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Posted on Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Stewart Beal presents Thompson Block plan to Ypsilanti City Council

By Tom Perkins

Developer Stewart Beal detailed plans for stabilizing and renovating the Thompson Block building at Tuesday night's Ypsilanti City Council meeting.

In the city-mandated presentation, he asked for an extension on his traffic control order allowing his company, Beal Properties LLC, to block part of the River Street public right-of-way until Nov. 30. In exchange, he promised to pull support beams extending into River Street’s northbound lanes out of the road and onto his property by March 15.


The future of the Thompson Block has been unclear since a fire gutted a portion of it last fall.

Angela Cesere |

Beal also provided a schedule for progress on plans for the Thompson Block, a historic building that was severely damaged in a fire last fall.

After Beal presented his two-part plan, Council Member Pete Murdock questioned whether the schedule could be "compressed."

Beal said he would prefer have the entire time because the work is difficult and requires small teams of experienced workers.

“We have 100 employees, but there’s no way to throw all 100 employees at it,” he said. “It’s more like a two- to five-man team effort to do it safely.”

Beal dubbed the first phase the plan “retreat from the street,” which he said involves stabilizing the facade.

He said the long-term goal is to “build an entirely new building inside the old building.” Maintaining the facade on the 148-year-old structure will allow Beal Properties to obtain historic structure tax credits through the State Historic Preservation Office, which city officials previously said were necessary to keep the project financially feasible.

Beal said the first step in phase one is to pull all fire debris out of the basement and fill it in to solidify the foundation, per his engineers' recommendations. He expects the steps to be done by May 30.

By Aug. 30, Beal said all necessary interior structural support on the Cross Street side will be installed, and his company will “return both sidewalk and street to public use.” The River Street side of the structure will be secured by Nov. 30.

“Under this plan, we will be completely out of the public right-of-way by next winter,” he said.

The plan's second phase involves renovating one-third of the structure that wasn't damaged by the fire. Beal said a bar-restaurant will occupy the north part of the building, which will become 408 N. River St. The damaged part of the building will remain 400 N. River St.

Beal said he anticipates starting and completing construction of the north third of the building in 2010.

“That will allow us in the community to look up at the building and see activity and see that something is being done there,” he said.

When pressed for a schedule for 408 N. River St., Beal said he's waiting on the tenant, who has been presented with a lease and is modifying a business plan to seek financing.

“The bar-restaurant is not my baby, so to speak,” he said. “I’ve done all I can to date to move that forward, and we’ve put it in the tenant’s hands.”

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



Sat, Feb 6, 2010 : 9:50 p.m.

I can't believe it has not been torn done yet. Why can some builders block streets and others can't. Is Ypsilanti being paid off? Is he being taxed for the road he is blocking?


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 10:28 p.m.

What caused the fire and where is the insurance money right now? What is Beal using it for, if not this building? The financing of this building is not secured, so why does he get the extra time? Why shouldn't he HAVE to hire enough people to renovate this within a much shorter time period? What caused the fire, and where is the insurance money???


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 6:51 p.m.

i was just wondering dose anyone remember how stewart beal obtained that property.???


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

I like how he can't do anything about 408 N. River but put it in a "tenant's" hands, one who has only been presented with a lease and has no current financing. Since it's not his baby... Tear that whole thing down. So what if it's just another Water Street. Water Street is a field, not a giant disaster. I saw Beal in a council meeting a while back. He was trying to have some houses re-zoned so that he could have more apartments than were allowed in the area. He was asked why he could remodel houses when he wasn't doing anything with the Thompson Block. He said he couldn't get financing for the un burned down building then. Does he have financing for the whole project now? Is the reason for the fire ever going to be addressed?

Matthew R.

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

The city took the property from Kircher in 2001 and gave it to Barnes & Barnes. By 2006, Beal had sole ownership of the property. Visible work didn't start until 2009. It's been well over ten years at this point. It's an eyesore, and I'd like to see the project in the hands of someone who can either commit to tearing it down or fixing it up before another ten years pass.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

To those of you taking shots at Stewart Beal and the City of Ypsilanti, you crack me up! And you obviously have no clue how to do your homework before you fire up your ole' interweb machine. Fire all the shots you want,.. but Stewart Beal has done more for downtown Ypsilanti in the last 10 years than any private business person in the last 40 years. He has purchased and renovated a number of private homes and commercial buildings in the city. He appears to be one of a very select group of people who are truly committed to turning around Ypsilanti. (And so what if he makes a few bucks while doing it,..) The plan presented by Beal is reasonable both in scope, safety and timing. Remember,. it's winter here and that prevents contractors from doing a number of things (Did you read what one of the first ones was,..??). As for those criticizing his not doing anything with it for 5 years, you're simply wrong. Work did start on it in late 2009 after encountering a painful partner/bank search. Once a lending partner was found, ridiculous conditions were applied. That lender was then sold and their commercial department was abolished. THEN,.. the financial crisis hits just when Beal is back at square one. I commend Beal for starting the job pretty much on his own. Yes,... the fire was a huge setback. But given what's at stake, and what would be there otherwise, I commend the City and Stewart Beal for hanging in there to do everything possible to make this project work. For the record, I travel that area regularly, and don't find the construction or road blockages a nuisance at all.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 12:57 p.m.

The Gods be praised! I was hoping I could gaze at our version of 1945 Berlin while dining outside this summer.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 12:24 p.m.

Amazon, if I follow your reasoning then one monstrosity should make a 2nd one acceptable. It does not! There is no building left at the old Thompson Block...there is a crumbling shell of what once was a building. I would love to see all the crumbling buildings torn down. But this one keeps popping up on this website, I'm guessing it's because the information comes from meeting minutes. Have no fear, I'd be glad to talk about the ugly facades of Water Street when an article pops up about it. This article is about Depot Town.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 11:55 a.m.

I stopped reading the Ann Arbor News years ago because of their constant lack of any in-depth or investigative reporting. This continuing coverage of Mr. Beal and this Thompson Block is a shining example lackluster journalism that came from the Ann Arbor News. This article just spews out city council minutes, no investigating, and no fact checking of Beals facts or his reputation. It seems that Mr. Beal gets an overwhelming amount of interviews, and quotes for other stories on this site, and praise from your reporters. What has he done to merit some much ink from this publication? So, he bought 30+ houses in Ypsilanti (see your own archives), does his money automatically mean that he is a success in Ypsilanti? Someone posted earlier that he has owned that building for over 5 years; doesnt this long delay demand some real answers? Where is the reporting here? Maybe a real reporter will ask him these questions, and research other questions for your readers. To Beal: If you are in so love with your historic building, The Thompson Block, then why have you not put all your resources into it the past 5 years? To Beal: Isnt your role as a board member of the Ypsilanti DDA to promote Ypsilanti in a positive light? How can you remain on the board in good conscience when your own building has been and continues to damage the image of your city? To Beal: Why cant you put 50 workers on this project now while you have the streets blocked off? Isnt that why the streets are blocked, because you need to work on the building? Which is it, are you going to work on it the next year or not? Please research: What is a million dollar tax credit? What does this tax credit really mean for Beal? Where does this credit come from? Is it Michigan Tax payer funds? Could that tax credit be taken away and given to someone else? Please research: What caused this fire? Also, what have the engineers/architects saidwhat is the real timeline? Did he buy the insurance the city of Ypsilanti asked him to? Maybe no reporter here asks him tough questions because you all have the same financial advisors for your trust funds, or you are all townies that went to Pioneer together.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

For those who advocate that Beal should just tear down the Thompson Block, get a reality check! The transistion of Depot Town has been a snails pace since the 1960s. Previous owners of the block were the ones that allowed it to go to disrepair. Instant gratification seldom makes for good, long-term solutions. Sure Beal wants to make money on his investment; wouldn't you? Hold him accountable, but give him the opportunity to make something fine out of the shamble that he purchased.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

It's time for the Township to exhibit some tough love.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.

Give Beal 30 days to tear it down and kick his support beam off a public street immediately.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 10:05 a.m.

Beal has had his shot for many years and never taken it.The building has been owned by him for many years and has done nothing to help the city execpt make Depot look like crap.Depot town is the only part of town that is pretty cool and goes against the sterotypical image of Ypsi


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 9:30 a.m.

In the current economic climate and with declining real estate values, other projects have been put on hold or permanently canceled. If Stuart Beal succeeds, despite this and despite unforseen setbacks like fire, we all win. If the site were simply leveled, there might not be anything built there for quite some time. Let's give him his shot, even if it seems that he may have bitten off more than he can chew.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 8:39 a.m.

If I were the City of Ypsilanti, I wouldn't give Beal too hard a time here. At least someone is working to improve the downtown area. There are not many people willing to invest in Ypsilanti real estate, and you don't want to lose the one guy who seems to actually care about turning the city around.

Matthew R.

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 8:35 a.m.

I drive by this place as I go home every evening, as I live near Depot Town. I'd love to see it fixed up, but it doesn't seem that Beal can do that. He's been in control of the property for a long time (5+ years?) and the progress could best be described as glacial...before the fire. Every time I drive by it and see it that it still looks terrible, it makes me think less of Beal Properties. I wonder if he's aware of the extent to which a decaying building with one's name on it is not great for one's professional reputation.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 8:10 a.m.

I have always thought that the Thompson Block was a "diamond in the rough" and I think we are going to be pleasantly surprised with Mr. Beals' completed project. Cash - if you want to talk about a "monstrosity", when's the last time you drove down Michigan Avenue and took a good look at the disaster area called the "Water Street Project"? Talk about an eye-sore!


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 7:02 a.m.

Beyond belief that the city allows this burned out shell to remain standing. It's a monstrosity that looms over Depot Town in a most depressing and hideous way. Please, please for the sake of residents remove that shell and allow a rebuilding of that lot.

Steve Hendel

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 6:27 a.m.

None of my business, since I live in AA, but it seems to me that you'd be rich if you had a dime for every promise that had been made concerning this project.