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Posted on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 5:40 a.m.

Ypsilanti City Council considers Burger King proposal for Water Street

By Tom Perkins


Paul Schreiber

A proposal to make a Burger King restaurant the first project in the City of Ypsilanti's long-awaited Water Street project, got a less-than-enthusiastic reception from several City Council members Tuesday night.

“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.



Sun, Mar 21, 2010 : 4:06 a.m.

More Getto.... Maybe about six more Riteaid, CVS' and Walgreens too. How about some more nail salons, there are still less than 50 Ypsi. Burger and some nails, sounds like it would attrack real speanders to Ypsi. How about developing the riverfront as a novelty shopping area. There has to be a developer out there that would consider a board walk shopping plaza or outlet mall. The city should be expecting more out of the $60,000.00 per year professional fees paid market that area. I would gladly do more than that for 40k, 30k, or 20/ per year. For that kind of money, that is what they come up with? Sad....

Dante Marcos

Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 1:51 p.m.

JB, It sounds as if you're doing good work already. I commend you for that. And appreciate what you're saying about getting whatever $ we can for a piece of Water Street. I still stand firm on thinking that hell has gradations, by which I mean, a Burger King does not belong there.

Forest City

Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 11:48 a.m.

If the vision for Water Street was ever more than a misguided pipedream, the current economic climate should put an end to the thinking. For now, they should take what they can get.


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

Alain Danielou - I would be happy to... Fast Food does contributes significantly to diabetes and health problems in any incomes population. That's why i don't eat it. Factory farmed meats have higher instances of growth hormone, pesticides, etc. That's why I don't eat it. I try to get grass fed/free range meats and locally grown produce. I am proud of the fact that BOTH of my jobs are for companies that support local farmers and one is the leading certify of organic products in the world, you might have heard of QAI? I particpated in a garden share last summer that provided over 700 pounds of fresh produce for the local food bank. For the last two weeks i have been providing hot meals to parenting groups through SOS in ypsilanti as well as frequent donations to that organization for the last year. Ask them, they would know who I am through my contributions. Thanks for wanting to help "inform" me. But just because i can do math, doesn't make me a crazy right wing conservative. I care very deeply about social justice and my city I was born in. I encourage you to not assume anything based on someone's stance on taxes and the city's bankruptcy situation as to how they feel about nutrition and whether they give back to the community. Where do you we suggest we get the half million payment that is due May 1st? If not from someone that is willing to give us that much for land that needs to be improved and from an employer that would pay taxes and create a few jobs for our stuggling city?


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 10 a.m.

Why is there always someone who thinks they have the right to tell people to eat?

Dante Marcos

Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 9:19 a.m.

JB Huron, Can you address the issue of fast food contributing significantly to high rates of diabetes and other health problems in our low-income populations? Can you also discuss the benefits of factory-farmed meat to the human body? Would you consider volunteering your time at a local-to-Ypsilanti grassroots organization that has progressive plans for improving our town? These are just a few fruitful steps that would help inform your sense of what is "aesthetic" vs. what is actually an issue of social justice and community vision.


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

Math 101. Ypsi's broke. They are willing to pay $450k, we need to start making payments in May of roughly the same amount. Ypsi already has the HIGHEST tax rates in the entire state of Michigan. I see two choices: 1. sell it to BK and have the ability to make a payment that is due May 1st. or 2. Put on our blinders, and go further into the whole becuase we don't think a BK would "look very nice". It's Ypsi! A new Salvation Army would look nicer than half the buildings in our city. This is not a choice. Goverments should not have the option of putting our city closer to bankruptcy cuz they don't like the asthetics of something.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 4:15 p.m.

Here is the thing. The city hasn't moved on the planning commission's zoning recommendations. The city counsel has a committee set up to spearhead this project (located in Ward 1, the only ward not represented on the committee) and this committee has yet to meet. If the city is going to treat Beal they way they have AND treat this company by stringing them out - the property becomes an even worse bet to develop because of the lack of clear zoning. So, this council (or the, as yet to meet, committee) need to move forward to do the things it needs to do to make Waterstreet start paying its way.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.

Considering the city put in that lovely center lane of flowers and cement.. Im just so sure they think they are in their best mind to leave the horrid looking shells of buildings sitting there. My concern comes in the " population" that hang out in that area. Concern for the night time workers..who is going to want to go there when the area truely not very safe now?

Dante Marcos

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 4:09 p.m.

A question for Mayor Schreiber and Teresa Gillotti, and anyone else with applicable knowledge: What would we need to do to be able to farm Water Street in this interim period?


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 3:38 p.m.

That is not the right location for any new food service. We have locally owned downtown Ypsilanti restaurants right now that are suffering in this economy. Do we need to encourage an out-of-state company to come in and take any of their business? We need PEOPLE downtown. That's all we need. If the PEOPLE are there, businesses will follow. Build some condos along the river. Hold out for that. Until the economy turns around, demolish what's left on the property and allow residents to farm it in plots and sell their goods at the Downtown Farmers Market. That place thrives in the summer. The taxpayers would get a return on their investment finally!!! The revenue from the sale might look tempting but it will do nothing to change the financial position of the city. Hang on and the right opportunity will come along. Stick a burger pit like the one a half of a mile down Mich Ave on that property and the property will look just like it does now after 10 years. Think beyond the moment. I love Downtown Ypsi. Don't mess this up!


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 3:34 p.m.

Alan- Throwing a tantrum isnt a crime. I spoke the facts. If you do not like it-TOUGH! This is "my voice" and I am using it. I appreciate Tom as well, but When things are not accurate, I am going to say something. This is professional journalism by these folks, not a High school paper. And why Ed brought up a criminal case that happened some time ago, I do not know, but it shows readers about Ypsilanti crime that has been reported already and plays no relevance to my comments or this article. We all know it is the same Burger King we are all talking about. Dont EVER EVER ask me to use better manners and not throw a tantrum because you dont like my words in text!!!! EVER! this is my voice and I am using it!! All is ask is to 1) Get facts correct when printing 2) Do notbe biased towards Ypsi when reporting crime If you all feel I am wrong I challenge Ann Arbor.Com To host a poll and ask if readers think they are biased when reporting crime or negativity.

Dante Marcos

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 3:20 p.m.

I, for one, appreciate Tom's coverage of things out here. Johnny: can you watch your manners? It is fine to offer criticism; it is unacceptable to throw a tantrum.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:59 p.m.

Tom Perkins- It is about 2,000 feet. I dont need a "Google map" I used my odometer. Saying Michigan and Ecorse is not accurate PERIOD. It is Michigan and Johnson. Getting it "close" or "near" is not good news reporting when you could have used "just east", but you didnt. Given your claims of being an Ypsilanti resident is even worse because you could have used "just east of" or "at Michigan and Johnson". You have "Were" and Ypsi resident for 8 years? Hmm Obviously you dont live here anymore. Well I still live here and have lived here for 40 Years. your Locations are wrong, Your Excuse is Poor and your Google reference is even worse then the rest. Get your loctions and facts right or you should consider writing about something you do know about.

Life in Ypsi

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:37 p.m.

Too bad the city did not make compromises with the first developer when this project first started. If the city would have been willing to help with site clean up we would have nice townhomes and buisnesses in that area now. I was so hopeful this project would turn our city around. I did not grow up here and I'm always fascinated when people tell me stories about how nice downtown Ypsi was and they would get dressed up to go there. If buisnesses are going to thrive we must find a way to get more middle class people to move to Ypsi. We need people who can actually afford to shop downtown. We also do not need any more hair salons and tax places! I'm unsure if a new BK is the solution, but I rememember when downtown A2 had BK and McDonald's and it was not an eye sore.

Tom Perkins

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:13 p.m.

Johnny, I made a change. Just to clarify, I lived in Ypsilanti for eight years and have never lived in Ann Arbor. As for the restaurants, at no point did I have the two mixed up. But the phrase "just east of" or word "near" would have been more accurate. A quick look on Google maps will show that the Burger King is roughly 600 feet east of Ecorse Road. My apologies for any confusion. Tom


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:10 p.m.

There are Burger Kings and McDonalds on Broadway in NYC, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills CA, and many many other places you wouldn't expect them. It doesn't have to be the dregs of the earth. We have a KFC across the street.... perhaps you would like them out also. Maybe we can throw every business off of Michigan Avenue from Huron to Prospect.... would that be acceptable? Just think of what that will do for the tax rolls. If we can get something started here, maybe it will be just that, A START. We are over ten years into this Water Street fiasco, and all everyone seems to want to do is to wait for the best thing imaginable. And that is what we do, keep waiting. Meanwhile, we now have to start paying for this mess. Let's start getting SOMETHING coming in from it. And I NEVER said that the "current grassroots community initiatives" had to be disregarded. If they want to pony up some cash and build, they should be welcome as well. But, the last thing we need are more tax abated, non-profit or otherwise freeloading "business" or "artistic" venues creating more of a drain on our meager resources. Remember, Ypsilanti City has one of the highest property tax rates in Michigan as it is.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 1:32 p.m.

Again- More fine Editing here. There is NO burger King At Michigan and Ecorse, that is called a "Mcdonalds". Burger King is a 1/2 mile more East. Maybe if the writers actually knew something about Ypsilanti instead of their precious Ann Arbor, people wouldnt be mislead

Martin Church

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 12:29 p.m.

Burger King would be great at that location. After all that is the mentallity of our city. Fast and starving. And look at what it will do for those coming into the city. Another vacant building at the Gateway of the City to entertaine our oldest working profession. we need Water Street Developed and if this is all we can get, let's go with it. But also lets get this owner to do something with the old building instead of just leaving another vacant building that says welcome to YPSILANTI, a city of DETROIT want to be.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

"While the city has contacted more than 100 prospective developers, few have seriously considered the site" Sure, wait for something else. I agree with A2grateful, though BK may not, if unique design is costly. Ypsi should take anything they can get if it is tax generating. Or perhaps the city's fiscal situation is not as precarious as previously reported.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 12:04 p.m.

Alain Danilou: "One main thing I wish to suggest: I don't think Annarborites have any position from which to speak to Ypsilanti residents about the its needs." Well, as an Ann Arborite that supports many Ypsilanti businesses, I disagree. If you are trying to build destination businesses that attract others from surrounding communities, you need to reconsider. However, if you don't care about your visitors, then do whatever. Unfortunately $400k does little for you and yours. If a Whopper will make it all better, then go for it and enjoy...

Dante Marcos

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

Dennis, I think you need to bone up on your knowledge of Ypsilanti's current grassroots community initiatives before you weigh in with culturally conservative comedy. Look at what James Marks has done with Spur Studios - just as one example - and then come back and tell us that radical, local vision can't transform Water Street.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 10:58 a.m.

All of these other suggestions are wonderful. When are they opening? Oh,that's right, they aren't. Why? Because they aren't economically feasable. Let's go with what we can, make it fit in, and build from there. Would I like it to be another Kerrytown? Maybe. Will it ever happen? I seriously doubt it.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 10:55 a.m.

Believe me, I am a regular at the co-op, shop there at least twice a week, and if we had a full-line grocery store, that would not change. I think a farm would be a good idea for now, but hardly what the people who were run out of there homes and businesses had in mind was a Burger King.

Dante Marcos

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

Mike, A few blocks from Water Street is the Ypsilanti Food Coop, one of the finest grocery stores in the county. A wine store would be welcome, however. A good dinner restaurant, following the brilliant example of Beezy's, would strike gold. A book store and magazine/news shop would be great. A record store would also be fantastic. Ditto a cutting-edge art space (we've got the Riverside Arts Center, but some conservatives have got a choke-hold on its programming). A healing arts center. Urban gardening store. And last but not least, my aforementioned CCF (Cooperative Civic Farm) could be the paving stone for the entire process.

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 10:41 a.m.

demolish the vacant buildings. farm it until something can be built. isn't that what detroit is proposing?


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 10:34 a.m.

Does there really need to be another BK less than a mile from an existing one? How about a grocery store? We don't have twelve of those.

Dante Marcos

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

One main thing I wish to suggest: I don't think Annarborites have any position from which to speak to Ypsilanti residents about the its needs. However, Annarborites do need to answer this question: how would you feel about a Burger King opening up in Kerrytown? My hunch is that such a proposal would be met with outrage, possibly also rifles. What many of us here in Ypsi are stressing is that we very much do want Water Street to be reborn, but as something more Chez Panisse (read: slow and local) than Burger King. Is it realistic to think a bourgeois, boutique entity like Chez Panisse could exist in Ypsilanti? Not really. Is it realistic to think that a collection of communitarian/slow/local ventures could thrive at Water Street? Absolutely.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

@Michael Thats the point theres nothing to offer in that area.BK is however, offering $400,000 for a dead spot piece of property


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 9:21 a.m.

Ypsi should wait for something else. There are enough fast food joints in the area do we really need more? The area should be developed in such a way to make people want to come to the area, what does ypsi have to offer now?


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 8:59 a.m.

I know....... we can keep waiting and waiting and waiting..... and then wait some more. Maybe if we wait long enough, Saks Fifth Avenue will build a new store here. Why don't all of those wanting to wait hold their collective breath until this happens. Even then they would probably want something "better". Everytime someone wants to get things started there, another excuse is fabricated to do nothing. Things are great there now, why change?????


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 8:40 a.m.

...."A fast food restaurant is a poor tone setter". It sounds to me like the BK would be "upscale" for a fast food restaurant. What is the city waiting for, a dream deal? Who do they have in mind? Why don't they ACTIVELY PURSUE their dream deal. Does anyone remember a couple of years ago Old Navy was looking at property in the downtown area, but the area looked so BAD that they decided against it. There is a $31 million DEBT for this "project" - fraud, waste and abuse is more like it - and I don't recall the Ypsi tax payers ever being ASKED if they WANTED IT. Now, the city has to take money out of the general fund to begin paying for this nightmare debt they have put us into, and they are screaming the city is BROKE and that fire and police have to be laid off, among other cuts. Stop WHINING, take the $400K, stop sitting on your hands and get busy LOOKING for new businesses to come into the area. What the heck happened to Aldi's??


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 8:35 a.m.

Ypsilanti made a tremendous effort to plan the area revitalization, and assemble parcels for the future. Burger King type developments were never in the plan. However, how about a compromise. Let Burger King build a unique store that will act as a catalyst for development, following the spirit of what is intended. A cookie cutter restaurant won't work. It would have to be a theme restaurant... one that paved the way for the rest of Water Street. If BK left, the building would have to be such that it could easily remain as the cornerstone, albeit repurposed. BK could also joint venture this... There are many win-win potentials other than the typical fast food drive through...

recovering bureacrat

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 7:47 a.m.

B.K. is a start and their contract requires that they be the only fast food resturant on the whole site. The city needs to seriously consider the big picture and not wait for the dream deal. New construction and landscaping can only improve the overall appearance and show potential developers that we're ready willing and able to redevelop the site. B.K. is asking to develop the least desirable location on the entire plot, that's a bonus.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 7:44 a.m.

@Larry you're right upscale dinning? won't happen if people want to eat somewhere nice they'll go to Haabs


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 7:35 a.m.

Are you kidding me! anything that generates a revenue stream to the city is a bonus. Why do you think there is so much crime and drugs, dropping property values. NO WORK Ypsi in there infanant wisdom chased business out to get "upper scale businesses" and become the next Saline well it backfired. lost revenues. an area that looks like a waste land. A community garden loll just what every town needs right downtown a field. We need attractions to draw many people. To support small businesses and fill the many small store fronts that line michigan Ave. Business breeds business or has everybody forgotten. We want it all but somebody has to pay for it. Burger king would be a start. Not every body wants fine dinning when their just shopping or running errand or spending time at the park. Stop trying to be what will never be. STOP turning businesses away! They pay the bills. Look at the people of Ypsilanti do they look like they can afford upscale they can barley afford the rent. Put in what can be used not what is destine to fail obviously the people making the calls make much more than the rest of us whom have to live here.

Dante Marcos

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 7:02 a.m.

Correction: "3-odd" should read "30-odd."

Dante Marcos

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 6:58 a.m.

My proposal for the Water Street acreage is to demolish all the existing vacant structures, and plant the entire 3-odd acres to a crop that can begin the process of healing the soil. Once the soil is deemed safe for use, I believe we should launch the first ever CCF, or, Cooperative Civic Farm, which would be a not-for-profit organic farm owned by the city of Ypsilanti, with labor donated by Ypsi residents in exchange for shares in whatever produce is grown on the site. One reason this project is win-win is that the land can be productively used until the city receives a development proposal that is worthy of the site, the city, and its citizens. If no such proposal materializes, it is my belief that the CCF could eventually evolve to not only pay for the property, but serve as a model for cities countrywide that contain derelict downtown parcels.

Gregory L. Russo

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 6:49 a.m.

the fast food restaurant at michigan and ecorse is a mcdonald's. the burger king restaurant is at michigan and campbell.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 6:39 a.m.

It will be another TEN to TWENTY YEARS before anything ever gets built at Water street. There are a million better locations through-out the county for anything: just name it- retail, residential, school district, office space, security, crime, ease of access, lower Taxes, better demographics, etc etc etc. Water Street right now is the arm-pit of Washtenaw county. Do you really think someone is going to drop millions of dollars and years of effort into building hundreds of residences there? Houses sell for $10,000 in Ypsi - they cost $100/sf to build - do the math.. Let the market decide and the space will fill up. Follow your zoning and flavor of the month' politics and you will will have a vacant lot for decades. I would have HOPED that Ypsi would have been 'shovel ready' for anybody to come in start building - But it looks like Ypsi is a developer's nightmare continued. Thanks for the warning.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 6:26 a.m. Good article about this at Ypsi Citi website.(link above) Regarding demolition, I have to wonder....awaiting approval from the Michigan Historical Commission? Are the kidding? Good grief.