Ypsilanti master plan process moving forward with drawings of Water Street infrastructure, Depot Town development
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
What do Ypsilanti's residents, business owners and stakeholders like about their city?
According to feedback provided to a team of planners helping rewrite the city’s master plan, the historic character, historic buildings, affordable housing, strong sense of community, small business base and park system are among its assets.
But residents and stakeholders also were asked what they didn’t like about Ypsilanti.
Downtown strip club Déjà Vu made the list of concerns, as did safety, cleanliness of some areas, vacant buildings and the lack of development on Water Street.
And what are some specific additions residents want to see? Among the ideas floated were a dog park, an increased variety of stores, a grocery store, more urban farming and increased pedestrian and bicycle access.
For a week in March, participants in the Shape Ypsilanti discover charette gave their input on what they like and dislike about Ypsilanti as a first step in the master plan rewrite. But the discover charette also yielded bigger ideas, like citywide changes that can be worked into the master plan, changes that are needed in different districts and ideas on where and how to further develop a largely built-out city.
The next phase of the master plan rewrite - the design charette - will include an intensive series of meetings and discussions from April 15 to April 18 in which planners will present ideas and plans for making large-scale improvements in Ypsilanti.
After that, planners will begin working on the first draft of of the city's master plan.
One consideration is future growth in the Depot Town area. Ypsilanti planning officials are confident that, some day, a commuter train will stop as much as 12 times daily in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town.
That would mean an increased interest in the Thompson Block, Ypsilanti’ vacant Boys and Girls Club and housing in the adjacent neighborhoods, City Planner Teresa Gillotti said.
“If we get that level of service, we’re expecting development pressure, which has been the case across county,” she said, adding that the city needs to be deliberate about where there’s development to avoid “chasing its tail” when the trains start rolling.
Gillotti said that could help spur development down River Street to the Water Street site. One of the ideas Shape Ypsilanti is playing with is extending River Street through the Water Street site, over the Huron River and into Water Works Park.
The idea was one Ypsilanti planners first floated in the 1980s.
“It’s a way to connect to Water Works Park because it is separated from the rest of the community, and it would provide another north-south connection through the heart of the city,” Gillotti said.
Shape Ypsilanti also is proposing making extending Lincoln Street to the south onto Water Street and extending Parsons and Park streets to the west to form a grid on Water Street.
That would provide developers considering Water Street with an idea of the property’s form and make it more attractive by providing a degree of certainty. Right now, the city has draw up new infrastructure arrangements for any developer who shows interest in the site.
“Developers will know what the grid will be, they will know what to expect, they will know over here will be utilities, over there will be street access,; we would be providing more certainty to developers,” Gillotti said.
On the north side of town, the LeForge housing district and patchwork of homes, commercial businesses and light industrial businesses on Railroad Street are disconnected from the rest of the city by the railroad tracks and Huron River.
Shape Ypsilanti is also presenting ideas on how to bring those districts back from orbit and connect them to the rest of the town. One idea Shape Ypsilanti will present is the creation of a commercial corridor on Lowell Street that will serve Railroad Street and LeForge
“There are not many services or amenities for residents in that area, and there are a decent number of people who take the car, take the bus, ride their bikes, and it seems like there's potential on that corridor,” Gillotti said. “There’s not a ton of room but there’s is a little bit we haven’t thought about how to best use. Those are the kind of conversations we want to have.”
Three different light industrial buildings at the intersection of Lowell and Huron River Drive have signs advertising space for sale or lease. The prospect of eliminating one-way streets is being examined in an effort to make Ypsilanti more navigable and connect the university, West Cross business district, downtown and Depot Town.
Gillotti said one-way roads are intended to get a high capacity of people through community as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“But you don’t always want that,” she added. “In revisiting this, we’re asking ‘Is it the best thing for downtown? Is it best for pedestrians?’
“And maybe people need more than one way to get to a destination, EMU, a restaurant, or someone’s house.”
The biggest challenge, Gillotti said, would be dealing with the area where Cross Street and Washtenaw Avenue intersect, and Huron Street and Hamilton Streets intersection at the Interstate 94 interchange would also require some creativity.
The ideas will be sketched out and presented to residents during the design charette. It starts Monday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Eagle’s Nest in the Convocation Center. That will include a recap of the discover charette and discussions about housing in Ypsilanti.
The Shape Ypsilanti office at 206 W. Michigan Ave will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., during which time residents can stop in to see and discuss ideas with planners. During that time, Ypsilanti officials are meeting with the Michigan Department of Transportation to discuss the feasibility of eliminating one way streets.
On Wednesday, there will be a special joint meeting between the Ypsilanti City Council and the Ypsilanti Planning Commission. And on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Spark East there will be a closing session at which the week will be recapped.
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the news desk at email@example.com.