What are you most excited for in Washtenaw County in 2023?

With 2023 upon us, we've asked each of our staffers to weigh in on what they're most excited for in Washtenaw County in the new year.
Here at Concentrate we're all about keeping on top of what's next for Washtenaw County, so we've made a bit of a tradition of ending each year by looking to the year ahead. With 2023 upon us, we've asked each of our staffers to weigh in on what they're most excited for in Washtenaw County in the new year – just as we did in 2021, 2019, 2018, and 2017. And we were surprised by the diversity of results, ranging from a new Ann Arbor music venue to zoning changes to the city of Ypsilanti's 200th birthday celebrations. 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.

Yen Azzaro, Voices of Youth art mentor: I'm psyched to see how arts and culture grow with the second iteration of Embracing Our Differences murals, Neighborhood Theatre Group's continuing 2022-23 production season, and rotating exhibits at The Gallery above Stone and Spoon in Ypsilanti.
An Embracing Our Differences mural at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor.
Also, the United Way of Washtenaw County will be kicking off their 21-Day Equity Challenge: 2023 Edition from Jan. 9-29, a free program that emails readings, videos, podcasts, and other kinds of prompts to participants to "deepen our understanding of and willingness to confront racism for 21 consecutive days." This year's challenge includes creative prompts like looking at art and exploring what feelings/ideas it conjures, using creative writing for expression, and making a small mark on someone's day through drawing. Thousands of people in Washtenaw County participate and I think it's such a powerful (and cleansing) way to kick off the new year. 

Sabine Bickford Brown, features and news writer: I’m excited to see the continued momentum for the new TC1/transit corridor zoning designation that has been approved for the State Street/Eisenhower Parkway area in Ann Arbor, and potentially soon for the West Stadium Boulevard area as well. As a “far-west-side” resident, I would love to see my area become more walkable and easily accessible via public transportation for both myself and my neighbors.
Advocates hope the new TC1 zoning designation in the State/Eisenhower corridor will make the area more walkable and livable.
I am also hopeful that the change will make a big difference for the continued housing crisis in Ann Arbor by allowing for greater density via mixed-use buildings and more convenience for those without personal vehicles. It’s encouraging to see positive change in both of these areas, and I am looking forward to seeing what other steps we take in 2023 to make our city more accessible and affordable for all residents.

Doug Coombe, managing photographer: What I’m most excited for in 2023 is having another great small music venue and vegan bar in downtown Ann Arbor: North Star Lounge, which opened on Oct. 1 this year next door to Detroit Street Filling Station. North Star Lounge is the passion project of Detroit Street Filling Station owner Phillis Engelbert. While Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have always had strong music communities, there has traditionally been a lack of smaller venues for upcoming artists to play and woodshed in. North Star presents a diverse music lineup, with Django Reinhardt-inspired gypsy jazz on Wednesdays, blues and boogie woogie pianist Mr. B on Thursdays, bluegrass on Fridays, and jazz brunch on Sunday, while Saturday is the wild card night.  The bar also hosts an LGBTQ night on Tuesdays.
Djangophonique performs at North Star Lounge.
Engelbert says music is a great way to live out her personal philosophy of putting "as much joy as possible out there into the community and universe." To me, a small club show feels like the perfect antidote for the past couple years of lost community. 

Patrick Dunn, managing editor: Having recently purchased a house in Ypsilanti Township's Gault Village neighborhood, I'm excited about seeing young businesses continue to grow on the nearby Ecorse Road commercial strip. I recently had the great pleasure of checking out Maniacal Mead Co. for the first time, and I hope to see the business continue to flourish. Its fermented honey drinks are delicious and the staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.
Maniacal Mead Co. co-founders Patrick Echlin and Jeff Fraser in their production facility.
Similarly, it's great to see the robust offerings at The Cow Prime Cuts, a meat market that recently opened in the iconic cow statue-topped building at 979 Ecorse. It's wonderful to have these delicious, locally-owned businesses close to home, and I hope to see more like them in the year to come.

Chrishelle Griffin, Voices of Youth social media mentor: This year, I had the opportunity to participate in Concentrate’s Voices of Youth program, which allowed me to work with some amazing young adults in Washtenaw County. I was able to serve as their social media mentor on projects with topics including combating single-storied perceptions of the African continent, mental health awareness, and inclusion of different backgrounds within the community. 
Hasini Anand, a young mental health advocate who was featured in Concentrate's Voices of Youth series.
That said, what I’m most excited for in Washtenaw County going into the new year is seeing how these students take these singular projects and apply them to their everyday lives, whether in their respective schools, cities, or communities they call home. My hope is that they realize they are capable of taking their ideas and using them to make a big difference beyond their Voices of Youth projects. 

Monica A. Hickson, features writer: Since I was a young woman growing up in Detroit, I have read about redlining and other racist housing practices that negatively affect the Black community. Being a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) champion and facilitator, I was intrigued by this recent Concentrate article about the nonprofit Justice InDeed's efforts to undo racist housing policy in Ann Arbor.
Jenny Jones and Matthew Countryman both work with Justice InDeed.
Home ownership has always been the way to generational wealth. I, like Jenny Jones' aunt in the article, lost my childhood home to the negligence of my uncle, who took ownership after my grandmother passed away. I could have taken over the home but was not offered the opportunity. I am hopeful that more Ann Arbor residents learn who lived in their homes prior to them (avoiding the ugly stares Black Ann Arbor residents describe receiving in the article). When I first moved to this area I thought that white people always lived in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown neighborhood, so it is great to learn that the area was once a primarily Black community. It hurts that many don’t know that. Bravo to Justice InDeed's advisory board for educating people about systemic housing discrimination. 

Brooke Marshall, features and news writer: I’m excited to experience everything the vibrant bicycling scene in Washtenaw County has to offer. There’s Bike Party on the last Friday of every month … even the cold months, when biking is a fond memory for most. What better way to embrace a chilly Michigan winter than by putting on a costume (under a winter jacket, of course) and taking a leisurely bike ride around Ann Arbor in all its snowy splendor? The Ann Arbor Bicycle Film Festival at the State Theatre on Feb. 9 promises to be a bit more cozy: an hour and a half of short films, ranging from two to 15 minutes, all centered around bikes.
Cyclists on the Border-to-Border Trail.
Once the weather warms up, I’m determined to go to Hell with the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society on their annual One Helluva Ride on July 8. The event is a 40-, 63-, or 100-mile road bike ride from Chelsea to Hell, Michigan. I’m less likely to tackle the Watermoo on Aug. 12, but it’s certainly worth mentioning: a 111-mile race over gravel, tarmac, and, in the words of the event website, “a road that is no longer a road.” Finally, I’m always excited to see (and experience!) the progress on the Border-to-Border Trail.

Sarah Rigg, On the Ground Ypsilanti project manager: As the project manager for On the Ground Ypsilanti for the last four years, it was hard to answer anything other than "Ypsi's bicentennial!" to the question of what I'm most excited for in Washtenaw County in 2023. The city and partner community organizations have a number of events planned throughout the year, including opening a time capsule from 1973 and opportunities for community members to share "Love Letters to Ypsilanti."
Young people hold up their love letters to Ypsilanti, created at an YpsiWrites booth at the Ypsilanti Depot Town Farmers Market.I've enjoyed reporting on the quirky, passionate, innovative residents of Ypsilanti and Ypsi Township for Concentrate since autumn of 2018 and look forward to continuing to celebrate this community in 2023.

Embracing Our Differences photo courtesy of Embracing Our Differences - Southeast Michigan. All other photos by Doug Coombe.
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