Community groups, EMU team up to revitalize University-neighborhood intersection
YPSILANTI — Several major county and community organizations, the city of Ypsilanti and Eastern Michigan University are using their expertise to collaborate on innovative projects that will continue the development of area streetscapes.
Joint projects include the linking of Ypsilanti’s downtown to Huron River Drive, through bike paths and pedestrian walks, and converting College Place, from Cross Street to Forest Avenue, into a pedestrian mall. The mall would include benches, bike paths, trees and lighting. A green space, called “Pease Park,” and an outdoor stage would be located to the south of the existing Pease Auditorium.
The Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents approved EMU’s participation in the project at a special board meeting Oct. 20. Capital Outlay and appropriation requests for FY08 were also approved.
This project has been in the works for several years, is consistent with the campus concept plan, and comes at an opportune time, because grant funds will likely not be available at a later date. This will enable the University to avoid much greater cost in the future.
“This is more than an EMU project. It is a community project. EMU, the city and major organizations are using their expertise to continue the revitalization of this area, ” said Steve Holda, interim director of finance at EMU. “More importantly, this partnership has set the stage for further collaboration with area organizations and the city.”
The project will provide a vital link in the ongoing effort to revitalize the entire area from Huron Street to the Water Tower. The beneficiaries will include the entire local community. Once completed, the project is expected to have a significant impact on connecting the southeast corner of EMU’s campus to adjacent neighborhoods. It also provides a model for innovative town-gown cooperation.
Working with the University are the city of Ypsilanti; the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT); the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority; the Depot Town Development Authority; the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study and the Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce.
The Ypsilanti Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Ypsilanti Jaycees; Ypsilanti COPAC, a community organization; the Ypsilanti Central Business Community and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) are also backing the plan.
Phases I and II of the project will redevelop College Place and West Cross Street beginning in Spring 2007. The redevelopment of East Cross Street in Depot Town will occur in Phase III.
“The groups are developing creative and innovative funding methods for the three improvement phases,” said Holda.
Under a letter of understanding, the city will lease College Place to EMU for $1 a year for a period of 99 years. In exchange, the University will lease its North Washington parking lot, in downtown Ypsilanti, to the city for $1 a year for 99 years. EMU will reserve six parking spots in the lot for University use.
“The College Place Enhancement Project, which is part of Phase I, is estimated to cost approximately $1.3 million, so the University is working with MDOT to obtain a grant of nearly $442,590 from Federal Transportation Enhancement Funds,” said Holda.
Additional grants and gifts are also being pursued to offset the University’s share of $840,832. Any remaining costs would come from uncommitted University reserves, Holda said. The city of Ypsilanti would pay for the deconstruction of the street and for repairing the water main under it.
“A more inviting pedestrian environment will benefit students, patrons and businesses while creating a greater sense of cooperative community,” said Holda.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.