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

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    A look at the design for 413 E. Huron unveiled at the Ann Arbor City Council's last meeting on March 18. This shows the signature corner at Division and Huron.

    Humphreys & Partners Architects

    With a moratorium on downtown development halted, the Ann Arbor City Council is expected to consider plans for a new 14-story high-rise at its meeting Monday night.

    But the developer behind the controversial 413 E. Huron project is now asking city officials to pull the project from the council's agenda.

    In a letter sent to Mayor John Hieftje and council members on Friday, Conor McNally, chief development officer with Georgia-based Carter, requested consideration of his firm's project be rescheduled to the council's April 15 meeting while revisions are being made.


    The development team for the controversial 413 E. Huron project unveiled this new design at a March 18 meeting of the Ann Arbor City Council. The project is still opposed by residents who would be in the shadow of the new building.

    Humphreys & Partners Architects

    McNally said Carter submitted revised plans to planning staff on March 25 and remains in talks with the city's planning staff about those plans.

    "Although not required, we are still revising the 3D rendering that we presented at the last meeting to reflect the further changes we made to the rear elevation since the last meeting," he wrote.

    "We believe it would be prudent to give staff additional time to review the revised plans and renderings prior to City Council's review of the site plan."

    For now, the council's agenda for Monday night still includes a public hearing and consideration of the site plan for 413 E. Huron. Council members said those items will continue to appear on the agenda because only the council can postpone them.

    "Since it's already on the agenda, it will be on the agenda, but I don't see a reason why we couldn't postpone it," Hieftje said.

    "I'm encouraged that it appears the developer has been listening to the community and the City Council, and changes are being made in the design," Hieftje added.

    Hieftje said "it seems as if they're moving in the right direction," but it's still a relatively dense development and it inevitably is going to face some opposition.

    Since a March 18 hearing where several members of the community protested the project, McNally said the development team has continued to receive followup email questions from City Council members about the plans, including 11 questions received this Thursday.

    "In order to ensure that we can provide thoughtful and unhurried responses to these questions, we will need more time than would be available from now until Monday, April 1, especially considering the holiday weekend," McNally wrote to council members on Friday.

    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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    The owner of Jenny's Market was sentenced on two counts of animal cruelty and given 24 months of probation, during which he will not be able to acquire any animals.

    Burton Hoey, who operates the market at 8366 Island Lake Road, just west of Dexter, also was ordered to pay court costs and restitution and will need to complete 50 hours of community service, according to a news release from the Humane Society of Huron Valley.


    Burton Hoey tends to a horse at Jenny's Market in this file photo

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    Hoey was sentenced March 27 by Judge Richard Conlin in Chelsea. As part of his probation period, Hoey will be required to have monthly visits and reports from a licensed large animal veterinarian.

    Hoey could not be reached for comment. Hoey's attorney, John Bredell, said the sentencing does not affect the animals his client owns right now.

    Bredell wasn't sure of how many animals Hoey owns, but said Hoey has no plans to shut down and will continue to operate as usual.

    "He's owned farm animals for 40 years," Bredell said. "He's taken care of as many as 400 animals and this is the first time anyone has complained... He just wanted to bring it to a speedy resolution."

    On Jan. 30, Hoey pled no contest to two misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty.

    The Humane Society of Huron Valley seized eight farm animals from Jenny’s Market on Sept. 6, 2012, which led to the animal cruelty charges against Hoey. Two horses, four donkeys and two goats were among the animals seized.

    Humane Society investigators said the animals were in varying stages of neglect. A horse, which was suffering from the respiratory disease heaves, later died, lead cruelty investigator Matt Schaecher told AnnArbor.com at the time.

    The last two animals rescued from the market have been placed with a farm animal rescue in Georgia. Junior, a brown, Percheron draft horse, and Olive, a 2-year-old donkey, have made full medical recoveries.

    “We believe animal cruelty is a serious crime inflicted on those completely innocent and unable to protect themselves," Schaecher said in a statement. "We worked very hard to end the cruel conditions under which these defenseless animals were kept and to provide medical treatment and ongoing care to those that were seized. Our reward is seeing a happy ending for those like Junior and Olive."

    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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    Ypsilanti Police Sergeant Brent Yuchasz tapes off the scene where a man was shot Friday afternoon.

    Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com

    One man had to be treated at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Friday afternoon after being shot at a home in Ypsilanti.

    Detective Joe Yuhas said police were investigating the shooting reported after noon Friday in the 600 block of Congress Street. The man was treated at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital for the gunshot wound.

    The extent of the man’s injuries was not immediately known Friday afternoon.

    The home on Congress Street was cordoned off by police tape just before 2 p.m. Friday. Neighbors told AnnArbor.com they hadn’t heard any sort of commotion at the home.

    It’s not clear at this point if the shooting is being treated as a criminal investigation or an accidental shooting. Yuhas said police expect to release more information later on Friday.

    Check back to AnnArbor.com for more information on this story as it becomes available.

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    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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    The Michigan men's basketball team warms up prior to its Sweet 16 matchup with Kansas at Cowboys Stadium on Friday, March 29.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    WHO: No. 4 Michigan (28-7, 12-6 Big Ten) vs. No. 1 Kansas (31-5, 14-4 Big 12).

    WHERE: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas.

    WHEN: Friday, 7:37 p.m.

    LIVE COVERAGE: Join Michigan beat writers Nick Baumgardner and Kyle Meinke from our Live Chat on the Michigan Basketball homepage for their take of the action as it happens. You can also follow them on Twitter @nickbaumgardner and @kmeinke.

    ODDS: Kansas is favored by 1.5 ponts according to SportsBook.com.

    SERIES RECORD: Michigan leads the all-time series 5-2.

    LAST MEETING: Kansas won the teams' last meeting 67-60 in overtime Jan. 9, 2011.

    BROADCAST INFORMATION: TV: TBS; Radio: Detroit: WWJ (950 AM), Ann Arbor: WWWW (102.9 FM).

    MICHIGAN: Roster | Schedule

    KANSAS Roster | Schedule

    Coverage throughout the week: In case you haven't been paying any attention to the college basketball world, or gave up visiting our website for Lent, here is a roundup of all of the big Michigan vs. Kansas story lines from the past week:

    Can Michigan win a national title? With no Goliath in its way, why not?

    While it wasn't ridiculous to think Michigan could rebound from a disappointing finish in the Big Ten Tournament to make the Sweet 16, it would have been somewhat of a stretch to predict the sort of dominance the Wolverines showed at The Palace last weekend. It's looking like the sky is the limit (again) for the Wolverines.

    Kansas guards respect Trey Burke, but are far from intimidated by Michigan's star point guard

    Michigan's Trey Burke signed plenty of autographs in Arlington so far, but it's a safe bet to say none have been for the Kansas players. The Jayhawks said they are impressed with the sophomore guard, but in no way intimidated by his prowess. They are up to the challenge of facing the Wooden and Naismith finalist.

    Mitch McGary vs. Jeff Withey a matchup to watch as Michigan battles Kansas in Sweet 16

    Michigan's freshman big man Mitch McGary had a strong showing in Michigan's first two games of the NCAA Tournament, averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. The Wolverines will need him again against the Jayhawks' 7-footer Jeff Withey. McGary said he's up to the challenge.

    Kansas' Bill Self on experts favoring Michigan: 'I hope everyone's talking about' the Wolverines

    Here's one thing that Bill self actually isn't mad about: Michigan getting a lot of love from the so-called experts. Kansas in the No. 1 seed in the region and has a much more storied history, but none of that seems to matter to prognosticators. Self said his team can use it for motivation.

    Michigan freshmen get pep talk from ex-Fab Five star Jimmy King, who inspires them with confidence

    Michigan will play in the Sweet 16 on Friday for the first time since 1994. And this week in Ann Arbor, the team's five freshmen got a special visit from one of the last players to play for the Wolverines on this stage, Jimmy King. Unsurprisingly, the former Fab-Fiver told the freshman to play with confidence.

    Matching up Michigan and Kansas in Sweet 16 (with predictions)

    Kansas has size. Michigan has speed. So what wins the day, size or speed? Just as Michigan's second game of the tournament against Virginia Commonwealth was a tale of contrasting style, so too will be the Wolverines' attempts to take down the Jayhawks.

    Young Michigan feeling confident heading into Sweet 16, asking 'why not us?'

    Michigan's team is young, the youngest in the tournament, in fact. With youth come usually comes a little bravado as well and this group has it in spades. The young Wolverines are now asking, 'Why not us?' when it come to winning a national championship.

    Images from the Michigan basketball team's Thursday practice at Cowboys Stadium

    The Michigan basketball team practiced at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Thursday, and practice wasn't all that went on. Players busted out cell phones to get some pictures of their own and Spike Albrecht even threw down a dunk, albeit with a bit of an assist from Mitch McGary.

    Forgotten man Jordan Morgan could return to rotation against Kansas

    It's been a rough couple of weeks for Jordan Morgan. The junior big man has not had the return from injury he had hoped for, being replaced in the starting lineup by Mitch McGary and leapfrogged in the bench rotation by Jon Horford. Regardless, he said he has to stay ready incase his number is called.

    John Beilein: Having players viewed as pro prospects is 'a good problem to have'

    Michigan's roster might look a little different next year. How different? Well, Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr. and now Mitch McGary's names are all popping up on various prognosticators' NBA Draft boards. John Beilein said it's a good problem to have.

    Who ya got?

    Associated Press Side-by-Side comparisons:

    Kansas | Michigan

    Record: 31-5 | 28-7. Advantage: Kansas.
    Average Points : 74.9 | 75.1. Advantage: Michigan.
    Opponents' average points: 61.2 | 62.4. Advantage: Michigan.
    Margin of victory: 13.7 | 12.7. Advantage: Kansas.
    Field goal percentage: .479 | .485. Advantage: Michigan.
    Opp. FG Pct.: .357 | .419. Advantage: Kansas.
    3-Point FG Pct.: .363 | .382. Advantage: Michigan.
    Opp. 3-Pt. FG Pct.: .302 | .324. Advantage: Kansas.
    3-Pt. FG-Game: 5.8 | 7.5. Advantage: Michigan.
    Opp. 3-Pt. FG-Game: 6.3 | 6.4. Advantage: Kansas.
    FT Pct.: .737 | .711. Advantage: Kansas.
    Rebound Margin: 6.5 | 3.3. Advantage: Kansas.
    Turnover Differential: -1.3 | 2.8. Advantage: Michigan.
    Average Steals: 6.9 | 6.0. Advantage: Kansas.
    Average Blocks: 6.5 | 2.8. Advantage: Kansas.

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.

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    Developer Louis Johnson, left, general contractor Dave Hughes of Vanston/O'Brien Inc. and developer Jack Edelstein stand outside the new Plymouth Road Plaza in Ann Arbor.

    Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com

    A mixed-use development on the north side of Ann Arbor opened its doors this week after eight months of construction.

    Tenants in the two-story, 21,000-square-foot Plymouth Road Plaza are: Dearborn Financial Credit Union, Great Clips, The Big Salad, LaVida Massage and Starbucks Coffee. The developers still are marketing 9,000 square feet of office space on the second floor for lease.

    “This is the best location for us. It’s right on the road, so it’s very visible. The building is brand new so I had the ability to build-out exactly how I wanted to,” said Julie Gabriel, owner of the LaVida Massage franchise.

    Local developers Louis Johnson and Jack Edelstein, in a partnership with Plymouth Road Mall owner Vern Hutton, received city approvals for the project in 2007, but it was sidelined when the economy turned south.

    Edelstein said improving economic factors and U-M’s purchase of the former Pfizer site revived the development this year. It’s situated on a 1-acre parcel on the underutilized parking lot in front of Plymouth Road Mall, just east of Nixon Road.

    The project’s general contractor was Dave Hughes of Vanston/O’Brien.

    Great Clips and Starbucks Coffee are officially open for business, while LaVida Massage will celebrate its grand opening on Monday, April 1. Gabriel said the massage center focuses on custom massages and facials. She’s also looking to get involved with events in the Ann Arbor area.

    “Being involved in the community is important to me, as well as all of my therapists,” she said.

    The Big Salad, which was founded in 2008 in Grosse Pointe, is planning to open Wednesday, April 3.

    “There aren’t many (fast-casual and healthful) restaurant options,” said franchise owner Kevin Vlazny. “I like it. I’m excited.”

    The Big Salad and Starbucks have outdoor patio seating, while Starbucks and Dearborn Financial Credit Union have drive-thru lanes. The credit union is aiming for a May opening.

    Edelstein estimated there will be 80 employees working at the new development, which doesn’t include the second-floor office space.

    “Having a new building with this type of image and all the customers that are going to come to this, it’s going to be harmonious with what’s going on (in the mall) behind it,” Johnson said.

    The center will have a grand opening celebration from 2 to 6 p.m. on April 26 with a live band and special promotions.

    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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    If you've uttered the sentence "My Facebook newsfeed seems to be nothing but equal signs lately," you're not alone — especially if you live in Washtenaw County.

    Facebook officials reported that people from Washtenaw County were more likely to change their profile picture to the pink-on-red equal sign than those from any other county in the country.

    The symbol, which is advocated by the Human Rights Campaign, is meant to show Facebook users' support for marriage equality.

    Researchers with Facebook compiled massive amounts of data, tracking the affects of the HRC's campaign on Facebook users. Though people change their profile photos every day, analysts observed a spike in the trend corresponding with the time at which the HRC began urging people to upload the equals sign at 1 p.m. on Monday.

    The next day, roughly 2.7 million more people changed their profile picture than the previous Tuesday — an increase of 120 percent.

    After analyzing the data based on location, Facebook analysts determined the greatest increase of people changing their profile pictures occurred in Washtenaw County, where an estimated 6.2 percent of people who logged into Facebook changed their picture in response to the campaign.

    The primary researcher, and author of the analysis, Eytan Bakshy, is an alumnus from the University of Michigan.

    Kody Klein is an intern for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at kklein@mlive.com

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    Four fire departments worked to put out the fire at 7334 Spyglass Lane, Ypsilanti Township.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    An Ypsilanti Township house sustained $200,000 worth of damage Friday morning from a fire firefighters believe began because the residents left the stove on when they left.

    "At this time it appears to be caused by unattended cooking," said David Crescio, fire captain for the Ypsilanti Township Fire Department.

    The fire was reported to the fire department by a neighbor at 11:15 a.m.

    The damage to the home, which was located at 7334 Spyglass Lane, in Ypsilanti Township, included extensive fire damage to the kitchen and the room above it, as well as smoke damage throughout the rest of the house.

    In addition to the damages, Crescio said a dog left in the house died as well, from what he believed was probably smoke inhalation.

    The township received assistance from Ypsilanti Fire Department, Pittsfield Fire Department and Ann Arbor Fire Department.

    View Larger Map

    Kody Klein is an intern for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at kklein@mlive.com

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    The spring-like weather Ann Arbor residents have been experiencing will continue through the weekend, the National Weather Service reported.

    Friday night will be mostly clear but temperatures will dip below 30 with northwest winds between 5 and 15 mph.

    spring beauty flower closeup.jpg

    Temperatures will reach just below 60 this Saturday in Ann Arbor.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    On Saturday, conditions still are looking positive with a mostly sunny outlook and temperatures as high as 58 with south winds between 5 and 15 mph.

    "Saturday’s going to be the better of the two days, for sure," said Mike Richter, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

    Light showers may grace the area beginning Saturday night and into Sunday morning, accompanied by temperatures around 40 degrees and south winds between 5 and 15 mph.

    Richter said Sunday will be much more gloomy than Saturday. It will be breezy and wet with light showers and gusts of wind as high as 30 mph in the afternoon. Temperatures will be around 50 degrees.

    Richter said winter may once again come knocking Sunday night with light rain and snow showers accompanying temperatures between 27 and 31 degrees.

    For updated forecasts and conditions any time, check AnnArbor.com's weather page.

    Kody Klein is an intern for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at kklein@mlive.com

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    Just when everyone had all but given up on Michigan's season, Trey Burke gave them one more reason to believe. The Big Ten Player of the Year showed why a couple national player of the year awards just might be in order, hitting a deep 3-pointer to cap a 14-point second half comeback and force overtime. Michigan prevailed in the extra session, 87-85, to advance to the Elite 8.

    Melanie Maxwell is a photographer for AnnArbor.com.

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    In my experience, stage farces can sometimes seem like an awful lot of effort for not-so-much payoff. Actors run on- and off-stage, doors slam repeatedly, storylines get hopelessly tangled—and maybe you chuckle once or twice. Yet perhaps the labored feel of some of these productions just indicates how profoundly difficult it is to pull off a really satisfying farce.

    Which makes me appreciate Encore Theatre’s knockout production of Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor” all the more.

    In the show, world-famous Italian tenor Tito Mirelli (Brian P. Sage) arrives with his fiery wife Maria (Angela Miller) in Cleveland for a special performance as Othello. When a misunderstanding causes the marriage to implode, opera company manager Saunders (Paul Hopper) and his assistant Max (Sebastian Gerstner) scramble to figure out how to satisfy an audience that’s expecting, but won’t get, Mirelli. To this end, aspiring singer Max steps into Mirelli’s role, hoping to fool everyone—but things don’t exactly go as planned.

    Part of what sets this “Tenor” apart from others is the ensemble work of its exactly-right cast, which features top-notch local talent, and the masterful direction of Tobin Hissong (who’s usually among those on stage). The production runs like a well-oiled machine, maintaining an appropriately brisk pace while still allowing the actors room to breathe and play. Plus, it feels like the performers are having a ball with the material, and each other, and that almost always provides a show with good energy.

    Miller and Sage are fantastic as the mercurial, high-drama Italian couple (their accents and rapport will charm your socks off), and Sage’s stand-alone work as an increasingly baffled stranger in a strange land earns loads of laughs. Tara Tomcsik-Husak, playing a vampy, ambitious singer who wants Mirelli to give her career a boost, exudes sensuality, but also imbues Diana with humor and compassion.

    Hopper and Barbara Coven (who plays the opera company’s chairwoman) are a pleasure to watch, as always, as are Thalia Schramm, who plays Saunders’ smitten-with-Tito daughter, Maggie, and Elliott Styles, the sassy, opera-loving bellhop. And Gerstner, with Clark Kent-like glasses, cashes in (and then some) on every possible comedic opportunity with a playful zest that’s irresistible.

    Leo Babcock’s set - featuring two rooms of Mirelli’s hotel suite - is among the best I’ve yet seen at Encore, fleshed out nicely with Schramm’s props. Daniel C. Walker designed the show’s lighting, and Sharon Larkey Urick hit all the right notes with the show’s costumes (Tomcsik-Husak’s shimmering blue seduction dress, Miller’s traveling clothes, and Coven’s “Chrysler Building” dress all deserve extra accolades).

    But beyond all design and performance issues lies two basic questions: Did the show really make you laugh? Did you have a good time? And the answer to both, in regard to "Tenor," is a resounding “yes” (despite the fact that I entered the theater itching to watch the Michigan-Kansas game). So Encore fans (and others) should absolutely not miss this production. It may be the first non-musical to play at the Encore, but if “Tenor” is the sign of what’s to come, allow me be the first to yell, “More!”

    For tickets, see the Encore website.

    Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

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    County records show the owner of the former Farmer Jack building at 3020 Washtenaw in Ypsilanti Township is delinquent in taxes.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    The redevelopment of the former Farmer Jack and Ypsi-Arbor Lanes properties could serve as a "catalyst" for the ReImagine Washtenaw corridor initiative, according to Ypsilanti Township officials.

    "We would like to see that corner act as a catalyst for the rest of the corridor," said Township Planner Joe Lawson. "...That corner is the start to the ReImagine vision."

    Both properties being redeveloped would have a tremendous effect on not only the township, but the other municipalities that border Washtenaw Avenue, Lawson said.

    "They're the anchor of the township and the entrance into Ann Arbor," said Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo. "What we're trying to do with the Washtenaw corridor is have connectivity. There's been a lot of time and effort put into that vision. It's going to spur economic development."

    The redevelopment of those two properties has been slow to happen, but officials remain optimistic.

    As of Friday, the county's 2012 delinquent tax data show the ownership entity, Ypsilanti Real Estate Holdings LLC, owes $104,057.88 in taxes on the former Farmer Jack property. If paid after March 29, interest would be added to that amount, bringing the total to $109,260.78.

    The company, based in Franklin, Mich., is registered to Imad Al-Azem, state records show. Al-Azem bought the property for $8.5 million in 2005. It’s now assessed at a little more than $1.5 million, nearly half of when it was assessed in 2010 at just under $3 million.

    Al-Azem could not be reached for comment.

    Lawson said he hasn't heard much from the owner recently.

    "The Salvation Army was looking at that building not too long ago as a thrift shop, but I'm not sure if that deal is moving forward," Lawson said. "We haven’t heard anything from the building owner in quite some time."

    The Ypsilanti Township store has been vacant since 2007, despite Farmer Jack having a lease that was set to expire on Feb. 28, 2019. Farmer Jack's parent company, A&P, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 and stopped making lease payments to building owners around the country.

    "We’d love to see it redeveloped and if anyone ever comes to the township looking for space that’s one of the buildings we direct them to," Lawson said,

    Since Farmer Jack's closing, Lawson said the township and owner have received inquiries from several interested parties.

    "There's been some other interest in it, but they were uses that don't fit the zoning," Lawson said. "One was a church group and they wanted to split the building and obviously didn't get too far with that deal... A few wanted car lots."


    The Ypsi-Arbor Lanes bowling alley closed in 2011, but township officials are hopeful the building will be repurposed soon.

    AnnArbor.com files

    The former Ypsi-Arbor Lanes at 2985 Washtenaw Ave., is owned by Frankel Associates, based in Troy, and registered to Samuel Frankel. The bowling alley closed in 2011.

    Its 2013 assessed value is $424,900, making its market value double that, but the building's value has decreased over time. In 2009 the building was assessed at nearly $1 million. Frankel is current on his taxes.

    He could not be reached for comment.

    "We had one interested party in that property about a year ago not long ago after it closed," Lawson said. "We sat down and had a meeting, but the project just didn’t move forward and the business located elsewhere in the township."

    Whoever chooses to redevelop the property will likely pay thousands in renovations, unless the building use remains as a bowling alley.

    "That building is almost to the point of being functionally obsolete," Lawson said. "It's going to have to have so many renovations. If it was a commercial user or retail, in order for them to occupy the space, we're probably talking six-figure renovations."

    Lawson said some of the proposed uses for the buildings, particularly the former Farmer Jack, didn't align with the vision for the Washtenaw Avenue Corridor.

    That vision deals a lot with the ReImagine Washtenaw project, according to Lawson. The project is a partnership between Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Pittsfield Township, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, the Michigan Department of Transportation and Washtenaw County.

    "We're going through what those goals and objectives are," he said.

    Lawson said consultants have been hired to draft design standards, that would help regulate the uses of the buildings along the corridor. Lawson said the focus is on mixed use, that would allow for "multi-housing" and retail.

    "Automotive and drive-thru restaurants didn’t weigh favorably," he said.

    The former Farmer Jack and Ypsi-Arbor Lanes buildings are key to the project, Lawson said, largely because of their high visibility along the corridor.

    Lawson said the building's location has a high residential density and close proximity to two major universities and hospitals, which makes it attractive. However, getting someone to redevelop the property is a challenge in some ways.

    "Geographically, it’s a great location," Lawson said. "We just have to find the right user. I don’t think it’s a lack of marketability, part of it has to do with the overall size of the building. It just doesn't fit what a lot of (business owners) are looking for. It just goes right along with the Salvation Army and church--neither one of those uses needed that whole building."

    The building is 57,600 square feet, Lawson said, and shares a large parking lot with a Kmart store.

    "It's large and a typical retailer doesn't need that much space," he said. "That particular building, someone built a grocery store there for a reason because it was needed, and it could still be needed."

    Lawson said township officials believe the properties will be developed.

    "They’re ripe for redevelopment and with things turning around at this point with developers coming forth with capital in hand, it's going to turn around at some point and we’re hoping sooner than later," Lawson said. "With those properties being prime redevelopment, I think it will happen soon."

    Stumbo said signs of redevelopment have already began to show along the high traffic corridor.

    "Through these hard times, the walls have come down and people are working together," Stumbo said. "I feel good about it."

    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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    The former Pars Ice Cream could soon be a medical marijuana dispensary.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Plans are in the works for a new medical marijuana dispensary at the former Pars Ice Cream ice cream truck depot 539 S. Huron St. just north of Interstate 94 in Ypsilanti.

    It’s the latest site that could become a medical marijuana facility in the city.

    Work already has started on the property, but City Planner Teresa Gillotti said the city asked the group making renovations there to stop until it submitted and received site plan approval, and pulled the proper permits.

    The property is owned by Asad Khailany, who owns multiple residential properties throughout the city, Gillotti said. The group planning to open the dispensary would lease from Khailany.

    Gillotti said she does not know who is planning to open the dispensary is because they haven’t submitted any applications with names. Once paperwork is submitted, it will have to go before the city's planning commission for a vote.

    The building, which was originally a gas station before serving as Pars’ office, is approximately 540 square feet.

    Gillotti didn’t say whether she supported a dispensary at the location, but she did point out that the property has been vacant since Pars closed three years ago.

    “The property has been underutilized for several years, but it does need full site plan approval and building improvements, so it will take some doing for it to be approved,” she said.

    The planning commission recently approved site plans for a medical marijuana grow operation at nearby 75 Catherine St., and another group is awaiting site plan approval for a grow operation at 834 Railroad St.

    The plans come as Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson called for a moratorium on medical marijuana grow facilities and dispensaries opening in the city. The city currently has six dispensaries.

    Richardson did not respond to AnnArbor.com requests for comment on her thoughts about a new dispensary on Huron Street.

    The Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that dispensaries were illegal because they weren’t addressed in the Medical Marihuana Act. But legislation to allow dispensaries and decriminalize marijuana in Michigan is in the works.

    "Sate law is continually changing on this topic and there is case law that is continually developing,” Gillotti said. “As it progresses each year, as we do our inspections, we try to make sure (dispensary owners) are meeting city ordinances and licensing standards, and they are subject to state law as well.

    “It’s a lot for the owners to juggle and they’re operating at their own risk."

    Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Reach the AnnArbor.com news desk at news@annarbor.com.

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    Mocha Monkey Cafe is open on Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Township. It's the third coffee shop that has opened in that location.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Residents looking for a fresh alternative for coffee in Pittsfield Township have a new option: Mocha Monkey Cafe.

    This is the third coffee shop to move in to the retail strip at 2871 Carpenter Road, but Jamal Abusway, co-owner, thinks his café has something the former coffee houses did not.

    “I’m excited to offer a locally owned, quality alternative to the drive-thru coffee chains, where people can gather and enjoy healthier food and beverages with friends,” Abusway said.

    Abusway has owned three other cafes in Washtenaw County, including Backdoor Café in Saline and Sway in Ypsilanti.


    Co-owner Jamal Abusway wants to offer a quality alternative to chain coffee shops.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Mocha Monkey offers coffee drinks brewed with coffee from The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company, a Michigan-based company that sources high-quality, fair-trade organic beans and roasts them locally for optimal flavor. The cafe also offers smoothies made from made from whole fresh fruits and non-fat yogurt with no added sugar.

    The cafe also specializes in soups, sandwiches and “morning starters,” like bagels, muffins and and Mediterranean pastries from New Yasmeen Bakery in Dearborn.

    Prices for menu items tend below comparable items at larger chain cafes. A house coffee $1.85, smoothies are $3.75 and sandwiches are $5.25, served with chips or fruit.

    The cafe opened on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. As tribute, there is a heart-shaped wall mural where patrons are invited to come in and add the word for “peace” in any language.

    The cafe’s grand opening will take place on April 1, the “41 on 4/1 event” will feature free baked good samples and a free drip coffee for the first 41 customers of the day.

    Mocha Monkey is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

    Angela Smith is a freelance reporter. Reach the AnnArbor.com business desk at business@annarbor.com.

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    From left to right, Jill Ripley, Patricia DeLamielleure, and Jan Wery, hold prom dresses donated to the project.

    Kody Klein I AnnArbor.com

    Prom dresses often fall victim to a Cinderella-type tragedy — cherished for one night, but by morning they're treated as day-old news and seldom worn again.

    Jan Wery wanted to change that, so she and several of friends started the Prom Dress Project, which collects used prom dresses, launders and repairs them, and resells them for $15 or less. Wery said the project prices the dresses to cover expenses.

    "I just thought that we could collect dresses that girls didn’t want to wear a second time," she said. "This is a way to make sure somebody else gets a beautiful dress."

    Jill Ripley, one of the project's volunteers, said the dresses are meant for girls who might not otherwise have the means to get a dress.

    "This gives a chance for some girls who couldn’t afford a dress, [to have] a nice dress," said Jill Ripley, one of the project's volunteers.

    Wery said she can take used dresses and make them look new by lifting stains and mending seams as needed.

    "Even if these dresses are donated flawed, we can restore them," Ripley said. "We’ll accept everything."

    This is the project's first year and hit is limited to Pioneer High School, Skyline High School, Huron High School and Ann Arbor Technological High School. Dresses are being collected at the schools' counseling offices, along with shoes and accessories.

    Patricia DeLamielleure, one of the project's volunteers, stressed that this initiative could make prom more socially conscious and eco-friendly.

    "It’s about consumption and a throw-away society," she said. "We buy and then we toss it…[This project] curtails that consumption waste cycle."

    The dresses will be sold at a weekend sales event from 3 to 7 p.m. on April 13 and 1 to 4 p.m. on April 14. The event will be hosted by Darling Brides Showcase and Tuxedos, 5204 Jackson Rd, Scio Twp. Anyone who donates a dress to the project will receive a coupon for a new dress from Darling Brides.

    This year, the used dresses will only be sold to students from the participating schools, so anyone who wishes to buy one must present a valid school ID.

    "In a few years, I would love it to be big enough that anybody could walk in at anytime and have a dress for nothing," Wery said.

    Kody Klein is an intern for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at kklein@mlive.com

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    Jesse Donner and Antonina Chekhovskaya in "Ariadne auf Naxos."

    photo by Peter Smith Photography | courtesy of the University of Michigan

    By Stephanie Kadel Taras

    For AnnArbor.com

    “The show must go on”—one theme of Richard Strauss’s 1916 opera "Ariadne auf Naxos"—was tested Friday night in this U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance production.

    When guest conductor Kamal Khan (visiting from South Africa) first emerged, baton in hand, he announced that Antonina Chekhovskaya, the soprano scheduled to sing the part of Ariadne, had a head cold and might not be able to perform the entire show. Since the opera has been double cast, another Ariadne was available if necessary, but the show went on as planned. And if that is how Ms. Chekhovskaya sounds when she’s sick, one can only wonder at her full powers.

    As the lovesick Ariadne, abandoned on the desert island of Naxos by Theseus after helping him defeat the Minotaur in the labyrinth, her scenes are mesmerizing. Shrouded in black fabric, sometimes projecting from a completely prone position, she begs for death to the accompaniment of melancholy violins. She is attended by three dreadlocked sea nymphs whose voices blend like rolling waves, while shades of the underworld reach their hands up around Ariadne from the floor. Chekhovskaya’s desperate longing is entirely convincing.

    Until, suddenly, a comedy troupe rolls onto the stage—four boys in khakis and a girl in a red sequined dress—saying forget your troubles, come on get happy.


    Well, that’s not the exact English translation of the German libretto written by Strauss’ collaborator Hugo von Hofmannsthal. But the story takes this jarring turn, and soon the audience is laughing.

    We were prepared for these events by Strauss’s 40-minute “prologue” to the opera, which introduced us to a contemporary setting in which an opera composer, his teacher, the opera’s stars, and a comedy troupe have all converged at a wealthy Viennese home as paid entertainers for an extravagant gala. The composer—a mezzo-soprano “pants role” sung powerfully by Elizabeth Galafa—is young and earnest and has written this opera about Ariadne to express deep emotions of loneliness and steadfast love.

    Galafa’s performance is perhaps even more melodramatic than the role requires, but the composer is appalled to learn that his transformative opera will be followed by vapid, lowly comedians, who are equally disdainful of the serious work. In fact, Nicholas Nestorak, playing the troupe’s choreographer, yawns as he sings of how boring the opera is surely to be.

    Chaos ensues when the two groups are then told they must perform simultaneously so as to end in time for the scheduled fireworks display. The comedians find this hilarious, and prepare to improvise themselves right into the opera. After all, the show must go on.

    Which brings us back to the boys interrupting Ariadne’s death-wish. The vocal ensemble of four buffoons wearing flippers and snorkels is a delight. And when the star of the comedy troupe, Zerbinetta, features herself in the opera, she makes it her own. Jillianne Tucker sings a 13-minute super-aria meant to convince Ariadne to give up death and just go on to the next boy. Cleverly staged by director Kay Walker Castaldo, the vocal line swells each time another handsome suitor parades by. In previous scenes, Tucker lacked the booming projection of her colleagues, but she makes up for it in this famously difficult aria.

    Indeed, given that so much of this opera is especially difficult, the production is a triumph. Not only is it a large cast, with everyone singing challenging vocal parts in German, but every single instrument in the orchestra has its own part (for example, no two violins play the same lines), the pace is tricky, and the opera-within-an-opera concept requires complex staging. The conductor was clearly straining to keep it all together. But when Bacchus (richly sung by tenor Tshepo Moagi) finally leads Ariadne into the light of a new day, we are reminded of the young composer’s earlier epiphany: “Music is true holiness.”

    Each of the two "Ariadne auf Naxos" casts will perform once more this weekend: Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are available online.

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    Two separate home invasions were reported in Ypsilanti on Friday, according to the Ypsilanti Police Department.

    The first was an apartment on the 200 block of Ballard Street. The victim said an unknown suspect entered his unlocked apartment sometime Friday night and stole several items. The victim said he was not home at the time.

    Police said the other incident was at a house on the 400 block of North Adams Street, where a woman said an unknown suspect entered her home sometime on Friday and stole several items.

    Police are continuing to investigate these incidents.

    View home invasions in a larger map

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    Jacqueline Rose Toboni, Elly Jarvis, and (standing) Regan Moro in U-M's production of "August: Osage County."

    photo by Peter Smith Photography | courtesy of the University of Michigan

    U-M theater professor John Neville-Andrews is throwing a lot of challenges his students’ way, courtesy of a production of Tracy Letts’ celebrated stage drama, “August: Osage County.”

    For the 2008 Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play features characters as old as 69, and as young as 14, with most skewing toward middle age; the epic dark comedy about family dysfunction runs more than three hours; and the show demands a tri-level house set.

    “They won’t (play a significantly different age) when they leave, obviously, but it’s good for training,” said Neville-Andrews. “It’s good to understand how mature people walk and talk, and their sensibility. … And (the script) doesn’t stop. You can’t let it stop.”

    The play tells the story of the Weston family, who gathers in Oklahoma when the patriarch—an alcoholic poet/academic—disappears. The oldest daughter returns with her estranged husband and 14-year-old, pot-smoking daughter; the spinster middle daughter has stayed in the same town; and the stubbornly sunny youngest daughter arrives with her fiancee in tow.

    At the center of them all is Violet, the venomous matriarch, who self-medicates her mouth cancer (and other woes) with pills and nastily cuts down everyone around her.

    “I think it’s a very American play,” said Neville-Andrews. “Like ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ and ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night.’ But unlike those plays, this is a modern American play. Everything about is larger than life: the cast size, the set, the length—and it doesn’t let up, from beginning to end.”

    A Howard Stark poem called “August: Osage County” is the source of the play’s title, and it begins with this stanza: “Dust hangs heavy on the dull catalpas;/ the cicadas are scraping interminably/ at the heat-thickened air--/ no rain in three weeks, no real breeze all day./ In the dim room,/ the blinds grimly endure the deadly light,/ protecting the machined air,/ as the watchers watch the old lady die.”


    “August: Osage County”

    • Who: University of Michigan department of theatre and drama.
    • What: Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning darkly funny, harrowing play about a far-flung, dysfunctional family that comes back together, in rural Oklahoma, when the patriarch disappears. At the center of the storm is pill-popping, venomous matriarch Violet, who lashes out at her three daughters and everyone else with impunity. Play contains profanity and adult themes.
    • Where: Arthur Miller Theatre, in U-M’s Walgreen Drama Center, 1226 Murfin in Ann Arbor.
    • When: Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m., April 4-14.
    • How much: $26. www.music.umich.edu or 734-764-2538.
    “Of course, (the play) is based on Letts’ own family experience,” said Neville-Andrews. “His grandmother became an addict, after his grandfather committed suicide, and she abused the whole family terribly. … Tracy Letts lived a lot of this play.”

    In addition to the challenges that “August: Osage County” presents to student actors, Neville-Andrews is also using student designers for his production. Set designer Eli Schlatter, for example, had to take a few cracks at finding a way to fit a three story house set onto the Arthur Miller Theatre’s thrust stage.

    Everything seems to be working out, though, and the students are "very excited, and they've really come to appreciate the play,” said Neville-Andrews. “They’ve all read the old plays about families, but they don’t relate to them as much. … This has recognizable characters they might have in their own families, and has arguments and fights they may have witnessed at their own Thanksgiving table, or at a family wedding.”

    “ … It’s really a play of raw emotion, and comedy, but there are also these moving moments of tenderness. … We recently had the designers in to watch rehearsal, and they were laughing at various things, and I thought, ‘Thank goodness it’s as funny as thought it was.’”

    Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

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    The man accused of robbing an Ypsilanti Township TCF Bank will return to court in May for a hearing to determine if he is competent enough to stand trial.


    John Sawaya

    Courtesy of WCSO

    John Sawaya, 50, of Ypsilanti, was in court Tuesday morning for the first preliminary exam hearing in his case. According to court records, the exam was adjourned until 8:30 a.m. May 21 for a competency hearing.

    Sawaya is charged with armed robbery and bank robbery for the March 16 incident at the TCF Bank, 2150 Packard Road. According to deputies, Sawaya went to the bank and implied he had a weapon before leaving with cash.

    He was arrested the next day after an Ypsilanti police officer recognized him from surveillance photos released by the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. Some of the money that was reportedly stolen was recovered during the arrest.

    Sawaya was on parole for a 2003 conviction for four bank robberies at the time of his arrest. He served just under 10 years for the convictions and was released from prison in August 2010. Records show he was supposed to be released from parole in August 2013.

    He remains lodged at the Washtenaw County Jail as of Wednesday. Bond information was not available from jail records.

    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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    A Michigan member of the Republican National Committee said Thursday he will not resign after posting an article critical of gay people on his Facebook page, despite calls from members of his own party that he step down.

    Dave Agema, who served as a state representative from 2007 until December posted an excerpt from an article titled "Everyone Should Know These Statistics On Homosexuals" on his Facebook page Wednesday. A group of 21 Michigan Republicans, including local precinct delegates and members of the University of Michigan College Republicans, has called it "deplorable."


    Dave Agema

    But Agema told The Associated Press he maintains his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, and said he will "absolutely not" resign. Agema said he posted the excerpt in light of the arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court this week on California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

    Among the claims in the article by Dr. Frank Joseph is that gay people "account for half the murders in large cities." The article, which cites studies from the 1980s for many of its claims, also attributes high medical insurance rates to caring for AIDS patients.

    Grand Traverse County precinct delegate and former Cheboygan County drain commissioner Dennis Lennox, who is among those calling on Agema to step down, said he and other Michigan Republicans no longer have confidence in Agema's ability to perform his duties as committeeman.

    He also said Agema's actions will only further distance voters from the GOP.

    "You can't expect to get undecided voters to vote for you if you spit in their face, and that's exactly what he's done," Lennox said. "He has spit in the face of millions of American who would otherwise be inclined to support the party."

    Last month, more than 75 prominent Republicans, including former advisers to former President George W. Bush, signed a legal brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down California's ban on same-sex marriage.

    Agema defended himself, saying the post was not his own words, but the author's determination of "facts about the lifestyle."

    "It's something that we need to be aware of when we are looking at this," he said. "It affects people's lives."

    Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak said in a statement that the Republican Party "remains in support of traditional marriage but that never should be allowed nor confused with any form of hate or discrimination toward anyone."

    Any statement in the contrast undermines the party's platform and "common sense conservative message," he said.

    RNC Chairman Reince Priebus echoed Schostak's comments.

    "The party's position on traditional marriage is clear but as I have been saying, all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect," he said in a statement.

    But when asked if Agema should resign, Schostak told reporters that is "between Dave and his family and himself.

    "I have no point of view on that at all," he said.

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    The Saline Board of Education reviewed the fees it charges students to play sports and join clubs at a meeting on Tuesday night, according to a story on the Saline Reporter.

    Thumbnail image for Scot_Graden_gives_budget_presentation.JPG

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    Superintendent Scot Graden gives a presentation at a previous Saline school board meeting.

    As AnnArbor.com previously has reported, the pay-to-play fee charged by the school is the highest in Washtenaw County at $325 for sports and $40 for activity clubs. Price can vary depending on the sport or activity.

    The Reporter said the dilemma was now how to best offer activities to students that still are not covered by the district's $51 million annual budget.

    While no formal decision was made at the meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent Scot Graden was asked to have a recommendation ready to present at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 9 at Liberty School.

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