I came to Ann Arbor in 1994 and, like so many first-year students, my first neighborhood was Northside. However, being a freshman meant my experience was limited to Bursley Hall, the bus stop, and Northside Liquor. As far as I knew there wasn’t a lot more to Northside back then, outside of the Wendy’s, which was all the way across Plymouth Rd., and thus too far to tread.
My relationship with Northside remained that way for the next fifteen years. As I moved around Ann Arbor, Northside was a neighborhood you drove through on your way to Kroger or the highway; or even biked through if you were taking the border-to-
border trail to Argo.
That changed in 2010 when I moved in with my partner Natalie in her quaint little 1940s house on a tree-lined street off Pontiac Tr. Now an honest-to-goodness adult, I quickly learned about the advantages of our “drive-through” neighborhood.
Kerrytown is less than a twenty-minute walk from our house, with downtown only a few minutes more. As someone who likes to walk instead of exercise, I also familiarized myself with the boardwalk along Barton Dr., which provides entry to Bandemer Park, as well as the Argo Nature area across the river. Natalie’s daughters introduced me to the Leslie Science and Nature Center (which in turn introduced me to all of our local birds of prey).
Still, back in 2010 Northside was a little sleepy. Most news stories about our neighborhood involved accidents on M–14 near the Barton Dr. on-ramp. That started to change in 2012 when the Argo Cascades opened. Suddenly we had an honest-to-
goodness attraction that people were even coming from out of town to visit! Maybe Northside was waiting on my return to really ramp up the development?
Causation or correlation aside, new apartments opened on Plymouth Rd a few years later, some bringing with them space for new restaurants as well as encouraging new tenants in the Courtyard Shops. Legalized marijuana brought dispensaries, and Northside was on its way to becoming a destination.
During the pandemic, my exercise routine (walking around) led me north, where I discovered you could walk through paths from tiny park to tiny park, all the way to the One (the new student housing development near Pontiac Tr. and Dhu Varren). Northside was expanding north with new townhomes and other family housing projects as well.
At the other end of our neighborhood, Beekman on Broadway is replacing a brownfield mess that has long been a blight for everyone passing through, and we’re promised construction should start soon on the old DTE site at 841 Broadway St., potentially turning another stagnant area into another destination. Named Broadway Park West, it aims to revitalize the riverfront with a hotel, residential units, and river access.
Northside has always been a great neighborhood. It’s always had amenities that made it a nice place to live and raise a family. Now it’s growing up and adding great places to eat, shop, and recreate too.
Someday soon maybe even the abandoned Wendy’s that was too far to walk to when I was eighteen will get a new tenant, and the secret will really be out. It’s too much to say that Northside and I grew up together, but perhaps we’re finally really coming into our own.