Abandoned Kresge store in Downtown Ypsi reborn as lofts, martini bar

What was once an old Kresge’s department store in downtown Ypsilanti is about to find new life as a Mongolian barbeque, martini bar and lofts after a complete renovation.

Eric Maurer led the development of 200 W Michigan Ave a few years ago, turning the old storefront’s top two floors into 12 lofts. The Ypsilanti resident and Eastern Michigan University grad hopes to complete the project later this year by opening J Neil’s Mongolian Grille and Keystone Martini Bar in the ground floor and basement areas, respectively.

"This is the gravy," Maurer says. "You have a vision and you work hard on the financing and all of the other things. Then you put it all together. It’s very satisfying."

Saying the work wasn’t easy wouldn't be giving the experience justice. The venerable Kresge building has gone through more than its share of ups and downs. Originally opened as a street level retail store in the 1880s, the upper floors served as offices for attorneys. Several of the offices still sport chimneys from the law offices' potbelly stoves. Eventually, as the automotive industry began to take off, the entire building was claimed by the department store.

"The basement was used as a stockroom and the first floor was one of the original Kresge’s from the 1920s until the 1960s," Maurer says. "So it’s essentially been vacant since the 1960s."

When Maurer and his team took ownership they had to gut and renovate the entire building. Most of the interior infrastructure was ripped out and replaced. The 16,000 square foot renovation cost nearly $2 million.

But the investment is beginning to pay off. The new lofts rented quickly and all are fully leased. Finding ground floor and basement tenants wasn't quite as easy, but the owner of Pub 13 and Club Divine saw Michigan Avenue foot traffic as a opportunity too good to be missed and decided to open a restaurant and bar.

"It’s been a great project,” Maurer says. "It has had its ups and downs, but this has been very satisfying."

Source: Eric Maurer, developer of the project
Writer: Jon Zemke
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