what’s it going to take to get a redevelopment liquor license in depot town?

Remember that conversation we had a few weeks ago about the Elbow Room, and how Andy Garris, its owner, had indicated that he would be launching a new bar in the Thompson Block? Well, I got copied on an email last night from the developer of the property, Stewart Beal. It seems as though the Depot Town DDA is making it difficult for Garris to acquire a special Michigan Redevelopment Liquor License. It’s hearsay at this point, but word on the street is that Depot Town merchants, and local neighborhood leaders, have issues with Garris because of his association with both the Elbow Room and Ann Arbor’s Studio 4. Garris has said publicly that his proposed, yet to be named, Depot Town business would be different from these other bars, but it would seem that people don’t believe him. I’ve spent the last few hours talking with folks about the situation, and the impression I’m left with is that people genuinely fear that Depot Town, if this new bar were allowed to open, would be the scene of knife fights in the streets, gang activity, public vomiting, anonymous sex on front porches in front of children, you name it.

I don’t know Garris. I may have seen him in the Elbow Room – I don’t know. So, I can’t speak to his character. I can say, however, that I haven’t had any problems since he’s been running things there. I’ve never been beaten up. I’ve never been vomited on. No one has made love to me on the porch of a nearby house.

I can see why some in Depot Town might be apprehensive. Things weren’t always good in that part of Ypsi. The area has by sheer determination turned itself around over the past several decades, and I’m sure there must be fear of backsliding. That’s understandable. At the same time, however, I know from talking with merchants there that the ranks of well-paid automotive workers, who have always been economic backbone of Depot Town, are beginning to thin. And, as these workers take their buy-outs and move south, their dollars are going with them. In the long term, someone needs to bring new, younger blood into to Depot Town.

Another, bigger issue is that if Garris does not get this new license, the Thompson Block redevelopment will stall again, perhaps forever. And I find it hard to believe that a rehabbed building containing a successful business that brings people to the area, is worse for the community than a crumbling and dangerous vacant building. As I understand it, Beal and others have been looking for an anchor tenant for the past year with no luck. I know that some in the area would prefer to see something like Chelsea’s Common Grille move in, but it doesn’t look as though that’s going to happen. And, we don’t have unlimited time to wait. With every passing day, the nearly 150 year old, poorly cared for building buckles a bit more. (It’s just a matter of time before someone is hit by a falling brick.)

So, as I understand it, here’s the deal with the liquor license… Garris wants to open a bar of some kind in the Thompson Block. There are, however, no liquor licenses to be had. Fortunately, the State liquor control board, or whoever the governing body is for such things, has created a special license for just such redevelopment projects. These licenses cost about $20K, as opposed to upward of $80K, which ostensibly would allow the owner to put the difference into the building and/or business. The down side is that the license is tied to that particular location and that one individual. It cannot be sold or transferred. If Garris were to go out of business, he’d be out $20K. He couldn’t sell it, and the bar could not be sold as a bar (unless another liquor license had by then become available). Got it?

Now, as I understand it, it’s up to the City Council to decide what kind of terms go along with the Redevelopment Liquor License. They can, for instance, say that for a business to quality in Ypsi, it needs to have a 1,000 square foot kitchen, a certain number of tables, and serve dinner a certain number of hours. In this way, they can exert some kind of control over the kind of business that’s going to be there. Indications are being given that the Depot Town DDA plans to ask that the bar be set very high, pushing Garris away from the idea of a bar, and toward a restaurant, which I don’t think he has much interest in. It would essentially kill the deal.

The alternative, of course, would be for Garris to find a full-priced, available liquor license and do as he likes. I’m sure that’s a possibility that he’s considering, but, as I said, I’ve asked around a bit and I don’t know that there are any to be had. (I’m not positive about the liquor license that was at Andrews, but the one at the Elbow Room and the one at TC’s are tied to their buildings and cannot be moved.)

You’ve got to gamble on occasion. In this case, there is a chance that things won’t go well. But, as I see it, the alternative – that the historic building will be left to collapse – is worse. So, if I lived in the neighborhood, I’d jump at a chance to have the longtime eyesore cleaned up and occupied by a business owner who, I think by all accounts, has done a pretty good job of managing the Elbow Room. That’s just me though.

[note: Speaking of TC’s, I hear the business is available for $20K and the liquor license for $80K. They’re asking about half a million for the building, but it sounds as though a rental agreement with an option to buy could probably be arranged. So, if there are any people out there in the audience who’ve always dreamed of moving to Ypsi and opening a bar, now might be your chance…. Actually, it just occurred to me that I have a reader in Atlanta who used to work at TC’s. He’s a successful designer now, but you never know – maybe we could lure him back.]

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  1. BrianR
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    As with most things, there’s a lot more to the story than has been shared.

    In order for this license to be awarded, the DDA director has to begin a process with the LCC. That initial work usually takes three to four months. That process hasn’t even been started yet.

    You are incorrect in saying there are no licenses for sale. There are at least two — King Crab and Louis’ Cafe. Anyone wanting a license has to go through the effort of proving they aren’t for sale or the price is way above market value. To everyone’s knowledge, that process hasn’t even begun yet.

    One of the biggest drawbacks to the Thompson Building is that it has no parking for anything — retail or residential. It’s a lock that Mr. Beal will go before Council and ask for payment in lieu of parking, but it can’t be underestimated how this lack of parking is going to affect the neighborhood. The Thompson Building is unique in that it’s the only property in the B3 (Central Business District) that abuts R1. The concern is that patrons will park in the neighborhoods and that there could be noise issues with a venue such as being proposed letting out in the wee hours of the morning. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s absolutely a valid concern that needs to be addressed.

    When the plan was brought before Council in November of 2006 and we doled out $3M in tax incentives, this type of venue was not part of the plan. We were sold a plan that has morphed into something entirely different.

    None of these problems are issues that cannot be overcome, but it would be nice to see a plan to address them rather than blasting off emails bemoaning one’s situation. I’d much prefer Mr. Beal would take care of the graffiti on the back of his building and tend to the sheet metal that came off of the roof last week.

    Finally, when the building was put into receivership an engineering study was performed in 2002. It said the building was in reasonably good structural condition, the foundations were found to be in good condition, the mortar was found to be in good condition, the rubber roof membrane was in good condition, and roof and floor joists were in fair condition. The report, done by Lopez Engineering of Holly, MI said the building was not a danger. In fact, when Mr. Beal removed the fence from East Cross Street, he said to the City Attorney that “We will not be replacing the fence. Unless someone from the City of Ypsilanti can inform me what purpose you intend the fence to serve and prove to me that a fence is needed to abate some hazard.” For you to suggest the building is in danger of collapse is far-fetched and silly.

    I, more than anyone, want to see that place less blighted, but those involved in this venture can’t just say they want something without providing a plan.

  2. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 1:07 am | Permalink


    “I, more than anyone”? Really? You have the most impassioned interest in the Thompson Block out of “anyone” in Ypsilanti? (Sorry, I’ve been watching the Democratic Primaries, I’m conditioned to pounce on the slightest misspeak.)

    Mark/Brian, you both elude to parties with various concerns. Who are these folks? I know of ten folks who live closer to the TB than Brian and are very enthusiastic about the potential venue. I’ve got a Twp friend who’s interested in renting if the project ever moves forward.

    Noise concerns, as was previously discussed, should be addressed. But, parking? Aubrees has zero parking of its own. Only a precious few Depot Town businesses have their own, owned and designated parking. Let’s skip to Ann Arbor or any other downtown. How many downtown businesses have enough designated spaces? Other than festivals, I’ve never seen Depot Town run out of spaces. As I’ve said before, if this becomes a concern, you put up a few “no parking” signs and people will find the perpetually empty lot in Depot Town.

    As Brian said, “As with most things, there’s a lot more to the story than has been shared.”

    At the risk of offending local businesses that I cherish and frequent, I’d like to air some laundry. I’ve heard things. Town gossip, literally received from waitstaff (friends) and salon patrons (siblings). Rumors I’ve heard:

    -A2’s Gandy Dancer owners wanted to open a fine dining place in the old train station but were voted down by the Depot DDA because some feared the competition.

    -A certain chain establishment that opened in Depot Town was repeatedly vandalized by a local competitor.

    -A certain local watering-hole was angry that the Corner Brewery opened but the DDA couldn’t stop them because they were outside of their jurisdiction (implication being the CB would’ve been nixed in the Thompson Block).

    -Certain local establishments don’t want weddings to happen at the Freighthouse ever again.

    This is all rumor, but rumors stick with you until someone clears the air. This is honestly an invitation to clear the air.
    I need some assurance that a large part of this isn’t certain DDA members subverting the attempt to open what they would see as a competing establishment.

    I’d like to be able to read Depot Town DDA minutes online, to figure out what of this is fact or fiction, but I can’t find them anywhere. Again, these are rumors. Readers, please take them as such, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s heard them. And, they color my view of events like not offering to support a new liquor license. If folks can help set things straight, I’d appreciate it.

  3. mark
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Thanks for taking the time to respond, Brian, and for pointing out that I was wrong about available liquor licenses.

    And, OEC, thanks, as always, for your contribution.

    More later,

  4. Citizen Blogger
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    BrianR mentions lack of parking for the Thompson as a problem. What about the property right across River Street? Seems to me that it has no higher and better potential these days than as a parking lot, if only somebody would clear the debris off of it.

  5. BrianR
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    The one thing that never fails to amaze me is when people talk about businesses hating competition. I find it hard to believe that the Tap Room would want to be the only bar Downtown or that Cady’s would want to be the only restaurant in Ypsilanti. Lowes builds next to Home Depot and all of those auto parts places locate next to one another for a reason. Perhaps it’s only Ypsilanti bars that want to be located in empty business districts.

    My reference to the mysterious people who have concerns are those residents who have emailed, telephoned, or voiced their concerns to me. I have yet to hear from all of those people who live closer than I to the Thompson Building and support this project, but I would enjoy hearing from them.

    The parking situation still needs addressed despite what might be the case in Ann Arbor. The businesses in Depot Town and Downtown are surrounded by lots. With the Thompson Building there is the opportunity to park up River, Maple, Cross, and Oak. The Barracks is rumored to be a 150 to 200 person venue. It hardly seems burdensome to ask for a plan.

    The thing that is most humorous about all of this is the call to action without having a plan, but I guess that’s one of the things that makes Ypsilanti so special to all of us.

    I am not aware of this formula wherein passion is proportional to the inverse square of distance to a location, but I’d love to learn more about it. And as far as the “I, more than anyone” goes, it’s true that no one is more impassioned than I regarding this project. I believe that I shared that with everyone when I was drafting the Haitian constitution back in 1920.

  6. schutzman
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Mark- You lost me at the end of your post, when you suggest it comes down to either a liquor license for this one guy or else the collapse of the thompson building. As someone who drinks alcohol and does so at local watering holes, even i don’t frankly see a need for yet another bar in that part of the city, when so many other things could be done with the space.

    Citizen blogger- leaving comments on someone else’s blog doesn’t make you a blogger, and suggesting that we level one of Ypsilanti’s principal landmarks doesn’t make you a very good citizen.

  7. Brent
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I just don’t get it when restaurant owners fear competition. There is so much data out there that argues the exact opposite is true, the more restaurants are located together, the greater the chance of success since the area becomes a destination. I fought this perception all the time when I was a Main Street Manager. Sad to know that this additude exists in Depot Town.

  8. Hillary
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    The Michigan DLEG liquor license look-up, including violation histories and licenses in escrow, is here:


  9. Bob C
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Do I detect a whiff of racism?

  10. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Permalink


    I hope don’t my comments don’t lead folks to think we “know this attitude exists in Depot Town.” I heard rumors that Obama is a Muslim; then I heard facts that disproved the rumors.

    The fact that Corner Brewery beer is sold everywhere in Depot Town that sells beer and food from Depot Town is delivered to the CB makes me question, that rumor, for example.

    Folks with a lot longer and deeper knowledge of town read this blog. If these rumors are just bad gossip, I’d like to know so they don’t keep knocking around my head and coloring my perceptions. If they’re true, it’d be helpful to know that, as well. My hope is that folks with more background on these things can set the record straight, a bit.

    BrianR, no passion isn’t necessarily proportional to proximity. I was just letting you know these are folks who live in the area “at risk.” I’ll see if they’ll drop you a note. And, I thought what made Ypsilanti special to us was government putting up roadblocks to private investment? Props on your work for Haiti; you did write “a pretty good little Constitution.”

  11. Posted April 23, 2008 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I live in the neighborhood, probably no more than 10 houses from the Thompson Block, and I do think the parking issues need to be solved before putting yet another bar in. I am a huge supporter of redevelopment, but we have to take care that such redevelopment doesn’t trash the neighborhood, particularly with revelers getting out of a bar in a residential neighborhood at 1 or 2 in the morning, yucking it up on their walk to their car, and then starting that car with the radio blaring. Most of us on Maple Street have very old homes without central air, we sleep with our windows open all spring, summer and fall, and we and our kids won’t be doing much sleeping, particularly on weekends, if this concern isn’t taken seriously.

    And lest it be left unsaid: Do we really need another bar in Depot Town? In Ypsilanti? I’m not against competition, but a dearth of bars isn’t a problem I’ve ever heard anyone complain of here.

  12. egpenet
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Bob C … this isn’t a racial thang … it’s a very interesting class struggle thang.

    Folks who live in the heart of this city … this IS a city … want to it quiet day AND night … depending on the shift they have … or depending upon the side of the tracks they lay their heads.

    Somebody say “change”? That’s the word of the week.

    New, younger folks and families moving in want more action in their lives … so they are moving into a “city” … there’s that word again. City means lights, traffic, art, music, great food, unusual things to see and do, shops that stay open, fresh breads and pastries daily, hair places, bars, did I mention music, live theater, movies, dance, dancing, puppets, tattoos, etc. etc. …

    The Creative Class is beating down our doors to be let in and renting our lofts and marching their strollers downtown and roller blading into our neighborhoods. I’m all for it. It is the price we will have to pay to keep Ypsilanti in business as a city.

    As Brian R. says, it’s all eminently workable, but it needs to be discussed and worked out as we go. Downtown activity more than doubled since Beal and the Mauers got involved a few months ago. Getting the Freighthouse open and the Thompson block done will kick Depot Town up another couple notches as well.

  13. Black Jake
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I live maybe 3 or so houses down from the building in question. I’m afraid it’s going to fall down and kill me or my wife while we’re walking or driving by it, because it’s buckling, and bricks or fragments of bricks are falling off of it. This fear may be because I’m an idiot who doesn’t know jack shit about structural engineering. But it’s also cause it’s buckling and shit is falling off it.

    There is a house of prostitution and illicit narcotics between my house and the building. They do not have a mentally-handicapped ugly prostitute license, nor a crack license that I’m aware of. They have been raided multiple times, and I watched once — unimpressed, sorry… not like on TV to say the least. For what all that’s worth about trashifying the neighborhood, government protection rackets, and liquor licenses.

    I would enjoy playing music at a venue down the street from me, hopefully frequented by more punk-rocker types than annoying college kids like Aubrees (no offence Aubrees, I drink at you). So there you are: a few more factors to buzz yon heads with from a Cross St yokel.

  14. mark
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    There’s a lot of stuff here that I want to comment on, but, before I do, I want to comment on what Schutzman said.

    You lost me at the end of your post, when you suggest it comes down to either a liquor license for this one guy or else the collapse of the thompson building.

    If I gave that impression, I’m sorry. I didn’t meat to imply that the building would fall if this one fellow wasn’t allowed to get a special liquor license. What I was trying to say was that the developer has been looking for an anchor tenant for over one year and that Garris seems to be the only person to come forward, and thus our best bet. I agree that we don’t “need” another bar in Depot Town. That doesn’t mean, however, that one wouldn’t be successful. My point was that we have an entrepreneur willing to take the risk and start a new business in Depot Town, and that we should think twice before chasing him off. You’re right, a lot of other businesses might work in that space – as far as I know, however, no one is coming forward. Personally, I’d like an alternative energy company where Motor Wheel is. that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I appreciate that the business owners would like something like the Common Grill, that would bring a lot of upscale patrons in, while not competing for the bar business, but wanting it does not make it so.

    And I agree with Brian and Cameron on parking. That is an issue that needs to be dealt with. I’m not disputing that. What I am disputing, however, is the anti-competitive nature of Depot Town. I understand why they want to protect what they’ve built, but I think, in the long run, it could work against them.

  15. Posted April 23, 2008 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Today’s Depot Town DDA meeting is up on YpsiNews.com. Most of the liquor stuff is at the beginning but there was some more comments in the last 1/2 hour.


    – Steve

  16. nearby
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    We are surrounded by new subs, begging for a reason to drive 10-15 minutes instead of going to AA.

    If local businesses really are freaking out at the idea of some local empty places actually triving, they need to think again. Its not competition. It’s one more brick in the wall of success.

    Then again, we have Michigan Ave with its out-of-town owners who would rather let the properties sit and rot, so they get a tax deduction (plus the benefit of bemoaning how Ypsi just won’t “move” as a conversation starterwhile they are out golfing with the other Ford Cousins).

    The changes in the local businesses in the last 5-7 years have been great to see. We need more of those types of people who just do the job.

    DeportTown is packed this Wed. night. You people who are reading this and not making money off your empty buildings are losing out.

  17. egpenet
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Yea, rah! Nearby! Spot on!

  18. Posted April 23, 2008 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    What happened to the music store that was going to move into the TB? A bar there AND the music store would make it go for Beal. One or the other might not.?.

    OEC, I agree that mark and brian should stop eluding (to) parties. More partying is what we need. Great rumors by the way!!

    Brian, yes. A plan, that addresses noise issues and convinces us that the parking available on the West side of River St. will be used and that parking up our residential streets will be punished, is what we need and should insist upon.

  19. schutzman
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I can appreciate the basic gist of your points, but as I understood everything that’s happened from the point the city took control from Kircher, the primary responsibility of Beal should be to fix up the building, which as lots of people are pointing out, he doesn’t seem to be doing very well. I’m not saying that the rest of this discussion isn’t interesting in its own way, but it just overlooks what I think is the bigger issue here, and the fact that it all stems from an email that Beal himself sent out makes me highly dubious of its real purpose.

    as for the phrase:

    “the ranks of well-paid automotive workers, who have always been economic backbone of Depot Town, are beginning to thin”

    I’ve spoken with quite a few blue collar workers over the years, and the conversations have always taken place at either TCs or the Tap Room, and in all cases they 1) Used to hang out at the bars in depot down but 2) Don’t anymore since those bars became gentrified (although that is not the term they normally use).

    Parking- The lot formerly known as the MCRR Gardens would, to me, seem perfectly adequate for the needs addressed.

    Finally, Ol E Cross and John on Forest- It took me about 20 seconds to deduce from Mark’s post who the “parties” in question were, and last night it took me another 30 seconds of talking to a local resident to confirm that my theory was correct. I’m not sure if you’re asking about it because you want to know who it is, or if you already know but wish that mark would share that information, but either way it really is pretty simple to figure out.

  20. BIKE
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    It’s just my opinion, and nothing more, that I’d rather not see a bar like the Elbow Room in Depot Town. YES I heard you all say it wouldn’t be like the Elbow, so what’s my point? The Elbow Room is just a dirty nasty place–and yeah, I’ve been there somewhat recently. I don’t think it’s changed that much. I take it for what it is where it is, but I’m gonna be open; I don’t think that type of bar fits into Depot Town. My point is that I’d rather see a place like the Northside Grill open up there so that people would frequent the shops on Saturday and Sunday mornings. YES you said no one else is interested in the renting, but maybe better marketing by Beal or city workers would help. What about Zinngerman’s? Where is/was their perspecitive location?

  21. A citizen of no mean city
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to seem rude BIKE, but if Depot Town Ypsilanti turned into gritless rich white Ann Arbor, I would puke and die. I would so much rather the building collapse and sit as a pile of rubble with a Beal’s trailer parked in front of it uselessly for years than see it turned into Zingermans. I’ve recently been to the Elbow Room too, and it would be so much more appropriate. My God people, Iggy Pop is from here for pete’s sake.

  22. mark
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I liked the old Elbow Room. It wasn’t a bad place. They had good shows, relatively inexpensive beer, and I never felt as though I was going to be stabbed or vomited on. Maybe there was some grit around the edges, but, in a world of homogenized corporate cleanness, I think that’s healthy. And I’m sure it’s good for the immune system. So I don’t agree that it would be a bad thing for Depot Town, even if it went down there as is… or even as was.

    But, as I pointed out before, that can’t happen. The math doesn’t work. By the time they bring the Thompson Block up to code, they will have probably invested a couple of million dollars. You can’t pay the kind of rent that requires and run a dive bar. It’s not going to happen. My guess is that the bar would be more upscale than the places already down there. I see gay-friendly lounge with martinis and wine. That’s just a guess though. Like I said, I’ve never talked with Garris about it.

    And you’re absolutely right about the Northside. We need a good breakfast place here in town. I’ve thought of doing it myself, but I’m too old and lazy to get back into the food business. It’s a huge opportunity, though. And, you’re right, a good breakfast place would rock in the Thompson Block. The problem, again, is rent though. That place is going to be expensive once it’s built out.

  23. Thoreau
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    John Norman is from here too. Will someone please send him a razor…


  24. Bob
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    While there are some great people who own shops and properties in Depot Town, there are some real scumbags down there. A definite mafia mentality exists as anyone who tries to do business there finds out. Some of the French family are great, some of them suck. One particular couple of slumlords down there…I’ll call them “Bary & Jerilyn McCheeser”…are truly a pair of steaming turds. Real Blue Veiners. Complete phonies and liars who pretend to care about the community and progress in Depot Town. Ask yourself why the Frog Island Festival no longer exists or why the parks are rarely utilized by anyone except the same DT Assoc creeps. I love the Sidetrack, Apple Annie, and a few others like the (former) Quinns, but I can hardly step foot in that part of town anymore.

  25. mark
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:40 pm | Permalink


    This discussion didn’t all stem from Beal’s letter. Beal’s letter was in response to some proposed criteria that were drafted by the Depot Town DDA. I’ve seen that document, but I didn’t share it here. It basically said, if I recall correctly, that for a business to qualify for a redevelopment liquor license, it had to have a full kitchen and a 75 seat restaurant.

    And my comment about the negative effects on Depot Town of automotive workers taking their buy-outs and moving away wasn’t my theory. It came from someone who works in a Depot Town bar, who could actually people that had left. You might be right, and some people may have left Depot Town for the bars of Michigan Ave, but the buy-outs did cut into the number of Depot Town patrons.

    And I’m not sure what you’re saying in your last point about said “parties”. Are you saying that you know who told me that there were fears of violence and the like? For what it’s worth, it wasn’t just one person that told me that. I heard it pretty consistently from a few sources.

  26. mark
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Bary & Jerilyn McCheeser?

  27. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:46 pm | Permalink


    Thanks for the video clip. For those interested, the Thompson Block discussion starts around minute 38. I think it’s worth watching.

    Brett, I still haven’t figured out who those people are. Can you tell one of those little voices in your head to come over and clue me in?

    I should also say, I don’t expect Mark or BrianR to out regular folk who approach them with concerns. My “who are these people?” was directed at the mutterings around town about mysterious (to me) groups of people running everything and pushing their agendas. If there are those groups, I’d like to know.

  28. mark
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I think we need to subpoena Bary & Jerilyn McCheeser.

  29. Randall
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Wait, Bob, I know this one … a bar in depot town owned by a French family, but not Sidetrack … wait let me punch in my answer on my remote trivia device…

  30. Al Ibi
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Barjeree’s has great pizza. Even if the price changes from the time you order it to the time you pick it up.

  31. egpenet
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Al Ibi … the dollars was up today against the Euro and commodities took a big hit … so local pizza prices should stabilize for the weekend, at least. If you still want a great pizza at a reasonably stable price, try College Inn next to The Keg … fabulous! Voted best pizza place by EMU student poll. Us old fart neighbors eat there, too.

  32. Mark H.
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Beggars can’t be choosers. And Ypsi needs business development. So, seems to me, we can’t be too exclusive about what kinds of legal businesses we’d like to have here — and a Zingerman’s in Depot Town, or on Cross Street further west across from the EMU campus, sounds terrific tp me. They’d make it a success for Ypsi, if they choose to come in to town. As for the Thompson Block — I don’t see any sign of Beal actually delivering on it. He must be starved for capital relative to his plans — the damn sign on the building still claims that in Sept. of this year there will be luxury apts. available there. Yeah, right, and I’m Santa Claus. Why doesn’t he at least take down the sign that is promising what he is making no visible signs to deliver?

  33. Dirk
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Ypsi’s old slogan (Pride, Heritage, Diversity) needs refreshing.

    How about:

    “Personal Pride, Selective Heritage, NIMBY Diversity”


    “Nothing is better than nothing”


    “Let’s agree to disagree, on everything”

  34. 202 Oak
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    Bill and Sandee French. Aubrees. Wake up.

  35. schutzman
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Mark, Beal’s job, as i understood it, was first and foremost to fix the place up. I’m not sure why that isn’t the main focus of the conversation.

    That’s my primary issue.

    Insofar as the customer base goes, when you mentioned the auto workers as the backbone of the businesses there, my first thought was that depot town has- for better or worse- reinvented itself in the last 20 or so years, and i think that this has influenced a change even more than any recent fluctuations of the economy. I should clarify, as well, that I’m basically just talking about bars, here, and not all the other businesses on the block. I’m not going to get into a debate about whether these changes were good or bad; If you remember the Elbow Room article from a year or so ago, about the “changes” made by the new owner (who was actually not solely responsible for them, as Leighton pointed out), one of the points made by the reporter (who I don’t think made it up themselves) was that the E.R. was trying to get away from the afternoon “Shot and Beer” crowd, which was scaring away more lucrative business. That’s exactly what the bars of Depot Town did- long before I myself moved here- and it’s still a point of much bitterness with some of the former patrons.

    What I know about the “parties” only refers to who is raising a stink about this bar moving in, and has nothing to do with your sources.

    Old E Cross- Related to that, I think the point is moot now; I didn’t want to get too specific because mark hadn’t either, and I also (see the first sentence about the repairs) don’t think that this is the main issue, nor that the persons complaining about a bar are truly the ones most in need of public scrutiny at this particular juncture.

  36. KP
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I have mixed feelings about an Elbow Room-esque business moving in to the Thompson Building. I live just up the street from Depot Town with my family and walk by the Thompson Building daily and mutter and weep over it’s decay and lost potential. I think any business is better than no business but wistfully long for a more family-friendly daytime business (a butcher shop would rock my world). While I do think anything is better than nothing I am leery of the Elbow Room for many of the reasons already mentioned–mostly loudness but also cigarette butts. I feel like Depot Town is in a delicate state right now with the close of Quinn’s, Apotheke and the home decor store (I forget the name…). A lawyer has moved in to one of the spaces and soon a computer store–not very retaily, walky type businesses.
    Like I said, mixed feelings. Still felt like weighing in since I read this far.

  37. Posted April 25, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink


    Which out-of-towners and which properties are you referring to that would rather let their property sit and rot.

    – Steve

  38. Posted April 25, 2008 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Is the current owner of the train depot in town or out of town???

    What a waste!!

  39. schutzman
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Dennis Dahlmann is in an Ann Arbor penthouse, if I recall correctly.

  40. Posted April 26, 2008 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Brian has provided yet another excellent post on this issue over on his blog. It deserves a read.

  41. schutzman
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    On youtube, someone posted a hilarious clip of Andy Warhol and Tom Bosley on the Love Boat.

  42. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    BrianR (via trusty’s link),

    Forgive me for what may be a lack of commenting etiquette (if there is such a thing), I’m not sure if I should post this on your site or Mark’s, but I finally decided to just keep the thread…

    Can you help me understand the relationship between your comment above that:

    “In order for this license to be awarded, the DDA director has to begin a process with the LCC.”

    and your comment on your blog:

    “In order for Mr. Garris to be awarded a downtown redevelopment liquor license, he needs to apply for it to the City.”

    I’ve always admitted you’re more fluent in many things than I, I’m just confused on this. A little education would help me. Do both the city council and the DDA have the power to veto Garris, or is it just the council?


  43. egpenet
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Someone asked on the blog … gimme a list of local building owners/landlords who sit on their properties waiting for a miracle bid.

    It may very well be that the Dahlmann Depot and the Kircher “Demo By Neglect” rental portfolio are tied IMHO for top honors. Kudos to the leaders!

    Lots of properties downtown need work to be considered presentable much less rentable. We have pounded on that theme over and over.

    Then, again, what can a landlord do downtown when the few available facade grants are “bestowed” to the N. Huron thespians … who are, BTW, my dear neighbors.

    THIS issue divides my allegiances, but I feel that BVoss was not representing the other interests downtown on that one. Our RNA is a DAY member.

    Since we are in a PB&J economy, BVoss, the peanut butter and jam need to be VERY carefully spread over the bread evenly, so every bite has a little flavor. On THIS one, a big glob of jelly plopped itself on the rug, so to speak. Hence the angst expressed.

    Anyway, there are two names I supplied above.

    Another concern of mine, other than the facades of the empty places, are the 2nd and 3rd floors of the occupied buildings and the alley appearances … most of which (the alleys) are exposed to public parking lots.

    I know … fussy, fussy, fussy. However, the phrase “butt ugly” comes to mind … “goatse” comes to mind … as do other “in arrears” pasttimes.

    But, hey! When the fatherland is the greatest offender of all … who are we to point fingers … and risk having them snipped?! I will get a call on this one, I’m sure.


  44. Pete Murdock
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Permalink


    First – The City has to determine if they are eligible for any. That is accomplished by the City Council designating a redevelopment district for the purpose of the act and then the City calculating and certifying the level of investment in that designated area over a five year period of time. That will determine how many, if any, of these special licenses are available to the City.

    Second – The applicant, in the case at hand, Mr. Garris not Mr. Beal, needs to apply to the City and Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) for one of these licenses. The applicant has to meet all the requirements of the Redevelopment Act as well as the requirements for liquor licenses as established by City Ordinance. The City Council needs to approve the application “above all others”

  45. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Pete. Thanks, that’s helpful.

  46. mark
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Pete, thanks for taking the time to make that clear.

    Also, I exchanged a few notes with Sandee French yesterday on the subject, and I plan to post those as well. Hopefully, I get to it tonight.

  47. Posted April 28, 2008 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    John on Forest,

    Hey I realize that some thought EMU had moved to Battle Creek. but I think the Depot is not on Michigan Avenue.

    nearby made mention of absentee landlords on Michigan Avenue and I was wondering which properties she had in mind. I am not saying they don’t exist, I am just wondering which ones came to nearby’s mind.


    – Steve

  48. nobody special
    Posted May 3, 2008 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Regarding your first post, OEC, it wouldn’t be much of a shock if those rumors were true.
    I mean, if you were in a public pissing contest with your brother and sister, would you wanna risk a neighbor with a longer stream?

  49. Posted May 3, 2008 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Hey Mark,

    Were you going to post the emails you talked about earlier?

    Your allergic friend,

    – Steve

  50. Posted May 3, 2008 at 7:43 pm | Permalink


    I missed that little detail. On the other hand, the issue of absentee/apathetic property owners is still something worth keeping in the front of our minds.

  51. Brackache
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Say, anybody drive past the old barracks today? Looked like either some bricks were falling off it, workers were deliberately making bricks fall off it, or some combination thereof. There were a bunch of bricks missing towards the bottom in a couple spots and what looked like big cracks or missing mortar, that’s alls I know.

  52. KJC
    Posted June 20, 2008 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    hey mark, did you ever post the Sandee French related comments? I’m very interested in reading them, but only discovered your blog today.

    Posted May 11, 2016 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Invaluable post. I loved the facts – Does someone know if I would be able to locate a sample a form version to use?

  54. stupid hick
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    It is now 8 years since this blog post. How many times did Beal renegotiate Thompson Block deadlines with the city since 2008? I haven’t seen any discussion about it anywhere, but as I recall the last time it was renegotiated, the project was supposed to be “substantially complete” by January 2016, which will soon be six months ago. I wish a local journalist would interview Tyler Weston.

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