Ypsilanti's Depot Town neighborhood is receiving national attention after East Cross Street was named to the American Planning Association's (APA) list of 15 "Great Places in America" for 2018.
Now in its 11th year, the APA program recognizes five great places in three categories: neighborhoods, streets, and public spaces. East Cross was recognized in the "Great Streets" category this year. The APA looks for places that are "unique and exemplary in their amenities and infrastructure, cultural identity, and use of sustainable and innovative practices."
Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority (DDA) director Joe Meyers says Depot Town encompasses more than East Cross Street, but, in order to fit into one of the award categories, the person who nominated Depot Town had to name a street. Meyers says he doesn't know who initially suggested East Cross Street to the APA, but the APA reached out to the DDA for more information after the nomination was made.
Meyers says a great street didn't just happen on its own, but rather it's a testament to good planning.
"It gives us recognition and shows that a great place comes with great planning, a great community, great business owners, and a great DDA all working together over the last 40 years," Meyers says.
Depot Town was developed around the Ypsilanti Train Depot, which opened in 1838. But by the 1970s, Meyers says, Depot Town was "not the most desirable part of Ypsilanti."
Then, about 40 years ago, a few core business owners "had good foresight" to purchase some buildings, and with the help of the DDA and community members, turned it into the thriving historic district it is today. Meyers cited the city's master plan and work by the historic commission as being integral to the process.
Meyers says the honor by the APA is a chance for Ypsilanti to "showcase what we have, and show the country that we are as great as we know we are."
As part of the Great Places in America program, members of the public can suggest their favorite public space, neighborhood, or street for a People’s Choice designation. Throughout October, individuals can offer suggestions via APA’s social media channels using the hashtag #APAgreatplaces. APA will select five finalists that the public can vote on via APA's website, and the winner will be announced in early November 2018.
For more information about the other winners for 2018 and previous years, visit www.planning.org/greatplaces.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the interim project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Doug Coombe.