Ypsilanti Township, landlord reach temporary deal to ensure safety at deteriorating shopping plaza
Ypsilanti Township and the owners of the Gault Village Shopping Plaza have reached a temporary agreement that township officials hope will make the aging strip mall safer for residents.
Building inspectors are concerned over the strength of the roof in several spots, and the plaza’s owners will hire an independent engineer to ensure it won’t collapse under the weight of snow and ice in the coming months. Both parties are still working to demolish the abandoned Kmart.
Photo courtesy of Ypsilanti Township
The two sides will be back in court in late January, and if Union Lake’ fails to address the issues the plaza could close and the remaining businesses could be evicted.
Prior to the hearing last week, a criminal case Shelton heard earlier in the day took longer than expected, and both parties were told their case likely couldn’t be heard until February.
Township Attorney Dennis McLain said that wouldn’t work for the township because of life-safety concerns, and the two sides were able to hammer out a temporary agreement.
Union Lake’s engineers will check the roof above ACO and the plaza’s dollar store and send their evaluation to the township’s engineer for approval. If the engineers find structural weaknesses in the roof, then Union Lake is to immediately make repairs.
Union Lake also agreed to either block off or tear down part of a sheltered pathway running between the plaza’s two buildings. Sections of that roof have already collapsed. Barricades also will be put on the road behind the abandoned Kmart where there is a concern that part of the building will collapse.
The two sides will start facilitation over how to demolish the Kmart, located near Grove Road and Interstate 94, which has been abandoned for more than 20 years and has a wide variety of structural and blight issues. Those include a collapsing roof, cracked outer wall and mold infestation. There are similar concerns and mold infestations in several other units at Gault Village that the township wants to see addressed.
“We went into this with a sole goal of protecting the occupants, the public and the people who do business at Gault Village," McLain said.
Shelton ordered the Kmart demolished within 60 days in early September and gave the township authority to complete the project if Union Lake did not.
McLain said the project is complicated because a tenant remains in the unit on the east side of the Kmart, so that wall has to remain standing while the rest of the building is torn down.
An estimate on project costs is expected in the coming weeks, but McLain said it is expensive, and officials aren’t eager to use taxpayer money for it.
In March, township building inspectors visited the plaza on several occasions during rainy weather and found it to be “raining harder inside than outside” of the Value Foods in the plaza.
Value Foods employees tried cordoning off an area where water was leaking onto the floor and shelves, but water continued to flood outside that area, officials said. Building officials also found water leaking into light fixtures that weren’t in use.
Shelton ordered the store closed until major repairs were made. Among his concerns in that order was the possibility of the ceiling collapsing, food spoilage, electrical fire hazards and other public health issues. The store remains closed
The two sides are due back in court Jan. 26. McLain said he is hopeful Union Lake will have addressed the issues by then, otherwise the township could ask Shelton to declare the entire plaza a public nuisance. That would force out the current tenants.
“If they can stay there and prosper, great - that’s what we’re hoping for,” McLain said.
“In this economy, the township has no desire to shut down businesses, but the conditions at Gault Village have deteriorated for so many years without maintenance, and the Band-Aid approach has just not worked. Hopefully Union Lake can step up and do the right thing.”