The Detroit News explores gentrification in Ypsilanti

As difficult and painful as it can be sometimes, I like living in a community where things like race and gentrification aren’t just swept under the rug, but actually discussed in public. The most recent example of this, if you haven’t seen it yet, is a front page story by Brianna Kelly in today’s Detroit News titled “Old Ypsilanti pushes back against the new,” which kind of picks up where we left off in our most recent conversation on the subject. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s how it begins… I wish I could say more, but I’m late for work.

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  1. Steve
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Finally… a comment section that’s crankier and more racist than mlive. That’s an accomplishment.

  2. From the Det News comments section
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Cranky, maybe, but I didn’t see any overt racism, which isn’t to say that more racist comments might not be coming. Here are a few examples so far.

    Bill Kirsten Old Ypsilanti: “We’re a poor town, dang it, and we want to stay a poor town! The nerve that anyone would want to open reputable businesses here! Those vacant buildings help keep rents low!”

    Eric Alessandri I lived in Ypsi for 20 years. I got out in part because of the idiotic anti-retail/business attitudes of hipster posers. As a home owner I was paying ridiculously high property taxes in Ypsi (One year paid over $5,000 on a 1250 ft ranch). Maybe if Ypsi drew in more businesses, they would draw more business taxes and maybe give the property owners a break. But who am I kidding….Based on what I observed at city coucil meetings, they’d never give home owners a break.

    John Ryan I’m not sure what to say to people anymore. I hear low income areas ask for help and then spit on that help when it comes. Unless we’re handing people money directly, they’re not satisfied. Get nothing then and see how that works for you.

    Patrick Fitzpatrick This is the stupedist thing I have ever heard! ‘We can’t have new business moving in! The rent will go up!’ Oh my

  3. Katherine
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    It’s good to have these conversations, but I’d prefer it if some non white voices were included.

  4. Stewart Beal
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    To my friends Frank Fejeran and Risa Gotlib thank you for choosing to put your blood sweat and tears into making downtown and Depot Town Ypsilanti a more vibrant place our community can be proud of. I’m sure it was a difficult decision for you to locate your new businesses here but I am confident you will do well. Be fair, honest, and provide a great product and you will continue to be embraced. Gentrification and the changes happening in Ypsilanti are real but how unfair it is to place that on a young entrepreneur exploring his passion for cooking or to put that on 2 woman who rented a vacant storefront and turned on the lights for the first time in a year. I wish you two the best and I will do everything I can do to support you and other future entrepreneurs willing to take a chance on our community.

  5. Eel
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    And who thought Tiny Buddha was a good name for a business? Would we accept Tiny Jesus or Tiny Mohammed?

  6. Annie Palmer
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I would accept tiny jesus. I would accept him as my pocket lord and savior.

  7. Bob
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Are people really attacking the chicken guy? For being like Starbucks? Ypsi has lost its damn mind.

  8. Joe M.
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Rent control? Good luck.

    There’s a few gems – my Ypsi landlord in his lease says no increase if you renew after year 1 – so that’s two years of flat rent. Year 3 beginning in September? Whopping $10/month increase. Good guy.

    The gentrification bit is kind of interesting when the entire story is composed of white (or half Asian) contributors. So if you’re a local white business owner who didn’t get started in Ann Arbor, or were in Ypsi by a certain date, it’s cool. If you’re a white renter priced out of Ann Arbor after a certain date or a business owner expanding into Ypsi – you’re bad?

    I mean I work in Ann Arbor, make about $50k/year, and don’t want to put up with the insane rental rates, so I save about 33% (or more) and live in Ypsi. It just so happens that Ypsi is a pretty cool place on its own merit – things like First Fridays, the entire city is walk-able, bars, restaurants, cool stores.

    But I guess I can be called part of the problem because I wasn’t here by a certain date, I’m white, and I’m not a starving artist.

  9. Julie Abuelsamid
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    The buddha would give no fucks about that name.

  10. Demetrius
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I love Ypsilanti as much as the next person, but I’m sorry – this whole “dilemma” is ridiculous … and extremely hypocritical.

    Along with several large apartment rental “management” companies (ahem), Ypsilanti has multiple pay-day loan, “cash for gold,” and rent-to-own outfits (many of them national chains) that continue to prey upon our most vulnerable citizens, while sucking wealth out of our community on a daily basis … and nobody says a word.

    Meanwhile, a small handful of local entrepreneurs have decided to risk (their own hard-earned money and labor) to establish some unique new businesses in our community … and it is suddenly the end of Ypsi as we know it?

    Do these folks have no sense of irony? In case some haven’t noticed, the City of Ypsilanti is slowly growing broke, and this August we’ll be voting on a tax hike designed to help us continue paying for police, firefighters, parks, etc. – services that benefit everyone, including our lower-income neighbors. … Meanwhile, some people are actually pissed that others have chosen to invest in ways that will help create more interesting, vital neighborhoods, while generating new jobs, and additional tax revenues that will help us pay for essential services?

  11. Tommy
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    But he’s mostly white and fries chicken, Demetrius? Don’t you get it?

  12. Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Maybe this is evidence that I’m part of the problem (and I’m not a renter but a homeowner in Normal Park who would like to some day sell my house for more than I paid for it), but I do not understand the problem. I mean, I get it that it’s bad if rents go up and people can’t afford to stay and I’m not against programs for affordable housing or rent control or what have you. But the idea that any community–particularly a community that doesn’t have a lot of prosperity to begin with– should be mad at “outsiders” bringing new businesses is goofy. It’s the same thing with Shinola. Sure, they are outsiders coming to make stuff in Detroit for the novelty of being able to say “Made in Detroit.” They’re also employing a lot of people and they make good stuff.

    So yeah, I don’t often agree with Beal, but I do here.

  13. Lynne
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Gentrification isn’t really the issue. The real issue is income inequality and the fact that those with money have more power. People often like where they live and don’t want it to change but at least the more wealthy among us, homeowners such as myself, have options. If Ypsi changes too much in a way that I don’t like, I can simply sell my house (at a profit) and move someplace else. Truth is that white college educated people like me with jobs in Ann Arbor are part of why there is gentrification happening simply because white college educated people tend to like to live around other white college educated people. Any place I move to will become more desirable to people who are like me. Yet I have to live somewhere and this is why the shaming of the gentrifiers is useless.

    There are solutions though but most involve developing programs designed to combat widening income inequality. Programs designed to help combat racial inequality would help preserve racial diversity too. None of that involves shaming people for being rich and white and wanting to live or do business in Ypsilanti.

  14. Lynne
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Steve, imagine that you are not a homeowner. Imagine that you move into an area that is filled with people similar to you in economic status and imagine that you are all renters. Now, you work hard and build a nice community. Perhaps you walk around picking up litter. Perhaps you get a bunch of your friends to move in too and a vibrant business community springs up. You work hard to make your community a nice place to be.

    Now imagine that richer people start to notice how nice your community is. So they start to move in but unlike the previous residents, these are homeowners. The rents rise and more and more of the people like you are pushed out. The character of the town changes. The little diner closes because the rent goes up to be replaced by a more fancy breakfast establishment. The wig store closes to be replaced with a shop that appeals more to the new residents than the old. The homeowners are ok because the rising housing values help them. The community might suffer though as more and more of the poorer people get pushed out. The resentment usually comes from renters who are forced out and get no economic benefit from working to make their community better.

    Heck, it gives them a big incentive to NOT make their community better. I have a friend in Detroit who jokes about starting a campaign to mug people in Corktown in order to make it a less desirable place for rich white people to go. And they sometimes litter around there using the same logic. Not everyone subscribes to the idea that the only power is economic, fwiw.

    It is fine if you aren’t so worried about things. As a homeowner, I am not especially worried either but it is also OK to acknowledge that the people who have a real problem with gentrification actually do have a point. Things are changing and they are not only going to have the place where they live change in ways that they don’t like, they aren’t going to get any economic benefit from it. That would make anyone grumpy.

  15. M
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I liked something that former Ypsi City Planner Richard Murph retweeted a few days ago.

    Murph Retweeted
    Benjamin SW Scarbro‏ @BenjaminSWS May 5
    Replying to @BenjaminSWS @majoracarter
    We needed to self-gentrify. Because people in low-status communities like quality things as well. – @majoracarter #cnu25 #plenary

  16. Demetrius
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    @ Lynne

    As communities and neighborhoods change, there are bound to be consequences for existing residents. So I agree we need to be conscious of this, and take steps to mitigate these effects where possible.

    On the other hand, I disagree with your assertion that lower-income residents “aren’t going to get any economic benefit … ” from the kinds of changes that are beginning to take place here in Ypsilanti.

    First, what many lower-income people need more than anything else is access to jobs. Development such as this is likely to create much-needed employment in our community.

    Second, while many here are calling for programs (such as more affordable housing) to help people displaced by rising rents, somebody has to help pay for that. In our case, that is homeowners and business owners. Encouraging new/expanded businesses is an important part of keeping our communities financially viable – and therefore able to help those who need it most.

    I’m not trying to say that development isn’t sometimes a mixed bag … I’m just saying that in our current economy it *is* necessary, and given that, I’m grateful that we have are fortunate enough to be discussing (even debating) whether we want to welcome more unique, local, independent businesses such as babo, Tiny Buddha, Ma’s etc. … instead of more sleazy pay-day loan and rent-to-own joints.

  17. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    What came first? The chicken or the scrambled eggs?

    Life is full of mysteries.

  18. kjc
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    meanwhile in today’s NYTimes…

    “I know Ann Arbor like the back of my hand, a cliché I use with gusto, as that is how Michiganders point out where they live in the mitten state. I grew up here, went to college here, met my husband here and visited here frequently during the 20 years we lived overseas. Seven years ago, we moved back here (to A2, as locals call it), drawn to its small city charm and big university culture. Our only worry was that our palates might protest having lived in Brussels, Cairo, London and Paris.”

  19. From the Det News comments section
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    OK, getting more racist.

    Bendan Cotter My God, could you imagine the backlash if white people “grumbled” about eating food “perceived to be popular with white people” and cooked by a black chef? Al and Jesse would burn a hole in the ground trying to get to Ypsi in record time. It’s OK to be racist AF, as long as you do it right, I guess.

    Amanda Christiana I would be more worried about the city that announced it was protecting the illegals. They want more illegals and less businesses, go figure. Illegals are better than having businesses opening.

    Jim Aaron Must be the 8 years of Obama Race-Card Politics

    Mike Corey No kidding. And if the races were reversed, it never would have been published.

  20. M
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    In the last six months…. Bigilora buys Corner Brewery, the Jolly Pumpkin guys buy the Thompson Block, Babo opens in Depot Town, Ma Lou’s takes over the Hidden Dragon space, and Cafe Ollie moves upstream. Regardless of whether it’s good or bad, I can see why some would feel as though their city is changing.

  21. Eli Morrissey
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Another article touching on Gentrification? Do they actually interview lifelong residents in these articles? Get their perspective? Seems like they’ve interviewed the most outspoken of transplants. I’m looking down Michigan Ave and Huron Street… still seeing empty store fronts. People are still reluctant to invest in this community. Locals like ourselves are putting our money where our mouth is. On the topic of housing, our DDA and Development department may want to address what is evidently a shortage of housing. Simple supply and demand economics here.

  22. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Please continue pushing businesses out of Ypsi and into the surrounding communities.

    Thank you.

  23. Brooke Ratliff
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I find these articles to be out of context…I grew up in Ypsi. I remember when it was a relatively stable, racially mixed working-class town… I remember when it went to shit…I remember when Washtenaw county decided to house virtually every mentally ill person in one small town…Ypsi. And now this article is what we get because some guy opened a little chicken shack. Please note: there are only five Ypsilanti cops on duty per shift (because there’s no money to pay more). How much are you will to pay for….a relatively stable, racially mixed working-class town? Go Eli.

  24. Brooke Ratliff
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I UNDERSTAND rent increases are stressful and seem unfair….but again what is the context? Is it gentrification, or the student demand as Ann Arbor gets more expensive? I just crunched numbers on 250 rentals (cos I’m weird) . The average rent in Michigan is $750 for a one bedroom. Average in Ypsi is about $100 more than that. Only 10% of Ypsi rentals listed on Zillow (which pulls from all over the web) are $500 to 700. $100 over average for a college town is NOT bad. So I’m not seeing the ‘gentrification’ factor. At least not yet.

  25. Jcp2
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Remember the disappointment about the Dollar Store and proposed low income housing on Water Street?

  26. a person
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Ypsi’s problem isn’t that we are gentrifying, its persistent poverty in low-income neighborhoods. While rising house prices in the Depot Town area, College Heights, and Normal Park might be difficult for some, especially those on fixed incomes, these were always middle-class neighborhoods. Over time, the definition of ‘the middle’ drifts with rising wages and housing demand. Its the areas in southern, northern (leforge), and eastern Ypsi that actually struggle. Those neighborhoods have been persistently left behind in mobility and education for decades. What I hear in the gentrification discussion is educated/socially-mobile people complaining about neighborhood change and increasing prices.

    There is a good piece on the false narrative of gentrification at the link below.

  27. Dan
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Exactly “a person.” The people here complaining about these few new businesses are the ones that continually trash Ann Arbor as “not real.” So they don’t want any Ann arbor businesses. Even before the news of the Arbor Brewery sale, many here would not support them because they weren’t “ypsi real”

  28. Lynne
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    And you don’t think people should make choices about the businesses they patronize based on their own personal preferences, Dan? I don’t like the changes that have occurred in Ann Arbor and I haven’t been to Arbor Brewing Co in years and being “too Ann Arbor”, while not my actual reason, is just as valid as any other reason. If someone values some quality they label as “Ypsi Real” and patronizes businesses they feel have that quality, what is your beef?

    You accuse those who are complaining as driving businesses out but I have yet to hear of a business leaving Ypsilanti because some people were cranky that the business is a sign of gentrification.

  29. JC
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I’d like to reply to a few moments in some of these comments.

    Stewart Beal
    “I wish you two the best and I will do everything I can do to support you and other future entrepreneurs willing to take a chance on our community.”

    What if you retooled that sentence this way:

    “I wish you two the best but I must do everything I can do to support the people already living and struggling in our community.”


    Joe M.
    “But I guess I can be called part of the problem because I wasn’t here by a certain date, I’m white, and I’m not a starving artist.”

    It depends on a few things—

    Are you displacing someone with less means by taking up residence here—someone who’s working class or working poor or underemployed? Are you buying a house on the southside, looking forward to the day those neighborhoods are “revitalized”?


    “I love Ypsilanti as much as the next person, but I’m sorry – this whole ‘dilemma’ is ridiculous … and extremely hypocritical.”

    This banal sentence says little about struggles against gentrification/racialized inequality, and much about what feels like some dismissive ignorance about it. If you’ve followed Lee Azus’s research on redlining/urban renewal/revitalization in Ypsilanti, you know the dilemma is real and has been ongoing for a long time.

    “Meanwhile, a small handful of local entrepreneurs have decided to risk (their own hard-earned money and labor) to establish some unique new businesses in our community … and it is suddenly the end of Ypsi as we know it?”

    Not the end of the Ypsi *you* know, because you’re white and comfortable; but you can be sure that this snowballing of affluence-influx will continue to threaten to be an end to people who have been struggling to exist here.

    “Do these folks have no sense of irony?”

    I personally don’t, since we’re talking about the continuation of the phenomenon of “premature death” in lower-income, hyperpoliced, underresourced neighborhoods.


    Steve Krause

    “But the idea that any community–particularly a community that doesn’t have a lot of prosperity to begin with– should be mad at ‘outsiders’ bringing new businesses is goofy.”

    You kidding, man?

    We’re a little ways off from what’s happened in Oakland and the Mission—but we’re not as far off from accelerated gentrification as alot of white liberals think.

    What’s more—some folks celebrating the prospect of chic juice and espresso gardens are also folks who haven’t yet found a way to plug in to movements that actively and directly benefit people of color.

    So for me, the issue isn’t “Screw all newcomers”—that would be ignorant.

    The issue more is, “Here’s to newcomers who’ve come here to join the battle against excess, racism, fascism, lifestyle curating . . .”


    a person
    “What I hear in the gentrification discussion is educated/socially-mobile people complaining about neighborhood change and increasing prices.”

    Not me. What I hear when folks complain about gentrification is the voices of Keep Hoods Yours ( Anyone who thinks folks are crying wolf when they’re antagonistic to gentrification, might learn a lot by studying Bay Area counter-gentrification movements such as theirs.

    If enough of us were remedially conversant about the processes/effects of gentrification, displacement, racialized capitalism, we could have endeavors like Tot’s Spot or FRDM HALL occupy vacant storefronts and maybe thrive. I don’t care that politically moderate white people are celebrating juice bars and Shinola and boutique yoga studios; I definitely mind when you try to brush off suggestions that gentrification is already at work here, and that eventually it’ll mean increasing crisis in the lives of especially non-white residents of Ypsi.

  30. kjc
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    “I don’t care that politically moderate white people are celebrating juice bars and Shinola and boutique yoga studios; I definitely mind when you try to brush off suggestions that gentrification is already at work here, and that eventually it’ll mean increasing crisis in the lives of especially non-white residents of Ypsi.”


  31. Parker Parkerson Jr.
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Lynne, no one moves to Ypsilanti because “it’s nice.” Hahah.

  32. a person
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    If you look at that city observatory report, you’ll see that they recognize whats going on in the Bay Area as gentrification. But this isn’t the Bay Area, its Ann Arbor/Ypsi Area. The population of the Bay Area is 7.15 million, the population of the Ann Arbor Urban Area is 313,546 (2015 acs data). What’s happening here is a festering of poverty rather than the displacement of the poor. I’d absolutely agree with you to call out the displacement of the black community in the Water Hill neighborhood in Ann Arbor, but thats been going on for 30 years. Where is the reporting on that? Instead, we celebrate that neighborhoods music festival and socialized sidewalk shoveling.

    In other states and places where gentrification is a real problem, the mechanism is often tax foreclosure driven by skyrocketing property values. In Michigan, that doesn’t happen as often due to the Headlee/Prop A combination. Not that they don’t cause all sorts of other problems.

    Unfortunately, the tools that many suggest to limit the impact of ‘gentrification’, like rent control and restrictive zoning, have the exact opposite effect as intended. They limit affordable housing to well networked people most able to take advantage of the system and push new residents to purchase and teardown old housing rather than move into something new that doesn’t displace people.

    I guess I’m still confused as to where the gentrification is happening in Ypsi. It still sounds to me like people are complaining about displacement from neighborhoods and areas that have been historically middle class.(college heights, depot town, normal park). Any concrete examples?

  33. Arika
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Lynne and JC, those were eye-opening thoughts, thanks! My two cents is: it is possible (I am proof!) to be excited and supportive of these “fancy” new businesss moving in, while also acknowledging the potential trend that M shared of larger businesses coming in and buying up space in Ypsi. I realize that we don’t necessarily want empty buildings vacant for years, just waiting until small, local places get the capital to move in, but there is some spark in Ypsi (in my opinion) that burns les bright when a lot of the smaller local places get snuffed out or bought out. Also, the issue is not any one single one of these businesses moving in, it’s the trend, and its cumulative, and it’s the lack of capital or opportunity for smaller businessss to make a go of it sometimes. And Rent affordability is a huge deal too. In my former job I worked with folks transitioning from homelessness to housing and many times, even with some HUD-funded support, the apartments/rental houses they could find or get approved for were like 1,000-1,3000 per month, in Ypsi. I couldn’t really budget to afford that if I were a single parent, even on my current salary, which is at least double what most of those families make. WTF. There are definite class and race issues at play here, because that is how our system is built, unfortunately.

  34. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink


    Your tone is so condescending. Do you really believe you are the only one who has insight into the gentrification of communities? The only one who has lived through gentrification? Were you the victim? Or did you profit off of gentrification? A little of both? A little of both even now?

    Are you putting your money where your mouth is? Not for profit landlord? A safe enough bet from your perspective, right? You know about this stuff–go for it!!!

  35. Jean Henry
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    There is no point in trying to stop capital flow into poor cities if you want conditions to improve. There is a lot of point to directing some of that capital to improve the lives and businesses of the marginalized, to retaining the integrity of historically Black neighborhoods. And to restoring their business districts– like Harriet Street– to local minority ownership. But that requires more cooperation and collective action towards a better future than is standard, NOT adversarial politicking. The problem is not appropriation or gentrification. The problem is systemic racism. And we really don’t want to look at that issue as one we personally have capacity to correct or make right by changing what we do ourselves (rather than pointing fingers outward). The problem is a failure by white liberals to support their neighbors of color with access to capital, economic development, etc, but mostly by just getting to know them– by integrating with humility. Driving out new businesses is stupid. (The problem, Lynne– is not that the toxic atmosphere in ypsi is driving out existing new businesses– because by then the deal is done, contracts signed and $$ invested– but people are not opening up independent businesses)

    Driving out new residents and businesses is stupid. Ypsi needs tax revenue. Soon you will need to build affordable housing and lots of it. And you need to support and encourage minority owned businesses. If those projects can be paid for by a few big box stores, then so be it. Ypsi will need to grow or it will become too expensive for many who live there now. And that guts a city culturally. Ask Ann Arbor.

    And, yes, Water Hill, aka Whiter Hill, aka NIMBY Valley, formerly the West Side, is a great point in case. That’s a neighborhood formerly redlined, that was integrated by very well meaning white radical (not just liberal) people who then decided to restrict growth, based on anti-capitalist sentiment, to ‘preserve the character’ of their neighborhood. What they did was preserve their buildings and displace POC. And they are now sitting in homes worth a lot of $$. They were the loudest people in the room. They were angry and politicize everything. They imagine themselves to be community boosters and saviors and they are dangerous. Do not make them the voice of your city. Do not let them be the media voice of your city. Seriously, fight them with other perspectives.

    Because the money comes in no matter what when you are the next town over from two cities experiencing economic booms. So how the real question is are you going to direct that capital?

    I’m glad that Ypsi is having this conversation. It’s important. Beware of the impact of white anti-capitalists with a savior complex. They seem to magically enrich themselves at great cost to others, by closing the gate behind them. And they never see their own role. They are not dealing with reality. This is capitalism. We can’t wait for an end to the economic system we function in to try to fix the problems it creates and exacerbates. The problem isn’t capitalism or cultural appropriation; it’s systemic marginalization. Racism and sexism have existed and persisted in every kind of economic system too. Revolution tends to make them worse not better. And cultural appropriation is how cultures work– since the beginning of time. Are you going to fight it? Really? It IS often evidence of systemic racism, but not the cause. Same with gentrification. Extract the marginalization from it, use it to lift all boats, and what is wrong with it? Anti-capitalists are fighting the wrong system.

    How to make it work well is why we have this conversation. It’s hard and necessary. And no one has all the answers. Please let more people with more perspectives have a voice in your city. Not just the loudest and/or those with the most money– aka not just those with the most cultural capital. Who has cultural capital is exactly what needs to change.

  36. Jean Henry
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    A-1 in Mi public radio right now is addressing historic housing covenants, red lining and current forms of de-facto sergregation– like lower home values in integrated neighborhoods, access to capital.

    The current wealth (not income) differential between White Americans and Black Americans is $13 to $1. That is the crux if the issue. That MUST be fixed. And collectively, Ypsi has the capacity to increase Black home and business ownership rates… without being predatory.

    Unfair lending to POC as well as other conditions lead to them being the only populations sector to not recover from the 2008 crisis– despite all the media bellyaching about white working and middle class Americans.

    The only way to fix racism is to talk about and fix the mechanisms of systemic racism, not the symptoms of it.

  37. JC
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    “Your tone is so condescending.”
    —Don’t mistake political conviction for condescension.

    “Or did you profit off of gentrification? A little of both? A little of both even now?”
    —Historically/implicitly, as a white man? Yes, every single day, woven into the fabric of my life. The entire continent belongs to people who’ve been displaced.

    “Are you putting your money where your mouth is?”

    “Not for profit landlord?”
    —That would be a decent first step.

    “You know about this stuff–go for it!!!”


    I know it’s counterproductive to engage trolls—but I’d forgotten about you, Frosted Flakes. You were outraged when people were speaking up about Mike Brown’s murder. Am I remembering correctly? Let’s talk f2f: jc /a/ quemadura /dot/ net.

  38. Jean Henry
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    PS Rent control is illegal in Michigan. The only way to reduce rents is to create more housing in general and ideally, more supported housing. How to pay? Progressive property taxes (relief for low or fixed income) and/or a city income tax.

    A city income tax would tax people who work at EMU, etc and live elsewhere. But good luck taxing the white middle class to benefit poor people, especially POC.

  39. James Engman
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    When Ann Arbor sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing expensive sandwiches. They’re bringing smoothies. They’re yoga instructors. And some, I assume, are good people.

  40. Kathleen Ivanoff
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I lived in Ferndale from 1986 – 1994, when I moved to Ypsi. Ferndale basically became very hip and cool (and much more expensive) after I left. I loved Ferndale, and for many years, I was sad that I left and wished I could have been there to participate in its revival. I always thought Ypsi housing market was over-priced, but knew it was because of EMU and it was still more affordable than U of M neighborhoods. I’m glad to see Ypsi getting its own amenities. I think its sad that Frank Fejeran has an apologetic ” but I give to charity” defense of opening his business in Ypsi. Does this mean I don’t care about people who are priced out? Of course not! But I think it might be better to consider the context as Brooke Ratliffe suggested. The answer is not to keep the business people out!

  41. Old Ypsilanti
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I’m glad the topic of gentrification is being discussed, but as someone who was actually born and raised in Ypsilanti, my main issue with the article is that it presumes Depot Town and downtown haven’t been evolving dramatically over the last 20 years — this isn’t a recent development. Beezy’s itself, referred to here as “old Ypsilanti” is a great example of a business that, fewer than 10 years ago, was accused of gentrifying the area, and worked to really become a part of the community.

    Ma Lou’s shouldn’t be considered gentrification any more than Beezy’s, Red Rock, or even Rubber Soul, which was like 2001 or ’02 when that opened (and has obviously since closed).

  42. Lynne
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Re: “Lynne, no one moves to Ypsilanti because “it’s nice.” Hahah.”

    Except that they do. I did. My neighbor’s did. People generally want to live in areas that are nice but yes, some of us are limited by our incomes. Still, I know more than one Ypsilantian who moved here because they consider the town to be nice (however they define nice) .

    Re: A city income tax – I don’t know if you have noticed this or not but city income taxes in the state of Michigan are actually a way of taxing POC at higher rates than everyone else. I can’t support that.

  43. Demetrius
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    @ Lynne

    Regarding City income taxes – please consider:

    City income taxes are at least *somewhat* progressive, since the amount taxpayers owe goes up/down as income changes. City income taxes also offer the opportunity to charge people who work – but don’t live – in a community, but who nevertheless use city services, such as police, fire, roads, etc.

    On the other hand, property taxes are one of the most regressive taxes. Think about someone who owns a home, then gets sick, loses a job, or retires … their taxes don’t go down because of their circumstances. Neither do they go up based on an individuals ability to pay. Also because of “Proposal A” new home-buyers pay a much higher amount (on the same property) than long-time homeowners.

  44. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink


    Regarding condenscending tone: I think you are a little further along in your belief as to the extent that Ypsilanti is in the process of gentrification. Which is fine, but just because people disagree with your assessment on “Ypsilanti- gentrification” does not mean they haven’t lived it or have no insight into it. I have lived through gentrification (more than once) in a way that was much much much more intense, cruel, and swift, than anything Ann Arbor has experienced and honestly, I think the assessments of Demetrius, “someone”, Krause, etc, are way more realistic than yours. Sorry but the people you are accusing of being nuts or uneducated lacking in experience with regard to gentrification sound a whole lot more realistic than your own–which is fucking odd because you seem to want to claim that you have the experience !

    At any rate, if you are right and property values are about to explode then, this is actually a golden opportunity for you, because you and others like you, can invest for-others-in-mind in a way that puts community over profit. I am being sincere: Go for it!!!

  45. Lynne
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Demetrius, I would support completely eliminating property taxes and then replacing them with state level increases in income taxes, however, a city income tax actually can be harmful to poorer people. Yes, in cities like Ypsilanti where the major employer is a public university and not likely to move, it can make some sense. But generally, when you have things like city income taxes, it tends to add yet another incentive for those with options (white folks with money) to not live or work in the city. You end up with what we have in Michigan where the more black people a community has, the more likely they are to have a city income tax, which results in a situation where poor black people end up paying higher taxes than most white people. If the goal is a taxation system that gives a break to the poor, city income taxes aren’t the way to do it because it is too easy for those with means to avoid living in cities and too hard for those without means to choose not to.

  46. Facts?
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Demetrius Wouldn’t a home owner who’s income goes down effectively get a reduction in taxes because of the homestead property tax credit?

  47. stupid hick
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Can we all at least agree that a hypothetical Ypsilantian who may be displaced because they can’t afford a $560 apartment would be better served by a Burger King on Water Street, than a bourgeois Beezy’s Cafe?

  48. Jean Henry
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Lynne– I didn’t know that about city income taxes. Thanks.
    Couldn’t there be some mechanism to not have anyone under say the median income be taxed? I understand that’s not how it is normally implemented, but is it possible? (v rent control which is not)

  49. jean henry
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Important read on barriers to home ownership for Black Americans:

  50. Lynne
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Sure. It would be entirely possible to come up with a tax scheme that is favorable to poor people but it would still only work at the city level if you can get those folks who will be paying the tax to not move out of the city. I wouldnt move over an income tax but would other Ypsilantians feel the same way? Even a county level income tax would be better.

  51. Lynne
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    If there are sufficient people of means willing to stick around even with an income tax, presumably such people would be willing to just voluntarily give up some of their income. Maybe some crowdfunding? It would be a good way to test the waters. If enough residents of Ypsi contribute to the fund, then you know they probably wont move over an income tax and then it might make sense to pass an income tax in order to capture some revenue from EMU employees.

  52. a person
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    @ stupid hick
    They might be even better served by additional market-rate housing that reduces upward pressures on rent

  53. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink


    I wanted to respond to all of your comment but did not have time.

    I think there is something similar (and equally misguided) going on with the activism around the Michael Brown shooting and the way that the forces of gentrification are being characterized as it pertains to Ypsi.

    Regarding Michael Brown: It is not that I did not want people speaking about Michael Brown–I think it is pretty obvious that I, as much as anyone on wanted to discuss the different aspects of the case. My main objection was that I did not think it was wise to use the death of Michael Brown as the rallying event around which the discussion of bad cops should revolve. The Michael Brown shooting was a very bad choice as it did not clearly exemplify the greater problem of bad cops not being held accountable. I believe I read that 75% of American’s thought that Wilson should not be indicted (correct me if I am wrong). I still hold the opinion that it was a stupid move to rally around Brown’s death and that it resulted in worse race relations and ultimately was a contributing cause for Trump’s success. Depending on where you stand, as I am not sure, I might owe you a thank you card for helping Trump get elected. (If this is a shocking statement because it was obvious to you that Wilson murdered Brown in the way that Johnson, Crenshaw and Mitchell reported– please get back to me after you have read the eyewitness interviews–it is long as hell–but it is very revealing.)

    Similarly, and I do not know if you are guilty of this, but the attempt to reject a few new businesses in Ypsi, in the fight against supposed “gentrification of Ypsi”, is so misguided I have no problem calling that stupid as well. The comparison of Ypsi to the Bay Area is not valid. People know it. In creating a fake ass comparisons and by mis-assessing the extent of the problem we alienate people who might actually want to help guard against unfair **forces** that are really at play but to a far lesser extent than Bay area gentrification. People just aren’t buying the comparison at all.

    FWIW, I really love what Jean has to say about the forces at play and the places where she thinks energy should be directed for a more just outcome for all and for preservation of community. She is reasonable and it sounds like she has lived through real gentrification more than once. I really don’t know where you stand on these issues exactly, so I am just speaking in general, but, stopping the flow of capital isn’t happening; demonizing new to Ypsi business owners is counterproductive; calling some guys restaurant “gentrified chicken” is lunacy which alienates people–even if their comprehension of “gentrification” is beyond “remedial” as you stated…..

    Don’t listen to me. You were right. I am troll. I once lived under the bridges of San Francisco and I never once saw you under any of them.

  54. Demetrius
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that since 2010, the city of Ypsilanti has gained over 1,400 residents. Our current estimated population of just over 21,000 represents a growth rate of approximately 7.3 percent.

    Somewhat surprisingly, this means we are now the fifth-fastest growing city in Michigan (right behind Dexter).

    Contrary to some lingering “conventional wisdom” about Ypsilanti’s inevitable decline, it seems that our “real”vibe, walkable neighborhoods, affordable housing, robust transit options, and proximity to the Ann Arbor job market are definitely beginning to lure new residents in significant numbers.

  55. Lynne
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    That is the thing about gentrification. If you do things to make a place a nice place to live, it really does tend to raise property values which in turn drives people out.

  56. wobblie
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    Lynn, once again your perceptions do not jive with reality, you stated, “You end up with what we have in Michigan where the more black people a community has, the more likely they are to have a city income tax, which results in a situation where poor black people end up paying higher taxes than most white people.Michigan cities with Income taxes”
    The following Michigan cities have income taxes.
    City of Albion
    City of Battle Creek
    City of Big Rapids
    City of Detroit
    City of Flint
    City of Grand Rapids
    City of Grayling
    City of Hamtramck
    City of Highland Park
    City of Hudson
    City of Ionia
    City of Jackson
    City of Lansing
    City of Lapeer
    City of Muskegon
    City of Muskegon Heights
    City of Pontiac
    City of Port Huron
    City of Portland
    City of Saginaw
    City of Springfield
    City of Walker
    The vast majority of these cities are small overwhelmingly white communities.

  57. Jcp2
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    What I see here is the narcissism of small differences.

  58. Lynne
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Of the 22 Michigan cities with an income tax, only 6 of them have a white population greater than the state average. It doesnt seem accurate to call a community that has a white population “overwhelmingly white” but I guess that is subjective. The real number is what percentage of people of color are paying city income taxes compared to the percentage of white people paying city income taxes but alas, I dont have time to crunch those particular numbers. Still, I can only think of a handful of communities with significant non-white populations that don’t have a city income tax.

    Below is a list of cities with income taxes with percentage of white population with those where the white population is higher than the state average designated with an asterisk.

    Michigan 78.9%

    Albion – 63.6%
    Battle Creek – 71.7%
    *Big Rapids – 88%
    Detroit 12.26%
    Flint 37.4%
    Grand Rapids 64.6%
    *Grayling 97.2%
    Hamtramk 53.6%
    Highland Park 3.2%
    *Hudson 96.2%
    Ionia 70.9%
    Jackson 71.4
    Lansing 61.2%
    *Lapeer 88.6%
    Muskegan, 57%
    Muskegan Heights 16%
    Pontiac 34.4%
    *Port Huron 84%
    *Portland 96.7%
    Saginaw 43.5%
    Springfield 76.6%
    *Walker 91.3%

  59. wobblie
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I guess after living in Ypsi for 40 years, anything greater than 60% white seems awfully pale to me.

  60. Sad
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Go Ypsilanti!

  61. Joe M.
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I fail to see how this hipster doodad shop gets praised while places like babo and the yoga place are jeered and bring on debates of gentrification.

    The shop looks beautiful, but those random tchotchkes are not going to bring in sustained sells or pay the rent down the line.

  62. Jean Henry
    Posted January 2, 2021 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    “In the last six months…. Bigilora buys Corner Brewery, the Jolly Pumpkin guys buy the Thompson Block, Babo opens in Depot Town, Ma Lou’s takes over the Hidden Dragon space, and Cafe Ollie moves upstream. Regardless of whether it’s good or bad, I can see why some would feel as though their city is changing.”

    How many remain? Of those how many remain under original ownership?

    Maybe worrying about local businesses gentrifying Ypsi should be less of a concern than the housing supply crisis. Of course to address that crisis, we must support development, which is of course inherently evil and a force for gentrification…

    It seems the citizens of Ypsi (like A2 before) want jobs and affordable housing but actively oppose new businesses and new housing development. The eventual consequence is creating a city that houses and serves only the wealthy. Just ask Ann Arbor.

  63. Lynne
    Posted January 2, 2021 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I think part of it is that developers don’t often like to build affordable housing. They tend to like to build more high-end stuff because the profits are greater. I am not saying that there aren’t a lot of folks in Ypsi who oppose affordable housing but those folks aren’t keeping anyone from building on Water Street or the Boys and Girls club lot. It is a lack of interested developers.

  64. Anonymous
    Posted January 2, 2021 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Awful lot of rental units just built near Target-Meijer-Kohl’s off Ann Arbor Saline Road. Units being built at old Kroger site across river from hospital. Units still vacant in old Georgetown Kroger site.

  65. Jean Henry
    Posted January 2, 2021 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Lynne– building housing for high end tenants keeps the wealthy out of neighborhoods. Anything built on Water Street will likely have to be high end at this point because of remediation costs, debt burden, etc. It will still be more housing and more tax revenue without displacement.

    Gentrification can happen with no building developed. I would argue it happens more often when housing development is curbed than when it is allowed. It’s simple supply and demand.

    Anonymous– we need 5000 more affordable housing units and probably 3 times that of market rate units in the county according to a 2015 affordability study. It’s great that we are embracing more housing. but at a county level we spend 1000x more citizen-led political energy resisting housing development than encouraging it. And have done so for 30 years. The results on the housing market ar obvious.

    I am no fan of big block housing aesthetically. But I am unwilling to see more people I care about displaced from the communities they love and were raised in.

  66. Jean Henry
    Posted January 2, 2021 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous: Vacancy rate in Ann Arbor is less than 4% up to Covid. The Georgetown development went bankrupt and is now under new ownership. Under normal conditions new apartment complexes sell out long before the spaces have an occupancy permit. I don’t see any likelihood that housing demand will decrease after this nightmare ends, although I’d be pleased if it did.

  67. Jean Henry
    Posted January 2, 2021 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Lynne– I should maybe more clear: Market rate housing development meets demand for higher end housing; it does not create (“induce”) it. Neither do yoga studios.

    The primary driver of housing demand are jobs and schools. Then parks and public amenities, which benefit all.

    If we lived in a socialist state, the government would simply build the housing needed. Most people would rent affordably. From the government. And the high end housing would be built privately for a select few.

    The housing would be built no matter the economic system. Resisting housing development where housing is short is not a progressive stance. Doesn’t matter what it costs. There are many studies showing that newer high end housing frees up lower end housing as former high end digs depreciate.

  68. Lynne
    Posted January 2, 2021 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I know that, Jean. But based on the number of times I have had to explain to people in Ann Arbor that those new high rise luxury student housing are not making rents higher in general, I will forgive your assumption.

    To clarify my point, Ypsi may be gentrifying but alas, not enough for many developers to think that there is a demand for the high-end housing they are likely to build. If we really want affordable housing, we may have to consider public housing but that will have strong opposition from homeowners who perceive such things as lowering property values.

  69. Bob
    Posted January 2, 2021 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Hot tip. If you can still pretty much park and it’s mostly for free, you haven’t been gentrified.

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