After eight years, might it be possible to get Ypsi’s Freighthouse open by Christmas?

In the past month, I’ve talked with representatives from two organizations based in Ann Arbor, both of whom wanted to ask me where they could rent space in Ypsi for big events that they were planning. In both instances, I told them that our historic Freighthouse, my favorite place in the entire world, would be the ideal location for what they had in mind. In each instance, though, I also had to add the caveat, “I hope your event is a few years off, as it won’t be open for years.” Well, according to Ypsilanti City Council member Pete Murdock, who just now sent out an email about the remaining work that needs to be done before the Freighthouse is up to code, it may not be years after all. According to Murdock, it could be open by the end of this year if all goes well. Here’s what he plans to propose at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

freighthouseMurdockMayor and City Council –

The Ypsilanti Freight House has been closed for over eight years. Changing personalities at the City and on the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse (FOYF) Board along with escalating City requirements have continually deferred action to get the building functional and open to the public. The FOYF have recently had architectural drawings made and obtained estimates (~$300,000) to install the major mechanical systems (fire suppression, bathrooms and HVAC) that would make the building occupiable. The City had applied for a SHPO grant to do the fire suppression system using contributions from the DDA ($25,000), Eastern Leaders Group (ELG) ($10,000), Eastern Michigan University (EMU) ($1,000) and the FOYF ($4,000) to provide a $40,000 match. Unfortunately that grant was not obtained.

I’ve asked the groups that committed to funding the match for the SHPO grant if they could double their match for a total of $80,000 and if the City would come up with the additional $220,000. Contingent on the total $300,000 being assembled, the ELG has upped its commitment from $10K to $25K, and the FOYF have increased their commitment from $4K to $14K, leaving a shortfall of $15K, which we would ask the DDA to provide by increasing their commitment from $25K to $40K. The City’s portion of $220K would come from two funds: $180K from the Capital Improvement Fund (414) and $40K from the Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund specifically for the energy efficient HVAC system and other energy efficiency items. Both these funds have restrictions on their use and the Freighthouse is eligible in both cases. And these would still leave unallocated balances in both funds. With this investment in the basic mechanical systems of the Freighthouse, we could have it available for use in this fiscal year. Let’s do it!

Of course, getting the building up to code and opened is just part of the problem. Once we have a certificate of occupancy, we need to figure out what we want the Freighthouse to be. Do we just want it to be a rental facility, or do we want something more? Do we want to lease the front section out as a cafe, serving food, newspapers and the like to people as they wait for trains, once the trains begin stopping here? Do we want the building to serve as an indoor farmers’ market on the weekends, like it used to? If we want for the Freighthouse to remain open, we need to find a way to make it financially viable. My suggestion would be to rent the cafe section out to a local entrepreneur, with the understanding that he, or she, would also manage a weekend market, and the rental of the space for weddings, community functions, etc. I haven’t run the numbers, but my sense is that, if the rent was affordable enough, the math might work.

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6 Comments

  1. K2
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    What’s the update on when the trains might begin to stop in Ypsi? Is it still more than a year away?

  2. Thom Elliott
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Avant-garde artspace, radical infoshop, and surrealistic Theater of Cruelty used to scandalize and horrify the stiffs.

  3. Pete Murdock
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    If City Council and the DDA approve the funding mechanism, the funds will be available in the FY 2014-15 budget. I would hope we would move as expeditiously as possible but it might take longer than the end of the calendar year to complete.

  4. anon
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    hopefully, unlike other ‘public’ spaces in ypsilanti, the freighthouse can be used by any and all citizens, without some ‘board’ making decisions as to what is and is not appropriate.

  5. dot dot dash
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Anon, is that a reference to the Riverside Arts Center?

  6. Posted September 11, 2014 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    what ever happened with this? shall the freight house ever rise again?

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