|© courtesy Ply Architecture/MAde Studio|
by Margaret A. Leary
The city of Ypsilanti has been trying to redevelop thirty-eight empty acres on Michigan Ave. since 1999. The challenge is that although the city owes millions of dollars on the land, it's been unable to close a deal for the massive condo development it originally wanted for its "Water Street Project." The only current tax-generating prospect is a Family Dollar store that may get built on the east end of the site.
But several Ann Arborites are actively pursuing a plan to build a nonprofit recreation center at the site's west end, along the Huron River. They're envisioning a 50,000 to 60,000-square-foot facility that would draw people of all ages to the site every day, improving its ability to attract private development. Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission president Bob Marans, WCPARC director Bob Tetens, U-M architecture prof Craig Borum, and Cathi Duchon, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor YMCA, are working with Ypsilanti planner Teresa Gillotti to create a formal development plan for the facility. The idea is that the city would donate the land; WCPARC would build the facility; and the YMCA would run it.
Duchon says that after the Ann Arbor YMCA completed its new building on W. Washington about six years ago, "we turned to Ypsilanti, where there is no city recreation department, and expanded there a little at a time, mostly providing activities for kids so they could be active." They started with sports, and then, to attract more kids, added dance, yoga, and cheerleading. The Y initially covered the staff costs for the free activities from its general revenue, but recently received a $70,000 state grant to support programs in Ypsi and Willow Run.
The limiting factor, Duchon says, was facilities: most activities took place at schools, but "the gyms were small, and we could only have programs right after school."
"A long time ago," Duchon muses, "I approached the then-city manager of Ypsilanti, Ed Koryzno, when the Water Street project first started,
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