block (by all means keep the half that wasn't gutted) and plant community gardens and park instead? Also, highly suggest removing the angular planters along the both sides of cross and giving that bridge a bit of a face lift as well. Otherwise, I think the area is great as is.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

FYI, The owners of the Dahlman Campus Inn, are, and have been for quite some time, the owners of the train Depot. They have basically sat on it at the behest of the other commercial property owners in the area.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 3:53 p.m.

The improvements sound good but I don't really get the need to put trees in. Flower beds/planters would be a better option. None of the businesses are going to rake any leaves up, the trees will get in the way for snow removal, and then the roots will eventually cause problems for utilities and cement/asphalt down the road, no pun intended. If the trees have already been bought, perhaps, a nice little arboretum/park where the Beal project is might be a better place for the trees.

Ben Petiprin

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

If the city continues the process of gentrification at this current speed, there will be nothing left of Ypsilanti but this stretch of Cross Street. Why is this kind of thing necessary in a recession? The whole state is imploding and we're spending millions of dollars on all these little projects. No government funds go to the creation of new jobs or the construction of new housing, but we spend any amount of money tearing down anything that gets a little rusty. It's like putting Band-Aids on a cancer patient.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

And...standing tall through it all, stalwart, unchanged, and forever the same : Stewart Bell's precisely as intended Folly at Cross and River....


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 6:13 p.m.

Beal. Typo.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.



Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

They need to take that Tank sittin up on Michigan Ave at the VFW hall and drive it tru that pile of bricks thats barely standing at Cross and River St. Might as well do it during the Heritage Festival. At the tail end of the Parade. It would be fun, make it a event as part of the Festival. I guarantee the pile of bricks will still be there.Have a raffel for a Veteran to drive it. I'm just saying............

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

The bricks should receive a letter of Civil War authenticity and be sold on eBay to raise money for the Depot Town Facelift.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 2:13 p.m.

It is my understanding that Mr. Beal has agreed to re-paint the scaffolding at the corner of River and Cross a historical color. The research on an acceptable array of historical scaffold color options is underway and should be completed by August of 2012. The color should be finalized by December of 2012. Sand blasting the scaffold in preparation for painting should begin in April of 2013.

Jimmy McNulty

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.


Wolf's Bane

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

LOL! Too funny. Do you write for the Onion? You should.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

This is great news. Personally, though, I think there is a larger structural issue related to using Depot Town and these Cross Street businesses, and that is the fact that it is really confusing to drive into Depot Town. While I'm fine with it, because I'm used to it, I always wished that they would turn Cross Street from a one-way street, to a two-way street, so I could drive right into Depot Town, instead of having to go through 5 stop-signs &amp; residential areas, and then turning left on Hamilton (?) so that I can turn back onto Cross Street. But for $250k, this is a great start.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

I have hoped they'd return West Cross to a 2 way street again for years. It's difficult to get from EMU campus, where there are over 20,000 potential customers, to Depot Town. Money was spent a year or so ago to put in a parking lane on Cross.....a waste of money to me when it only solved the need for a few parking spots for the Cross businesses. That was a big disappointment. The one way stretch of Cross competes with I-94 for traffic speed.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

Why do I get this warm fuzzy feeling , that Beal has to close a relationship with Ypsilanti City officials ?


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

Maybe if Beal wasn't so busy creating his &quot;rental empire&quot; by buying up foreclosed homes during the real estate bust, he would have had the CASH on hand for the little things, like say, purchasing basic fire insurance for that eyesore... And then, just maybe, there could have been some timely progress on rehabbing that hulk. Mr Beal, you've recently stated that work will start soon-- You've promised that before. If you want local respect, keep your word this time with a minimum of attorney- types involved. Your image has no where to go but up.

Jay Nugent

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 5:02 p.m.

There were 3 Beal vehicles on site this weekend. There is a stack of new lumber to the East of the building - presuming it is to replace old supports and/or support the interior walls from collapse. But by Saturday afternoon the men and the vehicles were no where to be seen and no visible progress had been made.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:17 p.m.

Paragraph 7: will someone kindly compare and contrast the terms &quot;compliment&quot; and &quot;complement&quot;. Thank you.

Jim Knight

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

Ypsi-Booster: Thanks. We made that correction.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

I think this is all very positive. This area has a lot of potential. The residents include older people, students, and young families. So few places now have this transgenerational mix. Just don't turn it into a new &quot;gentrification&quot; where the people currently living here will be forced out, because they won't be able to afford to live here. There are many of the factors, which lower crime rates and bring life satisfaction: green spaces, bus transportation, small neighborhood areas within a larger city or metro area. The possible return of a train stop which would connect Ypsi to larger cities could only be a positive. More benches and picnic tables in Island Park/Frog Island would also encourage more people to be out and abut. Pedestrian traffic is known to reduce crime and increase community interaction. I hope all these plans move forward.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Great post, Gramma! I agree with all that you wrote. You make a great point about the cross-generational mix in that area. I hadn't thought about that. But it is a definite plus for the area.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

First ....good article, Tom! I am not sure what the City can do with Beale's Folly after their court-ordered facilitating conferences. I guess the courts think he will do what he is supposed to do. I hope it's true. That building is so depressing to look at. I am really looking forward to the renovation on Cross Street! Can't wait to see the results.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 12:48 p.m.

This is such great news. I'm looking forward to seeing this project come to fruition. Ypsilanti will be much better off afterwards.


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 12:40 p.m.

All good news to me, as long as I can still enjoy walking around the area this summer. The lack of a crosswalk at Sidetracks always bothered me because I have to make three crosses with my daughter when we walk to her school to get around that intersection. I'm happy to hear about more trees. I love Ypsi :)


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

If you want appeal, get rid of the eyesore at Cross and River.

Jimmy McNulty

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 10:50 a.m.

And who wants to bet the kickstands on Beal's eyesore will still be there long after this project's completion?