Ypsilanti Citizen News Lincoln Schools

City Council approves all mayor's re-appointments
By Dan DuChene
Jun. 16, 2010   ·   3:42 a.m.

Jone Coleman, president of downtown business LookInTheAttic, shares his thoughts with City Council about the discussion and procedure taken to pass mayoral re-appointments, which he was being considered for the Downtown Development Authority.

After much procedure, Ypsilanti City Council approved six mayoral re-appointments to city boards and committees Tuesday, including the two postponed from earlier...read more

Council postpones two reappointments
By Mark Tower
Jun. 4, 2010   ·   4:57 p.m.

Two of Ypsilanti's volunteer board members were not reappointed on schedule Tuesday night, owing to a 4-2 vote by City Council to delay the appointments until...read more

Downtown properties to be rehabilitated
By Mark Tower
Jun. 4, 2010   ·   10:40 a.m.

The three properties located at 120, 122 and 124 West Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti will soon be rebuilt into commercial and office space and loft apartments, thanks to a planned $1.7 million investment by developers.

Three recently-vacated properties in downtown Ypsilanti, two of them condemned, will soon be renovated owing to recent purchase by a local development company and...read more

Ypsilanti Township authorizes litigation against Liberty Square
By Mark Tower
May. 28, 2010   ·   6:53 p.m.

Many of the homes in the Liberty Square complex on Grove Street in Ypsilanti Township are already boarded and ready for foreclosure sale. All 151 units, some of which are still occupied, will be condemned Tuesday, Ypsilanti Township has resolved.

Residents living in the Liberty Square complex of townhouses will see a sticker appear on their homes Tuesday, when the Ypsilanti Township Building Department places...read more

Ford plant granted tax exemption by township
By Mark Tower
May. 24, 2010   ·   5:44 p.m.

Ford Motor Company's Rawsonville Plan, located at the intersection of Textile and Bridge Roads in Ypsilanti Township, will soon be the new home for production of Ford's Electric Focus batteries, formerly produced in Mexico.

New machines and equipment will soon be wheeled into Ford's Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti Township as it begins manufacturing a line of batteries for the new global...read more

City Council denies extension for Thompson Block

City Attorney John Barr, left, discusses the traffic control order of the Thomson Block's support scaffolding with Ypsilanti City Council Tuesday. Local developer Stewart Beal, the building's owner, is pictured left. Photo by Dan DuChene

City Attorney John Barr, left, discusses the traffic control order of the Thomson Block's support scaffolding with Ypsilanti City Council Tuesday. Local developer Stewart Beal, the building's owner, is pictured left.
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City attorney to take legal action to have supports removed

By Dan DuChene
Mar. 3, 2010    ·    2:09 a.m.


Ypsilanti City Council voted to deny a traffic control order for the scaffolding supporting the Thompson Block and initiate legal action to have it removed.

In a split decision Tuesday night, councilmembers Lois Richardson, D-Ward 1; Michael Bodary, D-Ward 2; Brian Robb, D-Ward 3, and Peter Murdock, D-Ward 3, voted to approve the resolution to begin legal action to have the roads adjacent to the building cleared.

The decision comes after a failed attempt to negotiate an agreement between the city and the building's owner, Historic Equities Fund LLC, that would have resulted in the removal of the scaffolding set up to stabilize the 149-year-old former Civil War barrack's facade since a fire destroyed most of the building in late September.

The current traffic control order expires today, after two extensions granted by City Council.

The original 90-day order, closing lanes on Cross and River streets adjacent to the building, was made by City Manager Ed Koryzno immediately after the fire. City Council extended the order for 45 days in December to allow the building's owner time to engineer an interior stabilization plan and move scaffolding closer to the building to restore two-way traffic through Depot Town.

Stewart Beal, of Historic Equities Fund LLC, presented a plan in February that would see River Street completely clear of scaffolding by March 15, Cross Street completely cleared by Aug. 30 and sidewalks completely cleared by Nov. 30.

Beal's plan included repair and masonry work throughout the summer that Beal said would have resulted in a frontage in better shape than what had been seen in Depot Town for so long. It also laid out a plan to redevelop the usable northern portion of the building for a potential tenant to open a bar and restaurant

City Council approved a second extension later in the month to allow Beal and the city time to negotiate a formal agreement to lay out a formal time-line and other stipulations

It was a third extension City Council denied Tuesday, upon Koryzno's recommendation.

A 15-point agreement was drafted by City Attorney John Barr last Wednesday that, among other stipulations, required Beal to remove all the scaffolding from the building by May 1.

The city's proposal also required Beal to acquire financial means for the complete renovation of the building by May, with construction to begin in July and complete by June 2011. The proposal also required Beal to establish a bond to cover the cost of the building's demolition if contract stipulations were not met.

Beal issued a response to the city's proposal Sunday, stating he could not drastically alter his original time-line for facade stabilization due to financial and safety reasons.

“I was flabbergasted to see that the things the city wrote had been moved up six months,” Beal said during Tuesday's City Council meeting. “There is no possible way that they could be accomplished.”

Beal said the new time-line would have been “completely impossible” even if there were no financial barriers to complete the work.

Additionally, Beal said he saw the full renovation of the entire building as a separate issue from clearing scaffolding from the public right-of-way. He said combining the two into one issue slows and complicates the process to stabilize the building's facade.

“I understand that is what everybody wants,” he said of the building's complete renovation, “It's difficult to focus on more than one. I think we need to get out of the right of way.”

Beal also opposed the plan to create a bond to pay for the possible demolition of the building.

“We are not interested in performing a demolition of this project,” Beal said.

In a letter handed out to City Council at Tuesday's meeting, Beal said he would be open to other forms of completion assurance.

In the same letter, Beal said he would have to move the March 15 deadline back 15 days to account for the time being spent on negotiating an agreement.

Members of the audience and City Council voiced frustration with the many years the building has stood as a vacant eye-sore in Depot Town, and while a restored and functional historical landmark would be nice, enough time has passed to accept the outcome of the building's possible demolition.

“I admire you for taking on the project from the beginning,” Richardson said to Beal. “The fire was unfortunate coming along.”

However, Richardson said she doesn't see financiers “sinking money into that building to repair it.”

She said, “It seems like it's just time to let it go.”

Not everyone, however, focused on demolition as a final outcome for the Thompson Block. They agreed with Beal that more time should be spent on negotiating an agreement between the two parties, but didn't see moving forward with legal action as a barrier to that option, but as a way to ensure a final outcome.

“Us going to court starts a process,” Murdock said. “It does not stop negotiations.”

Additionally, Murdock said he is concerned that this is the second time City Council has considered an extension to the order at the last minute.

“We keep backing up to deadlines,” he said. “There's a credibility gap with you, personally, in my opinion.”

Bodary agreed.

“We keep moving these dates further back,” Bodary said. “If we don't do something now, we're going to keep moving them further back.”

Beal took issue with the comments on his credibility and punctuality, stating he has met every deadline set before him by the city.

“I said I was going to do something and I did it,” Beal said. “I don't see how that raises a credibility issue.”

Even when asked specifically by Richardson, Beal would not comment on whether he would continue negotiating with the city if the resolution was passed.

“If this resolution is passed, what are your plans?” Richardson asked Beal.

“This resolution can't pass,” he said.

“Oh, it can be,” Richardson said. “Are you going to set up another meeting [with Koryzno]?”

Beal said, “I haven't had to opportunity to think all of those questions out."

In a letter sent to the Citizen after the meeting, Beal said he would continue negotiating with the city despite City Council's decision on Tuesday.

Beal asked the letter be published in its entirety. A link to the letter is provided at the end of this article.

“I will absolutely meet with Mr. Ed Koryzno and will do so immediately,” Beal said in his letter. “I am confident that without the distraction of Mr. Murdock blubbering, rational thought will prevail.

“I am now more than ever determined to redevelop the Thompson Block, more determined than ever to work with the City of Ypsilanti and more than ever determined to complete this project.” Beal said.

Aside from the discussion about his credibility, Beal also got in a heated discussion with Murdock during Tuesday night's meeting about Beal's first request for an extension.

“The last time you came in with this, you stormed out of here and said you weren't going to meet,” Murdock said. “We need to get together and move the ball. We're not going to go around in a circle.”

A special meeting was required in December to approve the Thompson Block's traffic control order, as City Council voted to postpone it's decision to give city staff time to review Beal's plan. At the meeting, Beal suggested he wouldn't meet with staff if City Council did not approve the extension at that meeting.

After the meeting in December, Beal said he was upset at the meeting and agreed to meet with staff after calming down the next day.

Tuesday night, Beal disagreed with Murdock's comment.

“That's an inaccurate description of what occurred,” Beal said. “No one left.

“Of course we became a little upset,” Beal said of the meeting in December.

He said anyone who “pours five years of life into a project and it burns down” would have.

After the meeting Tuesday, Barr said he will begin moving forward with legal action and will file a “suit to enjoy and remove a nuisance” with the court after some research. He said he hopes to have a hearing on the matter within three weeks.

In his letter to the Citizen, Beal said he will continue negotiating with the city, but expects the process to be held up as he deals with the legal actions.

“I will be investigating defensive measures, instead of investigating how we can obtain financing to redevelop the building,” Beal said. “I will spend many days in court over the next several months that could be better spent improving the built environment in the city.”

Related articles:
Beal's letter to the Citizen
Beal presents long-term plan for Thompson Block
Fate of Thompson Block postponed



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