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Posted on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 5:56 a.m.

Tree nursery planned for Water Street while city discusses housing for site, too

By Tom Perkins

Among the latest discussions for Water Street uses and development are senior housing, affordable housing and a temporary urban nursery in the former Gilbert Park.

City Planner Teresa Gillotti said a company has contacted the city and expressed interest in building senior and affordable housing, but no formal paperwork has been submitted.

Whether or not a proposed affordable housing development would contribute to the city’s tax rolls would have to be determined.

Gillotti and City Council discussed the ideas at Council’s March 20 meeting, and no action was taken.

Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber pointed out that the Hamilton Crossing redevelopment will soon provide 144-units of affordable housing in the city while contributing to the city’s tax rolls. Although no council members outright opposed the idea, none were in support either.


Tom Perkins | For

The city has begun clearing the former Gilbert Park on the Water Street property to install a tree nursery.

Council has previously expressed a desire for dense, mixed-use development on Water Street and in the past and has been cool towards similar ideas. The only formal proposals for Water Street have been a Burger King that council rejected nearly two years ago and it is still considering a recreation center that wouldn't contribute to tax rolls.

Gillotti said she received a call from a company interested in Water Street and couldn’t comment on whether affordable or senior housing would be good for the city until there is a proposal.

“It’s not yet clear what they want,” she said. “If we get a letter of intent, than there will be a lot more to talk about.”

But the city is moving forward with an urban forestry plan that will establish a nursery to supply the city with its trees.

Gillotti said she the idea came out of discussions about possible temporary uses for Water Street with former Assistant City Manager April McGrath.

The city doesn’t have a budget for supplying new trees, Gillotti said, and the nursery will be funded by grants. It will hold around 1,000 trees on Water Street’s southeast corner at the former site of Gilbert Park.

The ground there is mostly fill soil and Gillotti said it could be one of the last parcels to develop, but the nursery will be largely portable in case it needs to be moved to another location.

“It’s an interim use that the public benefits from because it increases the number of trees in the city over time,” she said.

Most of the public trees in the city are different varieties of maples.



Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Maybe the city should start a fish farm and raise carp. Affordable food source, they are easy to raise. Build a fish dam on the lower end near Gilbert park throw in a rock dam on the north end to keep them from wanting to migrate north back to Riverside Park. Get the lights turned back on at Gilbert and hold a fish fry every weekend. Sell 'em fresh by the pound during other times. Maybe an annual fishing derby! Just think, Ypsi could be the carp capital of the world. Makes as much sense as many of hte other ideas that have been discussed about the Water Street debacle.


Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 10:53 a.m.

Tdw, Gilbert Park was one of the finest Little League baseball parks in Michigan. The Light towers are still there, as well as the fence backstop, but the dugouts, concession stand, and pressbox are gone. It was always a great story when a player hit a ball hard enough to drop into the river behind the outfield fence. Have some great memories of hours spent at Gilbert Park!


Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

Great comment, Ben. I remember all the hours spent there as one of my brothers played Little League. Always enjoyed it when a train went by!

joe golder

Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 7:11 p.m.

Thanks for sharing the story Ben. Was water works park near by? I have post cards but have a hard time with exact location.


Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 11:29 a.m.

Ben...... is it the one off Catherine st ? I'm sure what you say is true.Problem is that too many people ( particularly those in Ann Arbor ) don't know how great Ypsi used to be be.


Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 5:16 a.m.

OR, just leave it be... Affordable housing? Come on.. There goes the neighborhood (again).


Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

I think the nursery is a fine idea to save money. However, Ypsilanti would not be on solid sustainable footing to add any more 'affordable housing' anywhere especially on Waterstreet. There are far too many of those units in this city already and, frankly, it has added to the issues that have strangled the schools, tanked the local tax structure, dropped other property values and isn't in keeping with our efforts to transition from rusty blue-collar town what mean hope to be a cultural alternative to Ann Arbor. We are about to vote on an income tax and Waterstreet debt retirement millage. That discussion is hampered by this conversation. There may be barely enough support for these efforts as it is now but a conversation about additional 'affordable housing' as already dampened enthusiasm for paying for Waterstreet. Why pay for that? Ypsilanti needs to attract more people who are NOT resource intensive. Additional affordable housing does the opposite - more police calls, more fire calls more trash and more ordinance violations - more need per capita for city services. We need LESS affordable housing, not more.


Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

actually the statement about being a cultural alternative to Ann Arbor (not similar to Ann Arbor at all) comes from stuff our mayor and city council have said and something I agree with. I don't see being a cultural alternative to Ann Arbor as being like Ann Arbor, quite the opposite. We're not Ann Arbor and thus we don't have the resources or size to support a bunch more 'affordable housing'.


Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

Darn it....lorie.Someone gave you a thumbs down ( don't know why ) and I was going to counteract it with a thumbs up but hit the down button by mistake.I'm not sure if you were saying people want Ypsi to be more like Ann Arbor but I don't know of anyone who does they would like Ypsi to be more like it was in the good'ole days

Pete Murdock

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

@e daniel ayres - The location of the Tree Nursery is not in the Flood Plain - Nor is most all of the Water Street project property in the flood plain.

E. Daniel Ayres

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 9:54 p.m.

I've looked closely at the study report posted on the Ypsilanti City web site as well as this article. I'm all in favor of a tree program for Ypsilanti designed to remedy typical urban managemet mistakes in tree planting and management, but going out to get grants to store nursery stock in pots at the edge of a well documented flood plain on fill which may or may not be thick enough to keep the site from being inundated when the next big series of rains or snow melt runoff surges occurs seems foolish to me. It would be a tragedy if all the city ends up doing is drowning lot of young trees waiting to be set out. I'm of the opinion that Water Street was aptly named and the reason development of the site has been difficult to encourage is that corporate due dilligence for commercial ventures now catches that type of potential issue and takes it into account. Lobbying to get anything built there, over a filled in swamp, is a difficult proposition to support. The businesses which were there and torn down years ago had often been victims of flooding in the past and tennants tended to bear the brunt of the losses with landlords making minimal investments trying to lure new tennants after cheap repairs after each flood. The city used beg borrow and steal strategies to find money to tear down and remove the last of the "junk buildings" on the site. The need for "tax base" aside, every generation seems to have to re-learn the lessons of th past. The site was a small delta where the Huron River spread out into a swamp or large fen which Ford made into a lake by damming it more than a hundred years ago after the valuable trees had been cut and logs from upstream had been floated through it by trenching the sediment, etc. Fill was required for building foundations because the original land was muck very close to a river.


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

Housing? I thought a rec center was going in there? Now trees? Can't keep up.

greg, too

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

Brilliant. Trees and low income housing and senior citizens and a rec center that doesn't pull in any tax revenue. What's next, a couple parking lots? What a great use of the people's money. By the way, I would imagine an urban forestry program would deter them from tearing out those trees if someone decided to buy the land. So by planting the trees, they might make it harder for someone to buy the land, not that anyone wants it anyway.


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

Keep the riverbank as city property and develop it into a park. A nice lighted walkway along that stretch of river would be an excellent asset for the city. It would have to be a fairly narrow stretch of property so it would not to encroach on the balance of the property. Then, get somebody to build housing in that area. The city of Ypsilanti has plenty of low cost housing as dictated by the local market. They don't need to plan for any more. They already have it. The city is mostly low cost housing! The city does need tax revenue. The development should contain a mix of standard housing and luxury condos. (condos being preferrable to rental units). That area would be a desirable living area for many people. The proximity to Michigan Avenue shopping and the whole downtown Ypsilanti area would draw lots of residents to the development. A park along the riverfront would only add to the area's desirability. There have been several plans for this property and none have come to fruition. Certainly, the current economy and housing situation have helped prevent this development. The problem is that the economy will not be strong for at least a couple of more years and the housing market also. Why doesn't the city get creative in looking for solutions? Why not offer ZERO property taxes for the first 3, or 4, or 5 years to give a developer more incentive to develop this property? That would give them the finances to offset the current market problems. It would also guarantee that the city would start receiving tax revenue down the road a bit, which County rec centers don't provide.


Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 2:41 a.m.

The biggest barrier as I have heard it is the patchwork of zoning bits that would require the developer to bend to city council micromanagement in order to get the zone permission needed to actually developer the place. City council has had a long-standing recommendation from the zone commission to standardize the zone but they have refused to act on it while at the same time, treating developers poorly and causing them to waste money in their behalf. This council doesn't have a good rep with developers so I think we'll need clear zoning that would allow by-right development.

joe golder

Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 12:11 a.m.

Great Ideas lefty!


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 6:49 p.m.

" the city is mostly low cost housing ! " sorry, but that is simply not true.It does have more than enough though


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Affordable Housing = more slums, more hookers, more drugs....hooray Ypsi!


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

Anyone ever consider a minor league baseball stadium? "If you build it, they will come"


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

If affordable housing is well planned and constructed, it doesn't have to bring problems. In A2, there is Braeburn Circle, Colonial Square, Arrowwood, and the senior and other affordable housing off Nixon/Traver. Carpenter Place is nice, but being a tower, it was not designed with the needs of seniors in mind. Habitat for Humanity does a great job, building quality housing and not "instant slums." Ypsi's affordable housing does not have adequate access to public transportation, parks, grocery stores and other services. There have been many studies which indicate that violence decreases in relation to trees and other green areas


Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 2:37 a.m.

Frankly Gramma, that is baloney. The places you mention are crime ridden and incredibly resource intensive. They have great access to park-like settings and public transportation and they are still a problem. They are not 'nice' - they are adequate but barely so.

no flamers!

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Ypsilanti does not need more "affordable housing." Building more affordable housing will just continue the decline in value and maintenance of the City's already enormous supply. It would be better to have nothing than contribute to the over-supply of a housing type so closely correlated to urban decay.


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

Isn't Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor's affordable Housing? So why do you need affordable housing on Water's Street?


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

Hold it...It looks like they are talking about Ypsilanti.Not quite sure where Gilbert park is unless it's off Catherine st


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

Good point which is exactly why I highly doubt it will happen

City Confidential

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 11:19 a.m.

This is yet another creative way that city staff has stretched their resources to meet a community need. The little saplings cost a fraction of what more mature trees would cost the city and this ensures that we will have trees to replace those lost throughout the city due to disease or damage. Thank you, Teresa Gillotti, for making this project a reality!