“Why should I move from New York to Ypsi instead of Ann Arbor?”

Earlier today, a reader of this site – a Michigan expatriate living in New York – left the following comment in response to my exit interview with Terri and Meghan Eagen-Torkko. As he’s only received one response thus far, I thought that I’d bump it up here to the front page.

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And here’s the one response he’s received thus far. It comes from former Ypsi City Planner Richard Murphy.

Scott — your concerns are familiar to me, from the half dozen couples I’ve tried to recruit to Ypsi and “lost” to Ann Arbor in the past couple years. “Come to Ypsi!” “But, schools.” End of conversation.

Your set of concerns are valid, but some notes, particularly as somebody who will also have kiddos hitting kindergarten in 4 years:

* Your kid has well-engaged and highly educated parents, and does not suffer from poverty. She’ll do fine in any school district. Really.

* Ypsi schools seem to offer a lot of options–a lot of the schools are specialized in soemthign (the STEM elementary, the IB middle / high school, the Small Learning Communities schools.) I haven’t looked into most of ‘em; maybe current paretns can weigh in.

* “Good” school district is no guarantee it’s a fit for your kid; part of our homebuying consideration was that “buying up” to A2 would guarantee we could never afford an alternative.

* Never underestimate the power of highly motivated parents to do good for their kids (or wreak havoc on the classroom, depending on the persepctive) — I know of a bunch of under-1-year-olds whose parents we’ll be banding with as the time comes.

* We were a 1-car household in Ypsi for 6 years, and for most of that time only really needed the car because C’s job required on-site work. (2nd car acquisition was because both of us ended up with high-Michigan-travel jobs.) With your job setup, you could definitely get away with 1 car, or even the no-car option, using rental (or carshare – we have Hertz 24/7).

* Having a car is obviously more of an issue with kids, especially if you want to take your kid to a non-local school.

* Coworking — the half hour bus ride to Workantile is a little bit of a bummer. I do know a number of people in town interested in coworking, though, so I anticipate Ypsi will end with a site at some point.

So, yeah, none of these are “no problem!” answers. It’s just that, for any A2 house in your price range, a similar house in Ypsi will be about half the price. So there’s that. (And hopefully your math-fu is good enough to understand “tax rate” vs. “tax bill” and dismiss any arguments about taxes making up the difference.)

And, for what they’re worth, here are my somewhat jumbled thoughts… When Linette and I moved back to Michigan from Los Angeles, we chose Ypsi because we felt at home here, and thought that our contributions would be appreciated. I was relatively young, had what I thought were a few good ideas, and wanted to work toward building something positive. And I felt that I had a better chance of doing that here, than in Ann Arbor, where there was more of an established hierarchy. I also liked the heart of Ypsi. I’d spent time here when I was a student at the University of Michigan. I met my wife here. And I connected with the people – many of them who had moved here from my home state of Kentucky during World War II to work in the factories – who used to gather on weekends at the Freighthouse in Depot Town. Most of those folks are gone now, and the Freighthouse is closed for the foreseeable future, but, at the time, it really made an impression on me. It’s hard to articulate, but there was a beauty in the place, and the people. And, when it came time to put down roots, and move closer to our families, we instinctively knew that Ypsi was the place. When I’ve talked about that decision since, I’ve focused on the fact that I perceived Ann Arbor to be calcified and rigid, which is true. In truth, though, it was more that Ypsi had a heart. I liked the feeling of the city. I liked the potential. I liked the sense that everyone was working together toward a goal, even if we didn’t all agree what that goal should be. And I honestly thought that I could live a somewhat purposeful life here. (It also didn’t hurt that it was close enough to Ann Arbor that I could get a job that I liked, and occasionally eat Indian food and see a movie.) I’d never try to convince anyone to move here, as I don’t think that I could take the guilt if they were to take my advice, relocate here, and not like it, but I can tell you that it was the right decision for me and my family. And, judging from the people that I’ve met here since, we’re not alone. A lot of young, interesting families are beginning to see Ypsilanti as a viable alternative. As for schools, I’m not qualified to talk, as my daughter, at least for the time being, goes to school in Ann Arbor. I can tell you, however, that I’ve taken tours of both the Washtenaw International High School and the Washtenaw Middle Academy (the relatively new International Baccalaureate programs in the neighborhood), and I’m very excited about the prospect of her going there when she’s of age. Sure, there are things to be concerned about, but, as Murph said, options exist. And, as for co-working space, I suspect we’ll have a solution for you in the not too distant future… Oh, and if you haven’t already, read my Ypsi Immigration Interview series. You’ll find plenty of people who made the choice to move here, and they’re much more articulate on the subject than I am.

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  1. Posted April 11, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Another response to Scott’s note came in while I was writing my response. It’s from a reader named Jennifer:


    Car-free could be tough, but I don’t actually think it’s much more possible in Ann Arbor, unless you live in very specific places and decide you’ll never go to Target, Lowe’s, or Trader Joe’s (maybe you’ve already decided that).

    Like Murph, I’ve had a one-car, two person family for eleven years. At this point I take the bus to UM (which continues on to downtown) about 95% of the time.

    But if you located yourself in walking distance from the Ypsi Food Co-op, you’d really be pretty set for lots of daily things. Bus service here has gotten better and better, by leaps and bounds.

    At first I missed the part of your post that says you actually have a car, but don’t want to have a driving life. So, all the better.

    My line about Ann Arbor: it would be a lot better if it didn’t think it was so FUCKING great. And, not sure where you live in NYC, but there’s something to the idea that Ypsi is to Ann Arbor what Brooklyn is to Manhattan, except that Ypsi is not annoying nor gentrifying beyond all imagining, and Ann Arbor… well, I know Manhattan, Manhattan is a friend of mine, and Ann Arbor is no Manhattan (I first heard this comparison four years ago, so maybe Brooklyn wasn’t quite so precious then. Ypsi, not precious.)

    We might get connected to Amtrak someday. For now, it’s 20 easy min to the airport.

  2. Posted April 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    I went the other way — I moved from Ypsilanti to Inwood, Manhattan. I absolutely loved living in Ypsilanti for five years. I’ve told a handful of people that while I seriously love living here in NYC, and honestly can’t see myself living anywhere else, if someone told me that tomorrow I’d be living in Ypsilanti the rest of my life I’d be pretty happy with it.

    What Mark said above, “it was more that Ypsi had a heart”, is the very distillation of what I felt. I love Ann Arbor too, there’s a lot of great stuff there, and I never did like this whole Ypsi vs. Ann Arbor thing, but, justly or unjustly, the impression I got from too many people was “Of *course* Ann Arbor is cool” and then a lot of sitting on their laurels (this isn’t universal, of course, but I felt it way more than I should have). Nobody expects anything from Ypsilanti, and people are still awesome anyways and don’t give much of a shit of what you think about their city.

    Honestly, the whole area is a pretty nice place to live. If you do live in Ann Arbor, don’t be afraid to go east of 23 and experience all the wonderful things Ypsilanti has to offer. And conversely, if you do live in Ypsilanti, don’t be afraid to go west of 23 for all the cool things Ann Arbor has to offer (except on football Saturdays. And Art Fair. Then avoid it like the plague).

    Also, if those damn “Cool Cities” banners are still hanging in Ypsilanti, someone tear those fuckers down and burn them. Thanks.

  3. Posted April 11, 2014 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    You’re missed, Thomas.

  4. jcp2
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    If Scott T. chooses Ypsi, then I recommend he rent for a bit. This way, should it not work out for him for whatever reason, he could move without having to worry about selling. The housing market in Ypsi is slower than in Ann Arbor.

  5. Robert Vogt
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    I moved from Ann Arbor to Ypsi when I bought my first house. In general I’ve absolutely loved the area and the lack of pretentiousness, which is getting pretty insufferable on the other side of US-23. I’m in the process of relocating my office from A2 to Ypsi as well. I haven’t had to deal with the schools issue yet as I don’t have children, but I do agree parents are very very important. I’ll have to make a decision at some point but will more than likely be on the west coast anyhow at that point.

  6. Posted April 12, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Rent first.

  7. 734
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    If you want to figure out how close a house you want to buy is to a coffee shop, Ann Arbor’s probably the right place for you. If you want to help start a coffee shop, Ypsi’s probably the right place for you.

  8. Posted April 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    A2 actually has sizeable swaths of neighborhood that aren’t close to much at all. On average, ypsi is “more walkable” than Ann arbor, but perceptions of a2 are skewed by just looking at downtown and the immediately adjacent neighborhoods.

    A friend of mine, looking at moving from Ferndale to a2 recently, commented on how many otherwise attractive neighbors (like burns park) have a surprising lack of walkable amenities.

  9. Bob
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    If you’re single or are in a position to get your kids to a better school every day, Ypsi is great. If you can afford it, Ann Arbor is great. More and more left of the dial people like us are taking a closer look at Saline. Great schools, more affordable houses with a yard you would want your kid to play in, seven minutes from AA and Ypsi. My neighborhood demographic looks a lot different than it did when we moved here. We have great parks that are jizz and shit free from what I can tell. You can still get heroin here too, from what I hear.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Just don’t ask about the heroin epidemic in Saline or the three Saline kids just arrested for murder.

  11. Dan
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Stop with all of this “Ann arbor is too pretentious” nonsense. #1 it reeks of self pity. #2 every single thing that you liars spout off about Ypsi, are happening (and more so) in aa. Stop this little brother mentality. Ypsi will never compete with aa. Ann Arbor has like 120k residents. Ypsi has less than 20k. Accept who you are. Why does aa’s profile affect you in any way?

  12. anonymous
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    If you move to Ann Arbor, Scott, you can live around people like Dan.

  13. Taco Farts
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    I was going to suggest that Scott not move to Michigan at all, unless he is a misogynist bigoted homophobe who hates the environment.

    But I know that’s not helping, and I know we have to have good people here to effect change.

    So I guess my next question is, did you stop using Firefox when you learned about Brendan Eich? Then, I get to say don’t move to Michigan.

    Did you write Brendan Eich a strongly-worded letter and tell him that you would very strongly consider switching to Safari if some amends were not made, did you make frustrated posts about Brendan Eich on social media but do nothing else about it, did you read about Brendan Eich on your iPad Air while on the toilet, but forget about him as soon as you flushed, or do you use Internet Explorer? Then move to Ann Arbor.

    Do you pride yourself on only using Chrome with an extension that makes every web page you visit have the appearance of a zine, including realistic creases and tears authentic specifically to paper made in 1977, but after learning of Brendan Eich, still traveled to his palatial estate on a cooking oil-powered bus with twenty other anarchists just to deliver a handmade jack-in-the-box that, upon activating, sent thirty cubic yards of horse manure flying into his swimming pool? Then move to Ypsi.

  14. Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    If Ypsi bordered Jackson, I don’t think that any person on this site would live there.

  15. Jeff Irwin
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    East Ann Arbor is nice. (Roughly the area surrounding Packard and Platt).

    The housing is modestly priced we have a wide variety of stores, dining and grocery within walking distance. County Farm Park and Buhr Park are awesome and Gallup Park is close too. I feel like we’re nestled in between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. It’s cozy. Plus, it’s easy to get on 94 if you need to get to DTW or Jackson. Or Lansing.

    Having said all of that, there isn’t a single house in my neighborhood over 300K. Most are in the 100-200K range.

  16. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I have lived in both places. I think 95 percent of people would find Ann Arbor modestly more walkable and a lot more bikable..

  17. Posted April 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I would not consider Ypsi walkable.

  18. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Scott, I think you will find the only area in Ypsilanti that is somewhat walkable would be the area near depot town/ coop/ prospect park/ Adams Elementary. No other area really strikes me as very walkable at all and truthfully I don’t like Ypsilanti for cycling. So, it really is not that hard of a decision. Look at the area very close to Adams Elementary and the coop and compare it to the neighborhoods in Ann Arbor that have a close proximity to a combination of elementary school/ park/ grocery store/ work space/ recreation center/ entertainment. I honestly do not think you will find that combination of things within a half mile radius in Ann Arbor. On the West side you can find all the things on your list within a half mile radius *except for grocery store. Bus to grocery store on West side. You might be able to find a good combination for your family near Washtenaw Whole Foods, or South of Trader Joes, or in Burns Park, but again it is not really walkable for everything. However Ann Arbor has several very bike friendly and convenient locations. I Hope that helps.

  19. Kristin
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    For what it’s worth:

    The racial makeup of Ypsilanti: 61.5% White, 29.2% African American, 0.6% Native American, 3.4% Asian, 1.1% from other races, and 4.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.9% of the population.

    Ann Arbor: 73.0% White (70.4% non-Hispanic White), 7.7% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 14.4% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 1.0% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.1% of the population.

    Saline: 93.6% White, 1.4% African American, 0.2% Native American, 2.5% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.6% of the population.

    If diversity is something you value, it’s something to factor in.

  20. jcp2
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Define diverse. Is it just the % of people who are not White, or the % of different types of people who are not White.

  21. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it is safe to assume that Ypsilanti is more diverse than Ann Arbor.

  22. Kristin
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Demographics are demographics, you can interpret them how you like. That’s what “For what it’s worth” means. These are only race. You can say that you want a religiously diverse community and look at those demographics too. Income levels, whatever.

  23. Coalesced
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Ann Arbor native 0f 34 years says: % of friendly responses to “Good morning,” while walking to work 5 days/week:

    Ann Arbor=3

    Out of the ‘A2goodfortherestofyou closet’ and home to Ypsilanti for me. Whew.

  24. Yak
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    Did you see the Totally Awesome Film?

  25. Mr. X
    Posted September 4, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    He apparently chose Ann Arbor.

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