U-M's Ypsilanti Health Center to move downtown, tripling space and adding specialty care

The move will place the center in a more accessible location and allow Michigan Medicine to establish a more prominent presence in the Ypsi community.
Officials overseeing the University of Michigan's (U-M) Ypsilanti Health Center at 200 Arnet St. #200 in Ypsilanti are hoping to move operations downtown to 300 W. Michigan Ave. by the end of 2024. The move will allow them to more than triple the center's square footage, offer more specialty care, and establish a more prominent presence in the Ypsi community.
courtesy Tony DentonTony Denton.
The center will also anchor a building that its owner, Ann Arbor-based coworking business MI-HQ, hopes will revitalize Ypsilanti's downtown. MI-HQ acquired the building, formerly Eastern Michigan University's (EMU) Gary Owen College of Business, from EMU for $2.6 million in the summer of 2022. MI-HQ is in the process of renovating the entire 130,000-square-foot building inside and out, including upgrading its facade and landscaping. Michigan Medicine has made a firm deal for the building's fourth and fifth floors but is in negotiations for how much space it will take up on the first floor.

"It's important for us to make care more convenient and accessible," says Tony Denton, senior vice president and chief environmental, social, and governance officer at U-M Health. "At the heart of our plans is to expand our program capacity, so we'll still have primary care, but also specialty care, diagnostic imaging, radiology, and other support care, plus social spaces and a food pantry."

U-M's vision for the Ypsilanti Health Center

The Ypsilanti Health Center's current location is about 15,000 square feet, and the facility is "pretty much dedicated to primary care services," Denton says. "If a patient has other issues and a need for a referral, they would have to have transportation to specialty care elsewhere."
courtesy Migdalia MuslerMigdalia Musler.
Even before construction began, Michigan Medicine staff asked stakeholders what they wanted to see in an expanded Ypsilanti Health Center. Migdalia Musler, Michigan Medicine's chief operating officer for ambulatory care, says that Michigan Medicine's team used community needs assessments to "determine the service mix" they should bring to their new Ypsilanti location. 

She says the move to a larger, more convenient location will help medical staff "close the gaps" when it comes to social determinants of health, or non-medical factors that influence people's health outcomes.

"This project offers us the ability to provide comprehensive specialty care for patients who might otherwise have barriers to transportation," Musler says. 

Denton notes that the new location will be "literally 50 feet away from the Ypsilanti Transit Center downtown."

Musler says Michigan Medicine will be able to "expand connections with social support agencies, and we already have really good wraparound services within our practice."

Denton notes another plus to expanding specialty care in the new location. Because Michigan Medicine will have a mammogram unit on site, its recently added mobile mammography unit can be "deployed elsewhere."

The bigger picture: a downtown anchor?

Renovations to the building are part of MI-HQ's larger aim to "activate the space and open it up to the city," says MI-HQ President Mark Smith. 

"We really want to embrace the city and not turn our backs on it," he says, referring to the fact that the building's front is on Michigan Avenue, but entrances were off Hamilton and Adams on either side.

Musler says the team charged with identifying potential properties for the Ypsilanti Health Center talked about "how we could demonstrate social responsibility." She says they were intentional in choosing a location they thought would make a positive difference in the city's economic development. 
Doug CoombeMI-HQ President Mark Smith at the former EMU Gary Owen College of Business under renovation.
"What was so compelling was the revitalization opportunity it offers," Musler says.

Denton notes that expanding the space and the care offered there means more jobs.

"We're excited to bring more care to the community of Ypsilanti, and it allows us to hire more employees locally and invest in Ypsilanti," Denton says. "That way, we're advancing physical health, mental health, and also economic wealth. We at Michigan Medicine and MI-HQ are joined in our interest in elevating the economic strength of the community."

Smith says his company is intentionally renovating the building to encourage collaboration between tenants. He's excited to have Michigan Medicine as an anchor but wants to "save enough room for our early-stage companies to be able to collaborate."
Doug Coombe300 W. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti under renovation.
Denton says Michigan Medicine plans to use the first-floor auditorium, which will be available to all tenants, and contribute to the collaborative spirit MI-HQ hopes to foster.

"It's an opportunity for our caregivers to come and meet with community members around different illnesses and talk about prevention or coaching," Denton says. "We also believe there will be lots of opportunities to partner with other tenants."

"We hope this investment by Michigan Medicine will be a catalyst for others to invest further in Ypsilanti," Denton says. "We're interested in working with other entities like government and education to address the social determinants of health, providing health care that looks at the bigger picture, which is advancing the health of the community. We're trying to be transformational and make meaningful progress in Ypsilanti."

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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