Ypsilanti's new home base for creative professionals is now open for business. After passing its final inspections last week, Landline Creative Labs opened its doors at 209 S. Pearl St. to tenants, who started moving in on Monday.
Founders Mark Maynard and Jesse Kranyak spent 10 months converting the second floor of the onetime Michigan Bell Telephone Co. building into affordable office spaces for locals working in film, photography, design, illustration, and communications.
"I think we did pretty good for first-time developers," Maynard says. "It took a bit longer than we would have liked, but, when all was said and done, we came in pretty close to finishing within our budget and with commitments for nine out of 10 of our offices."
Among those commitments are 7 Cylinders Studio, Chris Stranad Photography, Invisible Engines, InMotion Studios, the Thriving Nonprofit, Desktop Dog Training and Development, and Silver Thumb Photography.
Maynard and Kranyak conceived the project more than five years ago before finally settling on a location and buying the building last year. Maynard says financial support in the form of grants from Ann Arbor SPARK and the Ypsi Downtown Development Authority, as well as an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act designation from the city, helped not only fund the $443,000 project but also validate the effort.
In addition to the one Landline vacancy, there's a sizeable undeveloped space on the building's first floor, which also still houses Frank D's barbershop and a motorcycle repair shop. The partners would like to see a restaurant open there and are talking with potential tenants now.
Maynard says the hardest part of the Landline project so far has been turning people away.
"Some really good people came forward and expressed interest, and we would have loved to have had them join us at Landline, but they just didn't fit," he says. "It's not just about filling offices. It's about building a community of entrepreneurs who are working in related sectors that can learn from one another and really grow an industry here in Ypsilanti."
The second hardest part may have been finding a couch for the lobby. Maynard says after all the framing, drywalling, ventilation, electrical, flooring, and painting, the only missing piece was that elusive, perfect sofa.
"We just had this empty lobby, and we struggled with it for a long time, driving around Michigan in a truck, looking at couches we'd found on Craigslist," he says. "Eventually, though, we just walked up the block to Salt City Antiques and talked with Carol, who had the perfect sofa just waiting for us. It's this lovely '60s piece from Denmark, and it just brought everything together. And it was kind of awesome that what we were looking for was right here in Ypsi all along."
Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
All photos by Doug Coombe.