Ypsi church for sale… let’s chip in and buy it


At present, Ypsilanti has at least four churches for sale. You can find a brochure listing each here. The most recent one added to the list is a First Congregational Church on North Adams that dates back to 1898. The asking price for the 13,600 square foot church is $400,000 (or, $650,000, if you include the 3,000 square foot annex, which was built in 1982). That price includes a parking lot which can accommodate 54 cars, but not the stained glass windows and organ, which would stay with the congregation. The following clip, which concerns the future of the congregation, comes from AnnArbor.com:

…However, she underscored that First Congregational plans to remain in Ypsilanti when the building sells and it comes time to move.

“We are sorry to leave the building because it’s such a beautiful building and has a lot of history, but the reality is our congregation doesn’t need a space that large,” she said. “We need to find something affordable that meets our needs”…

It’s sad to see a congregation have to leave its home of over 100 years, but it sounds like, as of late, they’ve been unable to maintain the building, which needs a new roof among other things. The important thing at this point, I think, is to identify a buyer who would do something interesting with the building, and perhaps even bring it back to the tax rolls. I threw the idea out to some friends today, and got back ideas ranging from a fetish club to a business incubator along the lines of my friend Dug Song’s place in Ann Arbor, the Tech Brewery.

I’ve asked around a bit and the property is currently zoned R3 – multiple family medium density. However, given a 2008 change in the zoning ordinance, existing non-residential structures in residential neighborhoods, such as this church, qualify for Planned Unit Development (PUD) designation. This, according to city planner Teresa Gillotti, would allow for more flexibility in terms of planned use, and would allow a new owner room to propose things such as parking requirements/landscaping, etc.

I don’t have time to work on a business plan at the moment, but I’ve got to think that we could come up with something that could cover the mortgage. I’m going to see if I can schedule a tour sometime soon, and I’ll post post video here so that we can discuss ideas. Given that it’s only about a block from the central bus station, and a few blocks from MIchigan Avenue, though, I’m thinking that a technology incubator with a first floor coffee shop and Pabst-only bar may not be such a bad thing. (Do they have Pabst-only liquor licenses? And, if so, do they cost a lot less than regular ones?) I have other ideas too, but I’m keeping them secret for the time being. I will say this, though – it would be incredibly cool if you could construct a business in such a way that ordinary people in Ypsi/Arbor could buy shares at an affordable price and be an active part of building something cool.

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  1. foreigner
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    You’re the kind of people, Mark, that represent the only reason I have respect and awe for southeast Michigan. I hope you have and have had babies. Many babies.

  2. Knox
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I don’t know that it would necessarily be the best use, but I could see it being a school. I’d rather see a tech company buy it though.

    Speaking of for-profits buying up properties like this in the neighborhood, what’s going on with the former Ave Maria property? I don’t see much activity there. Is the school yearbook company that bought the property still there? Did they hire the 30 they said they were going to? Are they paying taxes?

  3. Posted January 11, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    @Knox, I’m pretty sure that SchoolPictures.com is currently operating in that space. My niece’s school about thirty minutes south of Ypsi used SchoolPictures this fall and the envelope had the Ypsilanti address.

    From their site:

    Green Facility

    At SchoolPictures.com we pride ourselves on being a socially responsible organization, from our core business mission of providing high-quality student portraits while generating money for schools, to operating in an environmentally friendly manner and contributing to the local and global community by reducing our carbon footprint.

    In August 2009, after extensive renovation efforts, SchoolPictures.com moved into its new green headquarters in Ypsilanti, Michigan, marking the culmination of efforts to “go green.” The facility, which was previously the campus of Ave Maria College, is now Michigan’s first pre-1950 building to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver status. Our goal was to create a set of environmentally friendly buildings that would serve our business needs and contribute to the greater environmental good of the community.

    Our new facility features:

    * Additional insulation to improve heating and cooling
    * Low-wattage lighting and some motion-sensitive lighting
    * All new baseboard heating and an increased number of zones for better efficiency
    * All new double thermal-pane windows
    * Waterless urinals, which will save approximately 30,000 gallons of water per year
    * All new recycled flooring products, including non-PVC tile

    During the renovation, we were able to recycle 80 percent of the 72 tons of debris that was removed from the site, and many of the recycled materials were put right back into the buildings. For example, hundreds of glazed blocks were used to construct new walls, the marble slab that lines our window sills has been reused from the original buildings and we have countertops made from recycled beer bottles. We also donated items that were abandoned, including library book shelving, wood doors and computer monitors, which are now being used by others in our local community.

    Now that we’re settled into our environmentally friendly facility, we continue to make every effort to be as green as possible, including recycling paper and cardboard, using green cleaning products and purchasing power from renewable energy sources.


  4. Edward
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I know Mark’s secret idea.


  5. Posted January 11, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Yes! I would definitely buy into some type of Workantile Exchange space in Ypsi. Now we need some start-up money….

  6. dragon
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t the current owners just pray for a larger more affluent congregation?

  7. Posted January 11, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    It’s zoned R3 (medium density residential) so maybe a youth hostel, artist residence, bar & web cafe, gallery, event space?

  8. Andy
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    This has been on my mind for YEARS

  9. Posted January 11, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    The old Ave Maria / now SchoolPictures site is in use, though I haven’t talked to the owner recently to know how close to capacity they are. Looking at the city assessor’s online data, it paid about $80,000 in taxes this year – up from, well, $0 in 2008. (Some of their first two years in taxes was to be recycled into the project, under their brownfield plan, to help cover certain costs, but I think next year is the year all the taxes are “real” as opposed to brownfield capture.)

    To get there, though, the owner needed a rezoning, a master plan revision, and a couple of variances – after all, zoning generally doesn’t anticipate future uses for elementary schools. The “adaptive reuse PUD” mentioned was developed as an attempt to shorten and clarify that process for exactly this purpose. (And I mean exactly: at least two of the churches mentioned in that article were for sale even back then, with the brokers asking what they could look for other than more churches.) A PUD still has to go through the planning commission and city council – if we’re asking unique cases to make their own rules, we still have to double-check that the rules are reasonable – but it shortens considerably both the list of decision points and the timeframe for a project.

    I’d be happy to see it put into action here.

  10. DRich
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t this the perfect place for the Mark Maynard Museum? I’m pretty sure that’s your secret plan. Now you have to ask which will send you to Hell faster: converting a church to a cheap beer saloon, or changing it into a museum to your sick self. Of course, if you buy it, maybe the MPT’d have a basement to record in for the rest of the project.

  11. Posted January 11, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Dan, if you move here, we could raise our families together in this church, like hippies. Just think how incredible that would be.

  12. Posted January 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    And here’s a clue as to what I see myself doing there.

  13. Ms. Pacman's Lover
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    The Mark Maynard Museum is a good idea…but given his reputation I think you’d have a tough time getting the zoning changed. But if anyone can a permit for a PUD pulled, it would be Mark.

  14. Tommy
    Posted January 12, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Everyone knows Mark is a PUD puller … since way back … thought he would be blind by now!!

  15. Tommy
    Posted January 12, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Or how about rather than a Mark Maynard Museum, a museum celebrating the worst of religious history. with audience participation – stonings (with foam rock of course), beheadings (French style), etc. etc.

  16. Edward
    Posted January 12, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    We could call it the Masturbation Station. Pulling a pud for that should be relatively simple.

  17. bash
    Posted January 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    what abt a community flea market. ypsi really needs its flea market back. the old one was packed back in the 80’s in the water street district.

  18. Cassy Gatchell
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink


  19. kolagen
    Posted February 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Churches were vital public spaces. Now, people stay at home, in front of their computers. I’m not a fan of moralizing, and the bad stuff that comes along with religion, but I think society has suffered as a result of the fragmentation. It would be great if these old buildings could be brought back as community centers.

One Trackback

  1. By No MBAs on July 12, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Our militia needs somewhere to store our arms.

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