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AnnArbor.com's News section covers government, crime, education, health and the environment across Washtenaw County.

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    The directions were coming fast and furious.

    “Roll your head!”

    “Twist your wrists! Forearms! Whole Arms!”

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    I was participating in a motion capture demonstration at an open house for the University of Michigan 3-D Lab located in the Duderstadt Center on North Campus.

    Wearing a skintight black suit with 53 nib-like reflective markers attached, I was standing in a circle of cameras with bright red lights attached trying to concentrate and follow the instructions.

    “Now twist your whole body! Good! Now left leg, front back side! Now the right!”

    I was being "guided" through this series of motions by the lab's motion capture and visualization hardware specialist Steffen Heise.

    Each of the eight cameras around me was trained to pick up the red light reflecting off my markers. Each camera was using those points of light to take a “picture” of me that would be combined with the seven other images to create a three-dimensional image.

    Using that image, and once I was through with the light calisthenics, an animated character would appear on the screen and I would be able to control his motions.

    “Now squat! Aaaand back to T-Pose!”

    Just like that, I was calibrated.

    For the next 20 minutes I proceed to shimmy, do the dance from “Gangnam style,” do the running man, and otherwise make a fool of myself while watching my real-time avatar do the exact same thing.

    The motion capture system is one of a number at U-M, but it’s the only one that is, like everything else in the 3-D Lab, available to any student or faculty member.

    “It’s really open to the general student population,” Heise said.


    I tried to look as sophisticated as possible while trying out the motion capture suit.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    “We’ve had students do projects with sign language, we’ve had a Kinesiology class work with the technology. We’re a part of the library, so it works like the library. It’s shared resources that everyone can use.”

    Uses for the technology at the university have ranged across disciplines, anyone attempting to capture a distinct movement could benefit from the system.

    “We’ve had dancers in here before,” lab manager Eric Maslowski said.

    “If there’s a certain dance move that someone wants to learn, right now they can either learn from video or from an older dancer. But that older dancer is going to have put their own little variation on it. By capturing exactly where each joint is supposed to go, we can help people learn exactly what they want to know.”

    Maslowski said musical conductors also have used the technology to teach precise joint motion that can be difficult to examine using 2-dimensional video.

    For my purposes, I was more interested in see what kind of crazy things I could make my animated character do. The “person” representing me on screen, who happened to only be wearing underwear, was developed as part of the Universal Character System that Maslowski developed.

    Interactive imaging and production specialist Stephanie O’Malley, who has a background in video game design, created my particular character right at the lab. You could tell he was developed at U-M because his briefs were maize and blue.

    “We’re developing different body types so people can see how different bodies can be affected by different motion,” she said.

    One of O’Malley’s next projects is to be able to put more clothes on the characters. She already created one model that wore high heels so that a class could examine the effect of the shoes on the rest of the body’s joint movements.

    The system wasn’t perfect. My animated self’s wrists constantly were cocked at odd angles, one of his/my feet consistently were flipped upside down (which looks really weird, trust me), and twice the computer became confused as to which side of my pelvis was the front, and which was the back.

    This mix-up morphed me into an odd ultimate limbo character, with my rear grotesquely sticking out in front of me and my body bent over backwards.

    Even with the minor glitches, there is a wide range of uses for the technology, from perfecting my free-throw motion (keep that elbow in!) to interacting with virtual worlds.

    For the time being, however, I was content to make my avatar extremely fat and dance around waving my arms doing my best Tevya impression while singing “If I were a rich man” a little too loudly.

    Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at benfreed@annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2

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    Alex Milshteyn of Howard Hanna, pictured outside a house for sale on Enclave Lane in Ann Arbor, said the 2012 real estate market in Washtenaw County was "very dynamic."

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    With historically low interest rates, declining inventory and a rebounding economy, 2012 was the best year for the Washtenaw County housing market in half a decade.

    Home sales in the county increased 9.2 percent over 2011, while the average home sale price showed steady improvement for the fourth consecutive year.

    Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors 2012 home sale data

    The average sale price increased in 8 of 9 school districts tracked by AABOR

      • Chelsea: 4 percent gain
      • Manchester: 4.77 percent gain
      • Dexter: 18 percent gain
      • Whitmore Lake: 20.36 percent gain
      • Saline: 10.5 percent gain
      • Lincoln: 5.64 percent gain
      • Milan: 2.8 percent gain
      • Ypsilanti: 16.84 percent gain
      • Ann Arbor: 2.2 percent loss

    Year-end data compiled by the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors show there were 3,340 home sales in Washtenaw County last year, with an average home sale price of $210,616. The average number of days on the market was 69, compared with 79 days in 2011.

    “2012 was a very dynamic market for us,” said Alex Milshteyn of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, formerly Edward Surovell Realtors. “We’ve kind of come out from this cloud we were under for a while there.”

    Matt Dejanovich of Real Estate One agreed, saying: “We’ve returned to low inventory, high demand, increasing average sale price and lower days on the market. All of that is making for a great environment to be buying and selling houses.”

    Some key points from 2012 Washtenaw County housing data:

    • Total dollar volume of residential sales increased 18.3 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year, reflecting increased activity and higher sale prices.
    • Since 2009, the average home sale price in Washtenaw County has increased by 15.5 percent.
    • The area with the highest average sale price was the city of Saline at $303,898.
    • The area with the lowest average sale price was Ypsilanti at $96,636.
    • Sales of condominiums in 2012 were up 12.7 percent over 2011.

    The Washtenaw County data is indicative of some national trends; total home sales in the U.S. was up 9.2 percent this year over 2011, and also the highest in five years, according to the National Association of Realtors.

    To be sure, the residential real estate market is still in recovery and home sales aren’t where they were a decade ago when the average sale price in the county was $259,000. Still, of the nine markets tracked in Washtenaw County, average sale prices increased everywhere except Ann Arbor in 2012, which was down $6,000 from 2011.

    “Prices are definitely strengthening; prices have increased and values have stopped dropping,” said Elizabeth Brien of Charles Reinhart Company.

    Dave Lutton, president of Charles Reinhart added: “Prices are still — across the board — down 20 percent from what they once were.”

    “I believe we’re going to see gradual improvement,” he continued, “but it may be 15 years (or more) in many areas before we get back to 2004 levels."

    The biggest challenge Realtors and buyers are reporting right now: low inventory levels due to a recovering economy and extremely low interest rates. Finding rental properties also is getting more difficult with low supply and increasing prices.

    “The inventory levels are as low as I’ve ever seen them in Washtenaw County,” said Real Estate One’s Wayne Esch. He said there are currently 754 residential homes and 133 condominiums available in the county, whereas a decade ago, Esch said there would be anywhere from 1,600 to 2,600 homes for sale.


    Realtors report low housing inventory with more buyers looking for properties in Washtenaw County.

    File photo

    “The inventory is half of what it was 10 years ago,” he said.

    What does that mean for buyers?

    Competition is high for houses and people are getting into bidding wars, sometimes above the listing price. Milshteyn said he’s receiving multiple offers on properties and his houses were only on the market for an average of 12 days last year.

    “If you procrastinate or think too long or think you can offer a seller 10 percent below asking price on a perfectly good house, you’re going to be frustrated because you’re not going to get the house,” Dejanovich said.

    Lutton added: “Buyers have to be prepared to act, have gotten a start on finances and make the most competitive offer they can.”

    Other concerns in the real estate market include appraisals and foreclosures, although foreclosure activity in the county is declining. Michigan is ranked 7th nationally in the number of foreclosures, with one in every 732 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in December 2012, according to Realtytrac. That’s an improvement over the one in every 282 filings in December 2010.

    In many cases, Realtors report, appraisals haven’t caught up with what the buyers are willing to pay.

    As for new home construction, Lutton said it’s returning to the county because of the low inventory levels.

    Washtenaw County permits for single-family home construction totaled 307 in 2012, up from 158 in 2009, according to data compiled by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. However, that number is still significantly lower than the 1,167 permits submitted in 2005.

    With the busy spring real estate season just around the corner, Brien is predicting the market will continue to improve.

    “I think we have more buyers coming in,” she said. “Obviously, employment is changing, automotive companies are doing so much better and there’s a lot of other job opportunities…I think we’re going to continue to see that this year, and we should have a very solid year of real estate.”

    Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at lizzyalfs@annarbor.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.

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    Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles about the Harbaughs' time in Ann Arbor. For more about the brothers’ on-field performances, check back next week on AnnArbor.com.

    When the Baltimore Ravens line up against the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 3, John and Jim Harbaugh will be on opposite sidelines in what is being labeled the “Har-Bowl” or the “Super-Baugh,” depending on whom you ask.

    The Super Bowl-bound brothers lived in Ann Arbor during the 1970s while their dad Jack Harbaugh coached under Bo Schembechler at the University of Michigan. The world has changed a lot in the past 40 years, but old friends and teammates say the two haven’t changed much at all.

    They always had their similarities. Both were athletic and hypercompetitive. Neither minded ripped clothes or grass stains and both had a strong will to win.

    “If it was playing Monopoly or tackle football in the back yard, we all went at it hard,” family friend John Minick said. Minick’s family was close with the Harbaughs, and he played with both brothers on the Junior Packers youth team and at Pioneer High School.

    “We enjoyed each other’s company because we all elevated each other… we all wanted to be better than each other. Sometimes we didn’t all agree on a foul or how someone was tackled, but when you get a bunch of boys together about the same age it’s fun, it was exciting.”

    That same competitive edge has served both coaches well as they worked their way up the coaching ranks. The two now sit at the pinnacle of their sport, staring down a very familiar opponent.

    “They were always going at each other, playing one-on-one in basketball, playing P-I-G against each other, and it would be a coin flip who’d come out on top,” Minick said.

    “John was a little more than a year older, but Jim would never concede. They both wanted to win every event.”

    They also had their differences. John, now the coach of the Baltimore Ravens and former defensive back at Miami University in Ohio, was always “one of the guys,” and friends remember him as very methodical and cerebral. Jim, the coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was the more athletically gifted brother, going on to play football for the University of Michigan and in the National Football League. He was more extroverted than John and had a “cowboy” attitude that often sometimes came across as cocky.


    Jim Harbaugh (left, number 12) throwing a pass on the run in a Junior Packers varsity game in 1976.

    Photo Courtesy John Hendershot

    Long-time Tappan Junior High (later Tappan Middle) School teacher and coach Rob Lillie coached both brothers at Tappan. At that age, the brothers were multi-sport athletes excelling in football, basketball, and baseball.

    Lillie said once he and co-coach Don Horning were trying to figure out who their best basketball player was so they asked Jim who he would put on the free throw line with the team down by one and two seconds left on the clock.

    “Jim was good, but he wasn’t the best player on our team,” Lillie said. “So we were trying to see who he thought was better between a couple of our star players.”

    Lillie and Horning should have known better.

    “That’s an easy one,” Harbaugh said to them at the time. “I’d want it to be me, because I know I’d make ‘em both.”

    That bravado was evident on and off the football field. Jim was the signal caller, the quarterback, and the center of attention. John played some offense, but he specialized on defense as a corner back.

    He didn’t have the same loud swagger that his brother did, but you didn’t want to be a ball carrier with John barreling down on you.

    “John would stick his head down and he’d hurt you, I guarantee you that John would stick you,” Lloyd Rowry, who played with John at Tappan and with both brothers at Pioneer High School, said.

    “It was nothing dirty, but he’d come around the corner and if you were in front of him, he was going to hit you. Hard.”

    Friends say they can still see the same traits in the brothers as the pace the sidelines in the NFL.

    “Jimmy always wanted to throw the ball down the field when we were playing,” Rowry said.

    “John’s a guy that takes it easy, and you can see that. Run, run, run, then pass, play good defense, that’s his method. Jimmy will put it on you right from the start. And you can see that in the way the 49ers play, Jim’s game is very wide open.”

    While they might have had different ways of expressing it, the deep football intelligence the coaches will be showing the world in the Super Bowl was clear even when they were playing at Tappan.

    “I had kids coming to me and saying they wouldn’t be on the same team as Jim because he was cocky and telling them what to do,” Lillie said.

    “They just didn’t understand that he understood athletics at a much higher level than they did. So then when their team would win ‘cause of some of the things he’d been telling them to do they’d come around.”

    Friends said both brothers were very grounded, and neither got into trouble very often.

    “Jim and John were and are defined by a very strong family unit,” Minick said.

    “Jack and Jackie [the Harbaugh's parents] believe in faith and family, academics and athletics. That’s how we saw them and that’s how they’re wired.”

    With the big game coming up, many with connections to the family are torn over which team to root for, others are happy to just sit back and watch their two friends do what they always did best, compete.

    “I’ve already won the Super Bowl,” Minick said.

    “If I could wear a jersey that was half of each team I would. I’m going to be rooting for coach Harbaugh. There’s no loser in this game as far as I’m concerned. If they could play to a tie, which neither of them would ever want to do, I wish they would do that.”

    Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at benfreed@annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2

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    “We don’t ban cars because of drunk drivers. Why ban guns?”

    “You can’t intrude on my 2nd Amendment rights!”

    “We need to train teachers how to use guns.”

    As a 17-year-old entering politics, I am extremely discouraged by the lack of unity between parties when it comes to gun control.


    Some believe there should be stricter requirements when making a firearm purchase.

    MLive.com file photo

    There is little actual debate, and fact is misrepresented all over news networks. The issue is as simple as we have been facing violent crimes of larger proportions in the last few years and most of these involved the use of military grade weapons. It seems everyone would agree that this is not okay, but to my surprise, this issue has boiled down to whether it is constitutional to limit the type of guns a citizen can own.

    Delusional spokesmen such as Jesse Ventura and Alex Jones seem to be raved about all over online new sources. Often, when they attempt debate on television shows, they have similar tactics: yell, shout, conspire to frighten the audience and make sure the opposition can’t get a word out.

    As a nation, we face a problem of military-grade weapons getting in the hands of mentally ill citizens; extremists of the Second Amendment fail to realize, or at least fail to acknowledge, that rather than having a situation where many people could die, a mental health screening for any gun purchase could significantly lower violent crimes committed through shootings.

    The middle-ground is clear; it is time to act and make progress toward less gun violence.

    Liam Cyr

    Gregory, Mich.

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    • Related story: Review from Friday night

    What did you think of the concert? Leave a comment and / or vote in the poll at the end of this post:

    Chances are, when it comes to the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, everyone will have their favorite moments. For me, Saturday night, it was old-timey Frank Fairfield, headline act The Head and the Heart, and the killer set delivered by Lucinda Williams.

    The two-night festival, which began Friday in Hill Auditorium, is the annual fundraising event for The Ark, Ann Arbor’s well-respected acoustic music and more venue. Where Friday tends toward more cutting-edge folk, Saturday is generally geared toward more traditional tastes.

    Williams’ performance was even more special because she was marking her 60th birthday. In addition, her set was a triumph over adversity, for not only did she miss her introduction, when she did get out on stage technical difficulties prevented her from using her first instrument of choice, an acoustic guitar.

    “Maybe it’s not a good idea to have a show on your birthday,” she mused, clearly displeased, as technicians scurried around her and the audience filled the awkward silence by singing Happy Birthday.

    After several minutes, Williams—accompanied by guitarist Doug Pettibone—decided to plunge ahead, using an electric guitar for the whole set. Although the guitar was a little over-amplified, her powerful, gritty voice was crystal clear on songs like “Drunken Angel,” “Copenhagen” and the new tune “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” which Williams said will be featured in an upcoming episode of the TV show “Nashville.” The song was terrific, by the way, and has “hit” written all over it. She closed her well-received set with “Joy,” her anti-capital punishment song she recently remade for the “West of Memphis: Voices for Justice” soundtrack.

    Fairfield, who dressed like a gent from early in the last century, sounded like one too. With his wavering voice, and songs like the 1850s-era “Cottage By The Sea,” it was like listening to an old 78 rpm record. He accompanied himself on fiddle, guitar and banjo, and worked himself up into a frenzy on each. Fairfield was something different, and the crowd loved him.

    As far as Seattle’s The Head and The Heart was concerned, the four guys in the group were hands-down excellent, but the band’s lone female, Charity Rose Thielen, on vocals and violin, put the band’s performance over the top. What a powerful singer—more of her, please.

    In addition to tunes from their self-titled 2010 album, such as “Ghosts” and "Rivers & Roads,” TH&TH tried out a couple of excellent tracks from a new album that’s in the recording stages. One—written after the Connecticut school shootings and probably called “I Wish It Was All A Dream”—was especially moving. The band closed the night with a rendition of the old Jimmie Rodgers tune “T is for Texas,” that brought a handful of other musicians from earlier acts out on stage to, well, mostly just kind of stand around and dance in place, since they didn’t seem to know the song.

    Of the other acts, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Brother Joscephus and the Love Revolution is one of those groups that has to be seen to be appreciated. I’m not sure a recording could do this highly visual, New Orleans-inspired gospel-soul-rock aggregation justice. The two front men, Brother Joscephus and the Right Reverend Dean Dawg, played off each other as a three-man horn section, a pair of female singers, and others offered a high-energy set that fired up the audience to tunes like “Jubilation Day” and “Shine On.” They were loud, showy, and the crowd loved it.

    Dar Williams, who offered several songs from her latest album, “In the Time of Gods,” was spot on in her singing, especially on “I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything,” but she lost me in her between-song meanderings about the Greek mythology that inspired the disc. Still, songs like "Mercy of the Fallen" and “Storm King” reminded me of what an exquisite voice she has and why she has earned an honored place in the folk pantheon.

    Drew Nelson, the west Michigan native who opened the night with his band, sang eloquently about the working poor in songs such as “Promised Land” and “Stranger,” the story of a laid-off auto worker who takes a job at Home Depot so he can help pay for his daughter's wedding.

    Last but not least, roots band The Steel Wheels sounded great harmonizing a cappella or performing with instruments. They had a very clean and crisp sound that was evident on songs like “Lay Down, Lay Low."

    Finally, to the MC, Colin Hay. I had a strange sense of deja vu hearing the exact same banter and almost the same song set as Friday night. He redeemed himself, however, with an acoustic version of the 1980s hit “Who Can It Be Now,” recorded with his band, Men at Work, which he did not include on Friday. He told the audience that the saxophone soloist on the record had passed away recently, and it was funny how you could hear the sax in your mind as Hay performed the song almost as a ballad, accompanied by his guitar.

    Hay also offered the Men at Work song “Ghosts Appear and Fade Away,” after telling a very funny story about misheard lyrics and a goat (hey—anything is possible at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival).

    All in all, I think most would say this year’s Folk Festival was a hit, not only from the point of view of the box office (two sold-out nights), but artistically. Part of the joy of this event is being exposed to acts that are not on the radio and who may not be familiar to attendees but are hands-down terrific and deserve attention (pretty much what The Ark does some 300 other nights a year). After 36 years’ worth of festivals, The Ark (a tip of the hat to program director Anya Siglin and the rest of the crew) has this perfected.

    Siglin was overheard during intermission saying she is already booking acts for 2014. Personally, I can’t wait. Three nights, anyone?

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    Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

    photo by Christian Steiner

    Electric. That’s the word that comes to mind to describe the Ann Arbor debut, in the 2010-2011 University Musical Society season, of the San Francisco-based New Century Chamber Orchestra.

    So it’s no surprise that UMS has invited this conductorless string ensemble—and its leader and artistic director since 2008, the dynamic violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg—back for an encore.

    Their return, Saturday evening, brings them to Rackham Auditorium, where their enthusiasm for what they do should be even more visible than in Hill—their venue for the last visit.

    In fact, it’s the musicians’ pure joy on stage that convinced Salerno-Sonnenberg the orchestra should been seen on DVD and not just heard on CD.

    “I have been determined, ever since I took the job, to release a DVD,” she said by phone from New York on the eve of the orchestra’s winter tour. #8220;To see musicians so engaged and with smiles on their faces is really, really rare. And they have an alertness and focus on stage you do not normally see.”

    Those are qualities that are apparent in the newly issued DVD, “On Our Way,” which makes for great listening (the Wolf “Italian Serenade,” Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” and Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings,” for example) as well as great viewing.

    The group’s 2011 concert here featured the Tchaikovsky and the Wolf (as well as Bartok), with encores by Schnittke and Gershwin that are also on the DVD. This time around, the bill features Mendelssohn (the 10th string symphony); a commission, for Salerno-Sonnenberg and the orchestra, from Ann Arbor’s own inimitable Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom; an arrangement of the famous aria from Villa-Lobos’s “Bachianas Brazilieras No. 5:” and Richard Strauss’s “Metamorphosen.”


    The New Century Chamber Orchestra

    • Who: Well-regarded classical ensemble. Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin and leader.
    • What: Music by Mendelssohn, Bolcom, Villa-Lobos and R. Strauss.
    • Where: Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington St.
    • When: Saturday, Feb. 2, 8 p.m.
    • How much: $26-$52, UMS Michigan League Ticket Office, (734) 764-2538, and online at ums.org.
    “it’s an eclectic selection,” Salerno-Sonnenberg said, “and each thing shows off the orchestra in a very different light. You have the crispness of the Mendelssohn, which is almost baroque in its writing, then the contemporary writing of Bill, then the Villa-Lobos and the Strauss.”

    The Strauss, for 23 solo instruments, is a work she considers “the pinnacle of string writing.”

    “It’s glorious,” she said, “and I adore practicing it.”

    The work also became the accidental impetus - and nucleus - of the group’s 2010 CD “Live: Barber, Strauss, Mahler.”

    The Strauss”Metamorphosen” recorded on the disc was the group’s first essay of the piece in concert. It was not meant as a CD release, as Salerno-Sonnenberg’s liner notes indicate. But when she listened afterwards, she was taken with how beautifully all 23 voices are heard. That’s a feat on its own, but it was made all the more unusual by the fact that “it wasn’t even miked properly on stage.

    “That says something about the way the group listens to each other,” she said in her recent phone call.

    Playing the piece on the NCCO’s current tour was non-negotiable, she said.

    “That’s the one thing I would not bend on, on this tour. In a word, we can show off. There are not many orchestras that can play this piece.”

    Of course, as on the CD, surrounding the work with others that complement it then became the task.

    For Ann Arbor, the Bolcom piece was a natural. It’s a piece she adores, both for the orchestra and her solo part. And she loves working with Bolcom, who is a longtime colleague.

    “He’s very open to suggestions and to ideas,” she asid, and when he wrote this piece for me, I completely trusted him at this point. It was a lovely process—that’s why you like to work with certain composers and not others.

    “Bill flew out to San Francisco for two rehearsals, and sat in,” she recalled; his willingness to listen to questions and suggestions made the experience of putting the piece together—and of performing it—“so much more gratifying.”

    “You have a happy soloist, a happy ensemble,” she concluded, “and the piece gets played a lot more than just the premiere.”

    But there are other programmatic University of Michigan/Ann Arbor connections on this bill. Clarice Assad, the brilliant Brazilian composer/musician (and daughter of Sergio Assad of guitar fame), is behind the Villa-Lobos arrangement. She received her master’s degree in music at U-M.

    And there are more U-M connections to come for Salerno-Sonnenberg and the NCCO: U-M composer Michael Daugherty is next in line with a commission for them. In fact, Salerno-Sonnenberg said she was hoping to meet with Daugherty and “hash some ideas around” when she’s in town.

    Who knows? The next time the NCCO appears here, it may be with another locally generated work on the bill.

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    The man accused of robbing convenience stores in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township will return to court next month and was ordered to take classes from Dawn Farm while in jail.


    Douglas Norwood

    Courtesy of the WCSO

    Douglas Norwood, a 26-year-old Ypsilanti Township man, is charged with robbing an Ypsilanti Rite Aid and an Ypsilanti Township CVS on Dec. 29 and Dec. 31 respectively. According to police, he showed a handgun and took money at both stores.

    He was in court for a preliminary exam Tuesday morning. The hearing was adjourned until 8:30 a.m. Feb. 12 and will take place at the 14A-1 District Court in Pittsfield Township.

    District Court Judge Richard Conlin ordered Norwood be referred to take classes from Dawn Farm while in jail.

    Norwood is charged with two counts of armed robbery, being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

    He’s being held in the Washtenaw County Jail without bond. According to state records, Norwood previously has pleaded no contest to a charge of larceny from the person from an incident on Oct. 11, 2011. He was sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison for that crime in December 2011.

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    Related story: Ann Arbor fire aftermath: 'I'm so grateful' about dog rescue and resident safety

    Last August, Saline firefighters and Huron Valley Ambulance paramedics rescued a cat from a fire and saved its life using special animal rescue equipment. On Feb. 5, the Washtenaw County office of Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling will donate the same pet oxygen mask kits to the Washtenaw Area Mutual Aid Association for distribution to local fire departments.

    Pet oxygen masks.jpg

    Saline firefighters and paramedics use special animal rescue equipment to save a cat on the scene of a house fire in York Township last summer.

    Photo courtesy of Saline Area Fire Department

    The masks come in three different sizes for large, medium and small pets. They will be donated during every month in 2013 and distributed to local fire departments that don't already own them.

    "These masks are specifically designed to fit over the muzzle of an animal and allow animals to receive pure oxygen after exposure to a fire and smoke inhalation," said Brian McCall, who owns the local Paul Davis Restoration office.

    Saline Area Fire Chief Craig Hoeft has seen the masks in use.

    "A couple of years ago, we had a house fire with several pets involved," said Hoeft. "We had HVA assist us, and they gave oxygen to the pets but didn't have masks specifically made for the pets. The human masks don't work as well."

    Mobile veterinarian Dr. Katheryn VanKoevering donated masks for pets to the Saline Area Fire Deparment and trained firefighters on how to use them. Hoeft says the masks are contoured to the shape and size of cats' and dogs' faces.

    "At a house fire last August in Saline, HVA paramedics saved a cat using a pet oxygen mask," said Hoeft. "The donation of these masks is a great thing."

    The mask kits will be presented to HVA Feb. 5.

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    Saline hosted its annual Winterfest Saturday. Check out the slideshow above for some images.

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    Don't like the winter weather right now in Ann Arbor? Just wait. Things are bound to get interesting over the next week, with warming temperatures, the dreaded wintry mix, rain and another Arctic blast all in the forecast.

    Television meteorologist Mark Torregrossa in an MLive post calls the forecast a "winter mess."

    "Very interesting over the next coupled of days, for sure," said Steve Travis, meteorologist for Accu Weather.

    Ann Arbor is due for a blast of precipitation Sunday evening as temperatures slowly rise from the mid-20s through the night. The area could see an inch of snow before mid-level atmospheric warming changes it to sleet around midnight, then freezing rain through 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., Travis said.

    The wintry mix could leave a glaze on sidewalks and make for some slippery morning driving in some areas, he said.

    Meanwhile, temperatures should rise well above freezing by dawn Monday and reach a high of 43, with most precipitation over by 10 a.m. but scattered rain possible throughout the day and evening.

    Then a secondary storm system and warm from should hit Ann Arbor late Monday or early Tuesday, with highs Tuesday in the mid-50s, "which is pretty unusual for this time of year," Travis said. "We're still about 10 degrees shy of records, but the average high is 32, so we're still well above that."

    Unseasonably high levels of moisture in the atmosphere will fuel a cold front that develops Tuesday evening into Wednesday, with heavy rain downpours likely, Travis said.

    After topping out around 53 late Tuesday or early Wednesday, the temperatures should quickly plummet into the mid-30s, with strong winds likely and snow possible.

    Thursday and Friday could see the return of nighttime lows in the single digits as an Arctic blast lashes the region before temperatures moderate to around their seasonal averages over the weekend, Travis said, with a couple of inches of snow possible Saturday.

    "It's certainly an interesting pattern, that's for sure," he said.

    Stay up to date on weather conditions any time by visiting AnnArbor.com's weather page.

    Contact freelancer Sven Gustafson at sventg123(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow him on Twitter.

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    Angelique Kidjo

    Angelique Kidjo is that rare artist whose performances allow fans to exercise both their bodies and their minds.

    The Grammy-Award-winning West African singer’s concerts are as popular for Kidjo’s unrelenting energy and movement as they are for her insistent messages of peace, love and understanding.

    All of which will be on full display when Kidjo and her band arrive at Hill Auditorium for a University Musical Society-sponsored performance on Feb. 1.

    So bring both your thinking cap and your dancing shoes, because Kidjo’s enthusiasm—as well as the message in her music - is infectious.

    Kidjo’s visit to Ann Arbor comes at a high point, even amid a decades-long career that’s been full of highlights. Last summer, she performed at the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics in London. And she’s on the heels of the release of her first live album, recorded with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig and singer Dianne Reeves.

    Given the legendary electricity of her live performances, it might seem surprising that “Spirit Rising,” while her 10th release, is Kidjo’s first live record.

    But it shouldn’t said Kidjo, who admits to being slow to catch onto trends.

    “I am always doing things when it is out of fashion,” she recently told the BBC World Service. “When I am inspired to do something, I am inspired by the moment.”

    Part of her hesitation, she said, was the knowledge that her live show would be difficult to capture on tape.

    “From experience, I know what you see onstage you can’t give back on an album,” she said. “So I had to find the people to do it with and the right way to do it.”

    The result is quite an affair, combining not only Marsalis and Reeves, but also bassist Christian McBride and pianist-singer, Josh Groban.


    Angelique Kidjo

    • Who: World-music star and activist from Benin.
    • What: Unique blend of the sounds of African music, jazz, folk and more.
    • Where: Hill Auditorium, 825 N. University Ave.
    • When: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1.
    • How much: $10-$46. Tickets available from ums.org or by phone at 734-764-2538.
    Among many highlights are Reeves, Marsalis and Kidjo joining forces to reinvent the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” as a world-beat showstopper, which finds Kidjo and Reeves trading verses an otherworldly display of vocal prowess.

    “Dianne is an artist who really knows her roots in Africa,” Kidjo said.

    The record also captures Kidjo’s own elegant take on Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” which Reeves also performed during her UMS concert at Hill Auditorium last fall.

    She said it was Marley who first opened her eyes to the human rights struggle, something she has dedicated much of her life—both on and offstage.

    In addition to being a longtime UNICEF ambassador, Kidjo is the co-founder of the Batonga Foundation, which provides schooling and tutoring to girls and young women throughout Africa.

    “I know who I am and what I have to give to my continent,” she said. “The task is great, but one thing we have is community, empathy and compassion.

    “If we do not learn about sharing, this world is going to collapse.”

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    Corey Allen navigates through defenders in a game against Skyline earlier this month.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Ypsilanti flexed its muscles against Adrian, coming away with a 35-point victory, and with it comes a move up to the top spot in this week’s AnnArbor.com Washtenaw County Power Rankings.

    The move up came at the expense of Pioneer, which got tripped up at Temperance Bedford, ending its eight-game winning streak with a two-point road loss.

    The separation between these two teams appears minimal. When they meet on Feb. 5 at Ypsilanti in an SEC crossover match, they can settle the debate over who deserves to occupy the top spot on the court.

    Milan, meanwhile, continued its Huron League dominance by topping previously unbeaten Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central by 32 to remain in the third spot.

    Our fourth and fifth-place teams, Huron and Skyline, played each other with the River Rats coming away with a six-point win, each keeping their respective positions.

    Washtenaw County Boys Basketball Power Rankings
    Rank, School (Record), Latest Result (last week's ranking)

    1. Ypsilanti (8-2), def. Adrian, 67-32 Friday (2)
    2. Pioneer (8-3), lost to Bedford, 56-54 Friday (1)
    3. Milan (10-1), def. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 62-30 Friday (3)
    4. Huron (5-4), def. Skyline, 53-47 Friday (4)
    5. Skyline (4-6), lost to Huron, 53-47 Friday (5)
    6. Saline (7-4), def. Monroe, 53-47 Friday (6)
    7. Lincoln (5-6), def. Chelsea, 53-37 Friday (7)
    8. Greenhills (9-1), def. Novi Franklin Road Christian, 68-64 Friday (8)
    9. Dexter (5-5), def. Tecumseh, 47-32 Friday (9)
    10. Father Gabriel Richard (4-7), lost to Detroit U-D Jesuit, 91-82 Friday (10)
    11. Chelsea (2-8), lost to Lincoln, 53-37 Friday (11)
    12. Whitmore Lake (4-7), def. Britton-Deerfield, 51-40 Tuesday (12)
    13. Arbor Prep (6-4), def. Rudolf Steiner, 65-58 Tuesday (13)
    14. Willow Run (4-7), def. Taylor Trillium Academy, 73-20 Friday (16)
    15. Rudolf Steiner (8-5), def. Lansing New Covenant Christian, 59-15 Friday (14)
    16. Washtenaw Christian (7-3), def. Monroe Meadow Montessori, 53-10 Friday (15)
    17. Manchester (0-12), lost to Addison, 64-37 Friday (17)
    18. Calvary Christian (1-9), def. Warren Macomb Christian, 40-36 Friday (18)
    Records not available: Central Academy, Eastern Washtenaw Multicultural Academy

    Dexter girls stay No. 1, Manchester takes over No. 2

    With an easy win over Tecumseh, Dexter keeps the No. 1 ranking it has held all season heading into a week-and-a-half stretch that will feature games against Lincoln, Adrian and Huron.

    Last week’s No. 2, Lincoln, takes a tumble in this week’s rankings after a 28-point home loss to Chelsea. Manchester, Chelsea and Huron, all of whom went undefeated on the week, make a move up as a result.

    Washtenaw County Girls Basketball Power Rankings Rank, School (Record), Latest Result (last week's ranking)

    1. Dexter (12-1), def. Tecumseh, 54-27 Friday (1)
    2. Manchester (12-1), def. Vandercook Lake, 57-13 Thursday (3)
    3. Chelsea (8-4), def. Lincoln 56-28 Friday (4)
    4. Huron (7-4), def. Skyline, 62-20 Friday (5)
    5. Lincoln (10-3), lost to Chelsea, 56-28 Friday (2)
    6. Saline (7-6), def. Monroe, 51-24 Friday (6)
    7. Ypsilanti (7-5), def. Adrian, 53-27 Friday (8)
    8. Pioneer (7-5), lost to Temperance Bedford, 39-33 Friday (7)
    9. Arbor Prep (9-3), idle (10)
    10. Skyline (5-8), lost to Huron, 62-20 Friday (9)
    11. Rudolf Steiner (7-2), def. Lansing New Covenant Christian Friday (11)
    12. Greenhills (6-5), lost to Novi Franklin Road Christian, 47-42 Friday (12)
    13. Willow Run (5-6), def. Albion, 28-27 Wednesday (13)
    14. Washtenaw Christian (4-5), def. Monroe Meadow Montessori, 39-12 Friday (17)
    15. Father Gabriel Richard (2-11) lost to Bloomfield Hills Marian, 58-17 Friday (16)
    16. Milan (2-11), lost to Carleton Airport, 66-27 Thursday (14)
    17. Whitmore Lake (2-10), lost to Britton-Deerfield 52-30 Tuesday (15)
    Record not available: Central Academy, Calvary Christian

    Game of the Week

    We’ve got no shortage of solid choices in this week’s Game of the Week poll, and voting is still wide open. The poll closes at noon Saturday.

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    The University of Michigan Health System is considering expanding its West Ann Arbor Health Center at 4900 Jackson Road in Scio Township as part of an effort to ease congestion at its main hospital campus.

    The health system has put a request for proposals to evaluate if expanding the center is a feasible business move, said Jeanne Rizzo, executive director of Ambulatory Care Services for UMHS.

    The West Ann Arbor Health Center comprises about 6,131 square feet in a facility about four miles west of downtown Ann Arbor.

    The center has 10 doctors on staff and provides general medicine services for adults and children, as well as OB/GYN services.

    "We're in the process of going through... an RFP process to look at whether we would expand our West Ann Arbor site; but we're in the very beginning stages of that RFP process," Rizzo said.

    Part of the health system's strategies and goals are to bring primary and secondary care closer to the homes of the patients they serve, Rizzo said — thus helping to alleviate some of the congestion problems at U-M's main hospital campus in Ann Arbor on East Medical Center Drive.

    One such development the health system hopes will accomplish those goals is the Northville Health Center. In a partnership with a private developer, UMHS will lease a 100,000-square-foot two-story building that will be constructed just for them at the corner of Seven Mile and Haggerty roads in Northville Township.

    The facility will be the first of its kind for UMHS in its offering of primary care as well as specialists in a number of disciplines. UMHS projects it will be staffed by 60 doctors.

    The success of the Northville Health Center will be used to evaluate whether UMHS decides to expand the West Ann Arbor Health Center, among other projects, Rizzo said.

    "There are other places that we are hopeful that we will be able to do some expanded services in the future," Rizzo said.

    View Larger Map

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.

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    Children's playtime business Xtreme Bounce Zone is rolling out some new strategies to attract young bouncers and during the wintry months and reverse a slide in sales.


    Dean Wainwright, owner of Xtreme Bounce Zone, greets bouncers at a preschool open session.

    Angela Smith | For AnnArbor.com

    Owner Dean Wainwright says he’s hoping to attract the preschool set to the newly offered open bounce sessions that began this month. The sessions are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and cost $5 per preschool aged child.

    Wainwright recently made other upgrades to the business, located at 82 Aprill Drive in Ann Arbor. The lobby area gained new faux leather couches and seating areas earlier this year that Wainwright says have been popular with parents, who are also offered free coffee and WiFi as their children bounce.

    “Business is down about 10 percent from last year this time,” Wainwright said. He is hoping that the new open sessions, combined with a direct mail campaign, will provide the boost the business needs.

    Wainwright says he does not advertise.

    “It has never worked well for us," he said, "we use the Internet and direct mail or word of mouth to get new customers.”

    Manager Candice Wiesner said that business dips during the winter.

    “In the summer, open hours are what drive most of our business, however fall, winter and spring all bring in mostly parties.”

    Xtreme Bounce Zone offers birthday party packages beginning at $200, and in peak season can book 13 to 15 parties in a weekend. But the business is still not a great profit maker for Wainwright. He opened Xtreme Bounce Zone seven years ago, sharing space with his karate school, A2 Martial Arts.

    Wainwright, a 6th-Degree Black Belt in both Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido, opened A2 Martial Arts as the Dexter School of Martial Arts in 2001. He moved both businesses to the current location several years ago.

    Xtreme Bounce Zone houses six large inflatables, including a 52-foot obstacle course, and an 18-foot giant slide, which Wainwright says he replaces about every year.

    “We are happy with the space but do not like the location,” Wainwright said. Parents who attended the first week’s open bounce hours told him that the space, hidden behind a KIA dealership and next to Planet Rock, was difficult to find.

    “It may be hard to find us but it is worth the effort!” Wainwright said. But he is already thinking ahead to other strategies that could improve business, like a move to a more visible location. “We are hoping to move to Jackson Road in the next few years.”

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    Ypsilanti City Hall

    Tom Perkins | AnnArbor.com

    The city of Ypsilanti could have a new city hall in its future as it looks for ways to trim expenses, though City Manager Ralph Lange said it's nothing that would take place immediately.

    "It would be a very complex deal that I don't want to get everyone up in arms about," Lange said. "How fast it would move, I don't know. It's just an idea that's been mentioned and I would say that when we have the capacity to run it down, we will."

    Lange said the idea was mentioned during a goal-setting meeting shortly after the city received a SEMCOG report earlier this month that outlined ways the city could become more efficient.

    SEMCOG recommended that the city look at combining departments to cut costs and become more efficient.

    "The SEMCOG report had talked about consolidating departments and assets, and lowering overhead costs," Lange said, adding that the report made a passing reference to a new city hall. "They don’t say do it, they say it ought to be looked at and that did come up in the goal setting meeting… We’re looking into it."

    During that meeting, Lange said he would consider building a new city hall, possibly between the police and fire departments. Lange believes it could possibly save the city money in the long run to have all of the departments in one location.

    When the time comes for the city to decide whether to move forward with the idea, Lange said the main thing that will be looked at is whether the city would receive a return on its investment.

    According to assessor records, the city purchased the current city hall at 1 S. Huron in 1982 for $400,000. Officials said that if a new city hall were to be built, the current one would be likely sold.

    "It's too early to say because we haven't run all the numbers down, but I think it could save money absolutely," Lange said. "If it could work — and we have a lot of homework to do — it has a lot of potential to be very beneficial."

    The idea is one of several SEMCOG suggestions that the city is looking at, Lange said.

    "There are a lot of different possibilities of what we might do or consider to be continually efficient and I think its just one of at least 40 or 50 recommendations," Lange said.

    Lange said no formal plans or proposals have been made yet.

    "Nothing can happen for an extended period of time and I don't know if that's a number one priority," he said.

    Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber declined to comment on the feasibility of a new city hall, but said the city has more pressing issues to handle that have a direct impact on the budget.

    "What's on my radar is getting union contracts done and that's certainly something I think all of council is interested in getting done," Schreiber said. "To me, those are what the next steps are. Consolidation of city hall into one building is much further in the future. There are no drawings, no proposals, just thinking way ahead.

    Council member Brian Robb said a new city hall isn't something that would make his "top 100 list" of things the city should target.

    Council member Pete Murdock said he would not support the idea if it were brought up now.

    "How can we build this when we're going through all of these budgetary issues," Murdock said. "I don't think it's something we should be looking at. I'm not really supportive of it right now, who knows five years from now, but right now we have other things to spend our time on."

    Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.

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    Huron High School senior Lilia Popova does research at the E.H. Kraus Natural Science Building on the University of Michigan's Central Campus in Ann Arbor on Friday Jan. 25, 2013. Lilia plans to attend Stanford University in the fall.

    Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com

    Ann Arbor Huron High School student Lilia Popova is making waves in the science community, winning accolades for plant research that her teachers say rivals the level of most college juniors and seniors.

    Popova, a 17-year-old senior, was named a finalist in the oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition in the country, The Intel Science Talent Search.

    More than 1,700 high schoolers from across the U.S. submitted original scientific research projects to be considered. Popova and the remaining 39 finalists will travel to Washington D.C. in March for a rigorous, weeklong judging process, during which they will vie for $630,000 in awards. The top winner will receive $100,000.

    Ann Arbor has had a few semi-finalists in the competition through the years, but Popova is the town’s first finalist. She also is the only 2013 finalist from Michigan, as well as the only finalist competing in the field of plant science.

    “I’m really excited,” Popova said. “It’s honoring and humbling. I couldn’t believe it.”

    Popova’s project was designed to study how weak and altered magnetic fields affect plant growth and lead to changes in gene expression and protein interactions. It’s research that has applications in biotechnology, biofuel production, sustainable agriculture and future studies on the impact of electromagnetic radiation on other organisms, such as humans and animals, she said.

    It also is research that is worthy of publication, said University of Michigan professor John Schiefelbein. By the time Popova graduates from high school and heads off to college, she could be a published scientific researcher.

    Schiefelbein said Popova’s understanding of plant molecular biology, cell differentiation and genetics is impressive and “really exceptional.”

    “In my 23 years as a faculty member, I’ve had dozens of undergraduates conduct research under me,” Schiefelbein said. “But Lilia is the first high school student I’ve had. It’s rare. … You don’t learn this kind of material in a high school setting.”

    Popova approached Schiefelbein in July 2012 about working in his lab. He was happy to welcome Popova and was impressed by her desire to take her research to the next level.

    Popova’s research was already more than a year under way and had won numerous awards at science fairs.

    She took first place in the botany category at the Southeast Michigan Science Fair, first place at the Michigan State Science Fair and third place, out of 60 plant science entries, in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh in May 2012.

    In addition to filing an online application, Popova had to submit a 20-page research report and several smaller essays to enter the Intel Science Talent Search.

    Popova said she’s been interested in plant science for a number of years, but it was about two years ago when she witnessed the aurora borealis, or the northern lights, that she got the idea for this project.

    “After a solar storm, they were visible in Michigan,” Popova said. “To see them, it really got me thinking on this incoming solar radiation that bombards the Earth. … Looking up at this magnificent display in the sky that is so grand and so great, I started wondering about the impact of this solar radiation on plants and animals.”

    She said the Earth naturally has its own magnetic fields, and solar storms can influence the level of magnetic activity.


    Huron High School senior Lilia Popova looks at plant growth through a microscope at the E.H. Kraus Natural Science Building on University of Michigan's Central Campus in Ann Arbor on Friday.

    Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com

    “As humans, we don’t consciously respond to magnetic fields. So a lot is not known about how magnetic activity affects … our growth and development,” Popova said.

    What she has found in her research so far is that altering the magnetic field around a plant alters the plant’s cycling of nutrients, which in turn can have lasting genetic implications. She also found weak magnetic fields promote growth and strong magnetic fields inhibit growth.

    Popova credited Schiefelbein and David Caine and Austin Collins, her AP Physics and Chemistry teachers at Huron, with directing her and supporting her along this journey. But both Schiefelbein and Caine said this project was all Popova.

    “She’s very self motivated,” Schiefelbein said. “She’s brought journals, papers and research models to me and asked what I’ve thought. She’s very driven and interested in science.”

    Among her high-school peers and in the classroom, Popova is a nice, quiet kid who does her work and is a bit shy, Caine said.

    “The most embarrassed I’ve seen her is when we told the whole class that she was a semifinalist (in the Intel Science Talent Search),” he said. “She would have been perfectly happy if nobody had known. She’s really doing this for her own knowledge and enjoyment of the project.”

    Caine echoed Schiefelbein's sentiments that it’s rare to have a high school student so dedicated to science.

    “She makes connections that you don’t expect. So she has the curiosity and that’s the most important bit,” he said, “and then that uncanny ability to just keep going with it … which is really cool to see.”

    In addition to science, Popova is involved in choir and community service. She played field hockey for three years at Huron and has been a member of the school’s a capella and chamber choirs. She is president of Huron’s Key Club and serves as a Girls on the Run coach for fourth- and fifth-graders in Ann Arbor.

    Popova plans to enroll at Stanford University, where she intends to study algae and environmental science to pursue a career in medicine and anthropology.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.

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    Major construction work wraps up on Dexter Avenue in Ann Arbor back in November.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com file photo

    It might be hard to imagine spring or summer during these freezing-cold winter weeks, but the weather will be warming up eventually, and that means the start of road construction.

    Which streets in Ann Arbor will be lined with orange barrels this year?

    AnnArbor.com asked the city's project management unit for a list of expected major street projects for 2013, and the following eight streets topped the list:

    • Miller (Maple to Newport)
    • Madison (Seventh to Main)
    • State (Oakbrook to Eisenhower)
    • Depot (Main to Carey)
    • Fourth Avenue (Huron to Liberty)
    • Barton (Pontiac to Plymouth)
    • Forest Avenue (S. University to Hill)
    • Packard (Anderson to Eisenhower)

    Senior Project Manager Liz Rolla said depending on bid prices and other factors, the list could change. Rolla said the city also plans to resurface multiple local streets this year, but that list hasn't been finalized just yet.

    Which streets in Ann Arbor do you think are in bad shape? Where should the city focus its attention this summer? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

    Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.

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    An artist's rendering of the proposed Northville Park Place development at the corner of Seven Mile and Haggerty on the border of Northville and Livonia. The two-story brick building in the background is the University of Michigan Health System's new Northville Health Center and will be the anchor for the development.

    Courtesy REIS Schostak Brothers and Company

    The University of Michigan Health System is expanding its Wayne County footprint with a new 100,000-square-foot facility on a high-traffic commercial corridor in Northville.

    The facility will be the first of its kind for the health system, and will supplement two Livonia clinics that UMHS operates. It’s part of an effort by the health system to provide both specialty and primary care services closer to patients’ homes.

    UMHS is partnering with Real Estate Investment Group-Schostak (REIS) to be the anchor tenant of Northville Park Place: An 82-acre development in the works at the corner of Seven Mile and Haggerty roads in Northville.

    The site was formerly a portion of the approximately 400-acre Northville Psychiatric Hospital parcel, which REIS initially purchased from the state in 2007 for $31.5 million.

    After a lawsuit between the developer and Northville Township over REIS’ plans for the property, a judge set the current ownership agreements in 2009: REIS owns 82 acres, and the township owns the remainder of the property - which includes the vacant psychiatric hospital.

    Though progress is slow on the township-owned property so far, the private developers are moving full speed ahead.

    REIS will be funding and building a 100,000-square-foot, two-story standalone building with 110 exam rooms for UMHS’ clinic that will be situated at the rear of the property. The developer declined to release the construction cost, and is scheduled to break ground on the facility in March.

    UMHS is the one committed tenant for the property, and has a 25-year lease for the building once it’s constructed. The U-M Board of Regents agreed to a base rent of $27.25 per rentable square foot per year, with escalation of 5 percent every five years for the new facility.

    When constructed, the Northville Health Center will be the third-largest property that U-M leases for its operations.

    The health system operates two other clinics in the Livonia area, and has no plans to close them once the Northville Health Center opens, said Jeanne Rizzo, executive director of Ambulatory Care Services for UMHS.

    The Livonia Center for Specialty Care at 19900 Haggerty Road is half a mile down the road from the Northville Health Center site, and has a freestanding operating room, clinic space, dialysis services and some radiology capabilities. The Livonia Health Center at 20321 Farmington Road provides family medicine and primary care.

    “We have interest in the I-275 corridor, which encompasses the Northville, Livonia, Farmington and Novi communities," Rizzo said. "Currently, our patient care facilities in the area are limited and at capacity; we needed to expand to better serve our patients." The Northville Health Center is slated for completion in 14 months, after which UMHS will flesh out the interior of the space in 60 to 90 days with a $39 million capital budget. The $39 million does not include the cost of the lease.

    UMHS anticipates opening the Northville Health Center to patients in fall of 2014.

    UMHS anticipates 60 doctors and 215 support staff will be located at the site, though a specific workforce development plan has yet to be initiated.

    UMHS is expecting to see 715 visits per day at the new Northville Health Center. The facility will house radiology services including X-ray, ultrasound and MRI, as well as a gym for physical and occupational therapy.

    A number of specialty services for adults, children and women will be offered at the center, which will make it unique to the health system’s offerings among its clinics. Those services include: Medical procedures for GI, pain and PM&R; cardiology; hematology/oncology; hepatology; neurology; neurosurgery; OB/GYN; rheumatology; urology; infusion clinic for cancer and non-cancer patients; speech therapy; opthamology and pathology.

    The site was one of UMHS’s top choices when it was looking to expand because of the busy corner, the undeveloped land, proximity to UMHS’ existing facility and easy freeway access, Rizzo said.

    On the commercial side of REIS’ development that will front Seven Mile and Haggerty, there will be about 80,000 square feet of retail and commercial space for which REIS is actively seeking lease agreements.

    John Truscott, a REIS representative, said there has been interest in the leases. REIS estimates 90 to 100 full-time tradesman jobs will be created for one year as a result of the UMHS health center construction.

    The Northville Health Center will expand services to patients in that market as a part of UMHS’ philosophy to service patients closer to their homes.

    “What we’re planning in Northville is comprehensive.” Rizzo said. “Patients that identify the University of Michigan as their health care provider have no choice but to drive into Ann Arbor to see many of our specialists. We want to bring some of these services to the community as a convenience for our patients.” The success of the Northville project will evaluate whether UMHS would like to move forward with the expansion of some of its other clinics, Rizzo said.

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.

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    School officials blamed this morning's wintery weather mess for dangerous conditions on Ann Arbor area roadways, in turn canceling classes across the region.

    "The road conditions, especially in the outer areas of the district, are extremely dangerous," said Ann Arbor Public Schools spokeswoman Liz Margolis in an email sent at about 4 a.m. Monday.

    Ann Arbor is among more than 400 school closings in southeast Michigan on Monday.

    They come as temperatures rose overnight, changing an evening snowfall to sleet, then freezing rain before 6 a.m. The situation prompted a winter weather advisory for drivers from 7 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m.

    The wintry mix was expected to leave a glaze on sidewalks and make for some slippery morning driving in some areas before temperatures rose to a high of 48.

    Those unsafe conditions generated a wave of school closings that touched most elementary and secondary classrooms in Washtenaw County.

    Announced closings as of 6 a.m. include: Ypsilanti, Saline, Chelsea, Dexter, Lincoln, Manchester, Milan and Willow Run.

    Closed charters include Arbor Prep, Central Academy, East Ann Arbor Multicultural, Honey Creek and South Arbor.

    Greenhills, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Washtenaw Head Start are included. So are private schools like Emerson, Father Gabriel Richard, St. Paul Lutheran, Calvary Christian, Hebrew Day School, Spiritus Sanctus and St. Francis of Assisi.

    Nearby districts that are closed include Plymouth-Canton, Pinckney, Clinton.

    See a full list of closings on WXYZ.com.

    Eastern Michigan University also cancelled classes until 12:30 p.m. today. Spokesperson Geoff Larcom said classes after that time will go on as usual.

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    The first of eight juvenile lifer cases in Washtenaw County is scheduled to come before the circuit court Wednesday.

    Attorneys have filed a motion on the behalf of 37-year-old Bosie Smith that essentially calls for a re-sentencing. Smith was 17 in 1992 when convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to mandatory life in prison for fatally stabbing a man at an Ypsilanti house.


    Bosie Smith

    From MDOC

    The case comes to the Washtenaw County Trial Court on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 ruling that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional.

    Months later, however, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the higher court’s decision did not retroactively apply to those who have exhausted the direct appeals process when 21-year-old Raymond Carp was denied re-sentencing.

    Smith’s attorneys are filing a motion for relief from judgment in spite of the state court’s ruling. Other juvenile lifer cases in Washtenaw County are expected to soon follow suit, according to Ann Arbor attorney Deb LaBelle.

    LaBelle represents Smith and several others on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal lawsuit that also could impact how courts rule in the future. LaBelle said arguments have concluded in the suit, filed more than two years ago, and that both sides are awaiting the judge’s ruling.

    The Michigan Supreme Court also is expected to weigh in on the Carp case, which may or may not make re-sentencing more of a possibility in the future.

    In the meantime, more motions for relief from judgment will continue to be filed in circuit courts throughout the state. Many of the area’s top law firms have stepped forward to offer their services pro-bono, LaBelle said.

    “It was really a huge outpouring of support,” she said.

    Smith, for instance, is being represented by Dave O’Brien and Tom O’Brien of Miller-Canfield.

    “This is a guy who got dealt a real raw hand in life,” said Dave O’Brien. “He’s a different person now.”

    Smith was 16 on April 13, 1992 when he fatally stabbed 23-year-old Kenneth Campbell in the chest with a steak knife outside a home on Grassland Drive in Ypsilanti. The two had fought earlier in the day because Smith brushed up against the shoes of another young man, according to court records. Campbell, who was described as being much bigger than Smith, hit Smith repeatedly on the head with a milk crate, court records said.

    Smith left the home with a friend and returned sometime later with a steak knife, according to records. The two fought again, though this time Campbell was fatally stabbed in the chest.

    During the trial, Smith’s attorneys claimed it was self-defense. Prosecutors said Smith leaving the scene and returning with a knife constituted premeditation. A jury agreed and found Smith guilty of first-degree murder. Judge William Ager had earlier ruled Smith be tried as an adult, so Smith was given a mandatory life sentence without a chance of parole.

    “He should not be entitled to relief from judgment,” said Steve Hiller of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office.

    Hiller, who was the assistant prosecuting attorney assigned to the case in 1992, said both the probation department and human services recommended Smith be tried as an adult.

    Hiller said the prosecutor’s office will ask the judge to deny the motion without prejudice Wednesday.


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