on ypsilanti’s river street corridor, and encouraging our young to mate

As I understand it, the development of the Thompson block took another step forward last night, as City Council paved the way for Stewart Beal’s application to the Michigan Liquor Control Board for a special redevelopment liquor license. I may be a bit off on the details, but, as it’s been explained to me, this puts Beal one step closer to securing funding, which has, until now, been contingent on finding an anchor tenant for the ground floor of the crumbling former Civil War barracks. Assuming the application is accepted by the Liquor Control Board, and the Depot Town merchants don’t interfere in some way, Beal will be able to finalize his deal with local entrepreneur Andy Garris to open a bar on the ground floor, financing can be gotten, and crews can begin work… assuming, of course, that the most recent lawsuit brought by the building’s former owner, David Kircher, is thrown out of court. (If it’s not, it seems as though it would kill any possibility of bank funding.)

I guess we’ll have to see how Depot Town rebounds in the wake of losing longtime retailer Quinn’s Essentials (that brought in quite a few suburban women with money) , but, assuming new tenants like Fantasy Attic Costumes can attract people in comparable numbers, and assuming things move forward on the Thomspon block, Depot Town may prove to be our City’s salvation. And this, I’m thinking, would be especially true if we could again get the Freighthouse in play. (A refurbished Freighthouse would not only draw large events to Ypsi from the surrounding area, and help us illustrate what’s best about our community, but it would give us a year-round public market where aspiring local entrepreneurs can test the commercial waters.)

I don’t want to contribute to the building Ypsi hype, but I’m starting to think that we might be seeing a “perfect storm” gathering around River Street. Assuming that things move forward in Depot Town, and that we make at least some limited progress with the Water Street development, at the other end, I think that corridor might really take off. (I suspect that, once Water Street is subdivided into smaller parcels, that the first to go will be those on Michigan Avenue, at the end of River Street.)

If I were a betting man, I’d be making offers on the two burnt-out houses on River Street right behind the Dairy Queen tonight, instead of blogging.

I had an interesting conversation with someone today on the subject of economic development. We were talking about houses owned by college-educated individuals in their late 20’s and early 30’s. I forget the exact ages, but the idea was that the long-term economic wellbeing of an area depends on these people. The fellow I was talking with told me that Ann Arbor had 8,000 of these households, whereas Madison, Wisconsin had something like 24,000. Our conversation, which was ostensibly about why people in this demographic chose to stay in Madison upon graduation, but leave Ann Arbor, made it fairly clear to me that Ypsi is positioned to play a big role in the future of southeast Michigan, if there is to be one… In a nutshell, if we intend to grow the region, we need young people invested in the community, and, given the cost of home ownership in Ann Arbor, it’s not likely to happen there… Southeast Michigan needs Ypsilanti. It needs an interesting cultural center on the outskirts of high-tech Ann Arbor.

If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen here. It will, no doubt, take time. Even if we’re able to articulate what it is about our community that makes it desirable, it’s going to take quite a while before we attain any kind of critical mass. Not to be crude about it, but keeping these young people in the area comes down to two things: sex and money. People need to be assured that they can find good paying jobs in their field, and they need to believe that the dating pool is large enough to contain possible mates. Somehow Madison has made the leap. I think we can do it here, but it’s going to take some work… and rail service between Ypsi and Ann Arbor.

Sorry this post is kind of all over the place, but that’s how the neurons are firing tonight.

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16 Comments

  1. Smokey Barrret
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Sex and money?! I thought all that was needed to attract that demographic was sex, drugs and rock n roll.

    I guess I need to rethink my redevelopment strategy…

  2. Posted June 19, 2008 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Hey Mark,

    Great post. While a lot of different things were being discussed, they are all definitely related factors/indicators that things are coming together in a positive way on many fronts in Ypsi. I can’t stress how huge commuter rail connectivity to Ann Arbor, the airport and Detroit would be for Ypsi and economic development. There are few big ticket, single projects that could have the transformative impact on Ypsi that rail service would.

    A few points of clarification:

    Council approved the standards for the Redevelopment Liquor Licenses in the Depot Town district, not the liquor license application. The standards create the criteria and the procedures that the Depot Town DDA (not the Depot Town Association) and/or Council can use to evaluate the Redevelopment Liquor License application.

    Now that the district has been set and the standards approved, Andy (not Stewart) can submit his application to the City and Michigan Liquor Control Commission (prior to the recent Council action, there was nothing to apply for). If the application is approved at the DDA & City level and all then goes well at the state level, the process will likely take a few months for Andy to receive final approval on the liquor license.

    The securing of a liquor license allows Andy to meet all the terms of his lease in the Thompson Block. Meeting the terms of the lease means that Stewart then has enough commercial tenants to secure his bank financing on the project. Getting the bank financing means the Thompson Block project renovation goes full steam ahead for all the floors (right now Stewart is doing renovations and structural work with his own money).

    I’m not expecting your average person to understand all these inter-related things. It is quite complicated and detailed. The bottom line is that the liquor license and the full Thompson Block renovations aren’t finalized yet, but a clear path has now been laid for Andy and Stewart to be able to get to the end provided all goes well.

  3. mark
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the clarification, Brian. I appreciate it.

  4. K
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    When my peers were graduating from college the reason they didn’t stay in Ann Arbor, or Ypsi for that matter, was because the market was saturated with college graduates and there weren’t the jobs to support them.

  5. KD2
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Actually, there’s only one burnt-out house left behind the DQ.

    The one to the north has been nicely renovated.

  6. Posted June 19, 2008 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Sex and money … like prostitution?

    Great to see you the other day, btw.

  7. Posted June 19, 2008 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    I think the rail between Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Lansing is going to be the key to revitalizing the entire area. One of the big reasons I bought my business in Depot Town was because the rail was coming. They are now talking about train service beginning in late 2009 or early 2010, but I really hope they start doing things sooner. Gilbert and Penske are working on a rail project that would go up Woodward and one of the goals is to tie into the regional rail system. I worked at Detroit Diesel when Penske owned it, and knowing that he is involved in a rail project fills me with confidence that we will have rail service before the end of the decade. Even before I owned my restaurant I loved the idea of being able to catch a train in Depot Town to go to either Ann Arbor or Detroit. There are a number of things I would like to do and see in Detroit, but I never do them because I don’t know the area and I hate driving downtown.

  8. mark
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    OK, I guess I’m out of the closet now as a friend of the mysterious Supergay Detroit.

    It’s true.

    I’m even adding a link.

  9. KC
    Posted June 20, 2008 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I’m with you. But I think rail service between Ann Arbor/Ypsi/Detroit is much more important.

  10. Posted June 20, 2008 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Rail service stopping in Ypsi and going to dearborn and detroit would be sooooo good. I’ve been waiting for it since it was proposed back in the late 90’s.

    And what about an Ypsilanti version of the People Mover?

  11. egpenet
    Posted June 20, 2008 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    The “missing section” of the People Mover system in Detroit has been found … installed next to the RAC in the Plaza.

  12. Posted June 21, 2008 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Ed, hehehe. That’s so true.

    I’m actually serious about having a local transportation system of some sort. We have several walkable regions in the city separated by distances less easily walkable. People can walk to depot town if they live in that part of town. People can walk downtown if they live near downtown. People can walk the Cross Street corridor is they live near that part of town. Water street will be walkable when it is finished.

    But, someone wanting to attend an event at the RAC or Dreamland, have dinner at Sidetrack, and then shop in Water Street can not conveniently walk from one to the next of those venues. A small scale transportation system from one walkable section of town to the next would transform Ypsilanti. The system should run semi-continuously, reliably, and economically.

  13. Posted June 23, 2008 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Good ideas JoF.

    These three places are all connected/bisected by the Huron River and there are considerable terrain differences between the two sides of the river. There are plans to make better pedestrian connectivity to downtown and Water St. from Riverside Park, but they’re expensive due to the river and terrain changes.

    Maybe the artists at the RAC could continue their People Mover segment across the river (priceless Ed!).

  14. the spirit of ypsi
    Posted July 22, 2008 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    the city is dead, the depot town is dead and anyone left there might as well be dead…give it up…until that backwards city elects people who care about the city and not just their job, their property taxes and their own future then you are all doomed. Beal is the devil, his demons of deception Barnes (half wit) and Barnes (quarter wit), haven’t even saved the thompson bulding let alone despot town. Maybe in 1 year, no wait 3 years, no wait 10 years we will have 1 bar in the thompson building and everyone will come running. we have 3 fucking bar in despot town already and it ain’t helping. Hell they built 3 bars on washington street and that block in still dead. that is why it is so cheap to live in ypsi, because it is dead!!!

    wake up ypsi, move out!

    they can’t keep fucking up if they don’t have your money to fuck it up with!

    PS. I’ll meet you over in the water street developement to debate this if you want, oops can’t that still isn’t finished

    http://arborwiki.org/index.php/Water_Street_Redevelopment_Project

  15. John Gawlas
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Someone has begun channeling the spirit of Kircher on this thread.

  16. nammeroo
    Posted July 23, 2008 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    BVos: “…there are considerable terrain differences between the two sides of the river. There are plans to make better pedestrian connectivity to downtown and Water St. from Riverside Park, but they’re expensive due to the river and terrain changes. Maybe the artists at the RAC could continue their People Mover segment across the river (priceless Ed!).”

    I’m thinking that a cable car connection from the roof of the RAC (accessed by the new elevator) to the roof of the old Beyer Hospital building…. It would be great! Ypsi would have something better than the People Mover, all of those folks working on the site would be able to come downtown for lunch (Haabs and Dalat might have to expand!), AND tourists would pour in for a ride!

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