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Posted on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Planning consultant: Ypsilanti should consider public plazas and creating a 'festival street'

By Katrease Stafford

Turning Washington Street into a "festival street" and creating public plazas in prominent districts throughout Ypsilanti could further its recent trend toward economic vibrancy, according to a consultant.


Tracy Kash Thomas and her band play at the Crossroads Music Festival on Washington Street in downtown Ypsilanti in this file photo. Planning consultants are proposing turning a portion of the street into a "festival street." file photo

Ian Lockwood, a principal transportation engineer with AECOM, Inc., said Thursday during a Shape Ypsilanti event that the city lacks a public square near the downtown area, aside from the small plaza located next to the Ypsilanti District Library on Michigan Avenue.

Lockwood said turning a portion of Washington Street into a "festival street" could fulfill the downtown's need for a public gathering space that could be used for events, concerts and other purposes. Lockwood said raising the entire street to the same level of the sidewalk is one example of a minor, yet noticeable aesthetic change he's done in other cities to accomplish the festival street look.

Lockwood said the smooth surface would make it easier for wheelchairs and parents pushing strollers to get around the area comfortably, which potentially could increase the foot traffic through the area and spur more patronage at local businesses.

"That's a great opportunity to create a space in your city," Lockwood said. "We heard from a lot of people who would love to have public spaces and plazas."

Lockwood also proposed the city consider creating plazas in the Depot Town and Water Street areas. Lockwood, who has consulted several other municipalities across the country, said creating public spaces can spur development.

"Because of the investment in public space, the businesses are coming back," Lockwood said. "This is the point, it brings vibrancy back."

City Planner Teresa Gillotti said the idea has been discussed for years, but now, the city is considering including it in its master plan revision.

"A lot of people have said they are looking for places to gather at, not just a coffee shop," Gillotti said. "... We want to see if there's some sort of space that we can use to meet the need."

Gillotti said the Depot Town area usually shuts down streets to accommodate events throughout the year, but a dedicated spot for events would be more feasible.


Ian Lockwood

Katrease Stafford |

"We also sort of wanted a space that was always available, whether it's for informal stuff, food trucks or gathering spaces," she said.

Gillotti said the Downtown Association of Ypsilanti approached the city about there not being any space for people who want to do events. That's when Washington Street was suggested as a possible location.

One potential use for these public plazas, Gillotti said, could be food trucks similar to Mark's Carts in Ann Arbor.

"In looking at the master plan or zoning ordinance, there was an interest in the community for temporary uses or pop-up uses. A lot of people said they like the idea of food trucks and not just when there's a festival."

Gillotti said the idea seemed to be especially attractive for the summer. Gillotti said she's spoken with officials about possibly designating a spot on Cross Street in front of Eastern Michigan University's campus.

"There's some interest in figuring out a way students can gather," she said. "We're not quite sure where it would go, but it’s a conversation we've been having for a long time so its kind of nice to have it be part of the master plan. Maybe when we get to the zoning ordinance we can actually accommodate a certain form or certain place and work out the details."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 12:41 a.m.

Sounds like a great idea. Although I love living in downtown Ypsilanti, I do wish for more points of interest as well as outdoor pedestrian areas. I do believe everything will slowly but surly fall into place, i just hope everything is thought out and researched beforehand.

Ben Petiprin

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:52 p.m.

"recent trend toward economic vibrancy.' Funny, hadn't noticed that trend. I've noticed a trend toward increased pretentiousness, and a trend of living beyond one's means. How about we fix the schools before this rigmarole? Throw this Lockwood guy out.

Jay Thomas

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

There are too many hoodlums wandering around Ypsi. But good luck with the idea anyway.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

We already do. During the summer next to the Ypsilanti Michigan Library. Then they close down Washington street. So, no, we don't need to do what we are already doing now.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

There is alot of open land we are paying for at Water Street....when we bought the first dream.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

That land would be quite useful for civic events and whatnot. And, maybe, having festivals there might acts as a good selling opportunity for land that the realtors and city council cannot sell and can only give away.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

Between the previously mentioned Marquee and the riff raff at the AATA transfer station, I don't see myself bringing myself, let alone my children to that area of Ypsi. Depot town and Michigan Ave yes, but not Washington.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

Actually compared to Ann Arbor? Ypsilanti in that are of town is relatively safe. We go all the time and see other parents with children going there all the time. You get a negative vote from me.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

I really like the festival street and public space ideas. I just have one concern and that is a practical one concerned with raising the Washington Street pavement level. Were does the stormwater go? Not into the businesses I hope. There is no parking there so that is not a concern. I also like the idea about continuing River Street on through the Water Street property. Even if it ended with a park at the River, it opens up the property and provides more street fronts for development. I also agree that we need a plan. We need zoning and a grid on the Water Street property. Otherwise, Water Street is just a blob on a map. What developer wants to do the work to plan something and then find out that city council will make some arbitrary decision about whether they should be there or not? We have to help developers know what fits. Arbitrary is what we had before. This property is an asset if we make it one. Time to get out of the liability and begger mindset. Right now, we do not look "open for business".


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

I guess the consultant and the city don't realize Riverside Park exists. Food carts, a skating rink, a bandshell, and seating are all possible here. These upgrades would enhance the already full event schedule there. It even connects Depot Town and Downtown. Crazy good. That will be $25000 in consulting fees please.

Steven Taylor

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 10:28 p.m.

I tried to make that comment earlier, but it appears it didn't get posted. Oh well.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

This exact concept was suggested/requested/discussed from 2006-2010 by a former business man in the area. The City wouldn't listen.... and finally he went out of business. I guess when advise is free it is meaningless.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

dreeeeam, dream, dream, dream, dreeeeeam....yawn


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 1:08 p.m.

How many wooden street barricades could be purchased for the cost of that consultant? There could be "festival streets" all over town. Place some barricades (like they already do in Depot Town). Close a street. Name it "whatever you like" festival. Need a public gathering spot for said festival? Why not build a park along the river like Frog Island? Oh, wait. You already did. Also, don't forget about EMU's great facilities, many of which can be leased. Ann Arbor's "Mark's Cart" plaza? That's really a "plaza" in an alley. And, it's seasonal. The true answer for revitalizing Ypsilanti, and our region, is jobs creation. Create jobs, and the rest will follow.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

Talk of festvals is more fun than the hard talks about trying to bring in large or mid size companies. I hope they aren't paying these consultants a lot of money for ideas that wont do much to bring Ypsi back. Instead, the city council and other planning groups should be focusing on ways to increase tax revenue, which will leads to more money spent on festivals, and food carts, and the other stuff.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

I was recently in Iowa City, and their entire downtown was characterized by the seamless integration of the University into the downtown space and a series of pedestrian gathering spaces that had formerly been through streets and alleyways, it was an awesome, unique downtown that was truly walkable. I remember thinking how cool it would be if Washington Street could become like one of the plazas in Iowa City. Another thought: All of the Michigan Ave frontage shops appeared to have had, at one time, entrances, or additional shops behind them, fronting what are now parking lots. You can still see the awnings and signs for some of these businesses, giving the space a distinctly "village" feel. I wish we could re-animate this area behind Michigan Ave. Finally, can we please, please try and convince Deja Vu to relocate? PLEASE. That building should be a theater. That would be THE game-changer for the Washington Street corridor.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

Washington Street has been used for the weekly summer concerts in past years. It's the Ypsi kind of awesome to have a family friendly band with the Deja Vu marquee in the background.

1982 Brew Crew

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

I love the idea of a pedestrian mall and festival street. These type of spots become centers of activity.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

We sure have the money, time and human resources to plan, plan, plan. Isn't it a shame that we don't have money for adequately staffed police and fire departments? Isn't it a shame that we don't have money to fix dilapidated roads? A "festival street?" Just when you think you've heard it all! Planners claim to possess long-range "vision." Isn't it a shame that they don't possess common sense, pragmatic solutions to real problems?

1982 Brew Crew

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

I am glad we have long-range planning. If all we cared about was the next quarterly cash balance and filling potholes with tar/gravel then we are on a downward trajectory. Need a balance of short- and long-term planning.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:08 a.m.

This just in, planning commision say's we need another planning commision to schedule another planning commision. Methinks the only one's getting rich these days are the planners.