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, Aug 22, 2013 : 11 a.m.

Public gets chance to view Thompson Block interior in Beal effort to raise funds, find tenants

By Tom Perkins


An interior wall in the Thompson Block shot from the west.

Tom Perkins | For

On Wednesday evening, Paul Larned took a stroll through the largely gutted Thompson Block building.

Some of the bricks in the former civil war barracks have stood for 150 years, while others were just put in place by masons who worked on the building as guests came through.

Like some of the expected 150 visitors - and dozens who had made their through by 5 p.m. - to the Thompson Block open house, Larned is an investor who who learned about the project through a presentation by Developer Stewart Beal to the Michigan Real Estate Investors group.

Although the building’s interior is partitioned by crumbling brick and wood walls, and although it’s a space with a vision that requires a wealth of imagination, Larned liked the potential it offers.


The Thompson Block interior.

Tom Perkins | For

“It’s a great project. I like to see buildings that are in disrepair rebuilt and utilized again,” he said. “It drives me crazy that we in the U.S. tear down so many buildings while people in Europe are living in buildings that are thousands of years old.”

Beal, who is head of the Thompson Block LLC, the group that owns the 150-year-old structure, prepared the showing to generate interest in investment in the building and help secure pre-leases for the property's opening scheduled for 2015.

So far, Beal said he is in talks with around a dozen potential tenants who he would like to see commit through pre-leases to moving into the Thompson Block in 2015’s first quarter.

His goal is raise $1.74 million by selling 174 shares at $10,000 a piece to partially fund redevelopment of 16 luxury lofts as well as 14,000 square feet of commercial space. So far, he has raised $370,000.


The Thompson block's interior

Tom Perkins | For

The realty team handling the leases from Howard Hanna Real Estate helped provide the tours highlighted some of the advantages.

“This building is a canvas,” said agent Tyler Weston. “That’s one of the positive things; this is kind of build to suit. Before the fire everything was locked in, but now we can really build to suit.”

Weston also highlighted a few new details, such as outdoor decks planned for the third story lofts.

Larned said he understands that there is some disbelief when a developer proposes idea for such a large renovation, but he thinks the Thompson Block has its advantages.

“It’s got a good location in Depot Town,” Larned said. “There are a lot of people paying a lot of money for space in the Ann Arbor area.”

Beal said current Beal Properties tenants, neighbors, city officials, history buffs and others looking for living or commercial space had toured the building.


The north interior section of the Thompson Block

Tom Perkins | For

He said he brought in the masons to show that several people working can get the project done.

“We want a skeptic to see that this can be done,” he said.

Beal also highlighted that the Thompson Block will be combined with several properties he owns to the east that will mostly be used for parking. That means the project will grow to include a large portion of Cross and River Street’s northeast corner.

Plans call for the remainder of the approximately $4 million renovation’s funding to come from a $2 million loan. Investors’ shares and the loan will be paid down by sale of an already secured $2.5 million in historic tax credits.

Beal said that model was employed when the Motown Construction Partners LLC _ whose managing partner is Fred Beal, Stewart Beal's father _ brought 23 investors on board to buy shares averaging $50,000 each to help fund the $53 million renovation of downtown Detroit's Broderick Tower.

While the public was welcome to view the Depot Town structure on Wednesday, Beal is looking for investors with a net worth of $1 million, not including a single-family residence.

The 16 lofts planned for the building are between 610 square feet and the largest at 1,187 square feet, and Weston said the rent would range from $780 to $1,300 per month.

According to the listing, the commercial spaces range from 1,100 square feet, up to the entire 14,000-square-foot commercial space at $16 per square-foot.



Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

This would be a fun project to be involved with. The only thing holding it back is money.

E. Daniel Ayres

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

The only way that project makes sense is if the Depot is reopened to regular passenger service which make it convenient to commute to Ann Arbor and to stops along the line to Downtown Detroit. That location could be/should be in an "automobile free zone" that encompasses Depot Town and most of the od Mark Norris subdivision between Prospect Park and the river. Tenants/owners could shop for food at the co-op, eat out at the Side Track, walk to River Park to exercise their pets, and hop the train to work. Finding enough space for the cars that full occupancy could bring without sacrificing more land to asphalt will be the most serious issue, along with the fact that the building was designed as a Civil War Barracks, and was never of significant architectural value. Most rational financial plans for the lot probably would go farther if the burned bricks were removed/salvaged and someone started over with a modern plan that included solar heating / solar power / a modern wiring and power distribution system, etc., etc. without consideration for trying to keep the old walls from collapsing for another fifty years.


Tue, Aug 27, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

Actually it was not designed as a Civil War barracks, it was a commercial building which was used as a Civil War barracks for about 3 months in 1862 and another 2-3 months in 1863. Aside from those 5-6 months, it has always been a commercial building.

Honest Abe

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 : 6:23 a.m.

Perkins, Why do you write about nitwit people and their pipe dreams? Anticipating your answer, -Abe


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

This is ridiculous on top of crazy on a canvas of stupidity......."a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing". The biggest service could do for the city of Ypsilanti would be to forward all the comments from the many stories about this charade to the Ypsilanti City Council members, the Planning Commission, to Mayor Schrieber, to the DDA, and most of all to the members of the Historic District Commission who I'm sure have never read any of them.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 2:43 p.m.

Did the masons come back and work on the site the next day, or were they just there for that one day to impress potential investors?


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

demolish the whole thing and start will never again look the way it use to so why try to make it/


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 6:17 p.m.

The truth is one would have to build a whole new building inside the weak outer shell anyway, so why not just demolish the old and build a new replica? Would you live in this thing?


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 10:21 a.m.

Oh look, more free PR for Mr. Beal. What a surprise. No update on his upcoming deadline that he will be in default of his agreement with Ypsi?

Sean Thomas

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 5:24 a.m.

this looks like it's a strong breeze away from being demolished but hey if you want to preserve what's there and rebuld...sure. Just DO something with it already.

Bob Krzewinski

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

Ummmm, when EMU's Sherzer Hall burned and was gutted in a fire, wasn't there also a loud public outcry to tear it down??? After all, it was just a shell of a building so why not tear down what a few people thought was a "historic" structure.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 9:51 a.m.

Bob - I was here for that one. a)no public outcry and b) no painfully long history of abandonment - all of the sewer, water, gas were still viable (not the case with Thompson) and what remained of Sherzer was viable (unlike Thompson Block). and...oh right - there was financing and insurance for it too. A month to plan and EMU announced the rehab then a year later, rehab complete and building open. Summary: Apples -v- Oranges


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 12:35 a.m.

Ummm, no Bob there wasn't a public outcry to tear down Sherzer. Don't know where you came up with that notion. The difference is that Sherzer doesn't sit at the corner of a busy intersection where its crumbling facade is on display for all to see and EMU had the financial means to rebuild the structure in a reasonable amount of time.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

I'm all for historic preservation; it breaks my heart to see pictures of the dozens of beautiful old buildings Detroit has lost. Ypsi has done a great job of saving structures like Welch, Sherzer, the Freighthouse, and old Ypsi High. But I'm not sure this one is even a structure anymore.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

I agree on all counts.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

When will this charade end?

Honest Abe

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 8 p.m.

I'd rather buy $10,000.00 in scratch off lottery tickets, than this snake oil presentation.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

Have they tried renting the location for filming horror flicks?


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

Drop it now. Bring it down. Rebuild it if you want but clearly the history is not based on what remains of the structure because there isn't one. cut the baloney - its going to be more cost effective to put a new efficient building on that site.


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

An historic replica perhaps?

An Arborigine

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

Where these images taken following the London Blitz?

harry b

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

He want to put expensive condos there. I love depot town but having a train blow its horn 100 feet from my bedroom daily is not a good idea.

Rob MI

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 12:11 a.m.

Tell that to the people that bought/live in the units on William next to the Ann Arbor Railroad.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

Can't you hear the whistle blowing, Rise up so early in the morn; Can't you hear the captain shouting, "Dinah, blow your horn!" Dinah, won't you blow, Dinah, won't you blow, Dinah, won't you blow your horn? Dinah, won't you blow, Dinah, won't you blow, Dinah, won't you blow your horn?

Catherine Wright

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 4:16 p.m.

For heaven's sake tear the building down. Just because the building was originally built 150 years ago doesn't mean it's valuable. The property has a potential to be valuable. What's wrong with rebuilding to suit the area? Wouldn't it cost less to build it to look as the old Thompson Block looked 150 years ago? Maybe use some of the bricks or designs from before? I'd bet 50% of Ypsilanti doesn't know 1 fact about the building other than it's old. Tear it down. Move forward. Rebuild Ypsilanti.

harry b

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

There is a lot of history in that building. This building is the last civil war barracks that exist in the US. I hope that crackheads who burnt it down are still in jail. Probably not.


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

Given the condition of this "building," what advantage is there to preserving the current ruins as part of a new building versus just demolishing the whole thing and building from scratch? I can't imagine that the costs involved in trying to keep this fragile shell of a structure together during construction are less than a teardown/rebuild project, and its historic value at this point seems minimal at best.

Jack Gladney

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

I can give you 2.5 million reasons, all of which would be needed to make anything ever happen on that corner given the depths of the pockets of the current owner.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.


Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

If I wrote this story i would change : " the 150-year-old structure" to "the 150-year-old former structure" ""This building is a canvas," to "This intersection is a canvas," and maybe "the largely gutted..." to "the gutted" or maybe "the completely gutted"


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

Could you remove the pictures of postwar Germany and insert a few of a building that could be rebuilt economically? Thanks.