February 24, 2022

Can you guess what is pictured in the photo above? Click the image for the answer and more.

This morning my thoughts have been with the Ukrainian people as they face Russia’s invasion. A few hours ago my sister’s boyfriend showed us a video taken by a friend of his in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, as he took refuge in a bomb shelter. We can only hope that it doesn’t spiral into a broader conflict.

This week in Ann Arbor saw construction news, as the U-M approved plans for new North Campus housing, a high-rise began its ascent on South U, the city sought bids for fire station renovations, and Ypsi considered a new affordable development. Meanwhile, the university took community input on its presidential search and suspended basketball coach Juwan Howard after he took a swing at an opposing coach.

In marketplace news, Bar Louie is being replaced by a taco restaurant, Bel-Mark Lanes by a Tesla service center, and Grizzly Peak reversed the removal of cheese curds from their menu. At the same time, food pop ups are navigating a tricky spot after Cultivate’s closure, but many are pulling through with the help of Ann Arbor businesses.

Dayton Hare, editor

The Hilltop View apartments in Dexter are set to welcome their first tenants. The development will serve veterans and families struggling with housing insecurity. Credit: Avalon Housing. 

The News...Briefly

Washtenaw County reported eighty-seven cases of Covid-19, one hospitalization, and one death in the 24 hours ending today at 10 a.m., a moderate decline from last week. The weekly test positivity rate slid to 6 percent, just a bit below the statewide rate of 7.7 percent.

U-M’s regents have approved plans for new dorms on North Campus, the Detroit News reports. The $190 million project will replace the Northwood III townhouses with three new residence halls, more than doubling capacity to 1,200 students. Opening is slated for Fall 2024.

U-M basketball coach Juwan Howard has been suspended for the rest of the season after he took a swipe at a Wisconsin coach last Sunday, the Michigan Daily reports. Howard has also been fined $40,000 and appeared to be contrite in an apology issued Monday evening. The incident made national news and drew unwelcome attention to U-M’s athletic program.

A caged, emaciated dog was found frozen in an Ypsilanti field last Sunday, the Detroit Free Press reports. Investigators described the dog as ​​a young, black pitbull mix with a small white stripe on his chest. The Humane Society of Huron Valley is seeking tips for investigators at 734-661-3512, and offering a $500 reward for information leading to the prosecution of the responsible party.

Construction of a 13-story high-rise began this week on South U, MLive reports. Though geared toward students, fourteen of the 127 apartments will be affordable for those earning up to 80 percent of the area median income. Almost the entire 1100 block was demolished to make room—only the popular student spot Good Time Charley’s remains. After a two-year Covid delay, construction is scheduled to finish July 2024.

The Planning Commission approved new plans for a development in Research Park, MLive reports. Sartorius Bioanalytical Instruments wants to consolidate four existing locations and more than double employment, to 292.

The city is seeking bids for a $1.1 million renovation of the downtown fire station, MLive reports, one of the first under the city’s new best-value contracting process. The proposed renovation would include a secure storage room and processing facility for absentee ballots, as well as space for the city’s fire prevention bureau and fire inspectors. They will move from the former Station 2 on E. Stadium, which is being targeted for affordable housing.

U-M regents hosted their first community feedback session on the presidential search process this week, the Daily reports. While geared toward faculty, the session included input from students and alumni as well. Participants stressed the importance of finding someone with strong morals and a willingness to listen to the community. Others emphasized the need for someone with a firm commitment to the university’s ambitious carbon neutrality goals.

Ypsi is considering a $25 million tax break for a 304-unit affordable housing development, the Eastern Echo reports. Santa Monica-based developer Lincoln Avenue Capital says it needs the relief to keep the 154 family units and 150 senior units affordable—most to people earning 60 percent of the area median income, and 10 percent to people earning 40 percent of the median.

In Dexter, a once-controversial affordable housing project will soon welcome its first tenants, MLive reports. A collaboration between Avalon Housing and Faith in Action, the 24-unit Hilltop View Apartments will serve veterans and families who have struggled with housing insecurity. In 2020, Dexter voters narrowly passed a charter amendment requiring any future sales of public land to be voted upon—but once it was approved, Faith in Action executive director Sheri Montoye said, “People showed up in droves to support the project.”

John Mears' Lucha Puerco found a new venue at Side Biscuit thanks to owner Jordan Balduf (right). Other Ann Arbor businesses also welcomed pop ups displaced by the closure of Cultivate Coffee in Ypsilanti. Credit: J. Adrian Wylie.

Marketplace Changes

When Cultivate Coffee closed last month over permit issues, food pop ups that used it as a venue were left out in the cold. But Micki Maynard reports in the March Observer that Ann Arbor businesses York, HOMES, and Side Biscuit all stepped up to lend them space.

Bar Louie’s old spot on Liberty is being taken by Condado Tacos, ClickOnDetroit reports. The Columbus-based chain’s newest store will open a week from today, and the first 100 visitors will get a free taco every week for a year. The menu includes tacos, tequilas, chips, margaritas, and more.

Grizzly Peak reopened after renovations late last month, but not without a little hullabaloo. As Maynard reports, patrons expressed dismay to find cheese curds absent from the new menu, and a “Kim Curdashian” launched an online petition demanding their return. The goal was met within days, and “Curdashian” posted that the curds would "return to our menu" — a turn of phrase that presumably unmasks the petitioner as a Grizzly Peak employee.

Bel-Mark Lanes is closing in April and its site will become a Tesla service center, Maynard reports. The bowling alley has been in business since the ‘70s, but last month its owner/manager Marc Smoltz announced online that it was in its last season. He told MLive that the alley will hold a celebration for its customers before it closes in April.

Things to Do

by Jennifer Taylor

24 Thursday: Don’t throw out that flickering lamp or wobbling chair! Repair it with some help from the crew at All Hands Active’s “Repairsday Thursday.” Drop in with your broken electronics, furniture, toys, and any other odd item for AHA members to try to repair and offer advice. Repairs are not guaranteed, but you’re guaranteed to feel better than if you had just thrown that object in the trash. Livestream available at MeetUp.com/AllHandsActive/events. 6–8 p.m., All Hands Active, basement of 255 E. Liberty, ste. 225. Free; donations welcome. info@AllHandsActive.org.

25 Friday: Get out into the beautiful night woods with a “Night Hike” hosted by Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation. Take the self-guided hike along about 1 mile of lantern-lit trail through the winter woods, then relax by the campfire with s’mores and hot cocoa at the park’s Beach Center Pavilion. Dog walkers welcome. 7–9 p.m. (check in at the Beach Center Pavilion by 8 p.m.), Independence Lake County Park, 3200 Jennings, Whitmore Lake. $5 per household (up to 4 people), plus $6 vehicle entry fee. Preregistration required at parksonline.ewashtenaw.org. Registration # IL431310.

26 Saturday: Hear some funny, tragic, quirky stories as an Ann Arbor favorite returns with the 35th Annual Storytelling Festival at the Ark, hosted by Chelsea-based writer and playwright Steve Daut, whose storytelling style draws on his experience as a magician and comic. Performances by six top local and regional storytellers include three additional Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild veterans: Lorelle Otis, who’s known for her stories about fascinating people and comical situations; Jane Fink, a retired psychotherapist whose stories aim for a moment of real connection with listeners; and Rich Swanson, a retired corporate lawyer and Moth storyteller who draws on the humor of everyday life. Also, Barbara Schutzgruber from the Lansing Storytellers, known for her rich voice and flawless pacing, and Shani Womack from the Detroit Association of Black Storytellers, who loves to share her own family stories as well as Jamaican folktales and songs. 7:30–11 p.m., The Ark, 316 S. Main. Tickets $20 (reserved seating, $27) in advance at the Michigan Union Ticket Office & theark.org, and at the door. To charge by phone, call 763-TKTS. Mask and proof of vaccination required. Also available as a virtual concert on the Ark’s Facebook Live page and YouTube channel for free (donations encouraged).

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

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