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Posted on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 10:10 a.m.

Ypsilanti Planning Commission postpones vote on Thompson Block site plans, rezoning request

By Tom Perkins

The Ypsilanti Planning Commission has postponed a vote on site plans and a proposed rezoning of the Thompson Block Building property.

The decision came after City Planner Teresa Gillotti and several planning commissioners expressed concerns over issues with the parking lot design, access to the north end of the building, landscaping and the location of an elevator shaft.

The site plan and rezoning request will be taken up again at the Sept. 18 meeting.

The rezoning would allow Thompson Block Partners LLC, the group that owns the Thompson Block and is led by developer Stewart Beal, to combine the Thompson Block and the property to the east to create parking for the project.

If approved, the plan would combine 400 through 412 N. River St. and 107 E. Cross St. and rezone them from B3 central business district; R1, single family residential; and historic district overlay to a planned unit development.


A parking lot is planned for the east side of the Thompson Block Building.

Tom Perkins | For

Beal has previously said it’s a crucial step in his $4 million-redevelopment effort of the historic building at the corner of Cross and River Streets in Depot Town. A large fire gutted the Thompson Block building, once used as a Civil War army barracks, in September 2009. Beal and the city have clashed since then over plans for the building and the timeline for redevelopment.

Gillotti said she was concerned the size of the parking lot drive was too narrow and asked the Thompson Block Partners' architect to redraw and submit a proposed alternative. The lot will have 26 spaces for the 16 lofts and at least 10,000 square feet of commercial space.

Fred Beal, Stewart Beal’s father, who is also a partner in Thompson Block Partners, told the Planning Commission that he had just received the site plans with recommended changes on Friday before he went out of town, so some issues weren’t totally resolved.

There were also concerns from neighbors to the north of the building about access to the north side of the building, which is only feet from the neighboring home. Fred Beal said there likely wouldn’t be a major access point there, but possibly an emergency exit or some other less-used access point than the main entrance on the building’s opposite side.

Commissioner Gary Clark grilled Fred Beal about timelines, structural issues and historic tax credits, though Gillotti said those issues don’t necessarily work against the site plan approval or rezoning request processes.

Responding to questions about the timeline, Fred Beal said the goal is to have funding in place and construction plans and permits ready by the end of the year.

“Any development has a number of moving parts, and this has a couple more because of the historic tax credits and issues with City Council,” he said, adding that construction will likely start in early 2014 and wrap up by the end of next year. “Could that slip a couple months? Sure. But that’s the intended schedule at that time.”

Stewart Beal and Thompson Block Partners are in the process of trying to raise $1.74 million by selling 174 shares at $10,000 a piece to partially fund the redevelopment. The rest of the funding for the approximately $4 million renovation will come through a loan, Beal said.

Clark also challenged Fred Beal on whether the facade was secure.

“From a structural standpoint, the walls are put back most of the way,” Beal said. “There are some steel supports that need to be installed.”

In response to further questions from Clark, Beal explained that the interior walls would have to be built to support the facade and to bear weight throughout the building in order to place a roof on the structure.

Clark said they would be building a new building inside the walls and questioned why they wouldn't just tear the walls down.

There were also questions over plans for the River Street side of the property, which Commissioner Cheryl Zuellig said were confusing.

Commissioner Richard Murphy said he thought that part of the plans were clear.

“There are definitely some questions to be resolved like what does parking look like, what does the landscaping look like with the change in orientation … but I would ask that we make sure that we’re looking at real issues and not coming up with things for the sake of giving the applicant a hard time,” Murphy said.

Clark, however, cut Murphy off and reiterated his stance that there are structural issues and a vague plan.

“This is a very important building and it is important to know what it’s going to look like, “ he said.

As Murphy started to respond, Clark again cut him off and quickly put forth a motion to postpone the vote, which was unanimously approved.


Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

And so it continues. On and on and on and on and....................................

Ypsi Eastsider

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 3:47 a.m.

Is Beal paid up on all his taxes in the City? If not, there should be no hearings or approval until the tax bills are paid and current.


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 2:05 a.m.

Ypsilanti Politics. Too Convulted for my brain to figure out . . .


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 2:02 a.m.

Does the leadership of the City of Ypsilanti Realize what a Gem they have here? On the flood plain of the Huron River, ancestral home to the aborigines? And the City Council desires to pawn it off to a "Dollar" store. Shame on you City Council! This Huron River Flood Plain should be dedicated Park Land! With it Downtown Ypsilanti will Thrive!


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 3 a.m.

So you're ok with a land purchase of $30 million and turn it into a park? (which would cost more money to make it into a park). They city cant pay for streetlights, and you think a 40 acre park that cost $30 million+ just for the land is a good idea? Not to mention the other 2 parks directly in the vicinity along the river are used more for drug dealing and prostitution than recreation (unless those ARE your recreational activities). also, this is the wrong article. AND Family "Dollar" is not what you think it is. It's not a "dollar" store. They don't sell junk and everything isn't under a dollar. They sell overstocked stuff, the same stuff you buy from Kroger or Busch's, at a discount. Maybe you're delusional on the income of residents in the city, but getting shampoo and toilet paper and household goods at a discount is needed a lot more than another park. If there wasnt a market for it, you can be dam$ sure a multi billion dollar corporation isnt investing over a million dollars to build a new store there. Governments are the only dolts that invest millions in things that there is no market for.

Jim Pryce

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 11:50 p.m.

Why not turn the entire thing into a parking lot? There isn't enough parking in Depot Town at this time.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 11:42 p.m.

Whats the hurry to tear it down? Is another vacant weed field less of an eye sore? You think a high end retail place or new housing structure is going to be built there? lol. There are dozens of acres less than a mile away that stand vacant because no one will build new construction in Ypsi. well, there are some businesses willing to invest, because they actually know the market demographics of the area. But they aren't American Apparel or Urban Outfitters. They are fast food chains and discount grocers.

Honest Abe

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

Stewy: This Thompson building thing, is mere pipe dreams. The only thing you may raise money on, is for the demolition of that awful eyesore, and you signing papers that make it clear that you're walking away and will not pursue anymore pipe dreams, in Ypsilanti. Only thing you have demonstrated is that you are a so called 'developer' who is about as incompetent as they get. There is nothing wrong with being a man with a plan. But there is something wrong with a man with a plan, who is up to his eyeballs in property tax debt, and has no money. You like to act like you have money, but we all know you do not.


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

I don't really understand the hostility. Stewart Beal has taken good care of the properties he owns next to mine. He loves Ypsilanti and is actively trying to improve it. He has assets and revenues that will pay off his debts, but he needs progress to keep the cash flow balance, so slowing him down doesn't serve anyone. Who else is working so hard to make Ypsilanti viable? If historic Ypsilanti gets torn down and replaced with Dollar Stores, it will not be appealing to anyone. Stewart sees the potential in historic preservation. Honestly, Abe, what are you doing to develop the city?

Scott Straley

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

Maybe Gary Clark should run for City Council. Sounds like he's a decisive individual with a strong sense of vision and high standards.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

Isn't the reason that the building isn't torn down and rebuilt because they would then lose the "historic tax credits"?

Eduard Copely

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

ding...ding... I know, it sounds nuts.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 4:42 p.m.

LOL, dad's finally stepping in to show his son how to get things done right.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

As Ms. Gillotti sated at the outset were more than 20 unresolved issues, and 3 or more exemptions in the Thompson Block PUD and site plan application. This was the same amount as the dollar store that was tabled previously at the suggestion of Mr. Murphy because, as he said, more than 10 unresolved issues is unusual and requires more work to provide a suitable site plan before moving things on to city council. Mr. Clark said that he felt that the Planning Commission required a more specific plan so the Commission could do it's job just as in the former case.

Eduard Copely

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

Oh gawd...

Honest Abe

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

Here we go, again.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.