January 19, 2023

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

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of writing “2023” when I sign things, which is a small win.

On campus, Jim Harbaugh confirmed he’ll stick around another year, a co-offensive coordinator for the football team was suspended pending an investigation, and the graduate student workers’ union rallied for a big wage increase. The newly seated school board had trouble electing a president, city council annexed land for a subdivision and bought conservation easements to expand the greenbelt, and an exhibition of eco-art opened at the 777 Building. Ypsilanti filled a vacancy on city council, Scio heard ideas for a prominent industrial property, and Pittsfield Township created a new historic district around a 180-year-old farmhouse.

In retail and restaurant news, Taystee’s Burgers opened a location last Friday, salad restaurant Sweetgreen will open on S. State next week, and an Asian-style market is planned to open in Lowertown this spring.

Dayton Hare, editor

Potter J.T. Abernathy "always had apprentices," his wife Teri Adams says. "Sometimes they walked through the front door and said, ‘What’s goin’ on?’ and just didn’t go away. Sometimes a teacher would send them.” Photo courtesy J.T. Abernathy.

The News...Briefly

The county’s Covid-19 snapshot reports 534 cases in the two weeks ending yesterday, down sharply from 687 last week. There are 74 cases per 100,000 residents, down from last week’s 110.7. The test positivity rate is 8.7 percent, down from 10.7 last week. The CDC community level is “medium,” and will update at 8 p.m. tonight. 

Police are seeking a suspect in an early Monday shooting at the Creekside Townhouses, MLive reports. No one was injured when an unknown man fired two shots at the front window of an apartment before fleeing in a black Jeep Compass or Grand Cherokee. Police believe the apartment was targeted, and are asking for help identifying the shooter; call Det. Robin Lee at (734) 794-6930, extension 49328, or email.

Michigan football co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss was placed on paid leave while U-M police investigate alleged computer crimes, the Detroit News reports. Investigators searched Weiss’s home on Jan. 10, and are looking into a “report of computer access crimes” that allegedly occurred at the football team offices last month.

Jim Harbaugh’s flirtation with the NFL is done, at least for this year, the Detroit Free Press reports. U-M president Santa Ono announced Monday that the head football coach would be returning; sources say the deal includes a contract extension with a pay raise and bigger buyout if Harbaugh leaves early. The announcement came a week after Harbaugh interviewed with the Denver Broncos about their vacant head coach position.

City council voted to annex two properties for a proposed north-side housing development, MLive reports. The Village of Ann Arbor would add more than 600 homes and apartments on the last large developable parcel in the city limits. A $31 million brownfield tax credit will reimburse the developer for environmental cleanup and other improvements to the site, which includes a former unregulated landfill. 

Business incubator Michigan Innovation Headquarters has ideas for the former ProQuest/UMI site on N. Zeeb, MLive reports. MI-HQ wants to clean and renovate the facility’s interior in hopes of transforming it into a campus for technology companies, and is asking Scio Township for tax incentives to undertake the estimated $12–15 million project. In 2019, MAVD proposed a mixed-use development for the site that faced significant pushback from nearby residents.  

Ann Arbor and Webster Township are adding nearly fifty acres to the greenbelt, MLive reports. The $400,000 price tag for conservation easements on two farm properties northwest of the city will be split between Ann Arbor, the township, federal grants, and landowner donations. 

Last week the Byrd Center became the county’s newest local historic district, MLive reports. The 180-year-old farmhouse overlooking Lohr Rd. is named for David Byrd, a “renaissance man” and civil rights advocate who restored the building in the ‘70s. Last month, the farmhouse was purchased by the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County, an organization that David Byrd’s widow, Letitia, helped to found in 1993.

How did a humble potter’s studio behind Sava’s metamorphose into a five-story apartment building? Jan Schlain recounts the history of J.T. Abernathy’s workshop in the January Observer, from the 100-year-old artist’s upbringing in Oklahoma, to the studio’s 1956 founding, to its replacement by the workforce-oriented midrise apartments–the “Little Brother” to  developer Howard Frehsee’s nineteen-story “Big Brother” student high-rise going up on Washington.

TheRide will get $7 million in federal funds to help expand the Ypsilanti transit center, according to a press release. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell requested the funds as part of the FY2023 omnibus appropriations package, and the money will take a hefty chunk out of the estimated $18–20 million price tag for the project scheduled to begin construction in 2026. 

Ann Arbor-based May Mobility plans to remove safety drivers from its autonomous cars and expand to new cities this year, the Detroit News reports (paywalled). In contrast to many AV companies, May focuses on contracting with governments and operating in smaller geo-fenced areas, including a downtown Ann Arbor loop. 

W. Summit St. closed Monday between Main and Wildt/Hiscock for utility work, MLive reports. Traffic is being detoured via Main, Miller, and Spring; the closure is expected to end Feb. 6. 

The Graduate Employees’ Organization rallied for wage increases outside the Michigan Union, the Michigan Daily reports. GEO wants $38,500 annually for its members, a 57 percent increase from the current $24,500 grad student worker salary. A U-M spokesperson countered that for “roughly eight months of part-time work… [the current pay scale is] equivalent to a wage of roughly $35 per hour.”

The Ann Arbor School Board elected Jacinda Townsend Gides as president, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive), after an arduous fifteen rounds of voting. Newcomers Townsend Gides, Rima Mohammad, and Susan Ward Schmidt join reelected trustee Susan Baskett and incumbents Krystle DuPre, Jeff Gaynor, and Ernesto Querijero on the seven-member board.

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Leslie Science and Nature Center named Susan Westhoff as their new executive director, according to a press release. Westhoff headed the science center before its merger with the museum, and was COO of the combined entity.

For the second time in a year, Ypsi city council chose Evan Sweet to fill a vacancy, MLive reports. The former chair of Ypsi’s parks and rec commission, Sweet last year filled a seat left open by Anthony Morgan’s resignation. Now, he’ll take over for Annie Somerville, who was elected to the county board of commissioners in November. 

Superior Township farmers Tonya and Rich Lockwood are on the cutting edge of farm-to-bottle distilling, Cynthia Furlong Reynolds reports in the January Observer. The U-M grads, who opened Motor City Gas distillery in Royal Oak in 2010, have developed a line of single-barrel whiskeys made with their own organic grains.

A new art installation drawing attention to plastic waste opened Tuesday, Julie Halpert reports in the January Observer. The “Plastic Bag Store” at the 777 Building is the brainchild of artist Robin Frohardt, who constructed a grocery store and its inventory using nothing but discarded single-use plastics–a pointed commentary on our culture of consumption and convenience. Tickets ($30, students $12) are available here

WEMU reports that Ann Arborites are getting a little better at recycling, according to the results of the city’s “Feet on the Street” study. Since the program began notifying residents of recycling faux-pas last summer, Ann Arbor has seen a 20 percent reduction in recycling contaminants. As James Leonard reported last June, no-nos include “tanglers” like hoses and plastic bags that jam the machinery at the Materials Recovery Facility. 

Police and firefighters rescued a dog from the icy waters of the Huron Tuesday, MLive reports. The dog, a Labrador mix named Frankie, fell through thin ice after chasing a swan at Gallup Park. Rescuers were able to clear a path through the ice for Frankie to return to shore, and warmed him up in a police cruiser. 

Aficionados of civil rights history and LEGOs alike can take joy in a new MLK LEGO mural at the AADL, MLive reports. Creator Aaron Liepman, an EMU biology professor, constructed the mural to draw people of all ages into the message and legacy of Dr. King. The artwork depicts the civil rights leader arm in arm with fellow activists during the historic 1965 Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

Kat Ramaut’s retail experience and enthusiasm for marketing helped her land Buff City’s top job as an outside hire. Soaps and other self-care items are made in-house without the use of animal products. Photo: J. Adrian Wylie.

Marketplace Changes

Sweetgreen opens on State St. Tuesday. The salad restaurant offers a variety of salads and warm bowls. For every meal sold on opening day the restaurant will donate a meal to Food Gatherers, according to a company email. 

Taystee’s Burgers opened at Ann Arbor–Saline Rd. and Eisenhower Pkwy. on Friday, MLive reports. The primarily takeout-oriented joint serves entirely halal food, with an emphasis on specialty burgers, and is the chain’s third location, after stores in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights.

Vegan soap-maker Buff City Soap has been going strong in Pittsfield, Dave Algase reports in the January Observer. The store has kept up a lively business in laundry soaps, custom soaps, and more since their August opening. At three to five “bath bomb parties” a week, people can learn to make their own colorful concoctions and take them home to try out.

Plate Sushi & Chicken owners Jane and Esther Kim will open an Asian-style market this spring, MLive reports. They’ll partner with chef Donghoon Jang at Orange Market in the burgeoning Beekman on Broadway complex. 

The farm on Warren Rd., once used for organic vegetables, lay fallow for a decade before Tonya and Rich Lockwood bought it at the start of the pandemic. They’ve just harvested their third crop, a heritage corn called Otto File prized for its bright orange kernels and rich flavor. Photo: Mark Bialek.


The Ann Arbor Community Academy is back again this year, the city announced. Adult community members have until Feb. 17 to sign up to have a close-up view of how local government works through events teaching about the roles of the city administrator, police and fire departments, housing commission, and many more.

Tickets for United Way’s annual Power of the Purse fundraiser are on sale. POP funds grants to local groups that focus on women’s issues, and the March 8 event will celebrate the organization’s Woman of the Year: Argus Farm Stop co-owner Kathy Sample.

Tickets for the Ann Arbor Arts Center’s annual Artini fundraiser go on sale for the general public tomorrow, ClickOnDetroit reports. This year’s event has been revamped to include food and drink pairings that participants enjoy while taking tours of four different artists’ studios. Tickets are $60 apiece, and participants must be at least twenty-one years old.

Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

19 Thursday: Hear a talk by painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and installation artist Titus Kaphar, best known for layering social commentary in his portraits of American Founding Fathers. His Flay (James Madison) is the centerpiece of the ongoing UMMA exhibit Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism. U-M School of Art & Design Penny Stamps Speaker Series, 5:30 p.m., Michigan Theater. Free. 936–0671. 

20 Friday: Hear Brittany Cavallaro & Mackenzi Lee discuss their new young adult books. Cavallaro’s Manifest, the sequel to her bestselling 2021 Muse, tells the story of a scheming girl determined to be the spark of revolution. In The Nobleman's Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks, the third and final installment of Lee’s popular Montague Siblings series, a young 19th-century English nobleman seeks his lost siblings on the high seas. 6:30 p.m., Literati, 124 E. Washington. Free. 585–5567. 

21 Saturday: See a special Lunar New Year Planetarium Show on the Chinese lunisolar calendar, Chinese star mythology, and the achievements of the Chinese government’s Chang’e missions to the moon to set up a semi-permanent robotic research facility. Jan. 21 & 28 and Feb. 4. 10:30 a.m., U-M Museum of Natural History, 1105 North University. Tickets $8. Limited capacity. Mask required. 764–0478. 

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

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