March 24, 2022

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

I hope those of you who observe it had a lovely Oberon day, which, by the way, is now official. My friends and I celebrated with a trip to Ashley’s trivia night, where the trivia gods smiled upon us and we somehow managed to walk away the victors of both rounds.

This week construction began on new luxury student apartments on Main, a bike lane extension was proposed on Division, and the mayor floated a redesign of the city flag. A settlement was reached with the Arbor Hills Landfill and a man who shot a child took a plea deal. On campus, U-M’s regents are voting on the next provost and hockey players and gymnasts took home Big Ten titles.

Dayton Hare, editor

In a few years' time the corner of Main and Madison will be home to a nineteen-apartment luxury development geared towards students. Photo: Dayton Hare.

The News...Briefly

Washtenaw County reported forty-eight lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19, fifteen probable cases, one hospitalization, and no deaths in the 24 hours ending yesterday at 10 a.m., a single case shy of being the exact same as a week ago. The weekly test positivity rate is 3.5 percent, a point below the statewide rate of 4.7 percent.

Omicron subvariant BA.2 is here. “The state (MDHHS) reported detections late last week in 21 counties, including Washtenaw,” emails the county health department’s Susan Ringler Cerniglia. (Though neither regular or diagnostic tests can tell the difference, samples routinely go to MDHHS for closer analysis.) “While current levels are low, there are good reasons to expect and prepare for future increases or surges,” she adds, so ”right now is a great time to make sure you have at-home test kits and well-fitted masks available and know how to access treatment if you test positive.”

Making room for everyone has long been one of the city’s challenges. Last year, the Observer’s Julie Halpert talked to families exiled from Ann Arbor by spiraling home prices. This month, she traces more than fifty years of public and private efforts to create subsidized housing for the elderly, the poor, and the homeless. A future article will look at how the city plans to tap its 2020 affordable housing millage to construct as many as 1,500 new units.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, construction began on a five-story luxury student apartment building on the corner of Main and Madison where Happy’s Pizza burned down in 2014, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). It will have nineteen apartments with fifty-six beds, renting for $1,400-1,800 per bed, and 1,700 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The city has reduced its vision for a new train station in hopes of getting the Feds on board, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). After the Federal Railroad Administration rebuffed the initial $171 price tag for a station on Fuller Road, Ann Arbor responded last month by dramatically scaling back the proposed parking at the site, which would significantly reduce expenses.

The city has proposed extending the bike lane on Division all the way to Hoover Ave, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). The two-way, protected bike lane was built in 2021 and currently extends from Kingsley to Packard. The city is seeking public input on the proposed change.

Plans for a downtown central park may soon shift into the design stage, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). In 2018, voters amended the city charter to reserve the space atop the underground Library Lane parking structure for a park, killing plans to sell the air rights for a high-rise building. An advisory body has been reviewing proposals, and some hope to finish construction by the city’s bicentennial in 2024. City staff and council members stress, however, that the project is not yet funded and is still far from being a reality.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is celebrating its 60th anniversary this week, Concentrate reports. This year’s festival, which runs through Sunday at the Michigan Theater, concentrates on historically omitted groups of artists, including women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ filmmakers.

Arbor Hills Landfill and state regulators have reached a settlement over emissions violations, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). The company, which serves Ann Arbor and admits no liability, will pay a six-figure fine, install emissions monitors around the site in Salem Township, and create a free hazardous-waste collection site. Neighbors have complained about odors from the landfill for years.

The prosecutor’s office has reached a plea deal with a man accused of shooting a six-year-old last year, MLive reports. The man offered no contest to two charges that carry fifteen-year and two-year sentences, respectively. Prosecutor Eli Savit said that the decision was made in accordance with the victim’s family’s desire to avoid the uncertainty of a trial.

The U-M Board of Regents will vote today on the appointment of a new provost, the Michigan Daily reports. Last week, interim president Mary Sue Coleman gave the nod for the university’s top academic position to School of Dentistry dean Laurie K. McCauley. The current provost, Susan M. Collins, will leave this summer to become president of the Boston branch of the Federal Reserve.

U-M men’s hockey and women’s gymnastics both won Big Ten Championships this week, the Daily reports. The hockey team’s victory in the tournament is their first since 2016; the gymnasts took home their twenty-sixth crown with the historic score of 198.200. Meanwhile, the women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the second year in a row, one of only three Big Ten teams to do so.

Mayor Christopher Taylor wants a new city flag, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive), and has tasked the Public Art Commission and the city clerk’s office with selecting a new design in 2022. He got the idea from the 99% Invisible podcast, and cites Chicago’s flag as an example of a standout city flag.

Veteran activist Alan Haber campaigned for a park atop the Library Lane underground parking structure. Last summer, he held a used-book sale there in to raise money to develop it. Photo: John Hilton.

Marketplace Changes

The pop-up Queer Comics Peddler now has a steady spot at Bridge Community Café in Ypsi, MLive reports. The shop, started in 2018, focuses on comics created by LGBTQ+ artists or production teams with LGBTQ+ members and hopes to introduce readers of all stripes to queer narratives.

The west-side Songbird Cafe location has reopened after a several month hiatus, Micki Maynard reports for the Observer. Owner Jenny Song closed it last June amid staffing difficulties, but vowed it was only temporary. She proved as good as her word, and now both the west-side and original Plymouth Rd. locations are up and running.


Stand With Trans and mental health professionals are offering free therapy to trans/non-binary youths in the county, funded by a grant from United Way. Patients must be 13-24 years old and Washtenaw residents.

The College of Pharmacy is offering Safe Medication Disposal on Tuesday. The annual event collects old, unused, and expired medications in an environmentally safe way at sites on the medical campus and Ingalls Mall.

Food Gatherers and Michigan Medicine are hosting a food and toiletry drive for neighbors in need starting on Saturday. Through April 10, donors can drop off non-perishable food items and toiletries at Dock 90 of U-M’s North Campus Research Complex, off Huron, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or donate money online.

The nonprofit Black Men Read is expanding partnerships in Ypsi, Concentrate reports. The group, which started in 2016, pairs African American men with children in the community for reading events. BMR also has a subscription box service to help fund its operations.

Ask a2view

Q. Reader Barron Evans asks about the future of the Standard, the high-profile French restaurant on Jackson Rd. that opened in 2018 and closed in 2020.

A. We weren’t able to find out about the building–it shares ownership with Wickfield Properties, but messages there were not returned. If you’re looking for the Standard’s last chef, Allie Lyttle, though, you can find her in Brighton, where she recently opened an “elevated grab and go,” LaLa’s To Go.

Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

25 Friday: Discover something new at the Washtenaw Audubon Society’s Woodcock Walk. Club member Ray Stocking leads a walk in Barton Nature Area in hopes of witnessing the birds’ singular courting flights. 7:30–8:30 p.m., meet at the parking lot along Huron River Drive north of Bird Road. Free.

26 Saturday: Play (or watch) video games for a good cause by joining the thirty-six-hour “Gamers for Giving 2022,” an online video game marathon to benefit Gamers Outreach, a charity that creates portable video game carts for kids at children’s hospitals. Mar. 26 & 27. 10 a.m. Sat.–10 p.m. Sun. $20–$160 (spectators, free).

27 Sunday: Eat some tamales for another good cause at Pilar’s Foundation Tamale Sale. Proceeds benefit the Afghan Refugee Families support program of Jewish Family Services of Ann Arbor. Meals include tamales, curtido (cabbage slaw), casamiento (black beans and rice), and tamales sauce. Order online and zip by for a drive-through pickup 3-6 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church, 1501 W. Liberty St.

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

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