Today marks the 500th issue of Concentrate. That means 500 publishing weeks of our mostly-weekly chronicle of what's next for Washtenaw County. In more concrete terms, it means 12 years' worth of coverage – and change in our community.
To mark the occasion, I took a look back at some of our earliest coverage. We launched in 2007, following on the heels of Metromode and Model D, our sister publications covering metro Detroit and the city of Detroit. Those publications were built on rejecting the loss-based approach that had dominated media coverage of Detroit, focusing on stories of growth and innovation rather than bankruptcies and crime.
Our first feature story, which ran in January 2007, noted something of a pivotal moment in which Ann Arbor was becoming "more and more its own metro area, one separate from Detroit." Other early stories focused on the importance of densifying Ann Arbor, the distinct split between younger and older residents over high-rise developments and other changes to Ann Arbor's traditional aesthetic, and the surprising concept of a 30-something "hipster-casual couple" choosing to move to Ypsilanti.
Roughly a decade later, Ann Arbor has indeed densified to a degree. A number of those much-debated high-rises have been constructed, but as we reported in 2013, they don't exactly target the middle class. In the meantime, Ann Arbor became the eighth most socioeconomically segregated metro area in the country. The debate over Ann Arbor's future has also continued if not intensified, still often split among generational lines, most recently with the Proposal A vote on the future of the Library Lot property. Meanwhile, new residents have continued to stream into Ypsi from Ann Arbor and other areas – while longtime Ypsi residents have become increasingly concerned about rising rents and gentrification.
In managing this publication that focuses on what's next for Washtenaw County, I've attempted to continue celebrating our strengths, but also to be responsive to increasing disparity and other problems facing us. Since I became managing editor of Concentrate in 2016, we've established On the Ground Ypsilanti, an embedded reporting program that seeks to better engage with the many, many voices in Ypsi who often get left out of the conversation and elevate their stories. We've attempted to approach development from a thoughtful perspective that advocates for inclusivity and affordability, and to cover not just businesses who are trying to make a buck, but those who are truly trying to better this community.
As I look ahead to issue No. 501 and beyond, I can assure you we're going to continue to focus on those stories that focus on the growth of our community. But to me that focus on growth doesn't always mean feel-good, self-congratulatory stuff – nor does it mean defining growth in the statistical terms of dollars and cents, jobs created, or new construction.
To me, it means focusing on those members of our community who get left behind in the dominant narrative of our progress, uplifting their voices, struggles, and successes. It means spotlighting those who do inhabit the more prosperous circles of our community but are also actively working to make it a better place for all residents. It means questioning the dominant paradigms about our community, swapping out a complacent "We're the best" for a "How can we keep doing better?"
Washtenaw County has seen remarkable growth by many metrics since Concentrate's first issue. But our community's next great evolutionary step must involve thinking intelligently, humanely, and collaboratively about equalizing access to opportunity and prosperity. Any other path is unsustainable on a practical level, and untenable on a moral one.
Here at Concentrate, we're looking forward to another 500 issues of answering the question: What's next for Washtenaw County? It's my hope that, in the long run, we as a community can settle on an answer that feels right and creates belonging for all residents – from Burns Park to West Willow.