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Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Official: Ypsilanti Water Street Recreation Center may take longer than hoped

By Tom Perkins

Progress on a proposed Water Street Recreation Center is going to be slower than anticipated.

That’s according to Bob Tetens, director for the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation, following several meetings with Ypsilanti city staff and a regular meeting with the parks and recreation commissioners.

Parks and Recreation is proposing the about $10 million to $15 million development be built on a 12-acre parcel in the property’s northwest corner. It’s the closest parcel to downtown and is bordered on two sides by the Huron River and Michigan Avenue.

But council members all said in a work session that they would prefer to see the center on the east side of the 36-acre Water Street site and taking up less of a footprint.

The center wouldn’t contribute to the city’s tax rolls because it's county-owned, and council members are concerned because they have to pay down $30 million in bond debt on the property through 2031. That means up to $1.3 million in annual payments.


The Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission wants to build the proposed rec center on the west side of Water Street, pictured here.

Tom Perkins | For

Tetens said he met with city staff twice last week and reported council’s wishes to the Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners during a Tuesday night meeting. He said there were no negative reactions.

“It may take us a lot longer than we had hoped,” said Tetens, who initially asked council to try to approve the proposal in January. “The commissioners understand that (council) has been talking and everyone is entitled to their own opinion on when and where the center should go, so we’re continuing at a staff level.”

Prior to the commissioners Tuesday meeting, Tetens said the center needs to be adjacent to the river and road, as well as close to downtown. Parks and Recreation would not be able to accomplish some of its objectives on the other side or at the back of the property, he said.

“The advantages to the Water Street site go beyond recreation and promoting a healthy, fit lifestyle,” he said. “it’s also about redevelopment and economic development, and that’s the best part of (the site).

The Border to Border Trail is planned to run next to the river, and Tetens said the vision is to have a spot where people congregate at a point connecting all the linear parks and space. The development would be the center of a network of parks the commission is working on to link on the eastern side of Washtenaw County.

Preliminary drawings presented to council called for a parcel about 400 feet from east to west and 1,200 feet from north to south. A small park and greenspace wrapping around a two-story, 65,000-square-foot building would sit on the site’s north quarter closest to downtown.

A 250-space parking lot would occupy the quarter of the property directly south of the building. A trailhead to the Border to Border tail would be further south, and plans called for a park, some playground equipment and more greenspace on the southern end of the site where the river bends to the east.

Indoors, the building would include a pool, gym, track, fitness equipment and weights among other amenities. The center would utilize Border to Border Trail and riverfront for outdoor recreational activities such as canoeing.

Tetens said he also reported to the board that the city would like the county to build infrastructure. He said he couldn’t estimate what the county would contribute to developing infrastructure because it’s still too early in the process.

“We understand we would have to provide access to our site,” Tetens said. “We can’t do it without a road, a sewer line or electricity.”

No further meetings between staff members are yet planned.

“This is a big deal, so I understand why they’re taking their time,” Tetens said. “They’re asking questions, we’re answering the questions, and it would be foolish for either one of us to rush into this.”


joe golder

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:47 a.m.

A fool and his money? Everyone please under stand the positive possibilities our taxes paid have paid for. I believe giving Water Works park to the county to convert into county park/ Rec center in exchange for bridge connecting Water St, would anchor the chemistry needed to brew success on Water St. It would be even more accessible to residents bordering on all sides. Downtown Ypsi has been the" DOWNTOWN" for Eastern Washtenaw country way before any of us! It's getting ready to flower again!!

Forest City

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

I think Ypsilanti should float another $10 million bond to hook up the site with roads, a sewer line and electricity. I mean if the recreation center will lead to the rebirth of the city, then why not?


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 1:53 a.m.

I understand what Ben is saying. If they plan on EMU students to use it.. I'd be surprised if they did. The school already provides the same amenities, at a far less price. speaking of that land, I thought i remember them stating that the soil was contaminated, from years of oil and auto and engine deposits .

Andrew Jason Clock

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

Ben, do you live around here? Recreation is huge in Washtenaw county , and residents have been asking for an east side rec center. Its not to attract tourists, its to satisfy demand and attract residents and development. Or are you suggesting Washtenaw Parks &Rec build a movie theater? Because no one else currently wants to build anything on Water Street.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

Funny...I live on the east side and I haven't heard the clamor for a rec center nor would I use it if it is built because I highly doubt they can compete with Planet Fitness and their occasional $99 annual membership deal.

Ben Petiprin

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 3 p.m.

Aren't we supposed to be going bankrupt? Add another $1.3 million a year to our decline. They say you have to spend money to make money, but this idea was always ill-conceived. If you want to get people to flock to downtown don't build something as mild as a rec center. Build an I-Max theater or a casino or something. Do people actually think the city will bring in tourists with racquetball and indoor tracks? Absolutely assinine. If this is built it will be underused within a year and boarded up within five. Then in 10 years we'll pay to have it bulldozed.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

Please no casinos, we have enough problems as it is. Anything but a movie theater and no casinos. A golf course might work? It isn't a sport, just something to chase? Going to be a long time before anything is built there.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

Why does the residents of Ypsilanti continue to elect people from the "ruling party"? They are not smart, they really don't care about you or your businesses but you love them. This is what you get, bad decision after bad decision.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

Same reason Ann Arbor elects its officials. Neither are smart enough to realize a good thing when they see it.

Steve McKeen

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

Where do you get your information from?!?!?! 6 of the 7 people on Council are new within the past five years. The problem is we need the old "ruling party" back in the worst way. We need Cheryl Farmer, Barry LaRue, and Trudy Swanson. Only they can save us now.

Andrew Jason Clock

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:39 p.m.

The city won't be paying for the Recreation Center, outside of giving up the land for it. Land that'd has not produced tax revenue in 10 years, and has no realistic prospect of doing so in the currently foreseeable future. We can keep doing nothing, or we can let the county tryo spur development, and try to g et things started. The county is even willing to build the roads ans run the utilities to get it rolling!

Forest City

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

So we might have to wait longer for the $0 in tax revenue from this project. We really need this $0 as soon as possible to start paying off the bond debt.

Ron Granger

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:11 p.m.

"He said there were no negative reactions." I guess he again forgot to ask the TAXPAYERS. They are the important ones. They'll probably say blowing another $10 to $15 million as DEBT isn't a good idea right now. When will Ypsi government realize they are broke? Rec centers are nice, but only when the money is there. The money isn't there. In the meantime, private businesses can fill this function. It doesn't take $10-$15 million for canoes and trails.

Andrew Jason Clock

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

Ypsilanti City council is still foolishly operating under the assumption that Water Street land is a valuable commodity. Wake up, council, a commodity no one wants isn't worth anything. The only group interested in building on Water Street is Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation. Not only that, but the corner they want, the NW corner, is one of the most difficult sites to build on; its in the flood plain in below Michigan Ave's grade, meaning that there can't be an entrance from that street. But members of council, who apparently can't be bothered to read the city's own valuation of Water Street, are seem to think that property is the most valuable they have. Over here in reality, not only is WCPR willing to build on our most difficult to work on frontage, but , oh yea, they are giving us a recreation center and revamping our parks and B2B trail! Losing that taxable value would sting a lot more A: if there was any realistic chance of capturing that value and B: if we weren't being given a huge amenity in exchange for worthless land! Look, I'm not saying we should just bend over and take what the county gives us no questions asked. I'm just saying that we really aren't in a position to ask questions to the point of dragging this project to a halt. Washtenaw County is trying to give a gift to our city, and council needs to wise up and accept that gift. Do you think our EFM will be be so thoughtful about projects on Water Street. He'll build a block full of Burger Kings if someone ponies up the money. This is our last chance to actually decide what goes there. Get with it city council, or get out of the way.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

This could indeed bring about a rebirth of Downtown Ypsilanti....a city with a full fledged public recreation center is desirable and will bring people downtown. I am so hoping this moves forward. For the first time in a long time, I have hope for downtown again. Please council and together and do not bicker and embarrass us. Make us proud, please. Get 'er done!


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

Water Street was a poorly thought out project that was rushed into without any planning. I would like to see the same process followed for rushing into a recreation center. Government works best when there is total chaos.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:48 p.m.

From the initial presentation by WCPARC's Tetens to the Ypsi City Council, a month ago, I remember Tetens suggesting that the process of siting and designing the rec center would take about 24 months -- the initial agreement targeted for January was only a first step. I think the rec center, done right, could be a good amenity for the site and for downtown Ypsilanti, and it's reasonable to take a little extra time at this point to make sure it's done well. As Tetens says in the last paragraph, "This is a big deal", and not the sort of thing to rush into.