You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

$4M Thompson Block redevelopment: 16 luxury lofts and 14,000 square feet of commercial space

By Katrease Stafford


Thompson Block owner Stewart Beal provided a rendering of what the Thompson Block site may look like in the next few years.

Courtesy Stewart Beal

Thompson Block owner Stewart Beal has revealed updated plans to redevelop the property that include investing $4 million to transform it into a "premier residential address," with 16 luxury lofts and up to 14,000 square feet of commercial space.

Beal presented his plans to the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority Thursday morning.

Beal said he is anticipating a six-month period to raise new equity, obtain state and local approvals and to secure leases for all of the commercial space. Beal said he expects construction to begin in late 2013 or early 2014 for work to be completed with a certificate of occupancy by late 2014 or early 2015.

Beal said a new LLC has been established, Thompson Block Partners LLC, to move the project forward and he has secured local Howard Hanna real estate agent Tyler Weston to market the property and secure potential tenants. Weston also is a partner in the new LLC.

Beal presented similar plans in the past that would have included commercial space on the first floor and entire northern segment of the 148-year-old Depot Town building. The second and third floors were to hold residential lofts in the prior plans. That plan eventually was changed to make the entire building residential with 23 lofts ranging in size from 620 to 1,120 square feet.

"We are introducing a reinvigorated Thompson Block to the community starting today," Beal said. "We’ve done several things to do that. The old company that used to own the building, Historic Equities Fund 1 LLC, has been rolled into a new investment vehicle. With this new entity we're raising equity and we're selling shares for $10,000 each in the new company and we'll use that new company to do the project."

To create more space for the new plans, Beal said the LLC purchased the property at 107 E. Cross St., which is behind Thompson Block.

"It's a vacant lot and used to be a house owned by David Kircher," Beal said. "The city tore it down and there was an auction and we purchased it. We're looking to combine that property with the Thompson Block and make it one parcel."

Weston said the 16 lofts likely will be priced at $12 per square foot and each loft will be about 1,110 square feet. The 10,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space will be priced at $16 per square foot.


This rendering shows an example of the loft space that will be available in the Thompson Block building

Courtesy Stewart Beal

Weston said he has no worries about the lofts being leased quickly and has also started to reach out to parties who expressed interest three years ago prior to the Sept. 23, 2009 fire that gutted the entire building.

"We've already met with a lot of interested parties and we've reached out to some previously interested parties and they are still interested, one specifically would be a bar," Weston said. "I've also chatted with some other entities but I don't want to be too specific. They would be using it for office-space-type scenarios."

Beal said one of their best leads right now on possible commercial entities in the building is a brew pub that would take about 8,000 square feet of space on the first floor and 4,000 square feet of the basement, where brewing equipment would be kept.

However, Beal said the basement will be expensive to develop because some spaces need to be lowered. The plan also includes the construction of a parking lot with 30 spaces that would be located to the east of the building.

Beal and the city reached a consent agreement in August 2010 that gave Beal three years to complete the exterior envelope of the building, including a roof, walls and all openings sealed with at least temporary doors and windows.

Beal has until Sept. 1 to complete these renovations and he said so far, 10 of the 11 requirements outlined have been completed. However, Beal said he is in the process of working with the city to possibly obtain a one-year extension on putting a roof on the building.

Thumbnail image for 081309_Stewartbeal.jpg

Stewart Beal

"The reason the roof is not at this point realistic is because it has to go on after $1 million worth of construction," Beal said. "The roof itself would be $50,000 and if that were the case, we could just go and do that project itself. It's pretty feasible to do in the short term, but there's no structure to put a roof on. ... I reached out to several council members and so far they’ve been appreciative that we’ve done 10 of the 11."

Beal will have to formally go before council to ask for an extension on the consent agreement, which he says allows for additional negotiation. Several DDA board members inquired about what would happen if council doesn't approve the extension and Beal said it would then go back to mediation.

"There is an appointed formal mediator," Beal said. "...I know city council doesn’t want to be in mediation. That’s the purpose of starting the meetings now."

City Council Member Pete Murdock, who was at the meeting, told that he's open to hearing more of what Beal has to say about the possible consent agreement extension, but only if more details are provided.

"If he wants to talk about the consent agreement, I'm open to hear that," Murdock said. "I've always been interested to see something happen (at Thompson Block.)"

Board Vice Chair Amanda Edmonds and other members inquired whether funding will be an issue for the property.

Beal said the LLC has loan requests out right now and are considering different forms of financing including traditional loans, tax credits and equity investments. Beal said the project still has funding approvals in place from 2009 that are in effect now.

Beal said he's in the process of applying for a facade grant from the DDA, a bridge loan, which is a type of short-term loan, typically taken out for a period of up to three years or potentially longer-term financing and other financing mechanisms. He also is going to re-apply for a 12-year Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act Exemption in the name of new investment group. The OPRA would freeze the property's taxes at its current rate for 12 years.

One issue with the project, according to Beal, is that everything needs to happen in lock step with each other in order for the project to come together. Beal said financing and approvals need to happen together.

"No one's going to finance it if approvals aren't in place," he said.

Despite questions about the financing, board members were in favor of the development moving forward.

Board Member Linda French said this project could serve as a catalyst for development in the Depot Town area and said it could spur interest in other vacant buildings such as the old train depot.

Beal told he's confident the development will take place this time.

"With our new partners we've formed, I'm extremely confident we're going to get it done," he said. "For almost 100 years, this was one of the most bustling areas in Ypsilanti. ... Our vision is to return it to that."

Beal asked the DDA for support in the following areas:

  • Considering his application for the YDDA Facade Improvement Grant Program
  • Considering the application for the YDDA Building rehabilitation Program
  • Consideration for any future occupants who may seek a DDA Liquor License
  • Write a letter of support to the Michigan Economic Growth Corporation

Beal also is asking the DDA Board to write a letter of support to the city council, for which board members said they will likely bring forth a resolution at their May meeting.

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.


Duc d'Escargot

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

I don't see how setting up a new corporation and attempting to "raise equity" will solve any of Mr. Beal's problems. He has had several years' time before and after the fire to get this proposed development off the ground, but it's just not happening. The council has given this project enough leeway, and should not extend any deadlines.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 4:09 a.m.

Remember... That he failed to have that building properly secured or insured way back to start with.... So now with another scheme cooked to buy some more time, knowing that financially strapped Ypsilanti can't afford more than a token attempt legally to make him adhere to the soon to expire agreement. And all those great properties he amassed when the real estate bubble burst -- Have you seen those? Talk about lipstick on a pig...


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

and why would ANYONE doubt Beal's ability, intentions, or plan? Just look at all he has done with this fine building.

Stupid Hick

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

Katrease, good job, this is the best reporting you've done on the Thompson Block. But perhaps I would have chosen a different headline, because it gives the impression that a $4M redevelopment project actually exists, when nothing has changed, except perhaps that Beal has even less credibility than he did three years ago. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read the headline, but quickly came back to reality after reading the article.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

When is city council going to wise up to this beal guy? Sorry for Tyler Weston. One more thing. Don't you need a roof over this pile of bricks to develop what is inside? I say knock it down...a strong wind could do that....put up a monument to it's history, and put a real building up where the unsustainable southwest portion is. The Historic District Commissionhas everyone by the nose for no good reason!


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:17 a.m.

So, luxury living lofts over a bar? Good luck with that.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:57 a.m.

One day, soon, we'll all be standing in the new hot spot at the Thompson Block and be thanking you for saving such an amazing part of MI history! Well done Stewart. Happy birthday.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

"Well done Stewart " well done what ?

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:35 a.m.

What's the old saying? Fool you once, shame on him. Fool you twice, three times, four? Shame on you.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

Ya fool me, can't get fooled again!-George W. Bush


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

As an initial act of good faith by the Developer, install a permanent roof on that building! I doubt any potential investors will be passionately intrigued by a fire-gutted brick shell with no roof.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

Anyone who believes Beal needs to have their head examined. But I give 3-2 odds that the council can be bamboozled again. "With this new entity we're raising equity and we're selling shares for $10,000 each in the new company and we'll use that new company to do the project." That's another way of saying that he doesn't have the money....


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

Half of the member of city council get bamboozled trying to find their way home after the meeting. Beal should have no problem tricking them into doing whatever he wants.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 11:10 p.m.

So for all the haters out there that love to slam Beal..what do you want done? Why don't you attempt to buy it from him and renovate it yourself? I don't see a whole ton of others investing in Ypsilanti on the scale of Beal. Do you want him to let It go and fall on the citys hand and sit there until the city tears it down? or should we try working with this guy?


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 11:28 p.m.

What scale ? a burned out carcass of a building that he's been giving lip service to for years upon years ?


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

They saved it alright. From the wrecking ball. This is historic property but still, the homeless get in, almost burn it to the ground and now they want to save it? Sounds like a white elephant to me.

Jack Gladney

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 10 p.m.

The Boy Who Cried Renovation (with apologies to whoever wrote the biblical story)

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:37 a.m.

Actually, I think it was Greek or Roman.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

Lemme get this straight. Mr. Beal is going to spearhead a multi million dollar renovation of this building, but 2 1/2 years into a 3 year consent agreement and he can't even get all of the windows boarded up. Maybe I'm just being cynical.....


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

i'd like to see the parking plan for these luxury lofts. The parking in the area is already tight most nights and when you add more residents and a brew pub, it will be further stressed. The streets are not in great shape, either.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 10:27 a.m.

I think Ignatz is referring to N. River between the tracks and Forest.....which is in bad shape.....too many cuts and the botched patch jobs have really made that section a mess.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

I really can't fathom these comments of "parking is tight" in the depot town area. Like woman in ypsi says, oh no! You might have to walk half a freakin block! There's hundreds of parking spots for depot town. Maybe even thousands if you count all the surrounding streets. And the roads are fine. sheesh.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

I never have any trouble parking around there. I know it is a *little* tight in that I have sometimes had to park a half a block away from where I would have most desired to park. I wouldn't hold up renovation of that building due to parking concerns.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:12 p.m.

Cross Street is BRAND NEW!!!!!!!!!!!!

Elaine F. Owsley

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 8:01 p.m.

Seeing is believing.

Steve McKeen

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

Linda French is absolutely correct. Mr. Beal will be the savior of Depot Town. This city needs to do whatever it takes to make him happy. Heroes don't come around very often, and Mr. Beal is the kind of hero Ypsilanti needs.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

I'm confused. When did Depot Town need saving?


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 9:04 p.m.

Steve.....You're being sarcastic...right ?


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

Oof. I really want to be excited about this. It would be great for the area. But it's hard to shake the overwhelming skepticism. "The reason the roof is not at this point realistic is because it has to go on after $1 million worth of construction," Beal said. "The roof itself would be $50,000 and if that were the case, we could just go and do that project itself. It's pretty feasible to do in the short term, but there's no structure to put a roof on. ..." DUDE, so what, that was always part of the consent agreement, to REBUILD THE BUILDING and get a dang roof put on. You failed to actually rebuild the building and get a proper roof put on. That was the agreement. 2.5 years ago (in the linked article above) we had this quote: "The deal provides a "reasonable timeline for restoring the Thompson Block to the way it was before the fire," said Beal". And for the last 2 years, you've done.... nothing....? nothing.

Depot Town

Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:24 p.m.

Oh.........I get it. He says he needs everyone to approve his project before he's going to work on getting funding. Well played, Mr. Beal. Well played.


Thu, Apr 18, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Oh my God! I can't believe anyone will buy into this , so a name change makes all this feasible? Let us not forget how long he had Cross Street blocked . I'd rather put my $10,000.00 on a hot air balloon! Why not rename the Michigan Ave project , if that's All it takes. Really City council? Lets not forget his Grant requirement.