Beal Construction Services is issued five “serious” workplace safety violations in wake of Thompson Block death

According to the Ann Arbor News, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) have completed the review of Beal Construction Services that was initiated with the death last May of Jeremy “Jake” Burd, a construction worker who lost his life in the basement of Ypsilanti’s historic Thompson Block after the floor above him collapsed. According to published reports, Beal Construction Services, as a result of this formal inquiry, was issued five citations for “serious” violations of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act, each of which carries with it a fine of $7,000, which is apparently the maximum for violations that are not found to be “willful.” As of right now, the family of Jake Burd, as I understand it, has not filed suit against Beal Construction. Given these recent findings by MIOSHA, however, one would assume a wrongful death case is imminent… The following clip concerning the MIOSHA findings, comes from the Ann Arbor News.

…A “serious” violation is determined if there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

The five citations describe a construction site that was not properly prepared, inspected or cleared including during the time when Burd was killed. The citation and notification of penalty does not say if the violations were found immediately after Burd’s death or not…

Neil Miller, the lawyer representing Burd’s family, said the citations show that Beal Construction was at fault and that Burd’s death could have been avoided.

“The MIOSHA citations indicate a total failure top to bottom of management responsibility by the Thompson Block team,'” Miller said. “From the general partner of the Thompson Block project, Stewart Beal, to Stewart Beal as owner of Beal Construction Services and by JC Beal Construction and its principals as construction managers.

“The Beal Group markets themselves as consummate construction professionals, specializing in historic renovations. However, they demonstrated a total disregard of the potential for loss of life to laborers in the Thompson Block basement on May 11, 2015…

As I understand it, having talked some time ago with a coworker of Burd’s, who was working in the Thompson Block with him on May 11, the crew had been given the task of clearing the basement to make room for a small excavating machine, which was going to be brought in to lower the level of the dirt floor beneath the building. Having not been there, I cannot speak to what happened, but it sounds as though a decision was made, either by Burd, or by managers on the site, to knock out the support beams holding up the floor above, which, as it happens, was being used to store lumber, putting additional strain on the floor. (It had apparently been determined that these support beams needed to be removed so that the excavator could maneuver more easily through the basement.) Again, I don’t know for certain whose decision this was, but a decision was apparently made to knock out these existing support beams without first either moving the lumber being stored above, or finding an alternate way to reinforce the floor. Regardless of whose decision this was, Burd, as I understand it, knocked out one of these support beams with a sledgehammer, bringing the floor above him, as well as the lumber stacked on it, down on top of him, crushing him to death. While I didn’t have any reason to doubt the veracity of this story that I’d been told by Burd’s coworker, I made the decision not to share it at the time. While I knew readers of this site would find it interesting, I didn’t see how it would help anyone involved. [The man who contacted me had also told me that he was talking with MIOSHA investigators, so I knew that his story would eventually come out.] Now that the MIOSHA report has been issued, though, and seeing as how it seems to corroborate what I’d been told about he events leading up to Burd’s death, I don’t see any reason not to note this fact… The following comes from the Ann Arbor News article linked to above.

…Chief among the company’s MIOSHA violations is not clearing a floor that is to be demolished. The law requires that before a floor is demolished, debris and other materials shall be removed from the area and adjacent areas for a distance of not less than 20 feet.

The state found that employees had been stacking previously demolished wood and debris from a different work area onto the same floor currently being demolished. Debris was also not removed from the work area at a distance of not less than 20 feet…

The state also found Beal Construction did not follow proper demolition protocol of demolishing the site from the top down.

Manual demolition of structural components starts at the top of the structure and proceeds downward so that each level is completely dropped before the next lower wall and floor is dropped, except that if a connection portion is a different level, then that portion may be removed first.

That protocol was not followed, according to the state.

Proper shoring and bracing of the site was also not completed prior to demolition. Because the building had been damaged in a fire and by water, the building needed to be properly braced or shored before the start of manual demolition.

Beal Construction was also fined for not having a demolition engineering survey performed on the structure or equipment and for not performing an inspection to detect and remove hazards at the work site…

It’s an unfortunate situation all the way around. A man’s life was lost. A family lost its father. And an historic building that could have been an asset to Ypsilanti could very well now be demolished. It didn’t have to play out like this, but here we are. And it’s not over yet. I’m sure we’ll continue to experience the shockwaves associated with this project ripple though our community for years to come. Not only is there likely to be a protracted battle between Stewart Beal and our City Council over the future of the property, but I suspect we could see quite a bit of change in our local real estate market if Beal, one of our largest local property owners, is found liable for Burd’s death in a court case.


For those of you who might be interested in learning more about the Thompson Block’s recent history, here are links to the last several articles which have run on this site, in reverse chronological order.

May 11, 2015: Collapse within Ypsilanti’s Thompson Block leaves one worker dead

August 7, 2013: Stewart Beal on his plans to redevelop Ypsilanti’s Thompson Block with the help of small, local investors

April 28, 2011: Stewart Beal on his court case against Ypsilanti City Council

April 26, 2011: Yet another post entitled, “What’s up with the Thompson Block?”

August 10, 2010: Thompson block called safety hazard

April 29, 2010: Felony arson charges to be brought in Ypsi’s Thompson Block fire

March 1, 2010: Should Stewart Beal be given more than 6 months to figure out the Thompson Block?

December 15, 2009: The Thompson Block, and its effect on Depot Town retail

November 6, 2009: Ypsi City Manager gives Thompson Block owner 10 days

October 19, 2009: What’s going to happen with the Thompson block?

September 24, 2009: Photos (and video) from inside the Thompson Block

September 23, 2009: Ypsi’s Thompson block has burned down

February 14, 2009: Boarding up the windows of the Thompson Block

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  1. Posted October 24, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    “An historic building that could have been an asset to Ypsilanti is now very likely going to be demolished. ” I didn’t hear that the Thompson Block was going to be demolished! Wow! Where did you hear that? I’m not surprised, but I just didn’t know that that was going to happen! yikes!!! Plz give more info, Mark!

  2. Stewart Beal
    Posted October 24, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    The Thompson Block will under no circumstances will be demolished. We will be working on the building every single day until it’s completion.

  3. YpsiLove
    Posted October 24, 2015 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Really? When will that start? It’s been sitting and rotting for years.

  4. Denise Heberle
    Posted October 24, 2015 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    What on earth is your point, Mark? Unfortunate situation, BUT? You’ve put yourself in the position of a (hearsay) witness in a potential wrongful death lawsuit, clearly favoring one side. You blanket your analysis with self-protective language, eg., “as I understand it”, “having not been there, I cannot speak to what happened”, ” again, I don’t know for certain”, and so on, but wow. I’m a lawyer. I’m here for you. (Maybe.) what IS this?

  5. Emily
    Posted October 24, 2015 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    It’d probably just be better if you said nothing at all Stewart Beal. So gross.

  6. Posted October 24, 2015 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I sincerely hope that I’m wrong about the development never coming to fruition, Stewart. Believe me, nothing would make me happier than if you could make ti happen. I’ve had my doubts about the project from the beginning, though, and my concerns have only increased with the fire, the interior collapse, and the death.

  7. Posted October 24, 2015 at 9:16 pm | Permalink


    I’ll re-read what I wrote. As I recall, though, I didn’t really say anything different from what was reported in the Ann Arbor News. Lumber was stacked on the fist floor, Burd knocked out a support in the basement with a sledgehammer, and everything came down on him, killing him. And, yes, I added that I don’t know who told Burd to take out the support, or whether he did it of his own volition. I thought I had to add that. Not doing so, I think, would have been irresponsible.

    Here’s the deal. I was contacted by a guy who was there that day. He told he what he had seen and encouraged me to write about it. (He told me that Burd had knocked down the support, etc.) I made the decision not to post what he told me, and instead wait for the MIOSHA report. I didn’t have any reason not to believe him, but I didn’t see as how it would help going public with what he told me. (It would have gotten me a ton of traffic, but that’s not why I do this.) I asked if he was talking with investigators, he told me that he was, and I didn’t feel as though it would help anyone involved if went forward with what he had told me at the time.

    As for it being hearsay, or rumor, I don’t think that’s the case. As I said, the person who reached out to me was working with Burd that day. Furthermore, as I said, all of the facts that I related in this post are ones shared by the Ann Arbor News. The only thing I did in this post is note that the report confirms what I’d been told by an eye witness.

  8. Posted October 24, 2015 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    And, no, Create Harmony, I did not hear that it’s going to be torn down. I just said that I think that’s the likely outcome at this point. As I told Stewart above, I hope that’s not the case, but I don’t have much faith, given the fire and the interior collapse, that the brick is sound enough to be saved.

  9. Peter Larson
    Posted October 24, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Permalink


  10. Peter Larson
    Posted October 24, 2015 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    “The state also found Beal Construction did not follow proper demolition protocol of demolishing the site from the top down. Manual demolition of structural components starts at the top of the structure and proceeds downward so that each level is completely dropped before the next lower wall and floor is dropped”

    Isn’t this obvious? Guess not.

  11. Demetrius
    Posted October 25, 2015 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Burd’s death was a terrible tragedy, and I would like to convey my sympathy to his family and loved-ones.

    That said, if anyone else in Ypsilanti owned, say, a historic home, and that historic home burned … it is hard to imagine the City would allow them to let it sit (without a roof, etc.) for over five years while they tried to raise funds to restore it.

    Yet this developer, and this structure, somehow seem to be held to a different standard.

    I agree with Mark, above, when he says he hopes that he is successful in completing the project and turning it to an asset for Depot Town and Ypsilanti … but given his track-record so far, many of us have little or no faith this will ever happen under Beal.

  12. X
    Posted October 25, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Beal was give the building for a song. He did not protect it. Squatters were living in it. One of them set fire to the building. Beal then set out to “renovate” it on the cheap, without a demolition plan, leaving one man dead. When will the city learn that Beal is not the right person for this job?

  13. kjc
    Posted October 25, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Stewart Beal
    Posted October 24, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
    “The Thompson Block will under no circumstances will be demolished. We will be working on the building every single day until it’s completion.”

    while also appealing these slap on the wrist fines, further dishonoring the life and death of this man and his family.

  14. BrianR
    Posted October 26, 2015 at 8:37 am | Permalink


    The City didn’t “allow” Beal to have the building sit without a roof for five years — Judge Shelton allowed it. Judge Shelton refuse to enforce our ordinances and forced mediation on the two parties. Judge Shelton was a jackass.

    Here’s a copy of the consent agreement signed by everyone on Council at the time except me. I was almost held in contempt of court for this.

    Regardless, #5 said, “Within three years of signing this Agreement, the exterior envelope shall be completed.” Priceless.

    We could have sued again in 2013, but what was the point given the players?

    From Sept 30, 2013 MLive article:

    “The consent agreement was pretty meaningless,” said City Council Member Brian Robb. “It was an uncooperative judge and an uncooperative property owner. In essence, he did not complete the consent agreement. The most important and most difficult one was not completed. I don’t see any reason to go back to Judge Shelton because he’s been an absolute impediment to the progress.”

  15. Anonymous
    Posted October 26, 2015 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    It helps to have a mother who is an attorney.

  16. Brainless
    Posted October 26, 2015 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Hey Stewie, you might just want to shut the fuck up. Mark has articles going back over six goddamn years showing that you do nothing for a living except spend Daddy’s money, you useless meat-bag. You killed that guy, you fucker, and you’re still too goddamn stupid to finish one fucking construction job.

    You keep saying “we’ll get there”. Fuck off, you loser. If you weren’t self-employed (by Daddy, that is), you’d have been fired a long time ago. You are a lazy, do-nothing, rich kid who simply proves what EVERYBODY has been saying about lazy stupid little rich kids since the dawn of time. Thank you for yet another object lesson in “they’re exactly as bad as you think they are”.

    You can wave your Daddy’s money around all you want, but you know deep down in your heart that you are worthless and have nothing to show for any effort you’ve put into anything. Did you send some pretty flowers to the dead guys’ family – or will they still be waiting in six years for that, too? Enjoy the fines, prick.

    Oh, and Judge Shelton was a useless piece of shit in all ways. Brian let him off too easily.

  17. stupid hick
    Posted October 26, 2015 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Mark should use his celebrity superpowers to locate David Kircher, who I believe has been out of prison for a couple years now, and get him and Stewie Beal to debate on air who was a better steward of the Thompson Block. With Brian Robb to moderate. OK because that will never happen, how about just interview Kircher and get his comments about the current state of the Thompson Block.

  18. Meta
    Posted February 5, 2016 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    “Beal family is off the Thompson Block project, Ypsilanti officials say”

    The Thompson Block project is moving forward, but without the involvement of the Beal family, Ypsilanti city officials say.

    At its regular Tuesday night meeting, the Ypsilanti City Council discussed the project with city staff. Beth Ernat, Ypsilanti’s director of economic development, told council she has met with the project’s point person, realtor Tyler Weston, several times over in recent months.

    She said Weston informed her Thompson Block Partners LLC, of which Stewart Beal is the resident agent, is in the process of buying out Stewart Beal and his father, Fred Beal.

    Ernat and City Manager Ralph Lange said the Michigan Economic Development Corporation won’t provide up to $1 million in funding promised for the project if the Beal family remains a part of it. That decision stems from Beal Construction’s role in the May 11 accidental death of a worker at the Thompson Block site.

    “A group that doesn’t include the Beals is moving forward,” Ernat told Council. “Investors are buying out the Beals. The MEDC has expressed to them in no uncertain terms that if there is continued Beal involvement in the Thompson Block, (then investors will not receive) funding.”

    Read more:

  19. Demetrius
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    So many people miss the real story here.

    The fire occurred in 2009, which coincided with the great recession and the subsequent real estate bubble collapse. During that time, Beal and Co. were busy buying up dozens of rental properties all over Ypsilanti (many of them former Kircher properties) at fire-sale prices, while simultaneously claiming they was too “broke” to make the repairs required by the courts and requested by the City.

    When Beal went before City Council to request tax breaks and other special favors for the project, he was asked about this, and claimed – conveniently – that his fleet of rental properties and the Thompson Block were owned by different legal entities, and therefore funds weren’t fungible, etc.

    So in effect, Beal managed to evade multiple court decrees, and City mandates on the Thompson Block … while seeking, and often getting special special tax breaks from the City and credits from the State or this same project … while also building a minor real estate empire in our community.

    I’ve said many times before … I would love to see the Thompson Block restored and become a viable, tax-paying entity. It would be great for Depot Town, and great for Ypsilanti – but I think for this to happen, somebody with more credibility (and a better track-record) needs to take it over. Hopefully, that may now happen.

  20. For Clay
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    My deepest condolences to the family of deceased. The construction companies should learn a lesson from this tragedy. Lives can be saved if the laws are not violated.

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