$1.2M Family Dollar store to become Ypsilanti's 1st Water Street development
Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com
Barring any unforeseen issues or site plan complications, officials expect construction to begin some time in the fall. The purchase agreement approval Tuesday night by the Ypsilanti City Council was key to the project moving forward and officials now expect things to move rapidly.
However, the approval was not without frustrations from residents and local business owners who called the agreement a mistake and an "embarrassment." Three council members voted against the purchase agreement.
Dave Heikkenen, owner of Heikk's Decorated Apparel Studio at 133 W. Michigan Avenue, said the store will be an embarrassment for the city.
"I'm embarrassed that this is all we're going to get," Heikkenen said. "... It's a horrible looking building. I don't know how you can support something like this. It is ugly and it sets the bar low. We're going to be sort of the laughing stock."
Heikkenen's comments were in line with what several residents have expressed since the proposal was made last year. On Nov. 20, 2012, the city council approved a letter of intent with Core Resources LLC, the development partner of Family Dollar, to purchase and develop an approximately 8,320 square feet. The letter was signed on Dec. 10, 2012.
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
Mayor Paul Schreiber, council members Pete Murdock and Ricky Jefferson, and Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson voted in favor of the purchase agreement. Council members Daniel Vogt, Susan Moeller, and Brian Robb voted against the agreement.
The approval follows months of debate on whether the development was appropriate for the long-vacant property.
Jefferson didn't agree with the notion that having the discount store on the Water Street property equated to the city having a "beggar's mentality."
"...This is Ypsilanti, not Ann Arbor," Jefferson said. "I've been asking members of Ward 1 if they're interested in this and they said yes. They were not interested in the Burger King. There is a lot more land once Family Dollar goes in there to develop what we decide."
Jefferson said the city isn't settling by accepting the purchase agreement.
"We're not just accepting anything," Jefferson said. "... I've heard developers say that it would not hinder (further development) as an anchor. Nobody's buying land to build on, but I've been told that's going to change... I believe that what we're doing here as city council members is the best we can do."
Jefferson said while the Family Dollar won't likely draw in any tourists or individuals from nearby towns, he believes the store will be a convenient amenity for local residents.
"I'm glad to see one coming here to Ypsilanti," he said.
Moeller voted against the agreement because she said the majority of citizens in her ward were not in favor of the proposal.
Former Mayor Cheryl Farmer, who recently told AnnArbor.com she didn't support the development, addressed council and urged them to reconsider making the store the site's "anchor development."
"Can a Family Dollar store be the anchor development that helps Ypsilanti draw in the development that Ypsilanti wants to see on other parts of the property? I don’t think so. Has a Family Dollar store been planned for the Arbor Hills Crossing (in Ann Arbor)? What we’re willing to settle for will be what we end up with."
In 2010, the city considered a proposal from Burger King to open a location on one acre of Water Street. Burger King offered to purchase the parcel at Michigan Avenue and Park Street for $400,000. The city council ultimately rejected the proposal.
Murdock said the developer has been accommodating to try to address concerns brought up during the city's master plan process, and he didn't think it would make sense to continue to drag the process out.
"There were suggestions from the new planners about making changes to the size and placement of the Family Dollar project," Murdock said. "Part of that was the grid system, which we’re trying to accommodate. I think they’ve met the citeria we set in the beginning. It's not Macy's, it's a Family Dollar... If we keep changing every time someone comes in with a new pretty picture, we won't get anyone to come in here for anything."
Vogt acknowledged the developer has been accommodating with most of the requested changes to the concept plan, but he said that only convinced him "48 percent of the way" to vote in favor of it.
Vogt said he recently went on a trip with his wife and traveled through several cities where he saw mixed use developments with two to three story buildings located off of street frontage.
"It was fabulous," he said. "... I don't think we can achieve perfection in this, but I think we should take every effort to get close to perfection."
Murdock moved to amend the resolution to add that the entire $210,000 from the purchase agreement would go toward a fund dedicated solely toward retiring the Water Street debt or for infrastructure costs. The city owes $24,764,695 on the Water Street debt.
"If we don’t do it at this point that we have time to do it, it'll never get done and then we'll find out it's been spent for something else," he said.
Murdock, Richardson, Robb, Vogt and Jefferson voted in favor of the amendment, while Moeller abstained and Schreiber voted no.
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com
Schreiber voted no on the amendment because he said he didn't like that it was added at the last minute, prior to discussion with city staff.
City staff worked with Core Resources to alter the conceptual site plan including a change in size of the parcel from about one acre to .85 acres to accommodate the extension of Lincoln Street south onto the site while accommodating a second buildable lot to the south.
The city is granting an easment to Core Resources to construct a Lincoln Street road to allow access to the building.
Instead of being located on the corner of Park Avenue and Michigan Avenue, the city and developer agreed to move the building to the west, off of the proposed Lincoln Street and Michigan Avenue.
Core Resources agreed to construct six foot windows on Michigan Avenue, to give the building a more desirable look.
Key points from the agreement:
- Core Resources will pay the city $210,000 to purchase the land.
- $3,500.00 is due within five days of purchase agreement execution.
- The city is agreeing to "burden the balance of the Water Street property" with an exclusive use restriction for the benefit of the Family Dollar parcel precluding the remaining property from being used as a variety discount store, like a Dollar General, Bonus Dollar, or Dollar Tree. A big box discount department store, like a Target, Walmart, K-Mart or Meijer is expressly allowed.
- Buyer to provide easement for Park and Lincoln Street curb cuts, shared drive and access to southerly parcel.
- The business is expected to generate $30,000 a year in taxes.
Since council has approved the purchase agreement, the next steps include Family Dollar going before the Planning Commission for site plan approval, the site plan would then go before council.
Bill Tippman, Core Resources representative, said Family Dollar is in the process of constructing 40 stores across the country.
"We are very eager to get going," Tippman said. "Hopefully we'll break ground here in 180 days or so."