March 4, 2021

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This week

The vaccine rollout is gathering steam, thanks in part to the arrival of the single dose from Johnson & Johnson. Construction season gears up, and public input is needed on improvements proposed for downtown. With that, an enormous new apartment complex in a once obscure neighborhood moves forward, causing some to question the pace and direction of Ann Arbor's development. 

All of my children's grandparents have now been vaccinated, and the mood of my household has brightened. With ample sunshine and the first flowers of spring staging appearances in scattered backyards, I feel hopeful that better days are upon us.

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

Covid-19 Updates

On Wednesday morning, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported forty-six new infections, three hospitalizations, and one death in the previous twenty-four hours. The weekly positivity rate continues to drop and is now 1.8 percent

The promised increase in vaccine doses to the health department is beginning to materialize, with 5,600 received this week. As of Tuesday, the county’s vaccine dashboard reported that 47.5 percent of seniors, and 20.1 percent of all residents, had received at least one dose. Statewide, the vast majority of long-term care residents have received second shots, and facilities may permit visits from people who have tested negative for Covid-19.  

Michigan expects to receive 82,700 doses of the newly approved single-shot Covid-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson this week, as part of the state's largest weekly influx of vaccines—but U-M chief health officer Preeti Malani cautions that it will be “a relatively small bolus that will come to our region,” adding that it may be prioritized for people who have difficulty getting back for a second dose. Detroit News

Bridge Magazine reports that “people 50 and over with an underlying health condition or disability could get a COVID vaccine starting Monday — and anyone over 50 beginning March 22.” Governor Whitmer also announced that beginning tomorrow, restaurants, bars, retail locations, and indoor entertainment venues (up to 600 people) can expand to 50 percent capacity, and can stay open until 11 p.m. 

Did Covid-19 crowd out the flu? Mirroring reports around the world, the feared double punch of Covid and the seasonal flu never happened here: halfway through the annual flu season, neither Michigan Medicine or the St. Joseph Mercy Health System has seen a single lab-documented case. The Observer’s Jan Schlain has our story.

The News...briefly

A quiet subdivision that time forgot is the latest battlefield over the city’s growth. Valhalla Drive’s seven homeowners reached an agreement with PEFT Development LLC in 2018. The next year, the company unveiled its plan for a 454-unit, $100 million apartment complex. Because of the site’s remoteness, it hardly caused a stir until now. The Observer’s Julie Halpert has our story. 

City council unanimously approved the site plan and development agreement for a three-story apartment building on S. Main St. that will provide six six-bedroom student apartments. The building will include sustainable features like rooftop solar and EV charging stations. Mlive 

Theft of catalytic converters, used to clean automobile exhaust of pollutants, jumped 76 percent in Ann Arbor last year. The precious metals they contain make them both expensive and highly sought after; replacement can cost more than $5,000. Tighter emission standards in China are driving black-market demand. The Observer’s Micheline Maynard has our story. 

The Downtown Development Authority wants your input on upcoming road and infrastructure projects including improvements to State St. and a bikeway on Division from Packard to Catherine. Click here to complete the survey; see the new projects page of the People-Friendly Streets, featuring Zoom workshops between March 9–11.

The Island Drive bridge over Traver Creek is closed for repairs through April 30. Work includes replacing barrier railings, repairing cast-in-place concrete channel lining, installing two storm sewer inlets, and more. Click on Detroit

Two companies are expanding in Ann Arbor. Energy storage provider Navitas Systems will recruit 111 positions for a new facility in Scio Township. Mortgage lender Homepoint will add 155 area jobs. Funding for the projects is supported with $7.1 million from the Michigan Strategic Fund. Click On Detroit 

Foul play is suspected in the death of 41-year-old Luis Geovanny Rivera-Estrada, who was discovered in a burning vehicle on Clark and Leforge roads in Superior Township on Friday. Anyone with information related to this incident please contact Detective Mike Babycz at or submit a tip anonymously to (734) 973-7711.

National survey of college students found record levels of depression last semester. U-M’s Healthy Minds Study is an annual web-based survey looking at mental health and service utilization among college students. University Record

The U-M men’s basketball team lost spectacularly to Illinois last night, putting its second-place ranking in doubt as they face unranked MSU tonight. Click On Detroit. U-M’s women’s basketball, currently ranked twelfth, faces eighth-place Maryland today. 

Snowdrops on March 4, 2021, in Ann Arbor. Courtesy of Caron-Valentine Marsh. 

Marketplace Changes

LaLa’s will partner with Miss Kim to offer carryout brunch on Saturdays and Sundays through March and April. Lala’s regular service is temporarily suspended because of Covid. Instagram

Need a potent burst of pure delight? Hit Bon Bon Bon in the Nickel’s Arcade for everything the creative chocolate lover could possibly want. Each bon bon is a tiny work of art, designed to make you laugh and sigh with pleasure as you down flavors like Strawberry Balsamic, Killer Cereal, and Salty Sap. Bon Bon Bon

How did a former corporate exec end up running a west-side hangout? Mary Jean Raab’s Uncle Doug asked her. The Observer’s Eve Silberman has the story in our March Ann Arborite profile. 

Play On

Rom-com short Bride+1 starring local filmmaker Christina Morales Hemenway. Reeling from a recent breakup, a thirty-nine year-old never-married woman sends out “save the date” cards to lure in prospective grooms. Hemenway wrote, directed, and stars in the film she dedicates to her mother, who she lost to cancer during filming. Bride+1

Who Needs Ya?

Local sports pros including Sklar Bros and Jeffry Ross will take turns roasting John U Bacon for the benefit of the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, which recently reopened on a limited basis. On Zoom, Saturday 8:30 pm. Click here for tickets. 

The Rotary Club Fights Summer Hunger Spring Food Drive runs all month, with a goal to provide 150,000 meals. Donors can double their impact through a matching grant from the Harold and Kay Peplau Family Fund. Donate online or in person at Food Gatherers Warehouse,1 Carrot Way, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–4:45 p.m.

Prepare a scrumptious meal via Zoom with chef Kieron Hales of Zingerman's Cornman Farms. Half the proceeds will benefit Garrett’s Space, a holistic supportive care provider and planned residence for teens with mental health issues. $150 includes pickup or delivery of ingredients; class only is $90. March 14, 5:30–7:30 p.m. Click here to register. 

Things to Do 

By Ella Bourland

Friday: Listen to Ann Arbor native and Found magazine founder Davy Rothbart discuss his new documentary 17 Blocks (7 p.m.), featuring two decades of footage of a close-knit family living seventeen blocks behind the U.S. Capitol in one of America's most dangerous neighborhoods. The family featured in the film is on hand. Q&A. Free, but preregistration required at the Michigan Theater. 

Saturday: Race a remote-controlled miniature car on an off-road track at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds (racing starts at 10 a.m., and goes until everyone is done). $15 to race (additional entries, $10). Limited number of cars available for rent. Only one guest spectator per racer and masks required. 5055 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd., Saline. Washtenaw RC Speedway

Sunday: See local Americana rock ’n’ roll singer-songwriter Adam Plomaritas perform live covers and originals outside in a backyard (2 p.m.). Bring a blanket or chair and snacks, if you like. Six-feet social distancing and masks required when not seated. Tip jar donations. 143 Payeur Rd.; access from the east side of the house only. Ann Arbor Adventure Club

Watch prerecorded monologues on the theme “Celebration,” directed by Wendy Sielaff (available through all day midnight). With Alisa Mutchler Bauer, Angelica Del Pilar, Christine Homan, Andrew Jentzen, Thom Johnson, Johnny Linn, and Patti Smith. Tickets ($10) and URL online at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. 

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

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