What are you most excited for in Washtenaw County in 2024?

With 2024 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 2024 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 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, and 2017. And we were surprised by the diversity of results, ranging from efforts to create reparations in Ann Arbor to new restaurants to the return of the Ypsilanti District Library's main branch. 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.

Rylee Barnsdale, On the Ground Ypsilanti reporter and radio host: When I wasn’t getting acclimated to my new position as On the Ground Ypsilanti reporter here at Concentrate, my 2023 was all about getting married. Between cake tastings and dress fittings, my now-wife and I were immersing ourselves in our new home’s creative scene. It became a kind of tradition to go out every other weekend throughout the summer and fall to see what Ypsi’s variety of arts markets, music events, and festivals had to offer us. I’m really looking forward to continuing that tradition next year. I’m particularly excited to see what kind of weird and wonderful things the Ypsilanti Independent Film Festival (IFFY) and the Holy Bones monthly themed markets will bring to date nights with my wife in the new year.
The Independent Film Festival Ypsilanti team.
Doug Coombe, managing photographer: I’m most excited about the music venue 2 West opening in the former location of architectural salvage/antique shop Materials Unlimited at 2 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti. Owner Jamie Taralunga envisions a performance space/gallery on the first floor, studio and rehearsal spaces in the basement, plus a record store and theatrical manufacturing facilities. Taralunga hopes to have a VIP area, green room, and sleeping accommodations for touring bands on the second floor. Behind the venue could be a beer garden and food trucks overlooking Riverside Park and the Huron River.
2 West owner Jamie Taralunga on the ground floor overlooking the Huron River.
Alongside Ziggy's and The Regal Beagle – two of the most fun music venues in Washtenaw County – 2 West would establish a trifecta of intimate music venues along Michigan Avenue that will help celebrate and support the local talent of Ypsilanti’s fantastic music scene. Before then Taralunga must complete remediation of the building's brownfield site, reconstruction of the 100-year-old building, and remodeling. Taralunga envisions a few soft openings and events in 2024 with a grand opening hopefully in 2025. I can’t wait.

Jaishree Drepaul, writer and Voices of Youth mentor: I was sipping coffee in Ann Arbor recently when I watched a video of Guyanese President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali on "Good Morning Britain." The leader of my homeland appeared on the news program this past September to discuss reparations for one of the greatest crimes in humanity: slavery. Reactions to the topic of reparations have included the good, the bad, and the ugly. Increasingly, unprecedented conversations about historical injustices are happening all over the world – and I'm excited that local leaders in my hometown are part of the mix. The goals of the recently formed Ann Arbor Council on Reparations are groundbreaking for Washtenaw County, and in 2024 I'm looking forward to seeing how community conversations and efforts evolve.  
Alize Asberry Payne, Washtenaw County's racial equity officer, is spearheading the county's reparations efforts.
Patrick Dunn, managing editor: As a former resident of Ann Arbor's North Side, and a fan of Ann Arbor renaissance man Pete Baker, I'm excited to check out Baker's new Lower Town Bar and Cafe, and to see how it grows in its first year. When Concentrate's Natalia Holtzman chatted recently with Baker about his new venture, I thought his comments about the need for more neighborhood-level social hubs in Ann Arbor were right on the money. I recall the mile-and-a-half-long walk to get to Casey's Tavern when I lived on the North Side – and while both Casey's and the trek to get there in invigorating winter air were delightful, I'm glad my old neighborhood now has a more centrally located gathering place.
Lowertown Bar and Cafe co-owners Pete Baker and Joe Bollinger.
Natalia Holtzman, arts reporter: As someone who is primarily motivated by food, I'm excited to try some of the new restaurants opening up in Washtenaw County, particularly Culantro, the Peruvian joint that just opened in downtown Ann Arbor. Their ceviche looks mouth-watering.

But there’ve also been some promising developments related to civic and social issues in the area. In November, the Livingston and Washtenaw Counties Child Care Coalition (which was convened by Ann Arbor SPARK) produced two reports on the challenges faced by both families and child care providers, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they use that information as they shift from data-gathering to a more action-oriented approach.
Culantro owners/mother and son Betty Shuell and Alvaro Herrera.Layla McMurtrie, writer: When I think about what I’m excited for in Washtenaw County in 2024, I think about what would help people most in need. Having worked at and volunteered with Groundcover News, which helps the homeless community in Ann Arbor, I have learned about many issues the community faces, including issues accessing public restrooms. A couple of months ago, Ann Arbor City Council unanimously voted to approve a one-year contract with Throne Labs, which will place 10 public restrooms throughout the city. As this will greatly help people I care about, this is something I am looking forward to in the new year. While there are still some concerns about the program, since people will need phones to access the bathrooms, I do think it is a step in the right direction and will benefit the community overall. 

Sarah Rigg, On the Ground Ypsilanti project manager and Voices of Youth mentor: I've worked or volunteered at three libraries in my life and am a big fan of the public library system. Therefore, my hope for 2024 is that the Ypsilanti District Library (YDL) will recover quickly from the flood that rendered its Michigan Avenue branch downtown unusable for months. Riding high on the success of its new Superior Township branch and snagging a prestigious national grant to fund a Great Stories book club focused on diversity, the flood damage was a huge blow to the YDL. Library Director Lisa Hoenig says an optimistic timeline has the Michigan Avenue branch reopening in June 2024, just in time for the summer reading program. 
Aaron Smith, Lisa Hoenig, and Sam Killian at the bookmobile outside of the Ypsilanti District Library Michigan Avenue branch.
The library is more than a place where books are stored. YDL's Michigan Avenue branch in particular is a vital resource for downtown residents, especially those who live on society's margins and might need free internet access or a warm place to hang out during the day. Let's hope the community will be generous and that Hoenig's optimistic estimate is on the mark!

Thanks for reading Concentrate in 2023. We'll see you in the new year!

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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