Water Street Commons thriving in the real world, taking root online

Now that the first snow has fallen, I’ve been spending a little less of my free time tending to plants, picking up trash and helping build things on the Water Street Commons, and a little more time on my laptop, catching up on all the little Commons-related things I’ve been putting off since we first gathered together and started planting seeds earlier this spring. Most notably, I finally set up a Facebook page, which, by the way, I’d like you all to join. Going forward, it will be the primary way we communicate with the broader community concerning what’s happening on the site, etc… Here, from Facebook, is a little background on the new page, how it will be managed, and what we’re hoping to accomplish with it.


I hope to post a more comprehensive update about the Water Street Commons in the not too distant future. In the meantime, though, I just want to share one anecdote… The Saturday before last, I was able to spend about four hours on the site. Between putting native plants in the ground with U-M Natural Resources PhD student Ben Connor Barrie, and talking art with local sculptor Casey Dixon, who, by the way, is in the process of developing a new piece for our community sculpture garden, I was able to spend a good deal of time just wandering around the former industrial site in downtown Ypsi, and thinking about what it’s come to mean to several of us in the community. In the time that I was at the Commons that morning, I talked to over half a dozen people who had come by to see what was happening. I met two men walking small dogs. They said they’d lived nearby for 13 years, but had never before walked through Water Street. They said they’d heard that things were happening, and had wanted to see for themselves. (Judging from our conversation, I’d say they liked what they saw.) I met a young man who had come to eat his lunch on the site, reading a book borrowed from our newly-constructed, tiny library. I met an EMU art professor, who had come out to show his significant other a piece that he’d recently constructed. (We had a great discussion on the necessity of interactive public spaces.) And, while I was picking up garbage at the front of the property, I met a number of people walking down the sidewalk, who just stopped to chat about what we were doing on the site. (They seemed both supportive and appreciative.) And, of course, I saw my friend Jason, who, along with the U-M students that he teaches, has become a regular feature on the site. (One of his students, by the way, is building a hay bale and cement bench at the crest of the hill separating the native prairie from the sculpture garden.) I hesitate to use the word magical, but I’m not sure what other word to use when describing what’s happening on this little Water Street plot. It’s just been an incredible thing to have been a part of, and I can’t express how thankful I am to the City for having taken down the fencing around the former brownfield, and allowed it all to unfold.

I’ve written often here in the past about about Ypsi’s old Frieghthouse, and the fact that, in large part, I moved back here from the west coast because of it. It was an incredibly special place. I felt a sense of comradery and inclusion there, around the pot belly stove, watching kids of all kinds dance as older folks played music, that I haven’t felt in Ypsilanti since… That is, until people started coming together to bring the Water Street Commons to life… Thank you to all of you who have played a role. Thanks to you, I have never been so optimistic about the future of Ypsilanti.


[And, remember, if you haven’t already, please “like” the the Water Street Commons page on Facebook.]

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  1. JJ
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    The final picture reminds me of the end of the movie The Lorax where they’re running around trying to find a place to plant the last tuffeta tree seed.

  2. Sue
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I hope it continues to grow. Reading about how people keep setting fire to the Heidelberg Project, though, I wonder if it’s possible for good things to exist in this world.


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