Ypsilanti City Council members, business owners and creatives gathered Friday for a discussion at 2 West Michigan Avenue to talk about their dreams for an artist's haven in the historic building.
Materials Unlimited, the antiques and construction supply store previously in the space, shut down in September after 50 years of business. Long-time owner Reynold Lowe sold the 4,356-square-foot art deco building to Jamie Taralunga, a woman with ideas to build what she called a musical ecosystem catering to artists in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Detroit.
Taralunga said her goal is to create a community for artists of all sorts to teach, create, perform, learn and collaborate.
Currently, the space is mostly empty, with some art on the walls, a few chairs, and scattered instruments for people to play before construction begins.
About 30 people attended the event on the ground floor of the building. Speakers at the event included Ypsilanti council member Steve Wilcoxen; MI-HQ President Mark Smith who bought Eastern Michigan University's College of Business; Goeff Michael, owner of Big Sky Recording in Ann Arborand Detroit drummer Gayelynn McKinny.
Tamara Burns, an architect with Hopkins Burns Design Studios in Ann Arbor, led the conversation with a presentation on the building's history, and plans for reconstruction. The design studio specializes in historic structures.
Originally a Staebler Brothers Motors in 1927, the building later served as Oakland Pontiac and Oldsmobile dealerships, then belonged to Chrysler in 1944, Burns said. During World War II, the building turned into a dance and music entertainment hall.
"What construction here would look like is more rehab, it's repurposing," Taralunga said. "It's what I can use to pay homage to its many past lives or more of the notable ones like the auto industry of the 1920s."
The owner wants to incorporate pieces of the building's history into a modernized design.
Burns outlined preliminary physical plans for each floor, starting with restoration of the front of the building to a more modernized design with further options for accessibility.
"This building will be fully accessible to everyone so very inclusive, anybody can come in no matter their physical abilities," Burns said.
On the main floor as visitors walk in the front, there will be spaces with rooms for people to teach and record, Burns and Taralunga said.
Upstairs, Taralunga hopes to have a balcony for people to watch live music happening outside. The plan also includes second-floor lodging for musicians, because Taralunga said places for short-term trips are few and far between in Ypsilanti.
"Sometimes that's the hard thing to find is a place to stay. So, Jamie's having it set up so she's making them right at home here," Burns said.
Leading right into Riverside Park, the largest space in the building is the lower level, where Taralunga hopes to host food and cafe pop-ups to feed and fuel the community.
"To honor the food artisans, I'm thinking about all the artists," Taralunga said.
Another big piece of the lower level will be a record store, as well as record pressing, much like that of Jack White's Third Man Records in Detroit, Taralunga said, adding that she is working with Broc Barnes from the record store as she develops the project.
The Detroit record store is one of just a few record pressing plants in the nation. The store design allows customers to walk in and view the process and machinery through a large glass window. Taralunga said the plans include a similar option in Ypsilanti, with windows both inside near the record store and outside to view the magic of the manufacturing.
Taralunga said that while interior construction might take more than a year, she hopes to host outdoor events and get things going as soon as possible.
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