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Posted on Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:55 a.m.

Long-vacant, historic downtown Ypsilanti building to be auctioned

By Tom Perkins


The Smith Furniture Building

Tom Perkins | For

The fate of downtown Ypsilanti’s Smith Furniture Building will likely be decided on Wednesday.

The 24,000-square-foot structure has largely sat vacant since it was purchased by its current owner, James Pate in 1992. After recent pressure from the city, Pate opted to put it on the auction block.

The no-minimum bid auction will be held by Ann Arbor-based auction house Braun and Helmer at the property at 15 S. Washington St. on Sept. 11 at 1 p.m.

Up until the last month, the building was blanketed in green mold, though Braun and Helmer has worked over recent weeks to clean the tile, carpet, partitions and other materials on which most of the mold was growing. The company also made repairs to the leaking roof.


Mold grew like a lawn inside the Smith Building prior to its recent cleanup.

Tom Perkins | For

Auctioneer Jerry Helmer said the two-story building is greatly improved from its state a month ago.

“There’s no comparison. You would walk across the carpet before and would hear ‘splish splish,’” he said. “It still needs a lot of work, though I covered everything I thought needs to be covered.”

Helmer highlighted that the steel and concrete building is still structurally sound.

Still, he said the building needs “considerable improvements” including repairs to the roof, electrical system, plumbing system, heating, drywall, ceiling tile and more.


The Smith's interior has largely been cleared of mold growth.

Tom Perkins | For

A no-minimum bid, no contingencies auction was chosen over putting the Smith on the market because Pate wants to quickly move the property, Helmer said. City of Ypsilanti records show it has a taxable value of $264,000.

A $25,000 deposit and signed sales agreement is due upon purchase, while the balance must be paid in full within 30 days.

Helmer said he has already received several inquiries about the deposit and is pleasantly surprised by the interest so far.

“You get a lot building for the money,” he said.

A 10-percent buyer’s premium is included. Helmer said it will offset some of his company's cost of the major interior cleanup.

Pate bought the building from the former owners for $300,000, and it was only ever partly used as an office for his wife. Several attempts to purchase the property were rejected or ignored.

City Planner Teresa Gilloti said the city would be pleased to see an active use on the first floor such as retail or a restaurant, and possibly residential on the second floor.

“We just would love reactivate the property, get it back on tax rolls and revitalizing that section of downtown would be fantastic to see,” she said.



Wed, Sep 11, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

This is exciting! Looking forward to updates!

Steve Pierce

Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

Here is a link to the Engineering report on the Smith Furniture building from March 2013 paid for by by the taxpayers of the City of Ypsilanti. (1.5MB) Cheers! - Steve

Ypsi Eastsider

Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

The building is in the Historical District, thus any work on the outside of the building must first be approved by the Historic District Commission.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

It seems this building could be a great location for a downtown Market, say something like Trader Joesish. Also there are a few other buildings on Washington St. that need some owners, like the old bars that went away, there is a no real night life in downtown. More music venues would be nice. Not to take away from Depot Town but downtown needs goings on also. Well sell it and knock it down put something with more style more like the rest of the area buildings. It is NOT historic.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

"Mold grew like a lawn" is a beautiful caption for the pic of the green "carpet" in the pic. Congrats to the caption writer for that one. Kudos also to the cleanup crew!

Katrease Stafford

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 6:36 p.m.

Readers: What sort of retail business would you like to see in this building? Do you think there might be interest in this location by potential business owners looking to move into the Ypsilanti area?

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 2:28 a.m.

How about a furniture store?

Katrease Stafford

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

Thanks, mady!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

Trader Joe.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

Katrease, a DOLLAR TREE! btw, welcome back!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

I am wondering what and who is considering put a bid in on that building. I really hope something that is worth visiting downtown. This is a very pretty building and wish I had the money to take it over. O well. Still dreaming of something very nice going in there.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.

If it wasn't for that new ordinance, Ypsi could have been world famous for having the world's largest medical marijuana dispensary!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

Sounds more like it might have been a penicillin factory.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

To those complaining, perhaps,. the word "iconic" may have been a better choice.

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:08 p.m.

No, iconic is just as silly in most of the way it's used. Not "historic", not "iconic" not "mid-century modern" aka '50's, just an empty building with a modestly interesting front wall.

Reverend Bubba X

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

Historic? Nothing in the article indicates that this structure is registered as or considered historic. Only the headline indicates "historic building." It will be good to see this structure put in some sort of productive use.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:39 a.m.

Washington is spelled wrong.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

Oh, pick pick pick!!!

Jojo B

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

This site's days are numbed so why bother with spell check.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.


K Thompson

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

2 hours later it has not been corrected.

Eduard Copely

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:33 a.m.

1950s modern architecture is actually pretty cool. This is the perfect layout for any type of retail business!


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

Actually, my mother is much older than that, and clearly, you're much younger.

Eduard Copely

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:14 p.m.

So was your mother.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

It was built in 1965.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

Agree w/ Elaine. A good example of how the "historic" tag is keeping things from getting better is that whole Beal debacle. How it is that a crumbling shell of a couple walls can stand so much in the way of moving forward is beyond me. Looking at the pictures of that and then reading about the years-long struggle to have something done is laughable if you don't live in the same county, and just depressing and insane if you do. It's not a historic site waiting to be restored to lost glory, it is blight. Plain and simple.

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

Actually, it's kind of sad, because the Beale remains were once a Union Soldier barracks and had some "historic' value. Once the walls were breached, it should have been torn down, since it no longer resembled its original form.

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 10:16 a.m.

There is really nothing "historic" about this building. Nothing of note happened there. It is not even really that "old". It is just an empty, building in need of various repairs. That "historic" designation and also those things labeled "iconic" drive me nuts. Just because it is older than you, doesn't make it "historic" "iconic" or anything else noteworthy.