Boarding up the windows of the Thompson Block


I’ve been meaning to publicly thank landlord Stewart Beal for boarding up the broken windows of Ypsilanti’s historic Thompson Block for some time now. I know that Dave Strenski and others in the community have been asking him for him to do this for some time, even going so far as to send him pictures of things that have been done elsewhere, and I appreciate his listening to the community… I should add that I don’t know that Stewart had the windows boarded up in response to the public pressure. He could very well have planned to board up the windows of the former Civil War barracks on his own. Regardless, however, I think he deserves thanks from the community. Now, let’s just hope that he can get the bank financing he needs to complete the rehabilitation he began when he first gained possession of the property. And, now, let’s see if we can get Dennis Dahlman to clean up the former train depot he owns across the street. If we really are going to get that train stop we’ve been talking about, we’d better start seriously preparing for it.

It’s also worth pointing out that this thing with Beal didn’t happen in isolation. There’s a lot of positive development activity taking place as of late. Since the beginning of this winter, Beezy’s was opened on Washington Street, the SPARK East facility was opened on Michigan Avenue, and, I’m told, the long awaited Mongolian barbeque slated for the old Kresge building is about to open its doors. That’s three formerly vacant, highly prominent storefronts that are once again in play, and that’s a huge accomplishment in this economy. Congratulations to all the owners, developers and entrepreneurs who made it happen. Hopefully, it’s just the start.

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  1. Come to California
    Posted February 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Boarded up windows? Is that honest and trully what midwesterns call progress?! What do you people call a bulldozer? The messiah?

  2. Posted February 15, 2009 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    Yeah, boarded up windows isn’t the best case scenario. I’d argue that it’s a step in the right direction, though.

  3. John on Forest
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    On Friday, I saw workers taking materials out of the Thompson Block Building to use elsewhere.

  4. Curt Waugh
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Can some on, in all seriousness, please explain to me the value of refurbishing a building that was built as a temporary structure 150 years ago? Just strikes me as throwing good money after bad.

  5. Ingrid
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I would also like to thank Stewart Beal for removing a large piece of metal that was hanging by a thread from the roof for several days threatening passers by and automobiles. He saw it on a Wednesday and thoughtfully waited until Friday, after being contacted by at least one city official, to remove it.

  6. annabobic
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    I am new here (actualy i am new on internet) you have a nice community here and i
    want to make some friends :)
    My name is Anna Bobic i am born in Croatia. oh i am 19 years old. I love rock music and animals :)

  7. Posted February 15, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink


    I’ve been blogging every night for seven years. I never gave up.

    I KNEW that this day had to come.

    I knew eventually a 19 year old Croatian girl who loves rock music and furry animals would find me!!!

    And, yeah, regardless of whether it was originally Beal’s idea to board up the windows, or he just gave in to community pressure, I think we need to keep the pressure up on our landlords, encouraging them to do the right thing.

  8. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    I just got an idea for a documentary. An out-of-work Michigander fires up a bulldozer and drives across the country to California to seek revenge.

    Curt, do you really say “Built 150 years ago as a temporary structure” without any sense of irony? Nothing says “temporary” like bricks and stone. I’m surprised that circus tent is still standing.

  9. Curt Waugh
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I did, indeed, say “150 years ago as a temporary structure” without any hint of irony whatsoever. That piece of shit is a horrible eyesore. It has no sense of design whatsoever and should have been left to fall to the ground back in ’02 (expression, not literally). I have nothing against old buildings, and Beal can do whatever the hell he wants with his money, but I just don’t get it. There are so many advantages to new construction. I have to imagine that they will have to virtually gut the entire building. So, all this effort is going forth to save some painted-over bricks? It’s a brick shack. Kill it before it turns on us in our sleep.

  10. Guest
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I thought the whole Beale lease and deal at the Thompson block fell through. I thought I head the plan for a club and lofts there had dried up.

  11. Pete Murdock
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    According to a status report on the Thompson Building that Mr. Beal gave to City Council on Feb 3rd, the schedule is as follows.

    April 1 – Start of Roof Stabilization Project
    July 1 – Close on construction loans – commence construction
    early 2010 – complete first floor and move tenants in
    Sept 2010 – complete loft construction move tenants in

  12. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 11:16 pm | Permalink


    The advantages of the Thompson Block are the same as any home or building Depot Town. Spaces are rhetorical, meaning they have pathos and ethos. The thing that distinguishes Depot Town from a strip mall isn’t its functionality, it’s its historical credibility and emotional appeal. For many, “Civil War soldiers slept here” has more visceral appeal than “new drywall.”

    Why do people nurse Ford Edsels when they could be driving Civics? Why do they pay thousands for an antique dresser when they could go to Ikea? Why do they pay for someone to cut their hair?

    Don’t get so caught up in the simple economics of construction and demolition that you miss the economics of identity. The primary value of Depot Town is its historical pathos. Tear down Thompson Block and replace it with a cost-effective functional box and you not only lessen the marketable value of the site, you devalue the ethos the entire neighborhood is built on. It may be ugly, but it’s old.

    Pete, thanks.

  13. Andy
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    just in cased you missed it… the bomber received a shout out in the new issue of playboy!

  14. Curt Waugh
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    OEC, I get that part of the argument. I get that visceral appeal. But I also see a bias toward old buildings when, in this case anyway, it seems to me that a new building would better serve the community (and not just a generic functional box nor a strip mall).

    And expanding on your theme: What building will give Depot Town it’s pathos 100 years from now? Will they curse us for unnecessarily extending the life of an eyesore or praise us for that great 100-year-old building they now have? Somebody has to build the stuff that will become the antiques of the future. I’m just sayin’ that this might be an opportunity to do that.

    But I wish Beal the best of luck with this folly. I certainly will favor that the City Council do everything in its power to let him do what he needs to do within reason. And I join the chorus of praises for anything that has been done so far.

  15. Posted February 17, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    So, by Michigan developer time warping calculations, “about to open” means we’ll be eating Khan-flavored cowflesh by Feb 27th, 2018. The warp has its advantages: At least SE Michigan will finally get to participate in the .com boom, retro swing dancing, and maybe some new wave revival.

    To our new neighbor from Hrvaška, our favorite new European city is Zagreb, we love Istria, but we don’t really get into turbofolk.

  16. tommy
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, Anna. If you log off now and never return no one will blame you.

    Was just contemplating the same thing about the new Walmart going up in my neck of the woods (Saline) – a building to give that stretch of land between Ypsi and Saline its pathos 100 years from now? Perhaps the residents will be praise Walmart for that great 100-year-old building they now have? Perhaps not.

  17. Curt Waugh
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    That’s IT! We need a Wal-Mart in Depot Town. They’d have a pole-barn up and start pushin’ product in about a week. They could use Brique® Brand aluminum siding for that instant “100 years in Depot Town” look. Maybe stay open all nite and sell Chinese-made infant formula to drunk people staggering out of the bars. Boom time, baby!!!

    Happy days are here again…

  18. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 11:48 pm | Permalink


    Who knows what folks will want 100 years from now, if there are any. But, right now, I think an old building with civil war names dug into the rafters is better for the area than what folks find driving down every other main drag. If you think about it, it’s really kinda cute.

  19. Laurie
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    As much of a delay as the Thompson Block as has been experienced, I remain hopeful that it will be completed at the right time. We look forward to serving the Ypsilanti area with our music store, Broughton Music Center and still believe it is a great spot.

  20. Drew
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Stewart Beal doesn’t run a very good company so I doubt he boarded up the windows on his own accord. I actually signed a lease with the Beal Co. for the corner unit on the second floor over by the red brick house nearly 2 years ago. We were supposed to move in last April…. but they clearly didn’t get it fixed up in time…. then they changed our move in date to November of last year…. again we didn’t get in…. Then we tried calling and emailing them to find out what was up and we couldn’t get ahold of them until January of this year…. they said we can expect the move in date of April 5th… Hmmmm…… Now they won’t return our calls or anything. We have moved on even though we wanted this apartment bad. They guaranteed up Hard wood floors (not laminate), pocket doors, granite counter tops, high end appliances…. the works. We were living with my girlfriends parents for almost a year so we wouldn’t have to break a lease when it came time to move in and it was very frustrating. BOOOO BEAL COMPANY!

  21. Twigei Sapin
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate this old building, and I value greatly all that I have gained from it. I’ve been pretty shy around here, up to the point of being too fearful to post my own reactions in this forum until now. Anyhow, thanks for letting me be a part of this community.

    So, with that, I’d like to say the following.

    Ain’t no block like a thomspon block, ’cause a thompson block don’t stop.

  22. D'Real R. Graham
    Posted March 13, 2015 at 10:42 pm | Permalink


  23. Anonymous
    Posted March 14, 2015 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Optimism in 2009.

  24. Posted March 14, 2015 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Extremely interesting.

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