Major gateway to EMU, West Cross Street, receiving crucial improvements this summer

by Geoff Larcom, Published May 19, 2011

Cross Street, one of the major thoroughfares of Ypsilanti and the main stretch of commerce adjacent to Eastern Michigan University, is receiving long-needed improvements this summer that will increase the appeal and usability of the road, EMU and city officials say.

The Cross Street Nonmotorized Enhancement Project is intended to increase pedestrian and other non-vehicular movement on the road while strengthening the link between EMU, West Cross Street and Depot Town.

Work on the nearly $1 million project began this spring, and plans call for completion in August, said Tim Colbeck, executive director of the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority.

Work has begun in Depot Town, and the project will work its way up to Normal Street near EMU over the summer.

"It's transformative," said Colbeck of the project. "(Cross Street) will look so much better when it's done."

The project provides a needed spruce-up to an area that's viewed as crucial to the EMU campus environment and continuing efforts to perk up downtown Ypsilanti. "It's taking some areas that had a negative image," Colbeck said. "It will wipe a lot of that out."

Said Leigh Greden, EMU's executive director of government and community relations: "These improvements will enhance the West Cross Street area, which serves as a gateway to EMU and is vital to the local economy."

The project is divided into two parts. The first is on East Cross Street in Depot Town, from Rice Street east to River Street.  The second part stretches from Washington Street west to Normal Street on West Cross. The improvements will somewhat mirror the recent improvements along College Place on the EMU campus, Colbeck said.

Key features of the West Cross Street project include:

  • Stamped concrete bumpouts, also known as traffic-calming curb extensions, will be installed at each of the crosswalks, to help delineate the crossing for pedestrian traffic and bring them up to compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • Forty seven new lighting fixtures will be installed on West Cross Street.
  • The installation of 74 trees along West Cross Street.
  • A new pedestrian crossing of River Street on the east end of Depot Town, near the entrance of the Ypsilanti Food Co-op.
  • A variety of rain gardens will be installed to help collect stormwater and improve drainage in Depot Town.

The city of Ypsilanti provided $156,000 in matching funds for the project, and the development authority is contributing  $86,000, Colbeck said. The rest is coming from a federal grant administered by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

In addition, The Eastern Leaders Group, a gathering of leaders from the eastern portion of Washtenaw County, and the DDA each also contributed $15,000 each for façade improvements in several Cross Street Buildings, including  The Tower Inn, the former Magazine Rack building, and Campus Drugs.

For updates on the project, see the DDA website at


Geoff Larcom


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