July 29, 2021

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This week

The pandemic is back in the news, with new cases going up as the Delta variant moves quickly into neighborhoods with lower vaccination rates. The health department is moving quickly as well, dispatching mobile clinics to make vaccination in those neighborhoods as convenient as possible. 

Development is also speeding ahead, with a new hotel set to rise next to the Delonis Center. And keeping with the theme of speed, Wolverine swimmer Maggie MacNeil wins gold for Canada, and high-speed internet will come to parts of Pittsfield and Ypsilanti thanks to a federal grant.  

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

Roseate Spoonbill sighted in Saline in the marsh on Bemis road ¼ mile east of Old Creek, over a thousand miles from its native habitat in coastal Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. Spoonbills are typically year-round residents but will migrate short distances in response to changes in food and water levels. Photo taken July 24, 2021 courtesy of Mike Carlson.

The News...Briefly

As of yesterday, the county health department reported twenty-three new confirmed cases of Covid-19, three hospitalizations, and no deaths in the previous twenty-four hours. The positivity rate, below 1% for more than a month, is back up to 1.8%. 

”We are definitely worried about the impact of the virus on unvaccinated people,” emails Washtenaw County Health Department spokesperson Susan Ringler-Cerniglia. With the Delta variant spreading and the state’s vaccine lottery fizzling, the health department is building its ground game, dispatching a mobile RV clinic to neighborhoods with low vaccination rates. The Observer’s John Hilton has our story.  

A five-story hotel is approved for downtown. Iowa-based Hawkeye Hotels will build the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott next door to the Delonis Center homeless shelter at Huron and First. A Spanish-style former gas station and two houses will be razed for the 92-room hotel, which will accommodate business guests with separate work and sleep spaces. MLive

Wolverine swimmer Maggie MacNeil wins Olympic gold for Canada. The two-time Big Ten Swimmer of the Year finished the 100-meter butterfly final in 55.59 seconds, beating China’s Zhang Yufei by a mere 0.05 seconds. MacNeil is Michigan’s second woman swimmer to win gold in an individual event: Gunny Duenke did it in 1964’s 400-meter freestyle. MacNeil also won silver in the 4x100 freestyle relay earlier in the week. MLive

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell announces $2.4 million in federal funding and $600,000 in local funding to expand access to Ann Arbor’s broadband infrastructure. Ann Arbor SPARK will oversee construction of twenty miles of underground fiber optic cable to provide parts of Pittsfield Township, downtown Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township with affordable, high speed internet. Ann Arbor SPARK

Former fire chief accused of embezzlement pleads to a lesser charge. According to a Michigan State Police investigation, Chuck Hubbard diverted money from the Ann Arbor Police and Fire Benefit fund, which assists the families of deceased public safety officers. His attorney described it as an honest mistake. MLive 

Voters will be asked to consider changing how city contracts are awarded. The November ballot will include a question to amend the city charter relating to “best value purchasing.” Currently, contracts to private companies for city projects are awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder.” The union-backed proposal will allow the city to consider factors such as experience, values, and skill over price when awarding contracts. Michigan Daily

The city expands its online license registration portal “STREAM” to include short-term rentals. Beginning July 31, owners of short-term rental spaces such as Airbnb can upload documents, submit payment, and download licenses from the portal. Each rental unit must be registered separately each year. 

Ann Arbor turns 200 in 2024, and the AADL is already celebrating with plans to launch 200 creative pieces that illuminate all aspects of Tree Town’s history in different media, ranging from the written word to spoken word and from illustration to animation. Some will be created by library staff, some will be commissioned, and some will emerge through partnerships with local organizations. Read more here and send suggestions to

An off-leash gathering at Burns Park revealed a neighborhood—and a city—divided. Paul Ward and his wife, Laura Lamps, were walking their corgi in Burns Park when two dogs came running toward them from an off-leash gathering. "Neither of us are afraid of dogs," Lamps said. "It's just when they're running at you full speed, it's very scary." Ward’s post about the “attack” on the social media site Nextdoor garnered more than 300 responses—many of them vitriolic. The Observer’s Julie Halpert has our story.  

Ann Arbor Art Center receives a matching grant to expand public art downtown. AAAC follows the success of last year’s A2AC Murals project with another crowdfunding campaign. When the campaign reached its $50,000 goal, a pair of local art enthusiasts stepped in with a challenge grant to match the value of additional donations dollar for dollar. The campaign ends Friday.

Detroit Circus performs this evening at Palmer Commons during Chelsea's Sounds and Sights festival.  Photo courtesy of Spilt Sugar photography. 

Marketplace Changes

The Bar at 327 Braun Court reinvents itself with a classic. The indie, low profile craft cocktail bar managed to squeak by during the darkest days of the pandemic with the help of carryout cocktails and Napolitano-style sourdough pizza. According to a press release, the pizza’s proved so popular that rather than focus on getting back inside their space, they are keeping service on the patio and take out, and using their resources to buy a bigger oven

Six years ago, Seattle native Christopher Thomle moved to Ann Arbor, lured by the thrifting scene, particularly the vintage T-shirts. Thomle’s addiction grew, and his collection was soon at 4,000 T-shirts, prompting him to open up shop on eBay, and now a brick-and-mortar store, UniQue T-Shirts. The Observer’s Micheline Maynard has our story.

Max Sussman operates the Pizza Replicator pop-up that appears regularly at Roos Roast and the Ann Arbor Distilling Company. Max and his brother Eli also own Samesa, a chef-casual Middle Eastern restaurant with two locations in New York City. "With the pandemic, a lot of people reassessed their priorities," says Sussman, a U-M grad who returned to Ann Arbor with his family after cheffing in New York. Now Eli runs Samesa from New York, while Max cranks out about seventy-five pizzas a night at the Pizza Replicator. The Observer’s Micheline Maynard has our story.

The Washtenaw County Conservation District will hold its annual Fall Tree and Native Plant sale, which includes six conifer tree varieties, sixteen native potted plants, and four native plant garden kits. Pre-orders are on sale online August 2-September 18, and you can pick up your plants October 1, anytime between 1-6 p.m. at Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, 5055 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd. 

Things to Do

By Ella Bourland

29 Thursday: See concurrent musical entertainment on seven stages in downtown Chelsea’s “Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights” (through August 12). Also, children's activities, a "How to Chalk" series with local street artists, a juried sculpture walk, and food vendors. Tonight: Detroit pop-soul singer-songwriter Jacob Sigman, the local New Orleans blues & roots band Mo' Easy, the Southeast Michigan/Northwest Ohio bluegrass-Americana quintet Fossil Creek Band, the Dexter blues-rock band Brian Brickley & the Martindales, the punk-rockabilly Elvis tribute band The Devil Elvis Show, and electric acoustic folk trio Ellis & M.E. Also, a performance by Detroit Circus, a circus sideshow troupe featuring stilt walkers, acrobats, aerialists, hand balancers, fire balancers, fire artists, contortionists, jugglers, and more. 6:30-8:30 p.m., downtown Chelsea. Free. 474-9178.

30 Friday: Catch an outdoor show with Monty Python-style sketch & musical comedy by the local troupe Mind the Gap Lux, led by Adrian Diffey. Refreshments available beginning at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7:30-9:30 p.m., Briar Meadow Ct. Saline. (In case of rain, the show may adjourn to an adjacent pole barn.) Free; space limited, reservations required via (specify # of seats needed).

31 Saturday: Participate in “VoM Con,” a day of livestreamed family-friendly activities to celebrate Vault of Midnight's 25th anniversary. With trivia, drawing with local artists, and a cosplay contest, where kids (1-2 p.m.) and adults (4-5 p.m.) dress in costume as their favorite anime, manga, or videogame character and compete with other cosplayers before a panel of judges. Also, panel discussions with storeowners Curtis Sullivan and Steve Fodale (noon-1 p.m.) on the highlights of their years in business, and comic book writers David Walker & Kenny Porter, colorist Joel Bartlett, and Alvarium Studios owner Steve Wygmans (3-4 p.m.) on their work in the comic industry. For complete schedule, see Noon-7 p.m., online at,, and (search "Vault of Midnight"). Free. 998-1413.

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

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