What are you most excited for in Washtenaw County in 2019?

At Concentrate we're all about keeping on top of what's next for Washtenaw County, so to send out 2018 we thought we'd take a look at the exciting things to come in our community next year. We asked each of our staffers to weigh in on what they're most excited for in Washtenaw County in 2019. We were surprised by the diversity of results, ranging from new theater productions to advances in affordable housing advocacy. Take a gander at our staff's picks and then tell us your own in the comments. Happy New Year!


The following views are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily represent Concentrate as a whole.


Emily Benda, innovation news writer: As a theater geek, I am really looking forward to experiencing Washtenaw County's evolving and innovative theater scene in 2019. Student-run theatre company Runyonland Productions is getting into the swing of its debut season this winter with Merrily We Roll Along in late February and Myths and Hymns in March. I’m interested to see how the company builds its presence in 2019 and look forward to experiencing what their second season will bring in the fall.


Next year will also bring great things for Roustabout Theatre Troupe, with their three-show season based at the Ypsi Experimental Space. They're bringing in a lot of local Michigan talent and will even feature Michigan's history with the play Haunted: The Great Lakes Ghost Project, a compilation of Michigander ghost stories written by Michigan playwright Joseph Zettelmaier.

Joseph Zettelmaier, Joey Albright and Anna Simmons of the Roustabout Theatre Troupe

These performers and artists are paving the way for creative conversation and making the arts more accessible in our community, and I can’t wait to see where they take Washtenaw County next.


Doug Coombe, managing photographer: I’m most excited about the Allen Creek Railroad Berm Project being completed next year. In Michigan most of our cities seem to have sprung up around industry built on waterfronts. Accessibility to the water for citizens never seemed to be an initial consideration in building our cities.


The Argo Cascades that opened up in 2012 greatly increased the number of residents canoeing and kayaking on the Huron River. Even though the dock across the river at Bandemer Park is one of the most popular spots on Instagram in the summer, the park itself is still a little daunting to visit on bike or foot given the high traffic volumes on North Main Street.

The Allen Creek railroad berm.

The berm project will open up a pedestrian path underneath the railroad tracks to the river off of the much more welcoming Depot Street. Anyone who’s canoed along the Huron River knows how beautiful it is. Making it easier for all of us to head a mile out of downtown and unplug for a while sounds great to me.


Patrick Dunn, managing editor: It's difficult not to second most of my Concentrate colleagues' wishes for the new year, particularly when affordable housing advocacy and new music venues are in the mix. But additionally, I'm looking forward to following the growth of We the People Growers Association (WTPGA), the Ypsilanti organization that aims to offer employment for those returning from incarceration and build community through agriculture.

Melvin Parson at We The People Growers Association gardens

I first met WTPGA founder Melvin Parson a year and a half ago, and it's been inspiring to see how he's grown as a local leader and community figure since then. Parson has recently embarked on the journey of forming a new nonprofit, We the People Opportunity Center (WTPOC). WTPOC is still in the early stages, but Parson's stated vision for it is ambitious, including farming/culinary training programs and an expanded farm location. I'm fascinated to see where WTPGA, WTPOC, and Parson go next in their mission of uplifting community through agriculture.


Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder, innovation news writer: There is so much joy to be found in a really good meal and really good music, and Ann Arbor doesn’t fail to deliver in both areas. There is such an astounding variety of culinary delights and the breadth of talent is simply staggering.


I personally can’t wait until March when the Blue Llama Jazz Club joins our local food and musical offerings. Taking over the former location of RUSH nightclub on Main Street, the new venue will serve up gourmet small plates and world-renowned jazz musicians under one roof. (Think the likes of pianist Ellis Marsalis and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval!)

Artistic director Dave Sharp and executive chef Louis Goral at the future Blue Llama Jazz Club.

For me, the Blue Llama is a brilliant pairing of two things I love. I’m also excited at the potential the venue has to indulge another personal passion: travel. With a wee bit of imagination and the right Friday-night shoes I’m anticipating that it will be easy to experience a taste of New Orleans without having to hop on a plane.


Afaf Humayun, contributing writer: At the turn of the year, physical health resolutions abound! But in my resolution queue, I have "nourishing my soul" underlined and in bold. I will need more homemade vegan wraps from What’s in Your Cup Cafe, all things brewed at Hyperion Coffee, and time at the Ypsilanti District Library's Whittaker Road branch. The latter is the best year-round spot to play with my kiddo, and for me, the best place to take a break from the pursuit of work-life balance. I’ll also be tuning into local art projects, such as Ypsi Experimental Space exhibits. It brings me joy to see how people use spaces to create and tell stories.
Donald Harrison at Ypsi Experimental Space with art by Lavinia Hanachiuc and Jim Cherewick in 2016
Another one of my resolutions is to check in with local grassroots organizations, such as
Proud Parents of Loss and Ypsi Gathering Space, to see what kind of support they need from the community. Finally, I plan to stay curious and tuned in to what our local and county governments are up to – specifically, how the GARE trainings on racial equity and opportunity advancements manifest, and what the recently passed Equity Policy means for Washtenaw County.


Sarah Rigg, On the Ground Ypsilanti project manager: It looked like 2018 might be a good year for affordable housing in Washtenaw County, with regulations loosened on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) plus $5 million for an affordable housing fund to be generated by the sale of Ann Arbor's Library Lot to Core Spaces.

The downtown Ann Arbor Library Lot

But with the Core Spaces deal dead or delayed and only one ADU permit pulled in the last year or so, it looks like the city of Ann Arbor and the county overall will continue to be unaffordable for middle- and working-class folks for a while. That struggle has reached the city of Ypsilanti as well, as residents grapple with how to revitalize the local economy without pricing out long-term residents.


We have a lot of bright people and a lot of organizations dedicated to housing insecurity in our county, so my hope for 2019 is that we can generate creative ways to make Ann Arbor and the rest of the county affordable for the people who wait on our tables, service our cars, and teach our children.

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