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Posted on Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Ypsilanti Township officials to ask courts for help with shopping center alleged to be structurally unsafe and mold infested

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti Township is asking a judge to declare several stores in the Gault Village Shopping Center public nuisances and prohibit their occupancy until the property’s landlord completes major roof repairs.

Township attorneys are also asking the judge to order a section of the plaza formerly occupied by Kmart to be demolished.

Township attorneys alleged a long list of issues in a petition submitted in Circuit Court. Among them are severe roof leakage over the plaza’s Value Foods store, potential fire hazards in Value Foods, a collapsing roof over the former Kmart, minor leaks in multiple units and mold infestation in several stores.

The shopping center is located on Emerick Street near Grove Road and I-94, and is owned by Sylvan Lake-based Union Lake Associates LLC. An attorney for Union Lake did not return calls from on Monday.

Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Donald Shelton granted an expedited emergency show cause hearing for today, and the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustee approved the legal action at their Tuesday night meeting.


The interior of the former Kmart in Gault Village.

Photo courtesy of Ypsilanti Township

At the hearing, Shelton can grant part or all of the township’s requests, or call for a later evidentiary hearing. The businesses listed in the verified petition include an ACO Hardware, Advance America, New Image Beauty Supply, Value Foods and Sam’s Dollar Store.

“There are a whole litany of issues on that structure,” Township Attorney Doug Winters said. "This shopping center has just been neglected for decades."

Township Building Director Ron Fulton said building inspectors visited the plaza on several occasions during rainy weather in early March. He said they found water “showering” through a hole in the Value Foods’ roof and “it appeared to be raining harder inside the store than outside.”

Township attorneys and Fulton provided photographs showing the extent of the issues as evidence. In the area where water was leaking in Value Foods, employees cordoned off the wet floor and shelves and removed food, but water continued to flood outside that area, Fulton said.

Building officials also found water leaking into light fixtures that weren’t in use, and Fulton said a store manager told inspectors that the area couldn’t be kept dry because of the rain’s severity.

On March 9, Fulton posted public notice outside the Value Foods declaring it unsafe, a fire hazard and prohibiting occupancy, though the business remains open. The notice alerts the public that the township deems the building a danger, but it doesn’t hold the weight of the law.


A hole in the roof of the former Kmart in the Gault Village Shopping Center.

Photo Courtesy of Ypsilanti Township

“When I went in to conduct an inspection and nearly slipped on a wet, unmarked area, I decided enough was enough, that there was no way to allow the general public to walk in there without a warning,” Fulton told the township board on Tuesday night.

In the verified petition, township attorneys state that the photographs depict “an unacceptable threat to the health, safety and welfare” of tenants, employees and the general public conducting business in the plaza. The verified petition continued that the roof is in “failure mode.”

A Value Foods manager told on Monday afternoon that the area that has been cordoned off has been that way for years. He said the issues were nothing more than “common leaks” and added that he didn’t believe the township should be intervening.

Fulton said inspectors also found mold growing throughout the plaza and on the wall of the business adjacent to the Kmart. That business, Measurement Inc., scores standardized tests for Michigan’s schools. As of Monday, approximately 300 employees were expected to be working in the room when test scoring resumed after a break.

Fulton said the Kmart has been vacant for 10 years. During an inspection conducted with an administrative search warrant in August, building officials found the roof deteriorating and steel decking that supports it rusting and collapsing. They also found cracks in the outside wall.

Fulton said an agent from Union Lake verbally agreed to demolish the Kmart by Dec. 1, but no action was taken.

Township attorneys noted in the verified petition that some roof work had recently been performed, but they contend that the roof needs a full assessment from a structural engineer. The petition states that years of “woefully lacking” maintenance and an unacceptable “Band-Aid” approach to repairing the building led to the current conditions.


Tom Dodd

Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

Several years ago, patrons of this shopping center were concerned enough about its condition that they arranged for a meeting with the owner. He showed up an hour and a half late because he could not find the property he owned! Looks like the current owners are not any more intimate with their property either.

Atticus F.

Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

The problem is that Ypsi Township uses this tactic on a regular basis...So when there truely is a problem with a building, they have little to no credability. It reminds me of the story of the little boy crying wolf.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 4:45 p.m.

It's a shame. It was a vibrant shopping area 40 years ago, then they closed the exit from I-94 beginning the decline. Glad to hear the area is coming back a bit. It's always been a case of a neglectful owner who just threw up his hands and let it go.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

That K Mart left at least 20 years. We have been in the area 15 and there was no K Mart when we moved in. Please check the dates again.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

I was gonna comment on that. It has definitely been closed alot longer than 10 yrs! 20 is more like it!


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

When they shut down the on and off ramps to that location years ago, K Mart left because business died. There was a huge movement 2 years ago to reopen the on and off ramps but MDOT refused because there was not a need for it. Getting to and from this location is a pain and I really hope they tear this area completely down and build new houses. This has been an eye sore for years and glad to hear there is a push to close it. There is nothing to attract any business to this area at all. There is a place to park and walk, but unless a restaurant opens, forget it. Especially now that Verizon and Ford have closed this building. Good luck and good riddance to this blight.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

They ougtha dynamite that monstrosity. I get depressed just driving by it, let alone shopping in one of those roach traps. If I'm not mistaken, the same developer owns the Rawsonville Strip Mall, and it too is an ugly eyesore with many vacant buildings.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

unfortunately when the shut down the off ramp at grove rd it killed this little shopping mall. I live in the subdivision next to this blight and the only thing I think they can do here is demo and rebuild it in to a park or something.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

Fix it up or tear it down, enough of this blight! I say prosecute the slum landlords, make them move next door to this eyesore. Better yet make them live in the parking lot. They purchase property and rather than take care of it, they milk all the money out of it, putting nothing back in. This area does have lots of potential. Walmart should open up there, then all the Walmart bashers could protest. Who wants to bet they are also behind on the property taxes? Criminal prosecution is what is needed for these slum lords.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

I used to work in the business next door to this fire trap. There were leaks in that roof, too. I can only imagine how anxious the property owner is to take care of a vacant, defunct building when it took pulling teeth to have the roof fixed in an occupied unit.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 11:26 a.m.

Tear it down and build a Walmart!


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Ugh - no, please!


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 11:09 a.m.

Going way back to the 1960's, I remember when that plaza housed the W.T. Grant store where the former Kmart stands. There was and A&P food store at the other end. I was there opening day when Little Caesars Pizza moved in and they had a television magic show celebrity there. Over the years, there were various stores moving in, such as the hardware store, I seem to recall a Cunningham's drug store as well. We ate at the Kmart grill occasionally, a pretty good fish fry place at the time. It is sad this place was let to deteriorate for so many years. It was nice to have this plaza there in those days, we often walked from over in the Shady Knoll neighborhood to shop at Grants and the other stores. I miss those days of my childhood...this place could once again be a nice shopping center if the owners do something to make the needed improvements.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

It would be grand to see a Wal Mart and another store to make this place vibrant again. The sad part about it is the fact that you cannot get to it easily. You have to take the Whittaker Road exit and circle around or the Willow Run exit and again circle around to get to it. The only people that would shop there would be the ones who live in that area. Downtown Ypsi destroyed the old vacant buildings but there is no one building or buying that land to move into. Yes, you can keep tearing buildings down, but the only thing left is open land space. Build a park or build a strip mall, but make it easy to get to. I would love to see a road going from were the Dairy Queen is to the old ford plant. This would increase traffic to this area. Good luck Ypsi, a lot of pipe dreams and nothing flowing.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

One additional comment about the W.T. Grant Company at Gault Village. The original Grants was located near the center of the plaza. It was a much smaller store and was converted to other stores after Grants built the larger store at the south west end of the plaza in the late 1960's. This new store was what eventually became Kmart.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 10:46 a.m.

Thanks for covering this topic, Tom! I had been doing some digging myself via neighborhood watch and Google searches, though had no luck digging up any relevant info on if/when work was going to move forward. Appears to me from meeting minutes the township has been fighting with Union Lake Associates LLC over various issues like this for years, with significant action taking place only when certificates of occupancy for new tenants (Family Dollar, Rent a Center) are on the line. The Gault Village neighborhood is (almost surprisingly) vibrant, with a mix of both young families and recent retirees. Add easy access of the population downtown Ypsilanti and the eventual opening of Angstrom USA in the old Ford/Visteon plant, and you'd hope the landlords would see this property as a prospective goldmine. Although I love Big Sky Diner on Ecorse, I'd covet a coney or similar restaurant in the plaza, assuming it was placed in a standalone building which popped up after they tore down the old K-mart!

Monica R-W

Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 10:37 a.m.

Good reporting! It seems as if the "Value Foods" is a horrible roof fall disaster... just waiting to happen. Hopefully, no Ypsilanti Township residents will go into this 'store' location until the repairs are done and even then...question why before entering store. As for the store's owner..stating that the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees and particularly Doug Winters/Ron Fulton (who are doing another great job in this case) 'do not have any business' -so to speak- posting warnings about MOLD, embarking on legal actions against the properly owner and the deterioration of the roof which in itself is a health hazard....should make any resident think hard before buying anything in so-called "Value-Foods".

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 10:18 a.m.

i hope aco can find a solid building in that area. they are invaluble at that location. sad seeing the old kmart in that state. i remember shopping there when i was a kid. i know others had their first job there.