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Posted on Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

2015: Projected start date of proposed $12M rec center in Ypsilanti

By Katrease Stafford


The "Linear Scheme" is one of two designs for the proposed Water Street Eastside Recreation Center.

Courtesy Parks and Recreation

The proposed $12 million Water Street Eastside Recreation Center in Ypsilanti is moving forward after a design team from the University of Michigan created two possible concept designs.

A student design team, led by three professors from U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, have put together two unique designs after working throughout the summer, said Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Director Bob Tetens.

Although the project still is in the early stages of development, officials expect construction to begin in late 2014 or early 2015. The center would occupy eight of the 38 acres on Water Street.

Tetens said the center would be nearly 60,000 square feet and would be much like the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center that opened in 1991. The center would most likely have a swimming pool along with various aquatics, a locker room, gym, fitness facility and other amenities. The center also would offer classes.

“We have to be assured we would have the cash flow to do this,” Tetens said. “We’ve got some (funds) set aside, but we would approach the board of commissioners to finance part two.

"We are looking for any and all funding sources.”

The city has long sought development possibilities for Water Street. In 2010, the City Council unanimously rejected a proposal from Indiana-based Bravokilo, which owns the Burger King on Michigan Avenue near Ecorse Road, to build a new restaurant on one acre of the 38-acre site.

Tetens said the center’s design would either be what is called a “Jeffersonian Design Grid” or a “Ribbon Form.”

Tetens said the Jeffersonian design would be similar to what a lot of the buildings in the city look like and would be a square building. The other design would be a “very long” building.

“ (The designs) would minimize our frontage on Michigan Avenue,” he said. “We want it to be compatible and respectful and not a barrier.”

Discussions have taken place throughout the years regarding the possibility of opening a new recreation center located on the east side of the county, Tetens said.


The second design, Centralized design scheme, was created by a team of U-M students and professors.

Courtesy of Parks and Recreation

“This was all very conceptual we still hadn’t set aside the resources,” he said. “When the economy tanked we kind of cooled discussions. A year and a half ago we tried to approach it and we started talking about the downtown Ypsilanti site.”

Tetens said if the project is approved, it would be a three-way partnership among the city, the county's parks department and the Ann Arbor YMCA.

Parks and Recreation would purchase the land from the city and subsequently would own the land and building as well. The YMCA would oversee the day-to-day operations.

“We were willing to take the responsibility of constructing the building and designing the building,” he said. "That was very attractive to us.”

Before construction actually can begin to take place on the site, a number of things must occur, said City Planner Teresa Gillotti.

Gillotti said Parks and Recreation would have to hire a design firm to create a site plan, a formal work agreement must be signed and the city would have to negotiate the purchase of the property.


The two concepts were created by students and professors from the U-M College of Architecture.

Courtesy Parks and Recreation

Tetens said there has been slight reluctance from city council because of the Water Street debt, but Gillotti said council has “expressed interest” in the project.

Ypsilanti must pay $30 million on its Water Street bond debt and continue to make payments through 2031. Its annual payments will grow to $1.7 million annually by 2015, and previously reported the city currently has $2.6 million set aside to pay down the debt.

In May, voters rejected a proposed Water Street debt retirement millage and income tax by large margins.

Council Member Pete Murdock is serving as the council liaison for the project and Mayor Paul Schreiber is on the finance committee.

Tetens said council has given the project an 18-month timeline to work out the conceptual design for the site, which already is underway.

Schreiber said the recreation center project is very important and will set the pace for securing more potential businesses.

“The first project is the one that defines the whole project,” he said. “It will be positive for downtown and other businesses would certainly want to know what’s going to be on that corner and it will bring in businesses that can piggyback on that. It’s a good fit.”

Schreiber said the rec center will serve as an “anchor tenant” for future developments on the site and potentially raise the taxable value of area properties.

“I think that it’s not unusual when you have to offer a good deal for the first one. If you’re going to build a shopping center, you have to have an anchor tenant.”

Two presentations have been scheduled for public input regarding the project, both on Thursday, Sept. 27 at SPARK East, located at 215 W. Michigan. The first presentation will be at 4 p.m., and the second will begin at 7 p.m.

Officials also are seeking input from residents through a survey. Click here for the survey.

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



Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 3:42 a.m.

This is the kind of thing I've been praying for in Ypsilanti for years. Something to enrich and benefit all. And how about that small grocery store or a Joe Randazzo's Fruit and Vegetable Market? Places that would make Ypsilanti a nice place to come to, that would draw people in, instead of scaring people away. I know these sound like places that would make me proud of living here and may even draw my business back.

Daniel Piedra

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Both designs are hideous. And to spend all that money constructing these eyesores is a prime example of how human error can manifest itself into a government-funded boondoggle that will be torn down in fifteen years because of high crime, vagrancy, and disrepair.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

Ypsi, always looking for free stuff. The county's favorite money pit. I await the down votes. lol


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

This is a wonderful plan. The county will help financially to develop the infrastructure. A rec center will attract other businesses--health food stores, juice bars, sporting goods, and the like--that WILL pay taxes. It will be attractive. It will tie the parks system together and encourage outdoor activity in the area. This is the sort of thing we had in mind when I was on City Council in the 90s. I could not be more pleased.


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

This is the best thing that could happen for this community! Anything that benefits kids will benefit the entire community. The YMCA can provide a safe, positive environment for these kids that they cannot get anywhere else without going to Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti has needed this for a long time! This is an investment into our kids no matter the cost.

Ron Granger

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Where is the frugal version of the design? You'd think the river was flowing with money, not brown water. Rec centers are about the activities, not the pretty building. Also, a rec center should not take up valuable outdoor real estate that can be better used for outdoor recreating. Rec centers belong on low cost real estate, where there is a lot of parking available. Industrial parks, etc.

Marvin Face

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Thank you Ron Granger. This is exactly why I asked, in an earlier comment, when the real architects would get involved. It's fine to let the theorists at UM play for a while and give their students a "real world" problem to solve as an exercise but those two models are pretty funny to look at...just what you would expect from students and faculty.


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Haha! Dude, this is a long vacant 38 acre parcel. I.E. plenty of room for parking and formerly... wait for it.... an industrial park! If this land was indeed so valuable, someone would have snatched it up long ago to build upon. How do you know these building designs are inherently more expensive? Do you think they should just build a windowless, single room gym? Functionality and aesthetic value go hand in hand in modern building design.

Jonathan Blutarsky

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Ryan typed "Ypsi is swimming in debt, has rampant crime and blight, and is losing taxpaying citizens in droves, so what do they do? Build a $12 million Rec center. Genius." it is obvious that you - A - Never read the story as Ypsi is selling a chunk of the land that is the major part of the debt issue they are dealing with to mitigate said debt issue. B - The county is the purchaser and developer NOT Ypsilanti C - That you have not been in Ypsi for sometime as downtown is thriving. Perhaps you should know what you are talking about before making fallacious comments?


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

My goodness am I sick and tired of the "me, myself and I" mentality that abounds in these comments. A Rec Center on this site would be a great thing! Many people voted in favor of a county parks and rec millage--so, obviously many do care about opportunities for healthy, fun, affordable activities. The "not with MY money" argument is also misguided. Would you all be happier with a factory there? Well, guess what--that would get built with "your money" too, in the form of tax breaks and the like. Why not take this great opportunity to help spur some other developments in downtown Ypsi. Proximity to a Rec Center would certainly make other ventures more attractive!


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

I looked at the survey, and it's clear that programs at a center like this would also involve day care and enrichment programs for kids with working parents. Only a good thing!


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

Wow, lot of negative comments surrounding this piece of news. I have to imagine the city's role in this partnership is going to be mostly limited to supplying the parcel of land that the rec center will be built upon, leaving the vast majority of the building and operating expense to Washtenaw county and the YMCA. People, this will be a POSITIVE economic development for downtown Ypsi. Don't be so afraid !


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

Thank you, Ross. is becoming (thanks to these commentators) right wing!


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

This won't benefit the eastern half of the county - there's no parking. There's already a glut of exercise facilities. Stop wasting tax dollars on non-essentials. Police and fire protection, garbage, and streets. That alone won't be affordable to Ypsilanti City in 3 years.


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

There is plenty of parking just on the other side of the river in hydro park or the old Ford plant would be even better!


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 12:21 p.m.

huh? no parking? Except for the entire length of river st? And except for the new parking lot they are sure to build? No, you're right, it won't benefit anyone.... sheesh.


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

Yep! That be good! Bunch of Yuppies exercising at the Wash Co Rec Center on the River! Attract a bunch of penniless Yuppies to Downtown Ypsilanti to run their butts off on the treadmills and the City of Ypsilanti Will Be Saved! Bless You Boys at the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission for your Millions of Our Taxpayer Dollars (and yer gonna Pay Money to the City of Ypsilanti for the El Crapo "Brownfields" land? Bravo!).


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Isn't it time for you to go yell at some kids to get off your lawn?....


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

"penniless yuppies" ....? Sounds oxymoronic, dude. Yuppies have money, and they spend it. Awful grumpy in those piney woods though.

Marvin Face

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 1:48 a.m.

When will the real architects of this recreation center be called in? Certainly not leaving it up to the UM folks, right?


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 10:33 a.m.

UM doesn't have real architects? They probably saved tens of thousands of dollars by developing the concepts....

Richard Roe

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 1:47 a.m.

Washtenaw County is going to pay $12 million to build a recreation center and pass off day to day operations to a 3rd party (YMCA). How exactly does the $12 million invested get back to parks and rec.? Or is that not a concern for Mr. Tetens? Not that budget cuts are anything new but there has been a pay freeze on part-time staff and pay cuts for full-time staff with parks and rec for the last 4+ years. Forget YMCA, the county could use the revenue.

greg, too

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 3:37 a.m.

Don't forget that it is $12 mil dropped onto land that the city is still heavily in debt on.


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 1:12 a.m.

Ypsi is swimming in debt, has rampant crime and blight, and is losing taxpaying citizens in droves, so what do they do? Build a $12 million Rec center. Genius.


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

"Rampant crime and blight?" I echo JB1's question to you: When was the last time you spent any time in Ypsilanti?


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

One question--when was the last time you set foot in Ypsilanti, or can we assume that you (and most of the other posters) are "armchair quarterbacks" living in an Ann Arbor subdivision?


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

Do you really think the city is going to pay for it?


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 1 a.m.

A recreation center will certainly be an asset to Ypsilanti and the eastern part of the county. As a non-resident landlord, I welcome this opportunity.


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 12:50 a.m.

If this money is coming from Government regardless if it is city, township or county, there should be a vote because all of this money these branches of Government have are derived from the tax payer. The money just does not magically appear from no where to fund an "Anchor Tenant"


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

A large maximum security prison would be a better choice.


Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

You can move and live next to one if you want but not me!


Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

I'm glad to read that Ypsilanti has it's financial house in order and can afford to do something like this..........