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Posted on Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 3 p.m.

Ypsilanti City Council ordered to next facilitation session in Thompson Block dispute

By Tom Perkins

A judge ordered the entire Ypsilanti City Council to be present at the next facilitation session between the city and Historic Equities Fund 1 LLC, which owns Depot Town’s Thompson Block building.

The order came after the latest salvo in the dispute between the city and developer Stewart Beal, a member of Historic Equities, on how to renovate 148-year-old structure that burned in a suspected arson case last September. 

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The developer and Ypsilanti City Council have been at odds over the Thompson Block building for months.

Attorneys for both sides remained in the judge's chambers for nearly two hours during a hearing on Wednesday but failed to come to any sort of agreement.

Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Donald Shelton ordered the two sides into facilitation in May, with retired 14-B district judge John Collins serving as the facilitator. An original deadline of June 18 yielded no results, and Assistant City Attorney Karl Barr said the negotiations had “lost traction” by the latest deadline.

No new court date or deadline has been set. 

Barr said the move to bring the entire council into negotiations at the courthouse isn't entirely uncommon. He said the intent is to put everyone involved face to face instead of relaying their positions through an attorney, thus increasing the chances for compromise.

“I am understanding of the process, but I would like to echo my client’s concern as to the speed of a result,” Barr said.

Beal said the drawn out litigation demonstrates a lawsuit isn't the quickest path to a settlement.

“It’s disappointing that the city continues down this path, and it's becoming embarrassing for them at this point,” he said.

The city has hired an independent architect and engineer who have worked on the building in the past to determine its condition. Barr said if the structure is found to be in danger of collapse, it will not prompt any immediate action and will only strengthen the city's case.

Beal’s employees have been removing debris from the building in recent days. Beal said the work will help assess the building and will be done by the end of the week.

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



Sun, Jul 18, 2010 : 6:07 p.m.

An independent inspector will deem at least 65% of the building unrepairable. The question is will Beal and the city reach a compromise or fight it out at great expense?


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 9:44 p.m.

Lots of money for lawyers, not so much for the city. Nice job council. Way to waste our money.

Tom Perkins

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 2:52 p.m.

Midtowner, Yes, the city had to obtain an administrative search warrant to get on the property with their engineer. More to come on that issue.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

First, watchinypsi, it is almost impossible to get insurance for a vacant building, especially insurance that covers fire. Remember when the fire happened and everyone cried insurance scam? It was noted in reports at that time that the building was uninsured because it was vacant. In the weeks after the fire, I agreed with most here, tear it down and recycle the bricks. Mr. Beal says he wants and has the ability to save the building, and began to work on his plans. Ok, I'm skeptical, but let's see the plan. He was negotiating with the city on a plan to remove all road obstructions, a plan which was brought to city council and supported by the city manager. A majority of council, led by Pete Murdock, voted against this proposal and requested the city attorney prepare a lawsuit. When brought before a court, the judge was dumbfounded that council went against the advice of the city manager and attorney and brought a lawsuit when the two parties were so close to reaching an agreement. That part, as a city resident, I kind of find embarrassing. He scolded both parties for being obstinate, and ordered the two parties two work it out or face litigation. So here we are again. None of us (I assume) know what is going on in these negotiations between Mr. Beal and the City. If they were so close to an agreement before going to court, why can't they figure it out now? I would suspect that the fact all members of city council are being called into the arbitration hearing holds a clue. I'm not saying that Mr. Beal is in the right, but had the city stayed the path of negotiation being taken by Mayor Schreiber and the City Manager, and stayed out of court, wouldn't we be better off? According to published details of the plan, as I recall, we would already have one of the blocked streets open and be close to having the second open. While we still would have the propped up building to deal with, at least we would have open streets. Mr. Beal says he has the engineering and money to save the building. Why wouldn't we at least want to let him start acting on the plan? If he gets the streets clear and then stops work, we just go ahead and sue him to have the building demolished anyway right? If he can't even make it to streets clear, and judge around will order that thing torn down. But instead, council, led by Pete, has chosen to fight. And nothing has happened. City Residents might also have noticed the two condemned and dangerous houses owned by the Thompson Block's previous owner, Ypsilanti's most infamous landlord and bitter legal opponent, were just torn down a month or so ago. The city fought in the courts long and hard to have those buildings torn down and they prevailed. And how long did that take again? That's a long time to be without a lane of Cross and River Street isn't it?


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

I heard the city had to get a court order just to inpsect the building over safety concerns. Can confirm if this is true?


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

The fault lies 100% with the city of Ypsilanti. They continue to threaten the developer with fines and law suits because the building has not yet been repaired or demolished, yet they refuse to issue the necessary permits to perform either of the above actions! No wonder Water Street is a failure and all high ranking city employees associated with its development have fled the State.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 10:18 a.m.

John Barr has failed to give appropriate legal advice to council for years. This is just another example of his advice being wrong. He said this would be fast. Beal said the Judge would make them negotiate. The Mayor had it right. Work with Beal and don't over reach. Now we all get to have Pete making the city go before a judge again. At least this he isn't suing to get a job he created for himself. Murdock is another Lesko for sure.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

I think that people in Ypsilanti have been very patient. I would like to see the building restored too (if it is even possible) but I am not happy with the shell of the building just standing there with nothing going on. I suspect that the city officials would be pretty lenient with Beale if it looked like something was actually being done. I, for one, and tired of not being able to make a left turn from River onto Cross. Is there an end in sight?

Top Cat

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 8:57 a.m.

Is there one person who doubts where this is going to end? This is not a building. It is a pile of propped up bricks. This is Ypsi's version of Tiger Stadium.

no flamers!

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

Tear it down yesterday. The fact that it is old doesn't make it historical. The building, even before the fire, had no signature architectueal features. It was and is just a big simple square block. Who cares if the bricks in the replacement building were formed in 1910 or 2010? I fully support the City's demands, because the owner failed to renovate & rebuild timely--the fact that the owner very well may be competent and committed to the community doesn't change the outcome. The times have changed, the owner's intial plans have been overtaken by events. Bring in the wrecking ball and let's move on already.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 8:01 a.m.

Let me help out Mr. Beal in his assessment. Burnt up, nothing left, bricks most likely not usable, tear down. A vacant lot would look better than what's there now or even what's about to come (no plans).


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 7:34 a.m.

Long Time Resident: If Beal would have been a responsible business owner and insured his property then maybe he would have had the money and started repairing it after the fire in September, which was 10 months ago! Heck he has not even made the smallest kind gesture of thanks to the other business owners or the residents of Depot Town for putting up with his messes. The real reason he wants to "save" part of this crap heap is because then it will kept it's "historical" title and then the "set back" of the building (how far it is from the street) will remain where it is and in turn give Beal more square footage if he ever "remodels/restores" the heap. And to Mick52, if Ann Arbor dealt with young Beal like we have had to, they wouldn't be behind him either.

Long Time Resident

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 5:46 a.m.

This whole string is absurd. A blighted wreck stood on that site for 20+ years. Beal wrests control at great expense from the litigous former owner. He raises $1,000,000 in private equity from local investors for a $5,500,000 private sector real estate deal in Ypsi (when is the last time that happened?), starts the rehab, loses financing in financial crisis, an arsonist torches the building, he saves the historic facade and now we worry about it being unsightly? How do you think the vacant lot will look, as that is all that will ever be there if the facade goes (no tax credits/no rehab). Give me a break.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 2:56 a.m.

@Hypnotique-- Thanks! If we had more people working for the City with that "Joan Crawford" attitude, things might actually get done! Appreciate the that movie!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:16 p.m.

"Tear down that bitch of a building and put a nightclub where it OUGHT to be!

Stupid Hick

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 9:36 p.m.

The city should buy it from him if they don't like it?! Ha ha! Is this ironic humor, or are you unfamiliar with how Beal acquired the building to begin with?


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 7:53 p.m.

Wow, Ypsilanti folks are so different from Ann Arborites. In A2 they would be trying like the dickens to get this building deemed a historic district. I gotta disagree with y'all I like those who want to preserve old buildings. If the city should buy it from him if they don't like it. I will defer however, if an independent inspector deems it unrepairable.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 7:24 p.m.

Malorie, How true. I feel so badly for the city residents for: 1. Having to pay for court negotiation and 2.Still having to look at the hideous decaying shell on River and Cross. Meanwhile Beal gets more time to do nothing but destroy the appearance of Depot Town.

dading dont delete me bro

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 6:10 p.m.

malorie, you crack me up there miss.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 5:14 p.m.

I'm trying to figure out if anyone else agrees that the city is "embarrassing itself" like Beal said. It's funny, I've had the thought that Beal is emberassing himself even before this matter devolved into a lawsuit.

John smith

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 4:35 p.m.

It's too bad a drunk driver in a large truck couldn't plow into it at 3 in the morning, knock the support braces down and collapse that pile of trash. The eyesore would be gone and we would have one less drunk driver on the road. Win/win!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 2:57 p.m.

I just hope it dosn't fall on someone. Whatever happens to the building it isn't worth a human life.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 2:52 p.m.

Tear that big ugly eyesore down.

dading dont delete me bro

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 2:39 p.m.

this is great, it'll be an eyesore to all that attend heritage festival in august. not to mention all that have been to depot town for the elvisfest, beerfest (coming up), car shows...etc. beal, just demo it and rebuild it to today's codes w/the reclaimed bricks. in the long run, this will be cheaper than dragging through court and wasting everybody's time and $$