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

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    Berkley Edwards runs the 100-meter dash at the Golden Triangle invite earlier this season.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com file photo

    The Chelsea boys track team captured its first regional championship since 1969, recording victories in 10 events Friday at Livonia Ladywood.

    “We’ve come close to winning a couple of times since I took over and we found a way to screw it up,” Chelsea coach Eric Swager said. “This year, we came in with the goal of doing what we could across the board. There were no downsides from our boys today.”

    Chelsea finished with 189 points in the boys events, followed by Robichaud with a distant 58 and Adrian with 57.

    Divine Child scored 193 points for the girls win, followed by Chelsea in second place with 82 and Milan coming in third with 69.

    The Division 2 state championships will be held June 1 at Ada Forest Hills Eastern.

    Berkley Edwards raced out to a pair of victories for Chelsea in the boys events, sprinting to the finish line in 10.77 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 22.14 seconds in the 200-meter dash.

    “We have a lot of potential,” Edwards said. “These are great athletes in every event and we have the potential to win so long as we don’t make any mistakes.”

    Michael Smith scored a pair of field victories for the Bulldogs in the shot put (47 feet, 11.5 inches) and the discus throw (146 feet, 11 inches).

    Chelsea also notched two meet records, taking the 3200-meter relay in 8:09.77 and Michael Hovater clearing a mark of 14 feet, 4 inches in the pole vault.

    Other Chelsea wins came from Austin Horn (4:29.43 in the 1600-meter run), Shane McGrath (39.63 seconds in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles) and Zach Rabbitt (1:59.75 in the 800-meter run)

    Milan’s Kalit Kelsey won the long jump by going 21 feet, 7.75 inches in the long jump.

    On the girls side, Tess Odegard won on the track and in the field for Milan, pulling off a victory in the 800-meter run (2:23.56) and in the high jump (5 feet, 2 inches).

    Chelsea finished with a pair of wins as Laura McGrath captured the 100-meter dash (12.86 seconds) and Talia Dyerly won the pole vault (8 feet, 2 inches).

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    Editor's note: This story is being updated as information becomes available.

    The accident causing eastbound I-94 at Zeeb Road in Scio Township to be shut down is being reported as fatal, according to a story on ClickOnDetroit.

    A Nixle alert was sent out by the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office at 9:50 a.m. Saturday to alert residents of the closure.

    ClickOnDetroit also has eported that it is unknown how many passengers or cars were involved in the crash at this time.

    When contacted by AnnArbor.com, Michigan State Police were unable to provide any further information about the incident.

    It is still undetermined how long the road will be closed

    View Larger Map

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    Students at Abbot Elementary School in Ann Arbor raise their hands to answer a teacher's question in preparation for the MEAP test in this AnnArbor.com file photo.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    Some students will get new Michigan Education Assessment Program math scores after a problem with some questions on the exam.

    Students in grades 4, 7 and 8, as well as special education students in grades 3-8, can expect new scores, and the scores could go up or down, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News reported. The tests included some questions state officials had promised schools would not be included.

    New reports are expected to be sent to schools by the end of June. Overall school scores likely will also be affected. The Michigan Department of Education will absorb the costs of score adjustment, spokeswoman Jan Ellis said.

    Students took the exams last year and scores were released in February.

    Local educators told the department about issues with the questions, officials said. Many teachers had been told "you no longer need to teach these specific skills," said Joseph Martineau, deputy superintendent for accountability services at the education department.

    Michigan is moving from its current standards for schools to Common Core Standards, a set of expectations to be used across the country. Martineau said the overall impact of the score changes will be minimal but that the state had to make the correction.

    "We wanted to make sure we were honoring the commitment to the schools," Martineau said.

    The rescoring affects only those school districts that opted to make an early transition to more rigorous MEAP testing during the latest round of tests. Martineau said those districts' MEAP tests had questions from the older, standard version of the MEAP.

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    Seventy-two-year-old Tom Zempel stands next to his Harley Davidson, Tom will be receiving a associate's degree in motorcycle service technology Saturday form WCC. Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    When Ann Arbor resident Tom Zempel walked across the stage at the Washtenaw Community College graduation Saturday, he was graduating as more than the typical 20-something student with a certificate in motorcycle service technology. As a retired 72-year-old, Zempel also was the oldest of the 1,825 Washtenaw Community College students scheduled to receive certificates or degrees.

    Inspired by a friend who was taking courses in photography and history at WCC, Zempel decided to follow suit and take advantage of the free courses the college offers to those 65 years and older.

    Motivated by his desire to continue learning throughout his life, the father of three, grandfather of five, and great-grandfather of one said he had the time and drive to go back to school. First on Zempel's agenda was a course in sign language to improve his communication skills.

    “I took the class because I have a son that’s deaf and I thought it would help me be able to communicate better with him. I really enjoyed it and that led me to take other classes in the Life Learning area,” Zempel said.

    After dabbling in a variety of courses — including Mediterranean cooking and health — Zempel eventually decided to revisit an old passion and entered into a two-and-a-half-year program in motorcycle service technology, which is what he left commencement with. Though he had never owned a motorcycle, he took the leap and bought a Honda CBR 250 in 2008.

    WCC even helped him learn to ride his Honda as well as obtain a license for it with a basic rider course.

    “I liked the class so much that I took a more advanced course and somewhere in there I learned about other courses which led me to the motorcycle program,” Zempel said. “I had already taken a welding class, which fit in to the program as well.”

    Having joined the Navy in 1959 and receiving extensive training in welding, Zempel's background combined with his love of motorcycles proved to be a perfect fit for the motorcycle service technology program.

    “I was just happy to go and I was learning something every class,” Zempel said. “I just really enjoyed it. I wish that when I was younger I had paid that much attention to what I was learning. I wish I could have been a part of the program earlier in life.”

    With the certificate, Zempel is now qualified to build custom bikes, upgrade bikes, or work in a motorcycle shop, but he said he is hesitant to search for work.

    “I’m not really looking for work. It is more for my own satisfaction and so I can work on my own bikes," he said. "The classes were just kind of a goal for me to finish. I just really enjoy working on bikes and who knows what will happen down the road — maybe I’ll end up doing part-time.”

    Following his graduation, Zempel plans to continue taking courses at WCC in addition to working on his two bikes: a Harley 1200CC Sportster, which he bought so his wife, Shirley, could ride with him and a Softail Heritage.

    “I want to keep my foot in the door," Zempel said. "As a student you have access to lab time and other resources. I want to continue to learn. I want to keep my mind sharp."

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    By purchasing a piece of art, you can help feed families in need. The Saline Picture Frame Co. is teaming up with talented folks in the community to host the Circle of Art fundraiser for Food Gatherers.

    Circle of Art
    Local artists donate small works of art, and the Saline Picture Frame Co. mats them and hosts the event. The artworks range from paintings, drawings and jewelry to wood carvings, baskets and vases. Refreshments will be available.

    Get a look at what items are available and make a bid at www.salinepictureframe.com/store/about/circle-of-art.

    There is a wide number of items on sale and priced for any budget. Over the past eight years, the sale has allowed Food Gatherers to feed thousands of local residents.

    Sunday, May 19, 2013. Noon-5 p.m. Free admission. The Saline Picture Frame Co. is located at 7641 N. Ann Arbor St., Saline. 734-429-3352.

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    The heart of Michigan's 1997 National Championship football team -- Charles Woodson, Brian Griese, Steve Hutchinson -- were back in Ann Arbor over the weekend for their annual "Champions for Children's Hearts" fundraising event for Mott Children's Hospital. The weekend of activities raised more than $1 million and ended with a golf outing at University of Michigan golf course on Sunday.

    Chris Asadian is a freelance photographer for AnnArbor.com.

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    A three-woman team from Ann Arbor's Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist - "a Roman Catholic community of women … founded in the Dominican tradition to spread the witness of religious life in accord with Pope John Paul II's vision for a new evangelization," according to DSM's website - became the first established finalists on Game Show Network's "American Bible Challenge" this season, and they will compete for the grand prize of $100,000 on an episode that's scheduled to air May 23.

    A previous AnnArbor.com post detailed the sisters' path to the finals.

    Fans of the team may also vote for the sisters as "fan favorite" at gsn.com. If the sisters win the "fan favorite vote," they'll earn an additional $10,000 for their charity of choice.

    Here's the clip used on the show to introduce the sisters' team.

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

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    A citizen-led task force that's spent the last year studying ways to improve Ann Arbor's North Main corridor will make its final recommendations to the City Council in July.

    Before that happens, the task force is seeking additional input from the community, said David Santacroce, chairman of the North Main-Huron River Corridor Vision Task Force.

    The public will have an opportunity to weigh in at a community meeting next Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main St.


    The North Main corridor study area.

    City of Ann Arbor

    "It's up to the citizens to get involved," Santacroce said. "This is a chance to put a lot of people in a room and really get more heads thinking creatively about solutions that are feasible."

    The second of two scheduled community meetings will take place June 12 — again from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Community Center.

    The task force is working to finalize a set of recommendations that will go to the City Council by July 31. A new website dedicated to the project can be found at RenewNorthMain.org.

    Draft plans presented by the task force's subcommittees back in March showed potential solutions for improving safety and accessibility for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists traveling along North Main Street, potentially including a new roundabout and crosswalks.

    Other solutions — including pedestrian bridges and a tunnel under the railroad tracks north of Depot Street — have been considered to improve access to riverfront destinations, including the MichCon site where the task force has laid out a vision for a new riverfront city park.

    The task force also has been working on the city's plan for transforming city-owned property at 721 N. Main into a future greenway park.

    Santacroce said many of the tentative solutions are aimed at addressing the lack of pedestrian access to amenities along the corridor. He's hoping for a large turnout at next Wednesday's meeting.

    "This is the community meeting where we engage the public more broadly and say here are the issues we see," he said. "What we want to know is — are we missing anything? And what are people's ideas about potential solutions?"

    After the task force submits its written report at the end of July, Santacroce said he expects the issue to be on the council's agenda as early as August.

    The city's newly released Non-Motorized Transportation Plan update also includes some suggestions for a stretch of North Main Street that lacks accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists.

    One idea the city has discussed is reducing North Main from four to three lanes with added bike lanes and a center lane that could be reversible for incoming traffic in the morning and outbound traffic in the afternoon. The state has said it's willing to consider the idea.

    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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    Thompson Block owner Stewart Beal provided a rendering of what the Thompson Block site will look like by the time construction is completed.

    Courtesy Stewart Beal

    The Thompson Block property in Ypsilanti has officially been listed. Leases and letters of intent for 16 luxury lofts and about 14,000 square feet of commercial space will be accepted over the next three months.

    "Everything is going really well so far," said Howard Hanna real estate agent Tyler Weston, who listed the property Friday. "We've been approached by six different business owners. Even without advertising we've gotten quite a lot of interest. We have three people interested in loft space."

    The 148-year-old Depot Town building is owned by Stewart Beal, who said he expects a $4 million investment to redevelop the property.

    The 16 lofts are each priced at about $12 per square foot and will range in size, with the largest being around 1,110 square feet. Weston said monthly rates will range from less than $800 up to around $1,300.

    Leases will be available within the next three months for the loft space, Weston said.

    The commercial space will be priced at $16 per square foot. According to the listing, the commercial spaces range from 1,100 square feet up to the entire 14,000-square-foot commercial space.

    Construction is slated to begin in late 2013 or early 2014 and work is expected to be completed with a certificate of occupancy by early 2015.

    Weston said he's spoken with people who have expressed interest in a small amount of commercial space, as well as those who are interested in the full amount.

    "We’ve been in talks with both of those," Weston said. "At this point, the space is still very open and anyone can pretty much come in with their imagination. We're looking to get 100 percent of space committed before September. As the space is delineated, those things will kind of weave themselves out."

    Weston said letters of intent will go out for the commercial space in the next three months. Actual leases won't be available for the commercial space until a later date, at which point deposits will be made.

    The people expressing interest were trying to find space for retail stores, a bar, restaurants, a fitness studio and office space, Weston said.

    Weston said he's "fairly confident" the entire property will be redeveloped and fully leased.

    "In terms of our lending ability to get loans, we're looking pretty good on that front," he said. "If all the other things go as planned, we shouldn't have any problems getting loans and moving forward."

    Weston said he's been in discussions with parties who expressed interest prior to the Sept. 23, 2009 fire that gutted the entire building.


    This rendering shows an example of the loft space that will be available in the Thompson Block building

    Courtesy Stewart Beal

    Developers have established a new LLC, Thompson Block Partners LLC, to move the project forward. The building's previous owner, Historic Equities Fund 1 LLC, has been rolled into a new investment vehicle. To create more space for the new plans, Beal said the LLC purchased the property at 107 E. Cross St., previously owned by jailed landlord David Kircher, which is behind Thompson Block.

    Beal is looking to combine the property with Thompson Block to create one parcel.

    Beal and the city reached a consent agreement in August 2010 that gave Beal three years to complete the exterior envelope of the building, including a roof, walls and all openings sealed with at least temporary doors and windows.

    Beal has until Sept. 1 to complete these renovations and so far, 10 of the 11 requirements outlined have been completed. However, Beal is in the process of working with the city to obtain a one-year extension on putting a roof on the building.

    Beal will have to formally go before the City Council to ask for an extension on the consent agreement, which he says allows for additional negotiation. If council doesn't approve the extension, Beal said it would then go back to mediation.

    Beal is also still in the process of applying for a facade grant from the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority and a short-term bridge loan, or potentially longer-term financing and other financing mechanisms. He also is going to re-apply for an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act Exemption in the name of the new investment group. The exemption would freeze the property's taxes at its current rate for 12 years.

    "We want this to be our community's project," Weston said. "This has a lot more to do with Ypsilanti and Depot Town and we want to reflect the awesome things we have (here in the community)."

    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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    Ecorse Road, Grove Road, Washtenaw Avenue and Whittaker Road are the main commercial corridors in Ypsilanti Township — but city planning officials are envisioning much more bustling commercial thoroughfares.

    Those four corridors are the main focus of a revisit to Ypsilanti Township’s master plan, which state law require be reviewed and updated every five years.

    “This is strictly just a review and an update,” said Ypsilanti Township Planning Director Joe Lawson, adding that the last master plan was completed in 2007. “We have new census numbers so we have to take that into account. We’ve had a change in the economic climate in this area, and that has warranted another look at the plan to see where we need to go for future development.”


    Ecorse Road is one commercial corridor officals are hoping to improve.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    The revision is being done with Royal Oak-based LSL Planning. One of the central tasks is rezoning the town center district that runs through the Whittaker Road-Huron Street corridor. The town center zoning as is extends all the way from Interstate 94 to Textile Road.

    Town center zoning calls for mixed-use and dense commercial use. Lawson said town center zoning will remain in place from Interstate 94 through Huron River Drive, but eventually should filter into lighter commercial use further south that would allow for businesses such as dentist offices or shoe shops to make use of the space.

    Lawson explained that the town center district likely was too large and reducing it could free up opportunities for other development.

    The ReImagine Washtenaw goals and objectives figure into the master plan as well. The project is attempting to transition the corridor from auto-orientated development to development that encourages people to walk or ride their bicycles. Planners are envisioning mixed-use development with commercial businesses on the first floor, and offices or residential spaces above them.

    “We want to make them more diverse and fulfilling corridors,” Lawson said. “Right now they’re pretty auto-oriented and have been that way for many, many years. It’s time to look and re-evaluate and say ‘What else can we do?’”

    The backyard chicken and urban farming/hoophouse issue promises to be a hot topic. Already a Facebook page dedicated to pushing for an ordinance allowing backyard chickens has sprung up.

    Residents are invited to several public input sessions where they can address more emotional zoning issues raised — such as the backyard chickens and urban gardening. Interested residents attend from 4:30 and 6 p.m. on Monday at the Ypsilanti Township Hall. Many of those ideas will also be incorporated into the East Michigan Avenue corridor and Grove corridor, Lawson said.

    Lawson said there is nothing in the master plan that gives him the ability to develop a zoning ordinance allowing backyard chickens or regulate backyard farming.

    “Once we’re finished with the master plan process, it gives me backing to propose zoning amendments that would allow backyard chickens,” he said. “Once this master plans is complete, we can move forward with that if that’s what population wishes me to move forward on.”

    Another focus area is along the southeast corner of Ford Lake where the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits dense residential along the lakefront. Lawson said that area would lend itself to restaurant or some other public gathering space Ford Lake generally lacks at the moment.

    “We don’t have a lot of commercial areas on the lake,” Lawson said. “I think that would be a good start. We can see if we cant get the current property owner or future developer to do something.”

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    University of Michigan faculty are requesting a seat at the table as regents decide who the next leader of the Ann Arbor school will be.


    File photo of U-M's campus.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    In a two-page statement given to regents this month and crafted by a faculty senate committee on university values, faculty requested the search for U-M's next president include broad input from professors.

    "This search comes at a critical time for U-M, the State of Michigan, U.S. research universities and higher education," the statement says. "Despite these successes, Michigan’s institutional values and academic leadership will continue to face serious challenges arising from both a complex volatile environment and the costs associated with higher education."

    "...As you begin the search for the next president, we hope that you will... draw upon our expertise."

    U-M President Mary Sue Coleman announced in April she will retire when her contract expires in July 2014 and the school's eight-member governing body is in charge of hiring her replacement.

    Board members have said a formal search for Coleman's replacement will begin this summer. Coleman was hired in 2002 and in the letter faculty called the search process that yielded her "excellent."

    Faculty asked for clarity in the search process, saying they understood the need for secrecy, but asked that they be involved on all rungs of the search.

    They asked that an advisory search committee be put in place, as in the 2002 search, and requested faculty representation on such a group. "Good use of our collective experience will strengthen the university," the statement says.

    Board of Regents chair Larry Deitch said faculty will be consulted during the search, but the search framework still is being decided. He declined to comment further.

    "There will be faculty involvement, absolutely," said regent Andrew Richner. "They can count on it."

    Faculty also asked regents to take advice from the faculty senate on who should sit on an advisory committee and said it should be chaired by "a distinguished faculty member."

    Aside from an advisory committee, faculty asked regents to hold open forums to get to the core of what university stakeholders want in their next president.

    "Mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that the varying viewpoints of U-M's community are given due consideration," the statement says, adding later: "It is essential that the process include a broad, open conversation with the university community."

    Thirteen members of the 14-member committee voted in support of the statement, with one member abstaining.

    Kim Kearfott, chair of the committee, said she hasn't received a response from regents since submitting the statement on April 29.

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.

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    CEO Moses Lee (center) with co-founders Jerry Wang (left) and David Jsa (right) at Seelio's office space in Menlo Innovations.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    In the month leading up to the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, Ann Arbor startups have been attracting a number of venture capital investments.

    Web-based startup Seelio, short for “see my portfolio,” is one of four companies that have closed funding rounds recently, completing a seed round that brought in $900,000.

    Company officials say it can be difficult to stand out as an applicant in today’s job market with just a resume and cover letter. It can also be tough for employers to find what they're looking for simply by searching for keywords and phrases from those two documents.

    Seelio's goal is to help students of all ages build easily viewable Web-based displays of their best projects and endeavors. The company launched its website in August 2012.

    “Since (then) we have been rapidly evolving our website and growing our user base at the same time,” co-founder and CEO Moses Lee said.

    Seelio joins a new generation of hot Web startups that are following pioneers like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn into social media, with a focus on connecting like-minded people.

    Most of these platforms have built their business models on providing information about their users to advertisers, allowing for hyper-targeted marketing to the site’s users. Seelio’s website does not feature a single advertisement.

    Similarly to LinkedIn, which has minimal advertising and no usage fee for a basic account, Lee said his company believes that connections made and information displayed by users on the site are more valuable assets than detailed information on consumer likes and interests.

    “Because we have aggregated a really strong base of highly marketable students who show their creativity, work, passion and skills, companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp are using Seelio as a sourcing platform for hiring,” he said.

    “They’re finding phenomenal talent and there’s a revenue model there because they’re willing to pay for that access.”

    That revenue alone might have been enough to begin a business, but Seelio has developed a second revenue stream by selling the site to universities and educational institutions as a customizable way to show off the best work their students produce.

    “These institutions are thinking about ‘how do we help our students to reflect on and really capture their learning’ so that they graduate with more than just a transcript,” Lee said.

    “And at the same time they’re marketing their projects and works and improving job placement outcomes for the students and by extension the institutions as well.”


    Seelio works in Menlo Innovations on a strip of East Liberty Street that is increasingly populated with technology companies. The office space shares a glass wall with student startup incubator TechArb, which Lee previously directed.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    The University of Michigan, Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon and The University of Texas are among the institutions that have partnered with Seelio to begin the process of building student portfolios. Lee said the company is working with about 25 universities and institutions and he is hesitant to add more too quickly.

    “We’re trying to work with a fixed number so that we can provide excellent service and an excellent product,” he said.

    “Growth needs to be managed so that you don’t trip over yourself. We have been strategically picking the schools that we target and work with and then trying to deliver amazing value to them.”

    Adrian Fortino, a manager at Detroit-based First Step Fund, was one of the Seelio’s first investors and sits on the company’s board of directors. He said Lee’s combination of experience and passion helped him feel comfortable getting in on the ground floor.

    “He is as aggressive an entrepreneur as you are going to find, and I say that in a good way,” he said.

    “On top of that, he lived university talent development for several years at the (University of Michigan) Center for Entrepreneurship, so he really has a strong expertise in the area.”

    Lee also helped students build their own startup companies, working previously as the director of the TechArb student startup incubator at U-M.

    His current venture is currently an eight-person team and shares workspace with Menlo Innovations in downtown Ann Arbor. Lee said being in Ann Arbor's downtown tech hub has allowed him to find talented employees from the university, and has also afforded him the opportunity to work with U-M alumni who come through town.

    “There have been a number of people who have suggested to us to take our business to a strategic location on Boston, or maybe the Bay Area,” he said.

    “I think we can create a world class company out of Ann Arbor with the access to resources that we can tap into here. Layer on top of that all of the advisors we have both here and across the country and we believe we are in a great place.”

    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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    Plans for reconfiguring the Washtenaw Avenue corridor between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti will be the topic of discussion at a series of public workshops later this month.

    Officials from the city of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti Township and the city of Ypsilanti, working with urban design and transportation consultants, are hoping to get public feedback on future road configuration alternatives proposed as part of the ReImagine Washtenaw initiative.

    That includes proposals for adding bike lanes, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, streetscapes, buffers and transit stops, said Nathan Voght, the project manager for ReImagine Washtenaw. Voght said on Friday the plans aren't available for public release yet.


    Download the poster for the workshops.

    ReImagine Washtenaw is a multi-jurisdictional effort to look at land-use planning and public transit along the county's most congested and auto-centric road and transform it into a safe, multi-modal route with mixed-use development and enhanced transit services and amenities.

    Professional staff planners and elected officials from the four municipalities have been leading the effort.

    Additional partners include the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, Michigan Department of Transportation, Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study.

    AATA CEO Michael Ford provided an update on ReImagine Washtenaw in a recent report to AATA's governing board, noting the partners met recently to talk about road cross-section alternatives being considered.

    Ford said a few different configurations are on the table at this point, including options for dedicated transit lanes, buffered bike lanes, continuous sidewalks and transit improvements that include a series of "super-stops" for AATA buses along Route 4.

    "It is important to understand that the final plan will not be implemented quickly," Ford said. "Rather, it will establish development and zoning requirements to guide development and improvements."

    ReImagine Washtenaw is involved in multiple projects to make the road more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists and address traffic congestion and land-use issues along the corridor.

    Master plans, zoning ordinances and design guidelines are being updated to ensure future developments consider walkability, transit needs and provide more "sense of place." Numerous projects have been completed or are wrapping up this year, including Arbor Hills, a new upscale retail development across from Whole Foods, and the MDOT non-motorized path at US-23.

    "Through the ReImagine Washtenaw efforts, we are beginning to see visible results with recent improvements along the corridor," said Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal.

    "We are now asking the public and all corridor stakeholders for specific input on the future alternatives currently being considered by our coalition," she said. "We need to find out what the community thinks the best approach is to making a safer and more inviting pedestrian environment, one that is more accommodating for bicyclists, and provides more sense of place."

    The first workshop takes place from 6-8 p.m. May 28 at the Washtenaw County Service Center, 4135 Washtenaw Ave. The second takes place from 8-10 a.m. May 29 at the same location.

    The third workshop takes place from 7-9 p.m. May 30 at Carpenter Elementary School, 4250 Central Boulevard. The fourth takes place from 2-4 p.m. May 31 at Eastern Michigan University inside Room 330 of the McKenny Union located where Washtenaw Avenue meets Cross Street.

    Kari Martin, MDOT’s University Region planner, said MDOT is looking forward to continuing its collaboration with the ReImagine Washtenaw initiative to ensure future improvements address both MDOT's needs and also the community's vision for the corridor.

    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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    A crash was slowing traffic on M-14 on the north side of Ann Arbor Monday morning.

    The two-vehicle crash was reported in the eastbound lanes of M-14 west of Barton Drive, a dispatcher with the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office said shortly after 8 a.m.

    It was not believed to be blocking traffic, but a Google map showed a slowdown in the eastbound lanes.

    No further information was immediately available.

    View Crash 052013 in a larger map

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    Ann Arbor police said the man reported missing Thursday was located in Kentucky Sunday.

    Detective William Stanford said Daniel Lee Brown was pulled over on a traffic stop by Kentucky police.

    "He's alive and well," Stanford said.

    Brown was evaluated by authorities and it was determined he could be released, according to Stanford. The family was also notified.

    Stanford confirmed Brown decided to take a trip without telling anyone.

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    Ann Arbor Police said laptops and other items were stolen in two separate home invasions, the first of which occurred sometime Friday.

    Officers were called to the Pheasant Run Apartments in the 3500 block of Pheasant Run Circle for a break-in that occurred between 4 a.m. Friday and 6:08 p.m. Friday, when the resident reported it. The man told police he came home to find the door to his apartment unlocked, according to a release from Ann Arbor police.

    "As he entered, he noticed his belongings had been tossed around," the release stated.

    A laptop, charger, phone charger and television were taken. Police do not have a suspect at this time.

    The second break-in occurred just before 2:54 a.m. Saturday when a resident was returning home in the 1000 block of South Forest Avenue and heard noises, according to Ann Arbor police.

    The resident found a man he knew in the home carrying a backpack. The resident confronted the man, who then fled. When the resident's roommates returned, numerous items were discovered missing including three laptops, chargers, a bag, sunglasses and prescription glasses.

    The suspect got in through an unlocked door, according to police.

    Investigations continue in both cases.

    View AA Break-ins May 20 in a larger map

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    The University of Michigan is hosting a three-day conference on the future of liberal arts at research colleges.

    The conference takes place from May 22 to 24 at the Rackham Graduate School building.


    University of Michigan is hosting a conference at Rackham Graduate School on May 22 to 24.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    U-M is a fitting place to host such a conference since it had a $1.27 billion research budget in fiscal 2012, yet it also has a growing art school and top-rated musical theater program. The school is used to balancing its research endeavors with more traditional liberal arts studies.

    The conference will include a panel discussion of leaders in higher education, including former graduate school dean Earl Lewis, on the status of liberal arts education at research universities on May 22 at 7 p.m. The next day, also at 7 p.m., U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, former President James Duderstadt and University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan will conduct a panel discussion on a similar topic.

    "Today, the national conversation about higher education centers around crisis, failure, fraud and pressure for research universities to expand training in entrepreneurship and applied learning," Terrence McDonald, dean of U-M's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, said in a statement. "This conference will provide a forum for educational leaders to discuss the value, contributions and future of the liberal arts."

    College leaders of Yale University, University of California at Berkley, Northwestern University, University of Minnesota and Purdue University also will speak during the conference.

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.

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    This spring has been ridiculous. However, you can enjoy the good days in style with the help of the Micro Brew-Haha dinner at Paesano restaurant on the patio.


    Photo by AnnArbor.com

    Pairing the courses with the beers of crafters Arbor Brewing Company, Original Gravity and Great Lakes Brewing Company, the dinner will be a celebration of all things that are right about the season.

    The dinner will include five courses, including dessert. It will include ribs, sliders, soup and even a chocolate porter beer tart with a porter infused whipped cream.

    In case of inclement weather, the event will be moved into the restaurant’s banquet room.

    Thursday, May 23, 2013. at 6:30 p.m. $45 per person (plus tax & gratuity). 3411 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor. 734-971-0484.

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    Island Records

    Ann Arbor native and “Party Hard” rock star Andrew WK (Wilkes-Krier) has had, to put it mildly, an eclectic career.

    His life in music began at age 4, when he started studying classical piano; and throughout his teens, he was part of several bands. Eventually, after WK moved to New York, his party-anthem hit "Party Hard" brought him national attention back in 2001.

    Since then, he has since stayed famous by way of: motivational speaking (at NYU and Yale, among other places); an appearance at a My Little Pony conference; an apparent appointment as a U.S. cultural ambassador to the Middle East (which the U.S. Department of State revoked just before WK was scheduled to fly to Bahrain); being named spokesman for Fresh + Sexy Wipes; being co-owner of New York’s Santos Party House in New York City; and belting Ramones songs with Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg at Santos and, soon, on a world tour.

    Before that happens, though, WK will play a secret late-night show in Southeast Michigan on May 25, following his performance at Howell’s Bledfest music festival. The money raised by WK's midnight show will support Ann Arbor’s Community High School. WK attended CHS from 1993-97.

    Details about the location and time of the secret house party will be released via Twitter following WK’s set at Bledfest.

    “If I had not gone to Community High, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing,” said WK. “I wouldn’t be talking to you now. To this day, my idols are the juniors and seniors who were going to school there when I was a student. … The most exciting people existed right in front of me then. Community cultivates a student body like that.”

    WK - whose father, James Krier, is a U-M law school faculty member - hopes CHS will use the money for “big new mural or something.” And in anticipation of WK’s upcoming appearances in the area, AnnArbor.com asked him about Little Ponies, nosebleeds and more (but not intimate wipes).

    Q. Because your 2001 album “I Get Wet” featured a photo of you with a massive nosebleed, this has become your trademark. Why did you choose that image for the album?

    A. I just hadn’t seen a record cover like that before. It seemed like there was something very primal about a nosebleed, even though there’s all this blood pouring out of you, but there’s no pain or violence or injury involved. I’d had many nosebleeds as a kid. I got them just while sitting in class. So it’s really intense looking, but everyone, from your grandmother to your brother, can relate to it. And it was territory not yet claimed.

    Q. Could you tell me about the influence Ann Arbor had on you?

    A. The longer I’ve not lived there, the more blown away I’ve been by what an amazing place it was and still is. … Schoolkids Records introduced me to music I didn’t even know existed. It was this radical kind of stimulation, and I got hooked, and it informed all that I got interested in. …

    By the time I turned 18, I’d gotten into a lot of trouble and upset those close to me, … so I moved to New York, and that really humbled me and cut me down to size. Which may be what people want when they come to New York - to be challenged and thrown off-balance. … It felt like the place I was supposed to go. But sometimes, when I see Michigan friends, I think, wouldn’t it be fun to live there again?

    Then I realized Ann Arbor is just part of me. It’s inside me, no matter what. … It’s a strange thing. I’ve tried to express how much I appreciate the spirit of that town. I meet people around the world who have never been there, but they have a sense of what it’s like. That people there are very passionate, and there’s a high level thinking - more than outside the box, it’s out of the stratosphere, and it’s famous for that. … But I’ve also noticed that there seems to be a lot of anger coming from Ann Arbor about me.

    Q. Really? Why?

    A. What I do - it’s not the traditional aesthetic of Ann Arbor, which is more intellectual, I guess. I’m not like that. I’m not trying to impress anybody. I’m just trying to party. … But it hurts more than it normally would when the hometown you love so much seems to have a problem with you.

    Q. Tell me about stepping into a punk icon’s shoes and performing Ramones songs with Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg.

    A. When the invitation was extended to me, I had to prove to myself that I could do it before we began rehearsals. I wasn’t sure I could do it, The quantity alone - doing something like 34 songs in 90 mintues - is a challenge. But the experience has made me a better singer, it’s made me a better person, and I knew I could not blow this. When I told my friends about it, they got really serious and stoic and said, ‘You have to step up.’ … No one’s made better music, period. And Steve Lewis, the king of the nightlife world in New York City, … helped my friends and I quite a bit when we were preparing to open Santos Party House. … I worked with him, and did a few events with him. He became another mentor, and is just this incredible person you can’t help but learn from. … Marky asked (Lewis) if he had any ideas for a singer, and Steve Lewis mentioned me. And it wasn’t a matter of, ‘Should I do it?” It was, I’m going to have to do this out of an obligation to the gods. You don’t question it when an opportunity like that comes to you.

    Q. How did you come to host a panel at a My Little Pony convention?

    A. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. … The people that were there were unbelievable. So kind, so positive, and so passionate. It was a real example of that perfect balance between community cohesiveness and … a collective group of one-of-a-kind people. … The focus of that fanbase is being nice, and having fun, and having a passion. Over time, we’ve come to downplay the value of passion and caring about. We say things like, ‘It’s cheesy and stupid to like something that much.’ So to see people fearlessly in love with something was inspiring. I’d want to be around it all the time.

    Q. Tell me about the U.S. Department of State appointing you cultural ambassador to the Middle East, and planning a visit to Bahrain, only to have the whole trip canceled.

    A. They didn’t want me to do music shows. They wanted me to lecture and meet students and bring back my impressions of Bahrain to the U.S. … I was blown away. … I’d gone through many background checks, I had an itinerary, the plane tickets were bought and the hotels arranged and all that. … We’d been working on this for months. …

    The day before our flight, the same representative (who initially contacted WK) called us and told us that someone from the Department of the Secretary of State saw a picture of me … and canceled the trip, saying someone like that is not an appropriate person for a trip like this. I don’t know if it was the bloody nose, or because my clothes weren’t clean - I don’t know. …

    But as frustrating and confusing and baffling as that was, we achieved what we hoped to achieve by starting a conversation. … People were finding out more about this place, and looking up information online, because we were talking about it. And if that was part of the goal, we may have achieved more in that sense than if we’d actually gone. I would have done a great job, and I was very humbled and privileged to represent my country - I would do it with dignity and saw it as a great responsibility - but who knows? Maybe they were protecting me. Maybe there were safety issues they couldn’t tell me about. It was just this bizarre experience.

    Q. A lot of rockers might have disappeared from the scene after having a hit like “Party Hard.” What’s the secret to having an enduring career in the music business?

    A. I’m on an adventure, and I’ve turned myself over to it entirely. I don’t feel I’m in control of it. It’s like I’m being pushed and led by one hand, and pulled by the other, and I just do my best to never take it for granted. I don’t always understand why I’m asked to do these things, but I try not to waste it, and to make the most of it. … ‘Party Hard’ was the rocket fuel that launched whole adventure, but … at this point, 12 years after album came out, I’m stronger and bigger than ever. And that doesn’t make sense. But you don’t always have to make sense of things to enjoy them.

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

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    Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wade McCree

    A media spotlight shone on a Washtenaw County courtroom Monday as the case of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wade McCree went before the Judicial Tenure Commission.

    McCree, who is accused of having an affair with a woman who had a child-support case pending in his court, faces possible suspension, censure or removal from office.

    The hearing began Monday morning in the Washtenaw County Courthouse in downtown Ann Arbor, the Detroit Free Press reported.

    If you want to listen in to every detail of the hearing, you can watch it live courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, and WDIV, which are streaming it from the courtroom.

    The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has charged McCree with two counts of improper conduct, false report of a felony, improper bench conduct and demeanor and misrepresentations to the commission, according to the Free Press.

    The hearing is expected to last several days, according to media reports.

    McCree also ran into trouble last year with the state Supreme Court for sending a shirtless photo of himself to a female court employee.

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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