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Posted on Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 5:20 p.m.

Thompson Block plan to move forward as an all-residential development

By Tom Perkins

081510_Thompson Block_MRM_01.jpg

Scaffolding props up the Thompson Block building, which was heavily damaged by fire in 2009.

Melanie Maxwell |

Construction on the fire-damaged Thompson Block building will resume for the summer season on Friday, but the project’s new plans call for an all-residential instead of mixed-use development.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Ypsilanti City Manager Ed Koryzno.

Ypsilani developer Stewart Beal also said he expects to remove scaffolding from the south side of the building by the end of the month.

Beal previously presented plans that included commercial space on the first floor and entire northern segment of the 148-year-old Depot Town building. The rest of the second and third floors were to hold residential lofts. But Beal said Historic Equities Fund 1 LLC, the investment group that owns the Thompson Block and of which Beal is a part, has been “repeatedly informed” by its lenders that an all residential project would be easier to finance. 

The project’s new drawings include 23 residential lofts ranging in size from 620 to 1,120 square feet in the three-story building. Beal said the project will be financed as entirely residential, but he still would accept the right commercial tenant if a good offer is made before construction begins.

Historic Equities is in “advanced conversations” with lenders on financing the project, Beal said, but he said he can't predict when major construction on the project could proceed.

Beal also received letters from two parties interested in purchasing approximately $2.7 million in state and federal historic preservation tax credits issued for the project. Beal estimated the renovation at $4 million, and the credits are only good if the project is completed, meaning Historic Equities must raise enough capital to finish the undertaking. The tax credits can then be sold to pay down debt.

“Because of the tax credits, we’re further along than we have been since we lost financing in 2009,” Beal said. He added that his company's recent experience in securing funding for the $50 million Broderick Tower renovation in Detroit by utilizing historic preservation tax credits was a learning experience and helped him develop new business relationships that will benefit the Thompson block effort.

Crews are scheduled to start working on stabilizing the wall along Cross Street on Friday, which would allow Beal to remove the scaffolding from the city’s right-of-way on the building’s south side by April 25. A city-issued right-of-way permit allowing scaffolding in the right-of-way expires that day.

Beal said the consent judgment entered to settle a lawsuit between Historic Equities and the city doesn’t require the scaffolding be removed until Sept. 2, 2011.

“Therefore there is no agreement between the city and Historic Equities Fund relating to a April 25 date,” Beal said. But he added that his company is acknowledging the date and removing the scaffolding.

City Manager Ed Koryzno disagreed and pointed to an exhibit attached to the consent judgment that provides a more specific timeline on when certain tasks must be completed. It says the shoring must be out of Cross Street by April 25.

The Thompson Block is actually divided into six small buildings, Beal explained, and crews will rebuild the south wall and install the flooring that will tie the southwest building's walls together.

A right-of-way permit allowing scaffolding that props up the building’s west wall along River Street to remain on the sidewalk expires on Sept. 30, but the consent judgment requires it be cleared by Sept. 2.

Fire gutted the building in September 2009. The city sued Historic Equities in early April to force Beal to remove shoring from the city’s right-of-way. Beal countersued in early May after an application for the building permit was rejected. Without the building permit, Beal contended, his company couldn’t proceed with construction.

The two lawsuits were wrapped into one case, and Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Donald Shelton ordered both sides into facilitation. At the heart of the disagreement has been a dispute over the construction’s timeline. The consent judgment that came out of facilitation also requires steel lintel replacement, masonry restoration and installation of temporary plywood covering doors and windows. It also required the building to be painted by Sept. 2.

No timeline for when the windows and roof must be replaced has been developed.

Beal said he is confident Thompson Block construction will not interfere with a Cross Street reconstruction project, which is scheduled to start sometime this summer. Department of public Works Director Stan Kirton sent out requests for proposals on the project this week and said the reconstruction won’t start in April. Beal also said he doesn’t anticipate the road reconstruction interfering with Thompson Block work.

Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said he's a strong supporter of historic preservation and is hopeful the new developments lead to a full renovation of the Thompson Block.

"I hope he's able to pull it off," Schreiber said. "The city is also looking forward to resurfacing East Cross Street, so I hope Mr. Beal is able to get the supports removed."


Steve Hendel

Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 8:20 p.m.

Does this guy even know the meaning of words like "deadline" and "promise"?

Bob Krzewinski

Tue, Apr 12, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

I rode my bike past the Thompson building on Sunday when we had high winds and while nobody was inside the structure working on it, I heard things (bricks?) falling in there.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

If this actually EVER happens by, say, Nov. 2013. I will gladly buy Mr. Beal a beer at Sidetracks and eat all my words. C'mon, Mr. Beal, prove me wrong? Huh?


Sun, Apr 10, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

I saw 2 men in "hard Hats" standing around inside that relic Saturday, probably thinking what on earth were we thinking in trying to restore this pile of ruble! Look for more hard hats scratching there head in cunfusion.


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

ill believe it when i see it too. the whole block smells like gas, i live a few houses down and i have called DTE multiple times to come out and fix no avail. there are ways to get into that building, lets hope no one sets it on fire again. its such an eyesore. why not tear it down and plant a community garden? i hope they do what they say they will becuase NOTHING has happened since 2009, permits or not. i dont know who is to blame, but its getting rediculous.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Apr 11, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

DTE probably can't go near it because it is so unstable... I also would be surprised if he (Mr. Beal) still doesn't have insurance on the property?!

Depot Town

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

I love the fact that Mr. Beal has waited until the last minute to start this project. I can't wait to see the faces of the haters when he pulls it off. I hope all those people who said he'd never finish this project in less than six years choke on all that crow they are going to have to eat. We're all rooting for you Mr. Beal. Don't listen to the people who are rooting for you to fail. But whatever you do, please stay away from doing any more illegal gas hookups. We don't need another fire.

Andrew Jason Clock

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

Well, there is work being done today of some sort. There are Beal employees in the building. I even saw the fire chief stop by. And, for the sake of the argument, if the building is restored and converted to lofts, there is a seldom used city parking lot just around the corner, the Maple Lot. Perhaps the city could lease some spots (or provide residential permits) and make some money off the project. Those lofts would be pretty attractive to you professionals if you could board a commuter train a block away, too.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 4 p.m.

Props to Beal for removing the props . . . and getting on with it. The project has great potential . . . although one might not imagine so, reading comments here . . . Kudos for taking the chance . . . and acting . . . It was a rough go even even before the arson . . . And to shed doubt on all the doubt . . . Facade preservations occur commonly . . . Some recent examples include Frieze building and CVS, blocks from each other on S. State, a2 . . .


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 3:29 p.m. only comment on here violated terms for some reason not sure why. Ill try it again. Are we to expect more ridiculous rhetoric from Mr Beal on why this process has taken so long? The Historical society keeps getting in the way of cleaning up this city as well. Cross street repair? sounds great :) Lets hope its not tied in to the "reconstruction" of that pile of brick thats called a building.

Turd Ferguson

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

Who is paying to resurface Cross St.? I know who it SHOULD be... -Turd


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

OK, 23 loft apartments ... I can see that. What I don't see is enough property for 46 off-street parking spaces .... or are these tenants gonna' park on the public streets or in the Depot Town parking lots?


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

Yeah! Can't wait to see changes. Keep moving forward Beal!


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

The most believable news in this article is the resurfacing of E. Cross...and even then........


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

If resurfacing the street gets delayed because of Beal and council, we need to recall them all.


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 10:59 a.m.

recall of council is just silly. It was Judge Shelton that let this drag out.

David Cahill

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

Same old, same old. More delays and excuses. Just a typical developer.


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

I'm happier to learn of the resurfacing of Cross St. than whether or not the scaffolding remains!

Cheryl Jordan

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 11:17 a.m.

Was not this building kind of taken from the owner? not good Karma.

Kristina Birk

Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 11:44 p.m.

It will be nice to sit on the Sidetrack's patio and not have to look at scaffolding, but I'll miss the easy laugh from the JCBeal Construction "Precisely as intended" sign on that decrepit shell of a building.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 10:12 p.m.

On a day of sadness and loss, it was uplifting to get this good laugh!


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

I'll believe it when I see it......


Fri, Apr 8, 2011 : 12:11 p.m.

Redleg you took the words right out of my mouth