At Concentrate we're all about keeping on top of what's next for Washtenaw County, so to send out 2019 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 2020. We were surprised by the diversity of results, ranging from a new farmers market in Manchester to advances in affordable housing. 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, news and features writer: In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about affordable housing and Ann Arbor development, and I hope 2020 may be the year Ann Arbor sees significant change. In 2019 we saw affordable housing solutions proposed by U-M lecturer Peter Allen and his students, as well as a call for help from the Sister Yvonne Gellise Fund to increase support to agencies providing supportive housing services.
Doug Kelbaugh, Peter Allen, and Kazi Najeeb Hasan at a potential development site on top of the Liberty Square parking structure.
This December, the city of Ann Arbor hosted community engagement sessions to discuss the redevelopment of the vacant lots at 350 S. Fifth Ave. and 415 W. Washington St. Hopefully these locations will be first priority for the city to develop in the new year and these sessions will keep the momentum going in 2020 to put affordable housing solutions in place.
Doug Coombe, managing photographer: I’m most excited about Acorn Farmers' Market and Cafe opening up in Manchester. Currently the space at 327 W. Main St. is home to a Winter Farmers Market open Thursdays through Saturdays. After renovations to the building, the market will open daily in 2020. Additions to the building will include a commercial kitchen, allowing the market to provide cooking and canning classes to the community.
5 Healthy Towns coalition member Ruth Vanbogelen at future home of Acorn Farmers' Market and Cafe in Manchester.
When Manchester Market closed early in 2019, the town was left without a grocery store. Acorn plans to fill that gap by providing locally sourced meat, dairy, produce, and baked goods, based on Kathy Sample and Bill Brinkerhoff’s Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor. Kathy and Bill’s locally influential model helps to sustain the local agricultural community by allowing farmers and producers to sell their wares in a dedicated year-round location. Acorn Farmers’ Market is a 501(c)(3) non profit - you can donate here.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder, news and features writer: As a mother of two, I'm really excited about the ongoing plans to rebuild the Eberwhite Elementary Playground. I still remember the wonder and awe that spread across my children's faces when they first set eyes on the playground, which is housed at Eberwhite Elementary School. I imagine that countless parents have had similar memories since the playground was built 30 years ago.
The Eberwhite playground.
It's been heartwarming to witness how the community has banded together and mobilized since the playground was deemed no longer safe in 2018 – the result of being well-loved and well-worn. The first phase of rebuilding was just completed in October, thanks to donations and volunteer builders. The second phase is set to start next year, ending with the completion of a 3rd-5th grade playground to accompany the just completed K-2nd grade playground.
For many years the Eberwhite Playground has served as a valuable hub for the local community. It's been a focal point for fun, laughter, and limitless imaginative adventures, and I can't wait to see the transformation.
Patrick Dunn, managing editor: I can't help echoing Emily's sentiment in hoping, as I do every year, that in 2020 Washtenaw County will see meaningful progress in addressing its ever-growing affordable housing crisis. Additionally, both as a nerd and a new board member of the Ypsi nonprofit Hero Nation, I'm excited for Hero Nation Comic Con's return to Ypsi at Parkridge Community Center on Sept. 26.
The Leaders of Color fellows.
However, in 2020 I'm most excited to see the results of NEW's Leaders of Color fellowship. The six-month intensive leadership program aims to strengthen connections and build new skills among a cohort of our county's existing leaders of color, and to increase their representation in leadership positions countywide. The cohort members are remarkable people who are already doing outstanding work in our community, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they do next.
Sarah Rigg, On the Ground Ypsilanti project manager: A theme that has come up over and over again in my 2019 coverage for On the Ground Ypsilanti has been the power of collaboration. Collaborative projects include the YpsiWrites initiative that grew from a partnership between Eastern Michigan University, the Ypsilanti District Library, and 826michigan; local churches partnering with the county parks and recreation department or the YMCA to provide recreational opportunities; and Black Men Read formalizing its partnership with Washtenaw My Brother's Keeper.
The Sport Port Program at the Grace Fellowship Church House of Solutions.
Washtenaw County is home to many grassroots organizations and nonprofits, and some of them offer overlapping services. While many of these organizations are doing great work throughout the county, I sometimes see unnecessary duplication of efforts and believe they could do more work, more efficiently, when connected with the right partners. My wish for 2020 is that the county's charitable groups, both small and large, will start or continue dialogues with each other about how they can expand their reach and mission through the power of strategic collaboration.
All photos by Doug Coombe.