There are a number of obstacles. Water Street supporters emphasize the weak economy and depressed real estate market as the reasons development has failed. While these are factors, as important are the unrealistic restrictions that the Mayor and City Council places on would-be investors.
For example, a fast-food restaurant and grocery store were rejected for “not fitting the vision.” Two other developers were run off when they told City Council it was unrealistic to demand only particular types of housing and the exclusion of businesses along Michigan Avenue, even in a strong market. City Council has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on endless planning, and rigidly specifies not only the businesses it will accept, but even the number of parking spaces or color of stucco on the walls.
Given this “we know best” attitude, Ypsilanti has failed to find a buyer after 11 years of trying, and development is unlikely soon or ever. Even if City Council relaxed its aesthetic requirements, what developer in the world would select land at 95 mills plus an income tax, when it can build in Ann Arbor at 60 mills with no income tax? In the meantime, the empty lot produces no property tax revenue, which inflates the true cost of the project.