Ypsilanti City Council considers Burger King proposal for Water Street
“What we do for the first project needs to set the tone for what we want to see there, and I think a fast food restaurant is a poor tone setter,” Mayor Paul Schreiber said after the meeting.
He said he appreciates the efforts of Bravokilo, the Indiana-based company proposing to build the Burger King. “But I don’t think a Burger King is the right first move.”
James Fitzpatrick, a representative from Bravokilo, underscored in his presentation to the council that the 3,400-square-foot fast food restaurant’s design would complement downtown’s aesthetic. He said the interior included carpeting, couches and an internet kiosk.
“We think the inside of this business would be conducive to what I would consider a ‘downtown feel,’” he said.
The offer calls for Bravokilo to pay $400,000 for the one-acre parcel at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Park Street.
City planner Teresa Gillotti estimated the taxable value of the Burger King would be $450,000 based on two comparable fast food restaurants in the area, translating to roughly $29,500 in annual tax revenue beginning in 2011.
According to city budget documents, Ypsilanti is facing over $31 million in debt from the Water Street project and $476,000 will be drawn from the general fund to begin paying the debt service on May 1.
Payments will continue until the debt is paid off in 2031.
Per the proposed purchase agreement, the city would cover an extension of Parsons Street 200 feet to the west. Gillotti recommended the council also extend the utilities infrastructure down Park Street from the corner of Michigan Avenue to Parson Street to provide utility access for future developments.
She estimated the utility and pavement extension at a minimum of $95,000.
The city would also be required to demolish a building on the property and fill in its basement, which Gillotti said various grants would cover and come at no out of pocket cost to the city.
Council will hold a work session on April 6 at 6 p.m. to more closely examine the purchase agreement, and could vote on the proposal after a public hearing at its April 20 meeting.
After the meeting, Schreiber said he would prefer a higher density, mixed-use project as the first one for the 38 acre Water Street development. He pointed to the downtown lofts, which he called a “hot commodity” despite the economy. He said a similar venture within walking distance could provide more of a boost than Burger King.
Council Members Brian Robb and Pete Murdock echoed Schreiber’s sentiment.
“Burger King’s only advantage is, it’s something,” Murdock said.
The city assembled the 38-acre Water Street property about seven years ago to fulfill its vision of creating a mixed-use residential project on the property, just east of downtown.
While the city has contacted more than 100 prospective developers, few have seriously considered the site. Several high-density residential developers - including those offering student and senior housing - have showed interested in Water Street, but city officials say obtaining a loan in Michigan remains a major hurdle.
In an effort to make the site more attractive to developers, the city secured over $1 million in grants to clear remaining structures from Water Street, and is exploring the logistics in reusing material from demolished buildings in the site’s development.
Bravokilo owns 116 Burger Kings nationwide, as well as a variety of casual dining restaurants like Chili’s and Papa Vino’s. The company also own the Burger King just east of Michigan Avenue and Ecorse Road in Ypsilanti Township, less a than mile from Water Street.
Fitzpatrick said the Ypsilanti Township location would close if council approves the Water Street purchase. If it is approved at the April 20 meeting, the sale would be completed between August and December, Gillotti said.