The rehab of 209 Pearl is finally getting underway


As it’s been a while, I thought that I should give you an update on the renovation of 209 Pearl Street.

Since my last post, things have changed a bit. Most notably, we’ve chosen not to have a loft apartment on the second floor, and instead build-out more offices for Landline Creative Labs. It wasn’t an easy decision, as we really wanted to have an apartment on the second floor, which we could one day convert to a rental, allowing us to experiment with residencies and the like, but the demand from creative professionals for high quality, affordable, downtown space was just too significant to ignore. Without even really marketing the space, we had more interest than we could accommodate under our initial plan, so we decided to incorporate more offices. What you see here is our most recent plan for the space. You’ll notice that, in addition to now having 10 office spaces and three bathrooms on the second floor, we also have a large conference room, a reception area, and a wheelchair lift, which we were able to afford once we decided not to pursue the apartment.


As we don’t yet have signed leases with our prospective tenants, I probably shouldn’t mention them all by name. I will say, however, that the three companies I told you about in that first post announcing our plans – the graphic design firm [Invisible Engines], the video production company [7 Cylinders], and the photography studio [CS Photo] – are all still onboard. And, in addition to them, we’ll also likely have an illustrator, a motivational training firm, another film production group, another graphic design company, a clothing design cooperative, and someone who does podcasts on the subject of sustainability. And, it’s probably worth noting, these aren’t all just local people. A few will be commuting to Ypsi from Ann Arbor, and one just recently moved to the area from Vermont. And, if things work out, we might even have someone joining us from Canton… And I think that’s the really cool thing about this. We won’t just be pulling people into downtown from their home offices in Ypsi, but we’ll actually be bringing commuters into Ypsi to work, shop at our local restaurants and stores, and hopefully even create more jobs here as they grow.

As for where we are relative to construction, things are just beginning to heat up. After two months of demolition, during which we ripped out everything that we don’t need, we’re finally starting to focus on construction and repair. We’ve got finalized plans from our architect, our electrician, and our plumber. We’ve signed a contract with an elevator company. And our carpenter is ready to start work as soon as we get our permits. And, with the blessing of the Historic District Commission, we’ve just started on the renovation of our 90 year old windows… Oh, and we also just secured a grant to help us complete the build-out the offices, but I can’t get into any specifics about that for another week or so.


The above photo was taken as both Jesse and I worked on the scaffold, pulling down long strips of cement-covered wire mesh from the ceiling. For what it’s worth, when long strips of cement-covered wire mesh start to come down, they come down fast. Once you get the first few nails pulled, gravity just takes over, and, before you know it, razor sharp strips of the stuff are swinging through the air at an incredible velocity, as the weight of the stuff starts pulling away from the nails that once secured it to the beams overhead. Just moments after the above photo was taken, I nearly severed my right thumb, as a six-foot long segment of the stuff sliced through my hand, causing my blood to spray all over the scaffold, mixing with Jesse’s from a days previous, when the same cement-covered wire mesh nearly tore his hand from wrist. The good news is, it’s all gone now, and it looks great.

Not only did we pull out all of the old stuff covering the rafters, but we brought in a crew to dry ice blast the wood that we’re planning to keep exposed. So 90 years of dust, crumbling insulation, dead wires, and bird droppings are now gone… Sadly, I don’t have a “before” photo, but here’s what our 1926 rafters and joists look like now, after a few days of dry ice blasting. This shot was taken in what will be the Landline lobby.


Oh, and we scraped up what we could of the old carpet, padding and glue, exposing the original pine floors, which we’re hoping to refinish in some of the spaces.

There’s still a ton that needs to be done, and, given our budget, it’ll be tight, but we’re confident that we can pull it off. Stay tuned for more timely updates over the coming weeks, as plumbers, electricians and carpenters begin their work, and the place starts taking shape.


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  1. Dennis
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    very excited to have your roll off there in the alley. i’ve been throwing tons of shit in it these past few nights.

    and renting to your wife is a total amateur move. given the massive financial risk you are subjecting your family to, she should rent for free.

  2. Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Awesome! Here’s hoping all your (you and Jesse, mostly Jesse) hard work pays off.

  3. Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    To our knowledge, the only folks to take advantage of the fact that we’ve got a dumpster in the alley so far are our neighbors at DejaVu, who threw in a few bags of trash the other night, so I’m assuming that you’re a manager over there, Dennis. If so, I’m happy to make your acquaintance, and I’m glad that we could help out. As for Linette renting one of the spaces, thank you for your concern, but I think the risk involved with signing a one year lease for a small office renting at $150 a month is relatively insignificant compared to the risk associated with a $280,000 bank loan, but you may be right. It could be just enough to push us over the edge into insolvency. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But thanks for your interest in our family finances. It’s good to know that DejaVu management is keeping an eye out for us.

  4. Posted June 22, 2016 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Speaking of the dumpster… I should have been graphing it, but, since the dumpster blocked the alley, the number of used condoms and empty liquor bottles we’ve had to pick up back there has dropped significantly.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Anything interesting in DejaVu’s trash?

  6. MLive
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the terrific idea, Anonymous. One of our “journalists” will be rolling out a new regular feature on Ypsi Strip Club Garbage Finds tomorrow.

  7. Kat
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I don’t doubt you when you say you find condoms in that alley. There’s a lot that goes on there at night. Hopefully, once you get open, that kind of activity slows down.

  8. Karen T.
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    It would be so cool to have a downtown Air B&B space that you could also host residencies out of. Don’t give up n that part of the dream.

2 Trackbacks

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    […] that we’re in the final stages of preparing the second floor of 209 Pearl Street for Landline Creative Labs, this is what my life has become. While we’ve been working pretty […]

  2. […] too long ago, my friend Dug, knowing that I’d just purchased a former Michigan Bell Telephone building in Ypsilanti, put me in touch with a friend of his in Portland by the name of Karl Anderson. Karl, he told me, […]

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