As you may have heard today, Jesse Kranyak and I are attempting to purchase and renovate a building in downtown Ypsilanti. The 9,000 square foot building, which was constructed about 100 years ago by Michigan Bell Telephone, has been largely vacant since the summer of 2014, when a fire ended its most recent incarnation, which was as a boarding house. While we still don’t actually own the building, we’re the better part of a year along the path and we’re cautiously optimistic. We have both a signed purchase agreement with the current owner and we’ve come to terms with a bank on the financing. Now it’s just a matter of executing on the few hundred things we need to do before closing, like figuring out the tax situation with the City, confirming with the Building Department that we can actually do what is that we want to do, and filing all of the necessary paperwork. [Jesse and I just signed our partnership agreement earlier this evening, and we’re filing the incorporation paperwork for our company tonight.] So, by the end of the month, if all goes well, the building at 209 Pearl could be ours.
When completed, assuming we’re able to pull off what we have in mind, 209 Pearl will be home to 11 creative companies, a loft apartment, a bar/restaurant, and Frank D’s barbershop.
While the bar/restaurant is still a long way off, we’ve already begun work planning out the 11 offices, which we’re collectively referring to as Landline Creative Labs. We’ve actually already gotten commitments from our first three tenants; a graphic design firm [Invisible Engines], a video production company [7 Cylinders, and a photography studio [CS Photo].
While we’re starting with a focus on photographers, graphic designers, web architects, writers, filmmakers and the like, we’re not adverse to the idea of broadening our scope to include record labels, podcasters, app developers, community news organizations, arts non-profits, etc. The most important thing to us is that we bring in bright, creative and engaged people who are in the process of making interesting things happen. As each company will have its own private office, collaboration isn’t mandatory, but we’re confident that, by putting such people in the proximity of one another good things will happen, not only for their own individual businesses, but for Ypsilanti in general.
[above: This is what the Landline space looks like now. It’s still raw, and there’s quite a bit for fire damage to contend with, but we’re confident that we can make it work.]
…The two partners became friends shortly after Kranyak, an EMU alumnus, moved back to Ypsi in 2011 to open the Wurst Bar. They bonded over a shared passion for the Ypsi community, and the mutual admiration between them is obvious. Maynard expresses respect for Kranyak’s management skills, and Kranyak for Maynard’s community influence. Kranyak says he expects Maynard will handle the marketing end of the project while Kranyak focuses on the construction end.
“My back is going, so I’m too old,” Maynard says. “I’ll sit and take pictures of him and blog about it. ‘Look what Jesse’s doing today!'”…
And here we are going over the plans, surrounded by tiny plans that Linette and Clementine brought us from home. Jesse, by the way, if the youthful, energetic looking one. [I’m the one steadying myself on the table.]
“While Ann Arbor remains the hub of Washtenaw County’s arts economy, and its economy in general, the affordability and less stratified feel of Ypsilanti are drawing creative energy eastward.” – July 21, 2015, The Ann
I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot more about this project over the weeks and months to come, but, before I sign off for the night, I’d like to say a little something about why we think Landline is important.
Since my friends and I first started the Shadow Art Fair, probably over a decade ago now, I’ve wanted to do something like this. While it was great and exciting to bring the most interesting and creative people that we could find together for a day, I’ve always wondered what might happen if we could do something more permanent, something with deeper roots into the community. I was confident that the future of this little town that we love lay in the creativity of its people, and I wanted to see what might be possible with a little support and infrastructure. I wanted to have an actual place in town where people engaged in creative business pursuits could work in proximity to one another, occasionally collaborating, sharing insights, and dreaming up new ventures, all while contributing to the vibrancy of our downtown. And, now, thanks to this new partnership with Jesse, who shares this same vision, it looks like we might actually have a chance to try it out.
Will it succeed? We’re not sure… We feel relatively good, however, about placing a bet on the creativity of Ypsilanti.
[For more information about securing a space at Landline, click here.]