February 16, 2023

By now, you know about the horror at Michigan State University on Monday. The event itself is beyond-words awful, both for the young lives lost and scarred as well as the way we’ve become accustomed to this cycle of violence and grief. Last week we were relieved that 911 calls about active shooters in various high schools including Huron were fake; this time it was all too real. We wish all those affected solace, love, and peace.

With that, I’m going to step out of your way and deliver you the local news of the week. U-M saw a strange attack at a job fair, celebrated good news about its sustainability efforts, and touted its prowess as a leading producer of Fulbright Scholars. The city is gearing up for its bicentennial as well as the inauguration of U-M’s new president. And it seems like something may be happening with both the vacant Sears at Briarwood and a never-opened car wash in Saline.

Here's hoping everyone in East Lansing and beyond can begin to heal in the coming days and weeks.

— Steve Friess, Editor

The Rock on Washtenaw was painted to show solidarity with Michigan State this week following the mass shooting on Monday night. Credit: Steven Schmidt.

The News...Briefly

U-M, Ann Arbor express support, sympathy for MSU: The show of statewide unity came after a campus rampage ended with three students dead and five injured on Monday. Students held a candlelight vigil on the Diag on Wednesday and Wolverine athletes will don a MSU-supportive decal on their uniforms for upcoming games. U-M president Santa Ono and AAPS superintendent Jeanice Swift issued statements, and U-M regent Jordan Acker tweeted a thread explaining just how symbiotic the U-M-MSU relationship is. “It’s mostly love off the field and court,” Acker wrote.

Plan outlined for demolition, replacement of Sears at Briarwood: Fifty years after it opened, the owners of the vacant department store want to tear it down and replace it with a grocery store, a two-level retail building and apartments, MLive reports. City councilmember Jen Eyer, whose ward includes the mall, is an enthusiastic supporter of the redevelopment. The announcement begins to bring to fruition ideas first floated two years ago

City reviewing affordable housing incentives: The rules passed in 2019 to encourage more affordable housing in downtown high-rises haven’t worked,  consultants told the city council this week. Developers haven’t embraced the incentives because they can’t finance and manage the number of subsidized units required, MLive reports (paywall). Trilby MacDonald and John Hilton reported on the conflict for the Observer in April 2021

Main and Liberty road closures coming Monday, may last till May: The intersection at Main and Liberty as well as the block of Main between Liberty and William will close at 7 a.m. for an $8 million rebuild that’s expected to take more than two months, according to the city. Businesses will remain open, with pedestrian access throughout the project. The work includes repaving S. Main, replacing a water main, and sidewalk accessibility improvements.

Two guilty in sexual assault of six-year-old: A jury convicted Patricia Myia McDaniel and Richard Anthony Allen-Bass of forcing a child in McDaniel’s care into sex acts, MLive reports. The victim testified she was living with McDaniel in Ypsilanti when the assaults occurred. McDaniel also faces the same charges alongside another man, Robert Wibert Whitsett; the two are expected to be tried in late May. She and Allen-Bass already face minimum sentences of twenty-five years to life in prison.

Earthen Jar may close after sixth break-in in three months: Intruders broke a front window at the vegetarian Indian restaurant on S. Fifth, MLive reports (paywall). Nothing was taken this time, but “I don’t think we will stay here if this kept happening,” manager Sim Sethi said. The building also suffered $20,000 in damage from a Dec. 13 fire.

Two anti-military activists arrested in U-M job fair attack: U-M police say the pair poured a red substance on the recruiting tables for the U.S. Navy and the National Security Agency at the Michigan Union, MLive reports. After the arrests, demonstrators took to the Union’s front steps with banners opposing a planned expansion of the National Guard’s Camp Grayling, according to What’s Left Ypsi.

U-M to add a week to 2023-24 winter break: Regents are expected tonight to shift the return to class from January 3 to January 10 next year “to better support the mental well-being of University of Michigan students and faculty, university leaders,” according to the Record. This change would push the end of the semester out a week and move commencement to the first weekend of May.

Campus meets two sustainability goals three years early: U-M gave itself until 2025, but now reports it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions in Ann Arbor by 25 percent from its 2006 benchmark and exceeded its goal of applying 40 percent less chemicals to campus landscapes, according to the University Record. The remaining 2025 goals pertain to fuel efficiency, waste reduction, sustainable food purchases, and broader awareness and engagement around sustainability topics. As Madeline Stone-Wheatley reported for the Observer in January 2022, the school now has even more ambitious green goals. 

Tickets available for U-M president’s inauguration: The official installation of Santa Ono as the school’s 15th president is set for March 7 at 3 p.m. at Hill Auditorium, according to a press release. Tickets are free at the Union Ticket Office while supplies last. In addition to the ceremony, the day will feature a parade across the campus and a reception starting at 4 p.m. at Ingalls Mall.

Twenty-five U-M students, faculty win Fulbrights: The grants are funding research during the 2022-23 academic year in Rwanda, Chile, Lithuania and many other countries on topics as varied as public health care supply chains to emotion and behavior dynamics in offspring of parents with bipolar disorder, according to the University Record.

Ex-Wolverine star wins Super Bowl, announces retirement: Chad Henne, who played for Michigan from 2004-2007, spent the past five years as a back-up quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. After the Chiefs won their second Super Bowl in four years, Henne, 37, announced on Instagram that he was “calling it a career” and “capping it off with a Bud Light and another ring,” Yahoo Sports reports. Back in the day, Henne and three teammates appeared in a production of Archibald MacLeish’s “J.B.” as part of an independent study. “They were well-mannered and humble and came to work and came to play,” U-M theater prof Philip Kerr told the Observer in 2008.

U-M football assistant coaches share $2.5M in bonuses: To the victors belong the spoils, and the near-perfect 2022-23 season meant a lot of spoils for Jim Harbaugh’s staff, reports MLive, which got ahold of documents outlining who got what. Between the Big Ten championship, the bowl berth, and the spot in the College Football Playoff, offensive coordinators Matt Weiss and Sherrone Moore picked up $525,000 in bonus payouts. (Weiss was fired last month over computer-access violations.)

The sign still says a car wash is coming, but after 20 years this vacant Saline building is poised to become a cannabis dispensary. Credit: Steve Friess.

Zingerman’s owners’ create trust to keep company in Ann Arbor: Over the next two decades, founders Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw will transfer the companies’ intellectual property to the Zingerman’s Perpetual Purpose Trust, Crain’s Detroit reports (paywall). Among stipulations, the trust would prohibit the sale of the Zingerman's brand, prevent it from going public, and prioritize remaining in Ann Arbor.

Controlled burn season starts Friday: The city’s Natural Area Preservation folks will be at it on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until late May, according to a press release. There are twenty-two locations where burns will take place, so residents who might be sensitive to the smoke should consult the list and then contact NAP at NAP@a2gov.org or (734) 794-6627 to ask for ways to minimize exposure.

$7.5M pickleball center breaks ground: Wolverine Pickleball’s new facility will offer 39,000 square feet of space and will include twelve courts, a gear shop and a lounge, ClickOnDetroit reports. Six sand volleyball courts and other amenities are also planned outside. The Observer’s Cynthia Furlong Reynolds reported in October that cofounder Christy Howden learned to play at a senior center–after acquiring “a senior-in-training card.”

A2 starts to plan next year’s 200th birthday party: The Ann Arbor Bicentennial Coordinating Committee is collecting ideas for activities to mark the city’s 1824 founding, the Michigan Daily reports. City administrator Milton Dohoney, a committee co-chair, says a logo and social media accounts are coming soon.

Bus service expansion may be coming thanks to Detroit-A2 success: Harmony Lloyd, CEO for the Regional Transit Authority, tells WDET they’re encouraged by results of the pilot project running buses daily between Campus Martius and Ann Arbor. Ridership is now up to between 4,000 and 5,000 a month and could double this year, Lloyd said. Next up may be an express bus to and from Metro Airport.

Never-opened Saline car wash could become pot dispensary: Exclusive Brands, a marijuana chain with locations in Ann Arbor and five other Michigan cities, would use more than half of the 9,900-square-foot structure next to the Emagine movie theater and would rent out the rest. Saline mayor Brian Marl is an enthusiastic backer of the plan to finally use a building built nearly 20 years ago and never occupied.

The tire guy who is also a rock photographer: Sixty-one-year-old John Swider, who by day manages the Goodyear on W. Stadium, by night is at Joe Louis Arena or Comerica Park documenting the Eagles, Rolling Stones, Kiss and many others, John Leonard reports for this month’s Observer. What started as a hobby for Swider is now a regular gig, but he still shows up at 7 a.m. to open the shop.

A volunteering Millennial power couple work to recruit younger helpers: Kyle and Megan Mazurek have made a name for themselves for their involvement with a wide range of causes, Eve Silberman reports for this month’s Observer. Megan, 36, was the youngest-ever board member of the Washtenaw United Way, Kyle, 43, was the only straight man on the board of the Jim Toy Community Center. The couple’s relative youth makes them especially appealing to nonprofits struggling to enlist younger volunteers and donors.

Could electric radiant flooring help A2 homeowners go green? As the city pushes to get everyone off gas heat, local builder and solar installer Dave Friedrichs first used the new low-voltage radiant heating system for a community center and office in Superior Township in 2021. Now solar panels he installed for Dexter couple Katherine Becker and Steve Wells will help heat their new accessory dwelling unit.

Entrepreneur and future dentist Lina Alyaqoobi says Primealete is already selling between 700 and 1,000 prepared meals per day, mostly to convenience-minded students and moms. Credit: J. Adrian Wylie.

Marketplace Changes

Nothing Bundt Cakes opens: The newest outpost of the pastry chain is the sixth in the state and is owned by Andrea Jones, who also has one in Sterling Heights, MLive reports. The shop in the former Blaze Pizza on Washtenaw sells cakes in a range of flavors from red velvet to snickerdoodle, plus some gluten-free treats, too.

Prepped meals to go from a U-M dental student:  Lina Alyaqoobi tells Dave Algese in this month’s Observer that she wishes she’d had a source of healthy, ready-to-heat food when she was an undergrad living at the Landmark on South University. Now the Iraqi refugee and her American-born husband, Haydir Alabbasi, have opened a branch of Primealete Nutrition right across the street – and live upstairs with their two young children. 

Roromu Samu’s second career: After retiring as a security aide at the Center For Forensic Psychiatry in York Township, the Nigerian-born Samu has opened the African Caribbean Market on Carpenter Rd. Like him, many immigrants have been in America for years and raised families here, he tells Algase in this month's Observer. “But sometimes people do have a taste to eat something from your native country.”


Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark to hold art auction: The Feb. 23 event will feature the sale of more than 20 custom-painted skateboard decks, with proceeds going to support programming at the skate park at Veterans Memorial Park. Admission to the auction, scheduled for 7 to 10 p.m. at Zingerman’s Greyline, 100 N. Ashley St., is free. More information is here.

Former U-M athletic director gives $100K for clean water in Honduras: Bill Martin, the local developer and AD from 2000 to 2010, gave the money to International Samaritan, an Ann Arbor-based charity, to help a community located next to a garbage dump, ClickOnDetroit reports. His gift supports the construction of a 20,000-gallon water tank that will supply clean water to 400 homes when it is completed this summer. To help the project, click here.

Registration open for free February 23 resume-writing workshop: Recruiters from Express Employment Professionals of Ann Arbor will help participants put together a CV via Facebook, Instagram and Zoom. To sign up, click here.

Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

17 Friday:

See U-M drama majors perform “Bonnets: How Ladies of Good Standing are Induced to Murder,” American playwright Jen Silverman’s 2020 absurdist and campy exploration of love and violence. The plot subverts the historic illustrations of well-behaved women, jumping between the 17th and 19th centuries in France, England, and Salem (MA) to tell the story of 3 young women driven to commit murder. Followed at this performance by a discussion with U-M professors and the dramaturgy team. U-M Theatre Department. 8 p.m. Runs Feb. 16–19. Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. $27–$34 here or at the door. (734) 764–2538. 

18 Saturday:

Hear the River Raisin Ragtime Revue, an acclaimed Tecumseh-based 13-piece orchestra, celebrate Black History Month. The program includes Tom Turpin’s 1897 “Harlem Rag” as well as works by Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Michigan-based composers Fred Stone and W.R. McKanlass, and others. 7 p.m., Northside Community Church, 929 Barton Drive. $20 suggested donation here or at the door. (734) 649–7948.  

19 Sunday:

Join Washtenaw Audubon Society member Matthew Spoor on a “Weekend Walk for Birds at Nichols Arboretum,” the county’s top birding hotspot. 9 a.m., meet in the cul-de-sac at the end of Riverview Ct. off Geddes near the east end of Dow Field. Free.

See the Observer’s online calendar for many more local events. 

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