Is building a new Washtenaw County Rec Center on Water Street a good thing for Ypsi?

As you know, there’s been some talk of building a new Washtenaw County recreation complex in downtown Ypsi, on the seemingly cursed parcel of land commonly referred to as Water Street. I wasn’t going to post anything about it, as I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other, but, seeing as how a conversation has broken out in another, almost completely unrelated thread, I thought that I should probably start something here, on the front page.

Here, by way of background, is a clip from a mid-April post on

Washtenaw County officials are beginning to push for a new recreation center to be built on Ypsilanti’s Water Street property. The $8 million to $10 million recreation center could spur Water Street development and serve as the centerpiece in a series of area parks linked by the eastern Washtenaw County Border to Border Trail, its planners say.

Last week, the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission discussed the possibility of building the new 50,000-square-foot recreation facility on a parcel of Water Street along the Huron River.

Officials on all sides underscored that the idea is only being discussed, but Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Director Bob Tetens said all the discussions have been positive and the Parks and Recreation Commission “has given the green light” to begin exploring the possibility.

The 38-acre Water Street site is adjacent to downtown Ypsilanti, off Michigan Avenue. Tetens said a recreation center would need 10 to 12 acres of that property, ideally along the Huron River, which flows into Ford Lake less than a mile downstream. The city recently cleared Water Street of its remaining abandoned buildings and Tetens called the property a “diamond in the rough”…

I should probably add that the conversation that has taken place here on the site so far was instigated by the following exchange between myself and Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber.

MARK: As progress on the Water Street development would change the City’s fortunes considerably, I should probably ask if there have been any developments…

PAUL: Discussions of a county recreation center on about 1/3 of the Water Street property continue, but none have occurred at the city council table. No action will occur in the near future, until commitments are made.

And, here, to give you a flavor for the discourse so far, are a few comments left by readers of this site:

I didn’t know that the proposed county health and fitness facility would take up 1/3 of Water Street. That’s a lot of land for something that wouldn’t contribute a dime in taxes.

Concerning Water Street, the 1/3 land figure was something I heard, but is just one of the many details that need to be decided. Stay tuned.

So, I was wondering why we haven’t heard any more about Washtenaw Parks and Recreation’s plan for a recreation center on Water Street? Isn’t this something we should be talking about, at least? They are talking about BUYING 10 – 12 acres of Water Street and constructing a huge attraction on it, one that could bring jobs and pedestrian traffic downtown, and so much more.

As the mayor points out, we don’t even have a recreation department. We have almost no recreation facilities, and the ones we have, particularly Rutherford Pool, are in need of major repair or total replacement. WCPR wants to build a modern version of the facility on Washtenaw in A2, including indoor and outdoor pools, weight rooms, exercise rooms, and much more, and make the place a hub for the Border to Border trail, which thousands of people use every year. This project would also bring infrastructure to Water Street (roads, water, sewer, power) making the adjoining property much more attractive to developers. I can’t think of anything better we could possibly do to kick-start a revitalization of Water Street, Downtown, and Depot Town, and give us a viable recreation facility.

Yes, there is the tax issue. As county land, that 10 – 12 acres would not be taxable. But guess what, it hasn’t generated tax revenue in 10 years, has absolutely no prospect of generating tax revenue in the foreseeable future, and it’s purchase cost and interest payments are what are draining our cash reserves. What do we have to loose? Not tax revenue, because again, we haven’t gotten any of that from Water Street in 10 years!

I’m challenging council to bring this issue to the public, either in a council session or a town hall. What is being done to make this deal a reality? If members of council are lining up against it, what is their reasoning, and what, exactly, is their better plan, and why didn’t they bring it up sooner?

I don’t see anything on the horizon that can compare to what the county is offering. This project is a chance for Ypsilanti to get a new start for downtown. Why aren’t our leaders talking about it?

The concept of a County recreation facility’s possible location on the Water Street is in the serious discussion stage. The staffs of City and County Parks and Rec are meeting to flush out the details of this possibility. At the moment other than a concept that the City and County Parks and Rec are willing to explore, there isn’t anything more to unveil or discuss. The goal is to have a more detailed plan presented publically to City Council in September that would include issues that are not currently determined, such as the size, location and scope of the proposed facility, the infrastructure needs of the site, and the timing of the construction. When we have more complete information, we will have a real project to discuss.

The fear that some (or all) City Council members are opposed to this project is unfounded and I have spoken to all of them. The City would not have initiated this discussion with the County Parks and Rec if City Council was opposed to the concept. At the moment there are plenty of details to be determined and worked out and then we will have an actual plan to look at to support or oppose. Your attempt here and other places to man the barricades on this issue I sense is a little premature.

The City was able to eliminate Parks and Rec because they rely on the Township programs and facilities without contributing to the funding of those programs and facilities. Having the County fund a Rec Center on Water Street makes it impossible to capture taxes to pay off the existing debt, which was the original plan for Water Street. There won’t be taxes on a County facility that can repay City residents. If the County builds a Rec Center at Water Street they should not have to pay for the land. It’s City owned land and the City stands to reap an economic benefit from its development.

I think the new Rec Facility should be built farther away from the pre-existing facility. It should be put in close proximity to a larger portion of county residents. Putting the new Rec Center in Ypsilanti Township would benefit a greater number of County Residents at a significantly lower cost to the County. Really, how much of Water Street do you want to use for parking for a popular Rec Facility?

“Putting the new Rec Center in Ypsilanti Township would benefit a greater number of County Residents at a significantly lower cost to the County.”

Since you suggest that the City should pay for a county rec center within its borders, I assume that by proposing that the rec center be built in the Township, you would like the Townwship to foot the bill? Did the Township pay for the county’s Rolling Hills Park and Water Park?

As for the City relying on Township Parks & Rec “without contributing to the funding of those programs and facilities”, that’s just a lie. The Township charges a higher non-resident rate for most uses.

I’m not sure about Rolling Hills but the land may have been donated. The Whitaker Road library was built on land donated by the Township and 75% of the cost of the building was paid by the Township. I don’t think the City should be able to have the County pay for the land on which they build a Rec Center. It’s not the county’s obligation to bail out city residents for the mistakes made by former elected officials. I think the land for the new Rec Center is in the Township Master Plan and available to the County at no charge.

The Township charges $10 more for classes to city residents than township residents, but class fees pay only a small portion of total costs. The Township has a large staff and significant costs for recreation and parks.

1. I’ve spent a bit of time researching and, as best as I can discern from County records and media accounts, Rolling Hills was purchased with millage funds and some supplemental matching Federal grants.

2. I read the Ypsi Township master plan and the only reference to a rec center I found was a nondescript thought of having the Township fund their own rec center with a Township millage. Please direct me to your source if I’m wrong.

3. Following that, you said: “It should be put in close proximity to a larger portion of county residents. Putting the new Rec Center in Ypsilanti Township would benefit a greater number of County Residents.” The Township is rather large with winding boundaries. Can you tell me/us where in the Township you foresee a Rec Center being more accessible to “a greater number of County residents.” Can I assume it would be accessible by bus?

4. This gets personal. My kid has, I admit, enrolled in activities at Township facilities. I assumed this was welcome because: A) The Township routinely mails a catalog of programs to my home. B) Half the kids in the class where not from the Township, which seems to make it unlikely my kids class would be viable without the participation of folks from surrounding communities (specifically, in my limited experience, Ypsilanti city, Superior Township, Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor Township and Ann Arbor city).

5. If we are sucking off your tax dollars, I apologize. We selected the Ypsi Twp programs because they were close to our home and a large number of our kids friends were in the program. Oddly, these friends live outside of Ypsi City but went to Ypsi City schools…

6. Perhaps you’re right. We should trace every dollar and make sure everyone outside of a border pays their full share. Maybe Ypsi should charge Township residents a fee for the Heritage Fest, Elvis Fest, Orphan Car Show… Better yet, maybe we should charge admittance to all the folks east of Prospect who go to Prospect Park or walk to the bus stop or use our sidewalks.

Maybe what we need to make our region great is fiefdoms.

I don’t have the right to judge since I live in Superior Township which has almost no parks of its own, but our family likes to ride our bikes to parks and playgrounds. I can’t say our experience is normal but we aren’t going to Ypsi Twp again. We rode to Loonfeather? first time. The only other people there was a guy getting a blow job in a pickup from what I presume was a hooker. Not a conversation I was ready to have with the kids. Then we tried a ride to the Ford Lake park. A bunch of guys with sticks and a pit bull “fishing” for turtles. Needless to say we did not feel welcome as we went by. In both cases we could not find anyone at the booth or who seemed to be working. We called the county sheriff and they said they would send someone by but we didn’t wait. Seemed like a free for all. Really disturbing use of public space. I’ve gone back alone to see if our experience was normal and each time it seemed like the parks were there for prostitution. I would not want to go back let alone take my family. I hope people in the township care enough to do something about this for their sake not ours. We are done with it. More important things to care about!

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  1. Bob Krzewinski
    Posted June 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t people use their real names when making comments? What are they afraid of? Accountability for their statements?

    Bob Krzewinski

  2. Bob
    Posted June 22, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I would think that no person in their right mind would want to associate themselves with that piece of property. It just seems doomed, like the house in Poltergeist. I’m a big believer in parks projects in general, but kind of amazed that there isn’t a better use in Ypsilanti for ten million bucks these days.

  3. Glen S.
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I think the City of Ypsilanti is under-served in terms of recreation/fitness opportunities, and I’d love to see the County invest more of its recreation resources here.

    That said, to me the idea of putting a large new recreation center (and corresponding parking lot, etc.) on Water Street — which potentially is still a desirable property with a large slice of river frontage and immediately adjacent to downtown — seems a strange idea.

    Again, I like the idea of a building new County Recreation facility in the City of Ypsilanti — but why not consider putting it someplace like the Waterworks Park (which, for those who are unfamiliar, is a large, but little-used piece of parkland/floodplain accessible from Spring Street, directly on the other side of the Huron River from the Water Street property.)

    If this were possible, I think it would have several advantages:

    — It would allow Ypsilanti preserve opportunities for the Water Street property to be used for other, future (hopefully tax-generating) purposes, such as residential/retail — more appropriate for a riverfront site so close to downtown.

    — It would greatly improve Waterworks Park — one of the least-used (and most poorly-maintained) pieces of public land in Ypsilanti.

    — It would still fit nicely into larger plans to continue developing the Border-to-Border trail/Huron River corridor into a hub for recreation and community connection.

    — It would potentially *increase* interest in developing the existing Water Street property — particularly for residential purposes.

  4. Glen S.
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    One other thought …

    If the County is serious about investing more of its recreation budget in Ypsilanti, what is the possibility of them taking over — or at least sharing in — the operation of Recreation Park, and in particular, Rutherford Pool?

    Maybe this is a crazy idea, but why not consider turning Recreation Park into the County’s smallest (and possibly first truly “urban”) County Park?

  5. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    love the idea…the other facility is a long drive down Washtenaw. Who wants to add an hour of travel to their work outs? It would not take up all the space and other options would still be available….whatever they might be. And it would be easily accessible to all eastsiders, township and city.

  6. Edward
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    It seems a bit excessive to use one-third of Water Street for this, but, as others have mentioned, it’s not like we’ve got many options at this point. And I’d much rather have a recreation center than a Burger King.

  7. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    How long are we going to wait for this developer-savior to swoop in and save us from the financial drain of Water Street? Ten more years? Twenty? Oh wait, we’ll be under and EFM long before then, and that will be brought on by the money we owe on Water Street.

    Is it really so crazy to sell this property to the county, pay down part of the debt, get a huge new attraction to bring people into downtown, roads, sewer, water and power run onto Water Street on the county’s dime, and did I mention the County will buy the property and pay all the expenses?!

    Glen, handing over the city parks isn’t a terrible idea, but why would the county want to take ownership of facilities that would need to be torn down and started over, when they could build from scratch, and oh, yea, put something in our now half empty downtown to make it attractive? Having the county in Recreation Park or Rutherford pool does nothing for downtown. Having roads and utilities on Water Street sure seems like it would help to attract future development on that property as well, not to mention a Recreation center is a pretty attractive neighbor. And I don’t think the parking lot at the Washtenaw Rec center is all that large, why would this one be?

    Besides the obvious benefits of infrastructure creation and debt pay down, we need this to bring people into downtown, and give businesses a reason to locate here.

    Call me crazy, stupid, pessimistic, whatever you want, but we’ve been playing the waiting game for 10 years on Water Street. News Flash: We are loosing, badly. This opportunity is better than any we are likely to see from commercial interests for a long, long time. Are we really dumb enough to pass it up?

  8. Dirtgrain
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Is Burger King still in the plans?

    Oh, and I don’t use my name because I don’t want my students to know my political and religious views.

  9. Carole Clare
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I agree with Andrew .

  10. EOS
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    The county may spend the money to build a rec center on the vacant land, but when you add the thought that they would have to pay for the land that it is built on, then you will have serious issues with county wide taxpayers.

  11. Glen S.
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    @ Andy

    In a sense, having the County buy part of the Water Street property might be good, since we could use the proceeds to pay off part of the bond, but remember — once this becomes “County” land, it will be off the tax rolls forever — eliminating any possible opportunity (however remote) to develop it in ways that might generate a longer-lasting and more dependable revenue stream.

    In a City where so much of our land is already off the tax rolls, might it be better to consider building this new (tax-exempt) facility on land that is already off the tax rolls — not to mention little-used by the public it is supposed to benefit?

    I agree that prospects for developing the Water Street property seem remote — especially right now — but I’d hate to see us trade any potential long-term (taxable residential and/or commercial) development that augments our downtown for such a short term benefit (a one-time sale price).

    And, again, I think having the Water Street property within walking distance of a new, state-of-the art recreation facility — as well as within walking distance of downtown — would likely only increase development interest Water Street.

  12. Mr. X
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    EOS, thank you for sharing what the County’s wide taxpayers think.

  13. Mr. X
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    As for the land being proposed for this purpose, would I be correct in assuming it would be the 1/3 of the parcel farthest from Downtown?

  14. Posted June 23, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I’ve got an idea! How about a minor league ballpark!

  15. Steve Swan
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    It looks like I’m going to have to take a break from my new video project, Backyard Breeders, and head down to Loonfeather Park.

  16. cmadler
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Mr. X: You would be absolutely wrong.

    “Tetens said a recreation center would need 10 to 12 acres of that property, ideally along the Huron River, which flows into Ford Lake less than a mile downstream. “

  17. cmadler
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Sorry, I posted that last comment faster than I could really think it out; since the river describes the west and south borders of the property, and downtown is nearest the northwest corner, it’s possible they could be looking at the southeast corner, or the southern portion, for this.

  18. Posted June 23, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Oh man. I have no idea if this is the best thing for the city or not but I do know that this could be just about the best thing to possibly happen on that site for *me*. I have a membership to the A2 Y but if I could also walk to a facility for evening and weekend swimming, I would be just that much more healthy. So I am all for this. On the water street site because I live just a few blocks away.

  19. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Glen, I fully appreciate the tax issues within Ypsilanti. However, if we do nothing on Water Streer, we’re looking at an EFM by 2015-16 at the latest. That’s a hell of a gamble. I think we’ve waited and hoped long enough. Its time, beyond time, to take action.

    And I’m not sure of location on Water Street, i just want to see it at the back of the property, with a road and utilities just waiting for a developer to tap in.

  20. Glen S.
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    @ Andy

    In all seriousness, if this Rec Center idea becomes a tangible possibility, it might pose a classic dilemma: Is it worth risking the potential of many years (or even decades) worth of tax revenue (however remote or far-off that possibility might be) for a one-time infusion of cash that only buys us one, or perhaps two, more years of solvency?

    I don’t know if there’s necessarily a “right” answer … but at this point, I’m only trying to suggest other alternatives.

    I do think it worth saying, however, that *if* Ypsilanti ever gets to the point of insolvency, the Water Street debt will be only one cause among many — including a decades-long policy of outsourcing and de-industrialization, Michigan’s utterly broken system of funding local governments and schools, the Wall Street-engineered housing bubble, and America’s now seemingly-permanent war economy.

  21. EOS
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    The value of the land is a small fraction of what the city owes on the bonds. I agree with Glen’s long term vision. The City needs a bigger tax base.

  22. Dirtgrain
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m wondering if such a center might attract developers/businesses to the rest of the property. Canton has an upscale neighborhood centered around the Summit, a recreation center, although the location isn’t very comparable.

  23. Josh
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    i’d be glad to see something like this on water street. what else are we waiting for? it’s not like the remaining 2/3 of the land is being vied for by all manner of beneficial businesses.

  24. Pete Murdock
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    @ Glen

    Waterworks Park is as you stated in the flood plain and it does flood. In addition the property to the south, the former site of the City Water Treatment Plant, is a maze of underground water pipes, as it is still the distribution hub for the City’s water supply. These issues make this site virtually unbuildable. But a properly located recreation center on the Water Street property could take advantage of the close proximity of Waterworks Park for some outside recreation areas, i.e. soccer or baseball fields. A bridge already connects the Water Street site to Waterworks Park and is part of the border to border trail plan.

    But as I posted previously, we are far from having anything more than a concept and still need to flush out many of the areas discussed here, including the scope of the recreation center, size, location, infrastructure needs, and time frame.

  25. Rolling Eyes
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Glen, it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where this doesn’t increase the value of the remaining land, both in terms of sale and long term tax value. Proximity to rec opportunities increases taxable value. Not only would this make the land more appealing for mixed use residential, it would be a draw for commercial development where businesses could offer there employees the benefits of proximity to a rec center (many businesses buy employees memberships at the Romulus Rec Center, for example).

    EOS, how many countywide tax payers have had an issue with the county purchasing land for Rolling Hills or any of the numerous other parks and open spaces? Unless by countywide, you mean you or are anticipating some future development in the corn fields around Rolling Hills?

  26. Candace
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    how does getting the city tax payers off the hook for a HUGE bond payment not equal someone paying tax on the property. come on now. we need something there. this is an excellent idea. and I, for one, am extremely thankful for any idea that is helpful to the community and will lighten the city’s budget. this is a big one. imagine – we could hire some more police/fire or – crazy idea – lower the property tax rate in this city so it’s more attractive to people buying homes.

  27. EOS
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    If a rec facility is built at Water Street, the city will have to provide services (snow removal, trash, fire, etc.) but won’t be able to collect taxes. Building county facilities means a tax paying business won’t be able to locate there and contribute to the city’s general fund.

    The county already owns Rolling Hills and has a master plan for that site that includes a community recreation facility. There’s plenty of room for parking. Ann Arbor has the Y and the Murray Center as well as numerous U of M facilities. Eastern has a large rec facility and WCC recently built an expansive structure. Saline has a large rec complex. The need for recreation facilities in the county is in the outlying areas.

    The only reason the county is even discussing putting a rec facility at Water Street is because the downtown now has a large empty lot which no businesses are interested in. The business climate is bad and the tax rate is substantially higher than numerous empty lots a half mile down the road. The city will run out of funds by 2015-16. Donate the land and the county may build a structure on it, but don’t expect the rest of the county to add to their tax burden for the sole reason of reducing city debt.

    The county has its own budget crisis at the present time. Now is not the time to transfer funds to reduce city debt, especially when the county already owns numerous parcels that could be developed for recreation facilities if and when the economy improves. Can you provide a source that shows the county purchased the land for Rolling Hills? I know there was a millage to develop the land and build the water park and toboggan runs, but can’t find info on how the county obtained the land. And yes, there will be subdivisions built in the cornfields around Rolling Hills – probably much sooner than Water Street is developed for mixed use residential.

  28. Rolling Eyes
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    EOS, you’ve demonstrated time and again that you have zero interest in the City’s well being beyond how it impacts your own narrow interests. I do thank you for all your feigned concern about our finances in as much as it reveals the value of the investment.

    Wouldn’t the Township also be on the hook for “services (snow removal, trash, fire, etc.)” if it was added to Rolling Hills? So nice of you to uncharacteristically offer to take on that burden for us. Can’t you admit, you simply want this at Rolling Hills for your benefit, City be damned?

    Here’s one source. If you don’t accept it, please offer a link to refute:
    LAWCON grants followed to aid purchase and development of
    Rolling Hills Park.”

    The County challenges have nothing to do with parks which is a dedicated millage. The County parks millage, which was overwhelmingly supported by County voters reads:


    Did you vote for it?

  29. EOS
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Truth is I don’t think building exercise facilities is an essential service of county government. I would advocate spending limited funds on police and fire protection and other essentials. There are real needs in our county. Those who want to use a gym can get a membership at Vic Tanny’s or Powerhouse or use a multitude of other facilities. AA YMCA offers programs for low income individuals. The need for a Water Street facility is driven by the city’s financial crisis and not a real need for recreation. However, since you pointed out that the county parks and rec millage was overwhelmingly supported by voters, and if the majority are determined to build exercise facilities with tax dollars, then I would advocate that they be built as cost effectively as possible. Building on pre-owned land rather than paying a premium price for a contaminated brownfield is a cost saving consideration.

    I saw your link to County history previously and was disappointed by the lack of information about Rolling Hills acquisition. What was the purchase price and from whom did they buy it? Was it purchased for $1 from the township or the state? I’m still looking for a link to accurate information.

  30. Rolling Eyes
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    “Truth is I don’t think building exercise facilities is an essential service of county government. ”

    That’s fair. It passed by a large margin, but it’s a fair objection.

    “Was it purchased for $1 from the township or the state? I’m still looking for a link to accurate information.”

    I, likewise, have only found variations of the same. However, I recklessly assume that if it was purchased for $1 it wouldn’t have required matching grants.

  31. Watching Laughing.
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Make the whole area, a Historic District and then nothing will happen.
    All building, businesses etc will go elsewhere.

    Watching Laughing.

  32. Emma
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    As a Ward 1 resident, current member of the Fitness Canter at Washtenaw Community College and former member of the Meri Lou Murray Rec Center I would love to see a rec center built on the Water Street Property. The ones at WCC and MLM have horrible hours (closing at 6pm some days???) and are packed regularly. Sometimes you have to wait in line for a shower. The pools are over crowded. I’ve not gone to work out more than once because I knew it was a peak usage time and would be a difficult experience.
    A new place open 24/7 with a lap pool would be very welcome.
    The tax problem could become a non issue if the city could tack a surcharge onto the membership fees somehow. $5/member/month to the city maybe? I have no idea how much tax revenue that area would generate but with only 500 members $5/month would end up being $30k which is much more than nothing…

  33. Emma
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Also, I go to Waterworks Park on a regular basis and there are many other people there recreating…

  34. Posted June 24, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    We are already paying for county parks and recreation (2 mils). There will be no need for additional funding. The county is going to build a new facility on the east side of the county, it is only a question of where.
    I think the minor league ball park should go on the grounds of the old electric wheel plant across the street from the corner brewery, be more traditional that way.

  35. teaspout
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to second Lynne’s comment:

    “I have no idea if this is the best thing for the city or not but I do know that this could be just about the best thing to possibly happen on that site for *me*. . . . So I am all for this. On the water street site because I live just a few blocks away.”

    I have been actively searching for a nearby gym that works with my commute and hectic schedule for some time. I recently signed up for the new Anytime Fitness opening soon on the North side of A2, but would love to exercise locally.

    I have investigated other fitness options, such as EMU, WCC, Planet Fitness and the current Rec Ctr on Washtenaw but have had to rule them out for different reasons including hours, parking, and distance from work and home. This would be such a wonderful fit, in contrast.

    I also think this would be a perfect fit for Water Street as a first project. I attended the Council meeting where BK was turned down and part of the reason given was that it wasn’t the best inaugural project for the site. This would be a great signature project that might attract other businesses.

  36. Posted June 24, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to agree that, given our current situation, this is probably the best we can hope for. I would, however, encourage our elected officials to make sure that the development, if things go forward, doesn’t expand beyond 1/3 of the total parcel, and avoids the areas that would be of most interest to future developers.

  37. Meta
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink


    Ypsilanti City Council members say they would prefer a proposed Water Street recreation center be more compact and on a different parcel.

    Council also told City Planner Teresa Gillotti they would like to receive some compensation for the land and want the county to contribute financially to developing infrastructure. Gillotti is meeting with Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission officials to discuss the project on Wednesday.

    The $10 million to $15 million development proposed by the commission would occupy up to 12 acres on the property’s northwest corner. Michigan Avenue and the Huron River would border the property to the north and west.

    Preliminary drawings presented to council on Oct. 11 called for a parcel about 400 feet from east to west and 1,200 feet from north to south. A small park and greenspace wrapping around a two-story, 65,000-square-foot building would sit on the site’s north quarter closest to downtown. The building would be set back from the road about 40 feet.

    A 250-space parking lot would occupy the quarter of the property directly south of the building. A trailhead to the Border to Border tail would be further south, and plans called for a park, some playground equipment and more green space on the southern end of the site where the river bends to the east.

    Council members said they would like to see the project built on the property’s east side or interior if the commission insists on a 12-acre development that includes a large parking lot, park space and green space.

    “To me it just doesn’t fit on the west end with the downtown feel,” council member Lois Richardson said, but she added that she preferred having greenspace around the building.

    Several other council members said they would like to see a more “urban” building if the center must go in the northwest corner. Council discussed a four to six acre footprint and eliminating of the extraneous park and greenspace.

    Council Member Brian Robb said he would like to see a building like the Boll Family YMCA in downtown Detroit, which is a multi-story complex directly on the corner of an intersection.

    “I think that is the holy grail of what this development should look like,” he said. Robb also said he imagined the property’s development moving from west to east because the northwest parcels are closest to downtown and the most desirable. Council Member Dan Vogt agreed that the building should be on the property’s east side because of the west side’s proximity to downtown, though he was open to where on the east side it went.


  38. Meta
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Could the project move to the Township?

    County Commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr. sent to a message to the Ypsilanti City Council at Tuesday night’s Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees meeting: Approve the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission’s proposed Water Street Recreation Center plan, or we’re moving to the township.

  39. Brian Robb by proxy
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I don’t know if it’s ethical, but here’s what Brian had to say about this on Facebook today.

    Last night Pete and I went to the County Board of Commissioners meeting. We were able to speak to both Mr. Tetons and Commissioner Smith. They both assured us WCPARC wants a rec center on Water Street and has no plans to stop working with us and focus elsewhere.

  40. Meta
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Ypsi City Council agreed to move the project forward.

  41. Edward
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    It looks like construction has been pushed back to 2015. The following is from

    When council last discussed the proposed rec center at its Jan. 11 meeting, it approved a letter of intent moving forward with plans that included completing construction by the middle of 2014.

    The new timeline now has construction beginning in early 2015.

    The commission is proposing a $10 million to $15 million recreation center on the Water Street site, which has so far failed to attract any development. Its supporters say it would attract new development, but the issue is complicated because the center wouldn’t be on the city’s tax rolls.

    Ypsilanti is facing $31 million in Water Street debt and will make annual payments that will grow to $1.3 million through 2031. It is asking voters to approve a debt retirement millage to help pay off that debt on May 8.

    Bonds will finance a portion of the project, but Vaughn said the commission’s bond council recommended against bonding beyond the life of the county’s current recreation millage.

    The commission’s 10-year millage expires in 2014. That leaves a construction start date estimated for 2015, if voters approve renewing the millage.

    The city is donating or will sell the property for a nominal amount, and several City Council members expressed disappointment over the delay.

    “I was under the impression when they started talking about this project that they already had the money and that wasn’t a problem, but now it seems they have to bond for some money,” Council Member Pete Murdock said. “But if that’s what they got to do, than that’s what they got to do.”

    The commission is also creating five committees to start working on infrastructure and environment; site planning and architecture; funding and the Border to Border Trail and greenway space. It also is establishing a steering committee.

    “We are moving forward on a number of fronts,” Vaughn said.

    Mayor Paul Schreiber said the committees need to ensure that all their work is done so the project can move forward in accordance with the new schedule.

    “A big part of that is finance and that’s the committee that I’m on, so I’ll be working to make sure that the financing is there,” he said.

    The sticking point between council and the commission thus far has been the site plan and architecture. Council Members have wanted the center built on the Water Street’s eastside, while commission officials are insisting on the property’s northwest parcel. It’s closest to downtown Ypsilanti and lies where the Huron River and Michigan Ave. intersect.

    Council Members have also wanted a project with a smaller footprint and a more compact, “urban” design.

    Those details still must be worked out and City Council will have to approve the plans.

  42. Rem Koolhaas
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I urge the council and commissioners to invite local and regional (hell, even national) architects, architecture professors, and architecture students to submit design proposals that the residents of Ypsilanti could rank by vote. If we’re giving the county that lovely site for free, and are going to be paying for it out of our pockets for the next several years, we have the right to at least expect a thing of beauty and cutting-edge sustainability.

  43. kjc
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    now i can’t get in shape till 2015.

    (great idea Rem)

  44. Meta
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    The Ann Arbor Chronicle covered a meeting of the Washtenaw County Parks and Rec Commission last week. Much of it pertained to the proposed recreation center at Water Street. The following pertains to the design of the center.

    By way of background, the site for a proposed new county recreation center is in downtown Ypsilanti, on the south side of Michigan Avenue with the Huron River flowing along the west side of the site. The center would be located on city-owned property in the Water Street redevelopment project. The project was first officially pitched to the Ypsilanti city council last fall. [See Chronicle coverage: “Ypsi Council To Be Briefed on Rec Center.”] The county currently operates the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center, which opened in 1991 at the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Platt Road on Ann Arbor’s east side.

    At the WCPARC’s April 10 meeting, Craig Borum – a professor of architecture and director of the University of Michigan master of architecture program – provided commissioners with an overview of the project. He began by introducing two assistant professors of architecture and urban planning who would be involved with the project: Maria Arquero and Jen Maigret.

    The faculty will work with a team of six students: four in the master of architecture program, one in the master of urban planning program, and one in a joint program of urban planning and natural resources and the environment. WCPARC president Bob Marans, a UM professor emeritus of architecture, spoke of the value of the multi-disciplinary approach this team would take.

    Borum underlined the complexity of the student project, which is compounded by its tight timeframe: they must finish by the end of December. The UM Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning is helping to fund the project by paying all the students to work through the summer, he said, and for one of them to continue through December. Other faculty would also participate, he added, including experts in business, real estate, and landscape architecture.

    Borum used slides from a design project for a school in Trenton, N.J., to illustrate the principles of their process. He described those principles as a “transparent relationship between data analysis and our qualitative design process”; an emphasis on “visualization and communication through two- and three-dimensional representation techniques”; and an “emphasis on multiple expertise and an interdisciplinary team.” He showed slides of the models for the Trenton school project, including one model that was seven feet long, which included images of people using the spaces. The presentation, he said, was designed to show those who would use the school what it would be like for students to move through the spaces during a typical day.

    The whole point, Borum said, is to “communicate the ideas and intentions behind the design, to build complex relationships that are meaningful.” They hope to do similar visualizations and models for the project in Ypsilanti. He also showed examples of their work in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood, which they began by a careful analysis of land use, including vacant land.

    Borum provided a schedule and timeline for the rec center project:

    May: Site analysis, including geographic information systems (GIS) assessment of soil groups, location of the water table, the planned location for the county’s Border-to-Border Trail, and an examination of historic aerial photos.
    June: The team will work on programming aspects: indoor and outdoor recreation, community and educational uses, parking, user capacity and more as they discover it.
    July: Community involvement, with scheduled public meetings and presentations, including ones with current stakeholders such as the Ann Arbor YMCA and potential stakeholders such as Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College.
    Aug.-Sept.: Outreach will continue with publications and exhibits.
    Sept.-Dec.: Conceptual plans will be reviewed, revised and finalized, aiming for completion by the end of December.

    The total cost for Borum’s team will be $40,000. WCPARC will cover $10,000 and the Taubman College will pitch in $15,000. The final $15,000 may come from a pending grant application to the University of Michigan’s vice president for research.

    Bob Tetens, WCPARC director, told commissioners that deputy director Coy Vaughn would later describe the working groups he was putting together. Vaughn said that Cathi Duchon, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor YMCA, had recently worked on a similarly complex plan and site, and that WCPARC would apply the lessons learned from that project – the working groups would serve as a sounding board. There will be monthly reports to the WCPARC, Vaughn said, and perhaps quarterly reports to the Ypsilanti city council.

  45. Busy Dying
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    “July: Community involvement, with scheduled public meetings and presentations, including ones with current stakeholders such as the Ann Arbor YMCA and potential stakeholders such as Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College.”

    What the fuck does that mean?

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