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Posted on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti's residents offer ideas for crafting city's future as master plan revision begins

By Tom Perkins


Council Member Ricky Jefferson speaks outside Joe's Market at the corner of Harriet Street and South Huron Street. Ciy Planner Teresa Gillotti (left) takes notes.

Tom Perkins | For

Darryl Dennard sees the renovation of the Hamilton Crossing mixed-housing complex as the first in a series of larger improvements on Ypsilanti’s southside.

As he chatted with a group of civic and city leaders during a walking tour of the neighborhood, he laid out what he would like to see happen next now that there are 144 more multi-family units filling up fast.

Dennard, who serves on the Hamilton Crossing Board that oversees the complex’s management, says recreation for kids and families is lacking. He wants to see “positive” activities like basketball, bowling or other options that will get kids exercise.

He also wants to see downtown Ypsilanti become more of a tourist destination with more shops and restaurants, which he said also brings new jobs.

Dennard said he understands his ideas won’t happen immediately, but he liked that city and community had begun thinking about larger ideas for improving Ypsilanti over the coming years.

“Hamilton Crossing is the newest revitalization of a complex in the area and the beginning of a revitalization of the whole area,” he said. “Planning like we are here is the next step in the right direction.”

City planning officials, along with the planning consulting firm ENP and Associates, are gathering resident input on ideas that will serve as the foundation for an extensive planning process designed to improve Ypsilanti over the next decade while maintaining what is working. The process will end in nearly two years with a master plan officials hope will guide the process of turning the ideas into reality.

The weeklong input session culminates on Friday at 5 p.m. at Spark East, where planners will present the ideas they have heard from residents and how they will begin reshaping the community.

The walk through the southside, or “Gateway District” as some residents call it, took the group to the Parkridge Center, Hope Clinic, Michigan Works and Hamilton Crossing. Representatives from each of the organizations spoke to the group and discussed their role in the community.

City Planner Teresa Gillotti echoed Dennard in his assessment that the area is changing due to the improvements at Hamilton Crossing and the number of families it’s adding to the area.

She said it was important during the walk to see how people are reacting to those changes, and added that the walk, which took the group of 30 all the way to the intersection of Harriet Street and South Huron Street, highlighted one of the biggest demands brought by the improvements.

Nowhere near the multi-family housing development that is surrounded by a dense neighborhood is there a regular place to buy groceries or a significant retail district.

The group had to walk down the always busy Harriet Street to get to Joe's Market Party Store, the nearest store that provides basic groceries.

“We learned it’s a difficult corridor for walking,” Gillotti said. “That’s something we all went away with: ‘When you’re on Harriet Street, you’re not having the most pleasant walk.

“(The area) is definitely lacking in neighborhood stores and other amenities,” she said.

Council Member Ricky Jefferson praised Joe’s for the service it is providing the surrounding community as one of the only nearby options for very basic groceries. He said the owners regularly donate to neighborhood events and applauded them for installing a new facade and other improvements they made to the immediate vicinity.

“It helps out - that’s an entryway to the city,” he said.

Among the group was Jefferson; Heritage Park Neighborhood Association president John Brown; Parkridge Center’s Anthony Williamson; former Mayor Cheryl Farmer; Ypsilanti Housing Commission Board member Tabitha Moore; Kiwanis Club of Ypsilanti President Shataura Clayborne and more.

The walk was one of three planned throughout Ypsilanti’s neighborhoods.

On Wednesday, a group walked between Eastern Michigan University student center to downtown to discuss the relationship between the university, downtown and in between neighborhoods.

Later in the day, community members walked from Depot Town to downtown Ypsilanti and discussed, among other topics, what will happen once there is a commuter rail stop in Depot Town, ideas for the vacant Boys and Girls Club of Ypsilanti and the Water Street project.

A temporary studio was also open in downtown for two days. Residents and business owners were invited to stop in and share their thoughts and ideas. Those who stopped by the studio could comment on a board which asked which commercial areas residents frequent, which they avoid and why they avoid certain areas.

Residents were also given one on one time with planners to discuss ideas if they wanted.

Gillotti said she is pleased with the range of community members who have turned out.

“We’ve heard a lot of big picture ideas on what people want to create, preserve and change,” Gillotti said.

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Reach the news desk at



Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

This so-called 'city planner' is a FULLTIME city employee complete with a Cadillac benefits package, estimated at well into the six figures. This, at the same time that our fire and police departments have had their staffing levels decimated? This, at the same time that we take a humiliating handout from the Township to fix our crumbling roadways? The lack of common sense prioritizing in the city is nothing short of staggering.

no flamers!

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

I'd like to see Ypsilanti improved by blending the western border with Ann Arbor, so that people who want to live in Ann Arbor can feel more comfortable buying in Ypsilanti. There have long been challenges to this--young families need a good school district, for example. But it is very common national for gentrification of areas adjacent to nicer areas when property values get too high.


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 1:26 a.m.

Well, I agree with the overall sentiment - Ypsi needs to be a thriving community for young families. I like Ypsi and its quirky fun attitude, but I want a better school district. The families I know with similarly-aged children who live in Ypsi either home school or drive to the charters...


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

Ypsilanti's western border is with Pittsfield Twp., not Ann Arbor.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

This is just laughably pathetic. A master plan update for the City of Ypsilanti is just another useless waste of taxpayer dollars. Our city leaders need to focus solely on providing better basic services, such as police and fire. Our roads and other infrastructure are in disastrous condition from years and years of neglect. And yet tax dollars are being squandered on more studies and plans that will simply end up on shelves collecting dust? Stop the nonsense and focus on BASIC city services. We can also save significant tax dollars by eliminating all non-essential positions, like the city planner.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 4:57 p.m.

Really??!!..... The state of Michigan requires that a municipality's planning commission adopts and amends a master plan. In Ypsilanti's case, though yes it does cost, they needed to junk the old vision, which still had the now defunct Ford/Visteon plant figured into the big picture.... Along with better than 11% of the total tax revenue it generated for the city... My best wishes go out to Teresa, as she has a very daunting task ahead.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

Rebuilding public housing doesn't really revitalize a neighborhood; the inhabitants certainly don't have the money to spend at the downtown restaurants Mr. Denard wants to see happen. The"relationship" between EMU and Ypsi is that students get mugged (and worse) every year by the usual suspects.

Jay Thomas

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 2:10 a.m.

@Woman in Ypsi: While that is true for some, I am afraid that it is more than cancelled out by the greater than average number of bad apples. They sell drugs and do other things to make a generally inhospitable environment. I've lived near housing projects and I can tell you that there isn't a day that goes by that the police aren't there for many of them. They really are not an asset to any community in my opinion; they simply allow generational government dependency to continue.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

Oh, that's right. UM students never get mugged (and worse) in Ann Arbor.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 4:44 p.m.

People don't have to have a lot of money to be vital in their neighborhoods. It isn't only about who is eating out at downtown restaurants. It can also be families in the park, people walking the streets, participation in civic affairs, etc.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

"Among the group was Jefferson; Heritage Park Neighborhood Association president John Brown; Parkridge Center's Anthony Williamson; former Mayor Cheryl Farmer....." I would have thought we'd all had enough of former Mayor Cheryl Farmer's "vision" for Ypsilanti. Was she walking around looking for more property with functioning small businesses and occupied homes, so she can recommend that the city condemn the buildings and seize the land? Someone needs to tell her that the city's still trying to pay the last tab she left it with.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

That picture is a classic. Joe's Liquor, huh?


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 10:57 p.m.

^^^ Yep, Patti, and that is usually where city council meets....or not. But it IS a great picture. Maybe it's just me, but if I wanted "downtown Ypsilanti (to) become more of a tourist destination", my advertising wouldn't be a picture of a "Joe's Liqueur and Check cashing (1%)" bodega, but maybe that's just me.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 9:37 p.m.

Oh, that's right! There aren't any liquor stores in Ann Arbor, are there?


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Tom - The Beer Cooler down the street has fresh fruit. Also, from my experience a less intimidating clientele. Can't beat the price on 40s at Joe's though.

Tom Perkins

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

@EyeHeartA2 I raised my eyebrows when I first heard we were stopping by Joe's Market. But everyone had good things to say about the proprietor. He cleaned up what was a dilapidated building, it is the only store in the area that at least offers some fresh fruit, he donates to neighborhood events and so on. I was told the by Ricky Jefferson that the drug dealers and crowd who were causing problems at Brandy's Liquor on Michigan Avenue tried to start hanging out outside Joe's after Brandy's was shut down, but the owner wouldn't let them loiter or conduct business.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

Good luck making that proposed Water St. dollar store a nice "walking destination."

Paul Schreiber

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

Hear some of the design ideas at the Discover Charette: Closing Conversation Today (March 15) from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. SPARK East in Ypsilanti, Michigan