Downtown Ypsilanti: It’s Your Future.

The folks who brought you the recent Ypsilanti mayoral debate have decided, instead of disbanding, that they’d like to do more to facilitate substantive public dialogue on the future of our community. With that as a mission, they’ve set out to host a series of public meetings on subjects ranging from poverty and crime to local economic development. The first of these public forums is to be held on Thursday, November 2, 2006, in the EMU Business College in downtown Ypsi, 7 p.m. to 9:30.

The subject: Downtown Business. See the hompage at www.ypsivotes.com for more information.

Here, on this blog, we want your comments, input, feedback, whatever. We at YMDC know that there will be a lot of you who attended the Ypsilanti Mayoral Debate; your input was integral to the success of that event. So go for it here. Let’s work together to make Ypsilanti better. Let’s make Ypsi great.

YMDC

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22 Responses to Downtown Ypsilanti: It’s Your Future.

  1. M Maynard says:

    It occurs to me that we could, while at this event, talk about at least two ideas with the folks at EMU, assuming we have representatives from the school attend. (As you’ll recall, EMU’s President said at the mayoral debate that he would welcome constructive ways for the city and the college to work together.) Anyway, here are two ideas to get the ball rolling.

    1) Entrepreneurial education and/or consulting for downtown business owners. Perhaps take some local businesses as class projects, or have an afternoon brown bag series for local business owners. Even an evening event where faculty were available to mingle and answere questions would be good.

    2) Engage with design students (and other creative types in the community) to create installations in the windows of vacant buildings (with the approval of the owners, of course). We could present it as a contest, ir it could be taken on as a class project.

    I’m sure there are others, but those are the two I’ve been giving the most thought to lately.

    -Mark

  2. Edward Penet says:

    Issues:
    . City and DDA have NOT succeeded in the last 20+ years, since I’ve lived here, to build business downtown, citing “no critical mass.” That’s BS. Residents in surrounding neighborhoods do NOT support the bsuinesses that ARE here. Aside from Haab’s and the dry cleaners, “It ain’t what it used to be.” Not the right kinds of businesses … combined with lack of neighborhood support.
    . Businesses do not have steady hours … many are underfunded start-ups … some have odd hours for whatever reasons … some are storefront offices not catering to the public and are taking up valuable retail spaces … landlords do not offer move-in ready spaces and are asking exhorbidant rental/sales prices.
    . Ask the restaurants (and other entertainment businesses) and they’ll tell you that almost all of their bsuiness comes from the township (former residents who left during white flight and for other “reasons>” Residenmts often talk a good game, but do NOT support local businesses for a variety of reasons.
    . The City could declare this a development zone opening up the available spaces for State/Federal and even private financing to help bring in sound businesses as well as help start-ups.
    . We are already a designated Cool City, eligible for FAST TRACK assistance for grants and other State and Fedral assistance … and yet it has been TWO YEARS since we have applied and received monies under the Cool Cities program. I gave Louis Richardson a list of 40-50 potential programs we COULD HAVE looked at that MIGHT have applied to our needs. Our local politicians and DDA personnel are collected their salaries and benefits in those last 24 months, but have achieved NOTHING!
    . The key questions is WHAT DO WE WANT? The key response(s) to the answer(s) will be for US to search out bsuinesses to come here … and for US to support them with our $$$. WE also need to mend fences with the wonderful businesses that ARE here and who have stuck it out through … no parking … street repairs … etc. … and to pledge an effort from the Neighborhood Associations to spend our money downtown whenever possible.
    . I define downtown as to include the Cross Streeeet/Depot Town areas as well … which directly appends the EMU campus. Downtown and CS/DT DDA’s need to merge and be better served by the residents.
    . Ideas … 1) Downtown Discount Coupon Books or $2 for $1 coupon books … YPSI BUCKS … Walking Wall maps (like Chelsea) on major intersection corners and in Parking Lots … Downtown retail brochures w/copies of the maps … Things to Do flyer available in all businesses, walk a hitoric neighborhood or downtown or campus after dinner/shopping/etc. … printed, self-guided walking tour of historic Downtown/Depot Town … we need a better downtown/Depot Town Holidays program … we need an exciting Downtown/Depot Town Winter Fest concept (between Jan-Mar) to build traffic … we need to tie into EVERYTHING on campus to bring alums back into Ypsi and to make the students feel more welcome … we neeeed to capitalize on the International student population for international foods, culture, etc. possibly an international festival in the RAC as well as on campus (last year’s Indian concert in the convocation center was incredible!)
    . History, history, history … we (Ypsi and EMU) have a fantastic national freputation for our historic architecture, preservation studies programs and Historic District Commission activity. New parking signage throughout the City will stress Historic Ypsilanti. Let’s get the busses rolling, contact the Marriott, get seniors and other tourists here, house them, feed them, show them around. Vistors walk up and down N. Huron Street every day to marvel and have no one to talk to, no printed information, no resources. Foot traffic increases in the Fall with the RAC activities, but there’s little to keep them parked a while longer and to spend money unless we promote “Things To Do” in the area.
    . The ideas, whatever happens, must come from the people and they must commit to support those ideas. Top-down planning has not worked … will not work. And businesses/landlords who don’t support us should pack up and go … even if it takes some pressure on our part … picketing, if need be to get’em out.
    . Keep an eye on Water Street business recruiting … and be aware that Walgreen’s is going to build at the top of the hill at Michigan and Prospect. Yikes! I can’t think of a single senior who will trudge that far up a hill to get a pill. Frank’s Drugs is typical of the reluctance to expand, spruce up and build a wider clientle. After Walgreen’s … what’s next on the chain/franchise horizon downtown?
    . I’ll be at the Hope Clinic Meeting … get people talking.

  3. Mark says:

    Ed,

    You’ve got a lot of great ideas, and a lot of energy, and I wish that you were going to be at this session. Hopefully, this is just the first of many such meetings, though, and you’ll have other opportunities to get involved… With all of that said, however, I hope that your first two points, while perhaps valid, don’t have too much a place in our conversation. I don’t want for this to develop into an exercise in assigning blame. While it may be true that the DDA in the past may have made strategic errors, it’s not going to get us anywhere focusing on the now. We need to start over again. Brian Vosburg just joined the DDA this summer, and, from my conversations with him, he seems like someone willing to listen. And, he’s planning on attending this session… So, my hope is that people will, at least for the moment, put aside any past grievances and think more proactively on what can be done right now. Good things are happening and we need to leverage them. And no amount of talk about garbage enclosures and parking lot projects are going to get us there. So, while I appreciate where you’re coming from, I hope that, at least for the time being, we can focus on creative solutions instead… And the possible undertakings that you’ve mentioned here are great, by the way.

  4. Kevin Hill says:

    While it is certainly nice to see others getting involved in the Downtown, I am seeing attitudes evolving that are totally negating the many positives that have developed over the past two years. It has taken approximately t two years to study, write, and begin implementation of a comprehensive downtown parking plan.The plan was TOTALLY grass-roots driven and privately funded by those involved.Now that community in-put has been returned to the citizenry and both the DDA AND CITY-HALL have begun paying attention,the possibility of truly moving forward can begin. Remarks about the dumpsters also need to be clarified. It was without much business or downtown comment that the dumpster project moved forward. There was a brief time where numbers of persons were ready to throw in the towel on the decision to place dumpsters in the middle of the major public parking lots. Again, through a grass-roots effort (spearheaded by The Wolverine’s one- of -a- kind Dolores ,and Denise Cutlip- called by many- The Face of Downtown by her work through The Central Business Community) the Dumpster issue went from one that was out of control to an opportunity for residents and business owners to begin a long overdue “meaningful “dialogue which has led to a new Chairperson (Peter Rinehart) and soon to be new Board members who reflect the attitudes of those of us who have been volunteering our time, energy, ideas, and money to Downtown Ypsilanti
    and who are encouraged by The Buzz- See a recent issue of Metro Times which had our very own Tap Room on the cover. We welcome efforts by all to improve the Quality of Life in the community.To ignore the efforts of those who have counted the parking spaces, met with public citizens and city officials, as well as those who went door to door and dumpster to dumpster in order to make an abhorable situation,manageable, is to pretend that nothing has been done recently-which could be perceived as grandstanding- when in fact what is called for is continued citizen action which places the power where it should be —- With the People. Respectfully submitted, Kevin Hill

  5. Edward Penet says:

    Excellent comment … I DO get too cynical. I DO, however, seeeee tremndous potential … but those with the bucks and NO energy will have to be sidee-stepped and/or shamed into getting on-board. Elections, appointments to boards and backroom chit-chats haven’t worked.

    Public meetings and public excitement in the newspaper, Metro Times (Yeah, Kevin!) and at monthly neighborhood association meetings are where it’s gonna happen … with or without Council and the DDA. We NEED the DDA to write Cool Cities grants. We NEED the City to get real with financing.

    Bottom line, what you’re doing and what we’re doing in the Riverside Association, is getting citizens involved, getting citizens to believe once again that WE are Ypsilanti … that it’s OUR TOWN. That’s EXCITING!

    I’ll be at a Hope Clinic presentation … they’re thinking about buying Ave Maria campus in the midst of our neighborhood, and it’s an important part of our city, our neighborhood and caring for those of us who need real help and can’t help ourselves. Just one of several key issues WE have to tackle ourselves.

    You can count me IN. We’re rolling!

  6. Lisa Dugdale says:

    Hm… in reference to the getting people to support their neighborhood businesses, I wonder if it would help get things rolling to ask citizens/officials to pledge to buy from locally-owned businesses downtown (and I’d say in Depot Town as well) as much as possible for the week of December 4-10th. (This week is ‘Buy Local Week’, which aims to encourage people to shop locally for that week in particular). Making that sort of pledge would show support for the idea, and would also get people to start thinking about what they could get downtown that they currently don’t buy there.

  7. Mark says:

    I know, from having spoken with Lisa, who runs the not-for-profit Think Local First, that Ann Arbor’s mayor has formally declared December 4-10 “Buy Local Week” in A2. I don’t imagine that it would be a difficult thing for our outgoing mayor to do the same here in Ypsi… And, as Lisa said, it would pack an extra punch if said community leader also publicly pledged to do just that. (I think that Mayor Farmer already patronizes several downtown businesses, so I don’t suspect that a public proclamation to that effect, perhaps at our meeting Thursday night, would be much of a problem.)

  8. Joyce Ramsey says:

    I am looking forward to the discussion that has been started regarding the state of downtown Ypsilanti. We own and live downtown, as well as operate a shop part time called Bowerbird Mongo. It is an “Antique/Vintage” resale shop with “odd hours”. We have been extremely pleased with our very loyal customers who have repeatedly visited us during our limitted store hours, 2 eveninga a week Fri/Sat from 5 Pm to 8 PM. We have found it interesting that MOST of our customers are from out of town, though we do have a fair number of local Ypsilanti customers as well.

    Bowerbird Mongo is a members of the Think Local First network and we support other local businesses whenever we are able. We would love to see more Ypsilanti residents downtown in the future and are eager to hear what it is people want to see and will truely support on this corridor.

    Here is an invitation to those who would like to support local businesses downtown during the week of December 4th -10th:
    BOWERBIRD MONGO INVITES YOU to an OPEN HOUSE on Thursday December 7th and Friday December 8th from 12 Noon to 8 PM. We will have refreshments, gift certificate drawings and lots of fresh “old/vintage” merchandise. Please Visit !

  9. Karen says:

    I don’t have a lot of time, but I love the idea of an Ypsi “Buy Local Week”, and would be up for working with others to help organize/publicize it. Anyone else interested?

  10. Denise Cutlip says:

    I am willing to distribute materials for the Think Local First, and have contacted Lisa regarding making it available to downtown businesses at the next Central Business Community meeting. Additionally, I will take the materials door-to-door in the downtown area.

    With regards to Ed’s statement about the DDA needing to write more Cool City Grants, Right On!. But let’s take an honest look at why Downtown Ypsilanti was denied the Main Street Grant. When we were notified that we (YPSI) were in the final 8 communities being considered for the grant, I was one of a number of citizens who went to Lansing to demonstrate our support for Jennifer and the DDA. The interview at the MEDC in Lansing was the final step in application of the Main Street Grant, Ypsilanti lost out for one single reason. The former DDA director refused to release her responsibilities for the DepotTown DDA. The question, was re-phrased and re-stated 3 different ways.
    1) Mainstreet puts a huge time obligation on behalf of the adminstrator, how would she divest herself of her responsibilities to the DepotTown DDA.
    2) We were reminded that the state prohibited the development of 2 DDA’s in a single municipality for some valid reasons. could she turn those responsibilities to another?
    3) She was informed that the MEDC really believed that Ypsilanti was deserving of the Grant and that they wanted to give it to us. They had decided not to qualify another application because there were two separate DDA’s involved (Dearborn and Dearborn Heights), and that the director could not serve two masters. She still refused.

    Three grants were awarded, and she was given still another opportunity to qualify, by coming up with another proposal that would work within the parameters they had explained to her. A few weeks later the grant was awarded to Howell.

    We should seriously consider that eventually it will be necessary to UNIFY THE TWO DDA’S. That may be years down the line but it should be considered. As things stand it has been an impediment to progress.

    I am optimistic about the future of our downtown. Brian Vosberg has made himself far more approachable than his predecesor, and has been willing to listen to the businesses and to work with them. The city goverment has been responsive as well (though there is much room for improvement). Instead of crying about the parking lots and the dumpsters the Central Business Community formed action committees that wrote a comprehensive parking plan which the city adopted; and mobilized to provide Brian and the DDA Board with the information they need to negotiate a plan for the dumpsters. (Suprising as this may sound- there was no study to find out who would need access and when or how often. In one block alone there were 200 entities that would require access- and that was based on single occupancy in the apartments. There are 8 dumpster units that need to go into a space that can only be occupied by 4. Eight units means eight existing contracts that require renegotiation.)

    There is a great deal of work yet ahead, but with the commitment of people like Peter Rinehart, Dave Curtis, Brian Brickley, Derek Block, Joyce Ramsey, Kevin Hill, Julia Collins, Tondra Williams, Delores Emerson, Bethany Schultz, and others who actively promote downtown, and who extend their efforts beyond the walls of their businesses I think we are up to the challenges ahead.

    p.s. For those of you who do not know her, Bethany Schultz is the woman who coordinated the Jamming Michigan Avenue four month music program as a VOLUNTEER. She deserves much credit for it’s success.

  11. Steve Pierce says:

    Video of the Downtown forum is posted up on http://www.YpsiNews.com. – Steve

  12. Steve Pierce says:

    The Eastern Echo has a nice write up in Friday’s paper about YpsiVotes and called on the new mayor to listen.

  13. Mark Swanson says:

    I along with my wife, brother-in-law, and wife are the owners of Terry Bakery. We bought the busness and property about 7plus years ago. About 6 months after we bought the A2News wrote an article about the resurgence of investment in Downtown Ypsilanti. I vaguely remember the article saying somethng like in the last 6 mos. -18 properties had changed hands, there was a listng of the new busineses that had gone in (Wicked Micky’s, Country on the Avenue, DaLats, BW3’s, Us, etc…). The article was positive and full of enthusiasm for Downtown Ypsilanti. Since that time we have seen businesses come and go -and God Bless them -Stay! In that time – I’ve seen and thought a lot about what has gone on, what mistakes were made, how to correct mistakes and find solutions, how organzations like the Chamber of Commerce, the CBC (Central Business Community), the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) could and should be improved. My purpose here is not to blame anyone (although I may have a critical opinion) but to rehash mynsubjective outlook on the past and the way these organizations have operated and suggest how they are improving and might continue to change and improve. Enough Preamble! Onward!

    First Subject:

    The Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce: You will never find a more continually positive person about the future of the Greater Ypsilanti Area than Keith Peters. He speaks positively about the future of Ypsilanti and defends us to the hilt (ie., the USA Today article). He and his wife shop locally, and both have lived and worked in the town forever. That said, I feel there is a disconnect between the small independant businesses downtown and throughout the city of Ypsilanti for the following reasons:
    1) Few people that I can relate to on the board. What do I mean? The board members year after year consist of every bank in town, representatives of government (city and township), 2-3 people representing EMU, Utilities (YCUA), big business (Briarwood, Waste Treatment Companies,etc…), with the occassional local lawyer thrown in. Many of these people do not live in Ypsilanti. I do not say that they should not be on the board-but I dare say that very few of them over the years have popped their heads into many of the shops downtown or interact with the independant merchants or businesses downtown other than the occassional chamber member seeking a loan at a bank or at the Chamber Gala.
    2) This leads to the fact that there is a Disconnect between Chamber and Downtown Businesses other than when you are solicicted for a Chamber Membership. We belonged to the Chamber the first two years we were in business. Than we started to ask: what are we getting for our membership? The answer was that we were listed in the directory, listed on the website, a suggestion that Chamber members are more likely to buy from Chamber Members, Invitations to the Golf Outing Fundraiser and the Gala for a price, an Insurance Program, and a few savings with some other businesses. The bottem line for us was that 250-300 dollars was a lot of money to be one of several hundred businesses listed on a website/directory, didn’t have time or money for the Golf or Gala, had an Insurance Program, other businesses were more interested in the value of our services and products than if we were Chamber Members.

    Thoughts and Solutions

    I feel that the Chamber should be a Vangaurd in helping Businesses in Ypsilanti (and not just Downtown). The Chamber is and should be trying to bring Big Business to the Area-but they should also promote small independant businesses that exist now.
    I suggest the Chamber do the following:
    1) Expand the Board: this suggestion was given to me by Ed Clemente (now State Rep. Clemente) who was the in Charge of the DownRiver Chamber of Commerce. Keep your Executive Board full of your lawyers, Bankers, University Administrators, and Politicians- but put some merchants and small independant business people who pay their own way more directly out of their own pocket. Give us a voice with representation. I have been told that if I am a Chamber Member that I cannot go to a board meeting and speak or comment. I hope this is not true.
    2)Develop a business plan and a budget that helps Ypsilanti Small Businesses. Take part of our dues and use that for advertising the diversity, the variety and vibrancy of business in Ypsilanti. I want a bang for my buck. This last year we gave the money we would use for a Chamber Membership to the CBC for the Concerts Downtown.

    Enough on the Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce-On to other thoughts and institutions later.
    Mark Swanson

  14. […] I don’t know if my cappuccino was extra strong that day or if I was extra weak, but I was soon too buzzed to work. Instead, I poked around one or two of the local blogs, where I saw that there was growing interest in some kind of a movement to celebrate Buy Local Week here in Ypsi. This very idea had been bouncing around my head for the last few weeks, but it most likely would have stayed there were it not for the combination of the caffeine rush and the blog articles. Before I could really think it through, I was furiously typing comments and emails committing myself to something I really didn’t have any time for. […]

  15. Mark Swanson says:

    WaterStreet & Downtown Ypsilanti

    At the last Central Business Community -CBC meeting in December we discussed two things (amongst others).
    One idea was changing the name of the CBC due to the thoughts that: 1)We are working toward non-profit status in an effort to become more autonomous and independant in our efforts and activities promoting downtown Ypsilanti. 2) Some of our most active members do not have/operate/work downtown but are residents. The idea promoting something like the Downtown/Michigan Ave Neighborhood Association/Community or some other name that would be more inclusive, reflective of the membership and friendly than using the word ‘business’ seemed to have appeal. Any comments?
    The other idea dealt with the Waterstreet (uh,err,um – insert diplomatic word) situation(?). It was understood that M. Ed Koryzno, City Manager was appointing a commitee to look at the Waterstreet Situation/Developement. We nominated Kevin Hill (who was highly interested in doing this and had worked so hard on the Downtown Parking). This was done in part because we felt that Waterstreet is so important to the vitality of downtown (and all of Ypsilanti) and we wanted input and information on what was happening as well as information. When this nomination was presented for an endorsement by the DDA at the DDA meeting the next morning, I was given to understand that this wasn’t the type of community involvement that the City Manager would be looking for at this time. That financial and developement people chosen by Koryzno(?) would be on this commitee and that at a later time “other people” would have a time for input. I don’t know about you but I think the time is now. I’m tired of spent tax money and leaving these matters in the hands of people I don’t know and who haven’t been successful with Waterstreetr in the past. I’d like to see some people who have an interest like Kevin Hill or Bob Doyle (Landscape Architect and Developer), who are local and proven to be involved in different aspects of our Ypsilanti on this commitee. Now, maybe I don’t understand this correctly and someone can explain what is happening but until I do – this is how I feel. I’m tired of the lack of progression and the spinning on the WaterStreet Project. I want people who live here and pay taxes involved.
    Yours in thought and understanding,
    Mark Swanson

  16. pxqgw says:

    Good site!!!

  17. InsinsDuh says:

    Two new studies show why some people are more attractive for members of the opposite sex than others.

    The University of Florida, Florida State University found that physically attractive people almost instantly attract the attention of the interlocutor, sobesednitsy with them, literally, it is difficult to make eye. This conclusion was reached by a series of psychological experiments, which were determined by the people who believe in sending the first seconds after the acquaintance. Here, a curious feature: single, unmarried experimental preferred to look at the guys, beauty opposite sex, and family, people most often by representatives of their sex.

    The authors believe that this feature developed a behavior as a result of the evolution: a man trying to find a decent pair to acquire offspring. If this is resolved, he wondered potential rivals. Detailed information about this magazine will be published Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

    In turn, a joint study of the Rockefeller University, Rockefeller University and Duke University, Duke University in North Carolina revealed that women are perceived differently by men smell. During experiments studied the perception of women one of the ingredients of male pheromone-androstenona smell, which is contained in urine or sweat.

    The results were startling: women are part of this repugnant odor, and the other part is very attractive, resembling the smell of vanilla, and the third group have not felt any smell. The authors argue that the reason is that the differences in the receptor responsible for the olfactory system, from different people are different.

    It has long been proven that mammals (including human) odor is one way of attracting the attention of representatives of the opposite sex. A detailed article about the journal Nature will publish.

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