The future of Cross Street

tedsoncross has a story today about O’Neal Construction buying up the block of Cross Street that used to house Ted’s Campus Drugs and our local art supply store, Art Attack. Judging from the comments following the article, I’d say that people are happy to see the project in the hands of O’Neal, which was the firm responsible for Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown redevelopment many years ago. The following clip comes from the article:

…The vision, said Andrew O’Neal, is to renovate the building while retaining its historic feel, along with modernizing the upper level apartments. At the same time, it’ll create a new retail hub on that end of campus.

“This is a cool, old building,” O’Neal said. “With a little fixing up, it could go another 60 years.”

By the time construction is completed, three new retail spaces will take shape in the building at 729-735 W. Cross, with the potential for outside seating and west-side windows in the anchor position on the northwest corner of the building.

“You can’t beat this location next to EMU,” O’Neal said…

I’m pleased to see something happening with the property. That stretch of Cross Street, it seems to me, has been cursed for years. Given the proximity to EMU, it should be hopping, but it’s not. At least, I can’t remember anything doing well along that stretch since Cross Street Station collapsed over a decade ago. But there’s no reason to think that students wouldn’t cross the street if there were something worth going to. (This would have to happen in spite of the fact that the University, since the 70’s, has made a very conscious effort to grow their campus away from the City.) And, my guess is that O’Neal has an anchor tenant in mind. Given the development climate in Michigan these days, I’m almost certain they’ve got someone lined up. Either that, or they got the block for a song. If I had to guess, I’d say it was a little of both. And, if you were to push me a little harder, I’d say there’s likely a national franchise involved. Given the recent propagation of 7-Elevens in Ann Arbor, I’m thinking that we very well might be looking at one of those, but, if I had to bet, I’d say Ypsi was finally going to get its long-awaited Starbucks.

The thought would have killed me a year or so ago – remember the Quizno’s that we rallied against – but, given the state of the economy these days, I’m just glad to see someone, anyone, investing here. If you’re interested, you can read one of my earlier anti-franchise rants here. I still stand by what I said at the time, and feel as though it would be best for us in the long run to keep our individuality and remain as franchise-free as possible, but I don’t see it being worth the fight right now, when so many people are out of work. So, don’t expect me to picket if a Starbucks comes to town… unless, of course, it comes to a point where they’re threatening to drive one of our locally owned businesses, like the Ugly Mug or Cafe Ollie, out of town.

So, what would you like to see come into this new space, in the shadow of our world famous water tower? My friend Patrick wants a typewriter repair shop or a microfiche cafe, either of which I think would be incredible. My friend Pete, on the other hand, wants to make it a Hooters. I think, however, if we decide to go in that direction, it should be a locally owned Hooters knockoff. Since it’s at the base of the base of the world’s most phallic building, we could call it Balls, and all the servers could wear tight pants that accentuate their grotesquely swollen ball sacks.

Speaking of Patrick, how is it that he has a Wikipedia page and I don’t? And, while we’re at it, why did he offer me a press pass to his bedroom tomorrow night? Who does that?

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  1. E Tj
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    It should be a DejaVu coed recruiting office.

  2. Mike
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    Ted, of Ted’s Campus Drugs, died about a month ago. If I’m not mistaken, he died a few days after he sold the place. I think O’Neal will do a good job with it. They won’t let it burn like Beal did with the Thompson building, and then sit around waiting for the bricks to collapse.

  3. Ale Roka
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Sorry if you hadn’t heard (hate to be the one that breaks it to you) but Ypsi already has a thriving Starbucks in the EMU Student Center. Had one for years in Pray-Harrold. Ypsi also has Einstein Bagels, Wendy’s, Sabarro, and anything else needed to dissuade students from venturing off campus.

    Of course, if you’re deliberately denying that EMU has anything to do with Ypsi (other than being in Ypsi) I understand (and so do they).

    That length of Cross is cursed by lack of parking (have to keep incoming and outgoing lanes free to EMU), but I’m on my seat’s edge to see what besides Jimmy John can make a go.

    As an aside, it feels a bit soon as I’m still mourning the loss of Luwak (very much), but I did venture into Ollie and it seems like a great rebirth of the location (good food, good prices, an appropriate bit of change and good continuity with Luwak and its predecessors).

    I’ll always miss (with gratitude) Jim and Forrest, but Cafe Ollie promises to be a very fine establishment. I wish them the best and will dine their again and, likely, equally often. It still feels wrong that Luwak had to close. But Ollie feels very right as their successor. Thanks to Jim for passing the baton to such good folks.

  4. Jon
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    I want a feminist bookstore, Portland-style…

  5. Knox
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    What we need is something to lure the students away from campus. Ale is right about EMU offering students things (like Wendy’s and Starbucks) that will keep them from wondering into the city, but surely there are some things they won’t/can’t offer. Porn and cigarettes come to mind, but I’m sure there’s something more wholesome. We just need to figure out what that is.

  6. Edward
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    While I think what you’re saying is true, and that most developers these days in Michigan don’t build things on spec, without having leases already signed, I think it’s possible that, in this case, O’Neal just saw it as a great opportunity and a way to keep their people working. I’d love to a handful of small, independent shops like in Kerrytown. I don’t know, however, that something like that would appeal to the student market. Of course there’s also the possibility that they aren’t counting on the student market, which, given the points outlined above, could be a good thing.

  7. Eel
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I’d love to see a feminist bookstore in the shadow of Ypsi’s brick dick. I think it’s genius.

  8. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    The rendering in looks an awful lot like a Panera to me.

    I’m going to pretend though, that they are building it as a new space for Eve the restaurant.

  9. Smelly Tongues
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Looks like he paid $530,000 for it. It also says in the article that he is hoping a coffee shop will open up there. A coffee shop would be great right there of course. It would be nice if the other retail spots in the building were something other than antique stores or hair-braiding salons. Ypsi has enough of those. Hopefully there will be stores that encourage a bit of foot traffic. That way, maybe the other retail sites along there will follow suit and get some cool places to go.
    At any rate, I’m glad to see someone invest something into our great city.

  10. Bob
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    That Portlandia has to be the smuggest thing to hit television in quite some time. What we need are more half-assed mexican restaurants around here. Peep shows are also poorly represented since even Velvet Touch quietly closed a while back.

  11. Burt Reynolds
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I hope we get a tax service, beauty supply, or a check cashing business. We sorely need these in Ypsi.

  12. Mr. X
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to buy a billboard to put up on that site, reminding EMU students that, in these last few years, more of their fellow students have been killed on campus than in the city. I can understand why EMU tried to distance itself from the city in 1970, but they got to realize by now that they can’t really be successful until the city is successful.

  13. Ted
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    By the time it’s done, it’ll be about time for Andy Garris to pack up and change bars again. Maybe this could be the spot.

  14. Posted January 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    What they need is to put a cel phone store there. I haven’t seen one of those in Ypsi, ever.

  15. dragon
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    “I’ll have a ‘For Here’, pene grande, Non-Fat, Chai Tea Latte”.

  16. anonymous
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    A Thai or Indian restaurant would be great. I like the ones farther out on Washtenaw–maybe they could open a branch?

  17. Posted January 29, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Speaking of good Indian food, I’d like to convince the guys as Neehee’s to open here instead of in Ann Arbor but I think they’re already set on going there.

  18. Posted January 29, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    My friend Jean had the following to say about this.

    O’Neal has a policy at K-town of preference for local independent retailers– very unlikely to go 7-11 route. Typewriter repair, maybe.

  19. lorie thom
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    or real Caribbean/Haitian would be great.

  20. Christine M
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I agree that little Indian street food place would be wonderful. If had money I’d open a branch of my friend’s new place in Charleston, South Carolina called Patat Spot. She based it on Amsterdam street food. Imports a bunch of the sauces.

  21. Mark H.
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    This block of Cross isn’t only across from campus (albeit across from the section of campus with the lowest density of students on campus, due to poor campus planning), it is also adjoining the student neighborhood just to the south of campus. Lots of students still live in rental along that stretch, even with the growing apartment complex squalor north of campus, across the river….. So, this block of Cross has the market potential of attracting student pedestrians from nearby apartments; and right now, that neigborhood is destitute of good student hang-outs. A breakfast /sandwich shop — nothing of the kind is closer than Depot Town, too far for a casual stroll on the way to campus. So, here’s hoping that the developer has a plan, a vision, and knows the local neigbhorhood. Being located at the edge of campus, and at the edge of student neighborhood that is grossly under-served, this particular block of Cross has business potential that is at least somewhat freed from the need for giant parking lots that so much retail in America requires.

    And, contrary to the claims of someone who posted above, PrayHarrold never had a Starbucks: What it had was a university food service take out after standing in a line kind of coffee shop that served Starbucks coffee. Not a Starbucks shop, just a store that sold brewed Starbucks coffee. And even the Starbucks in the student Center now isn’t a full Starbucks shop, as it doesn’t provide all the choices or prices of a full Starbucks in greater domains of the Starbucks empire; still, it’s the only place on campus with anything close to drinkable coffee.

    A good coffee shop, or even a Starbucks, in the building where Ted’s Campus Drugs did business for 6 decades would NOT face competition from the Starbucks in the Student Center. May Ted rest in peace, and may his old building’s new owners deliver some worthwhile retail there!

  22. Oliva
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see Mix open a second store over there . . . beside the coffee (and fresh-fruit smoothie) shop and healthy, tasty sandwich shop. Kinda greedy feeling tonight. And have a good art store come back, please! And a comfy, roomy spot for a well-tended magazine exchange rack. (More, too, I’m sure. Am just stuck on these particular wants at the moment.)

  23. Jacques
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    bring back Rubber Soul records and sell cock tower sex toys there too….not enough sex stores in ypsi anymore!

    not that i care really…since i moved out of that dump of a city…but i might still visit.

  24. Ale Roka
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Mark H.

    Of course, you’re right. The PH location just sold Starbucks coffee, in Starbucks cups, under a Starbucks banner, but was not “full service.” (Of course, if you asked 9 of 10 undergrads where they got their coffee, they would say’…'”) I also agree that they wouldn’t compete with the on-campus locations. They’d compete with the Ugly Mug. We may simply have different definitions of “worthwhile retail.”

  25. Posted February 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    An arcade with pinball and air hockey would be awesome!

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  1. […] how, a couple of days ago, when talking about the new retail development taking place on Cross Street, right across from Eastern Michigan University, I said that I thought that it was likely the […]

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