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Posted on Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 10 a.m.

Top 5: Positive developments for the Ann Arbor area during the 1st half of 2013

By Staff

The year just passed the halfway mark, so we at thought it would be a good time to assess where this community stands

Washtenaw County is dealing with a number of ongoing issues; by the end of this year, our coverage will be reporting about more situations that will make this community angry, puzzled or worried.

But in the meantime, it’s summer. We just celebrated a national holiday. And - if the rain stops - we’re going to be able to enjoy the events and activities that help define this community.

So in that spirit, here are our Top 5: Positive developments for the Ann Arbor area during the 1st half of 2013

  1. The Ann Arbor Public Schools is getting serious about redistricting. After only receiving two bids from consulting firms, the district widened its search - a sign that AAPS will be tackling the tough issue in coming months. The district faces many challenges: Hiring a superintendent, cutting millions from its budget and maintaining enrollment are at the top of the list. No one doubts that reconfiguring or closing schools will be difficult. Yet moving forward lets the district assess its capacity and facilities spending; and it will remove questions for parents who’ve wondered for some time: Will my building close?
  2. georgetown17_fullsize 12-43-02.JPG

    Construction excavators remove debris at the former Georgetown Mall in late June.

  3. Demolition removed two high-profile examples of blight. Georgetown Mall’s tenants left the property in 2009; the houses meant to make way for the unbuilt Near North project also were vacant for years. But over recent months, both the central Ann Arbor mall and the partial block along the North Main corridor were the sites of demo crews doing their work. The next steps for the properties are disparate: Georgetown awaits an approved development, North Main is now in the floodplain. Still, the demos represent wins for neighbors and the image of the city.
  4. Ypsilanti is ready to welcome the $12M Eastside Recreation Center. Washtenaw County wants to build a rec center on the vacant Water Street property, but whether that could happen without a fight appeared in doubt this spring. Some in the city started to raise questions about whether the center should be moved elsewhere on the property - or just plain elsewhere. A council vote in May put the uncertainty to rest: All of the city officials voiced approval for the plans as they were formed since 2011 - and outlined in a letter of intent in 2012. Now it looks like the residents of the east side of the county will be able to use the center starting in 2015.
  5. Knight's Restaurant will open downtown. We’re happy to see this Ann Arbor institution find the opportunity to expand. That it’s happening at the corner of East Liberty and Maynard in the former Borders flagship store is even better. Beyond the addition of Knight’s to the downtown restaurant scene, the redevelopment of the building into mixed-uses by a private investor is positive for the city and nearby merchants. The new office space has been leased and it’s likely that new retail tenants will be announced soon. By this time next year, the block could be as active as it was before the book chain closed.
  6. The city is taking another look at downtown zoning. We’re generally in favor of downtown development; and we look at consultant hiring warily. However, just like in our No. 1 example, we think hiring a consultant to look at downtown zoning - with an Oct. 1 deadline for completion - is a good step for the city. Downtown is changing rapidly, thanks in part to zoning changes over recent years. It seems like many in the city considered the zoning issue done, after a very public process in 2004. But the recent approval of 413 E. Huron high-rise raised many concerns about the process. Better to identify weakness in the zoning - or changes the majority in the city would want to see - quickly, before more building projects are proposed. Both property owners and residents deserve that.


Ren Farley

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Another very positive development for Ann Arbor in the first half of the year was the purchase of the Michigan Central Railroad tracks from Ypsilanti to K-Zoo by the state of Michigan and the investments now being made to improve their quality so that faster and more frequent passenger trains may operate. The Detroit to Ann Arbor corridor is emerging as something of a node for developments in information technology linked to the vehicle industry and for innovations in the health sciences. Commuter rail services in this corridor will be beneficial to further economic growth in downtown Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

Good point, Ren. I'd include this on a list in place of the opening of a Knight's downtown.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 12:19 p.m.

The only way #2 can get better yet is if the Packard Square developer were to go belly-up. We don't really need a 400-person, mixed-used-density-disaster in our neighborhood. Not sure why that got approved in the first place.

Tex Treeder

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:43 a.m.

What would you prefer?


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 2:02 a.m.

FYI, the link to "redistricting" doesn't work. I am going to be optimistic, however, and hope that they use this time of change to really evaluate what changes need to be made in some of these under-capacity schools.

Dirty Mouth

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 11:44 p.m.

6. Democrats still outnumber Republicans.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

Yeah we all love the Democrats who run this town to benefit their left-wing special interests and friends. Who cares about fiscal responsibility--there is always more of other people's money to pay for special projects for the select eilte few.

Dirty Mouth

Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

Let us not forget that all politicians spend our money.

Ed Kimball

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

@joejoeblow: Don't kid yourself. Republicans are just as good at wasting tax dollars as Democrats. Of course, not everyone agrees on what's waste and what isn't. One man's waste is another man's livelihood.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 2:43 a.m.

I'm going to vote up for you, as that means they haven't run out of other people's money yet.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 6:05 p.m.

These are positive? #4 is a small bit of good news for one small local business, Georgetown is a long overdue and probably mismanaged demo, and the other items are symptoms of disastrous incompetence that have a good chance of only getting worse. Wow, what a pick-me-up. False positive spin, anyone?


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

here's some more great news, Jonathan; you owe a $35 late payment charge on your last credit card payment! YAAAAYYYYYY!!!!!!! ...did that make it good news? Also, what you say is not true; I left a comment about being excitied about the waffle place opening on Liberty. Unfortunately, it turned out to be way too expensive, but I don't think I commented on that. So net positive that round.

Jonathan Blutarsky

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

I'm not kidding you when I say you always have nothing good to say about anything done in Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor. Wow, what a Debbie Downer.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

Explain why a potential redistricting is a positive development?


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 2:12 a.m.

I see this as a positive development because it's an opportunity for the school system to look at the root causes for why certain schools are under capacity, aren't performing well, or are actively avoided. What isn't working in these schools, and what can be done differently? This is a good opportunity to address those issues.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 6:38 p.m.

Money currently spent of administration, utilities, and maintenance can be spent on teachers and students.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

I'm glad that due to the age of my kids I won't have to deal with redistricting. It will be very stressful. Hopefully it will be done logically, with the best interests of the district in mind.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

Redistricting does not have to be stressful. And it won't be for certain squeaky wheel neighborhoods. The obvious redlining between Tappan and Scarlett neighborhoods will not move an inch, even though Scarlett is well below capacity and Tappan is well over. This is exacerbated by the number of charter school students in the southeastern corner of the district. How many students in the "choice" zone actually attend Scarlett? I know of one... ever.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

An interesting list, but how can the economic engine not be mentioned?


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

With graffiti springing up around town like hallucinatory mushrooms, and downtown streets swept clear of terrorized strollers by roving bands of menacing panhandler-addicts, it's nice to hear something nice said about Ann Arbor. Is there still time to have a bumper sticker contest, or is all hope lost?


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

Clearly you haven't been to downtown A2 in a while or you wouldn't make it sound like something out of "Mad Max." The streets are packed with people, and most of them don't look even slightly terrorized.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

If that's how you feel please stay home. There's already plenty of families and single folk enjoying downtown every day and night. Sad thing that afraid of the over stereotyped world affliction.