Ypsilanti residents gathered at city hall during Tuesday’s public meeting to protest Water Street’s International Village project.
International Village is a planned Asian-inspired apartment complex that will be built at Ypsilanti’s Water Street and subsequent park. The development is being proposed by various foreign companies and will be targeting international students and immigrants. During city hall’s first audience participation segment around fifteen different residents stood at the podium and spoke their disapproval of the project.
Reasoning ranged from the complex being an unfit use of the space to endangering the rent prices of neighboring homes. Some spoke ill of the members of the council, saying they should be “ashamed” for taking the movement this far.
Several said the diversity and creativity of the community was in danger. They believed the space should be used for projects like playgrounds and recreation centers for Ypsilanti kids. Some speakers brought signs saying to “recall the vote,” meaning to stop the vote from approving the project for development.
Many also stated that they would continue to come to meetings until their voices are heard.
Additionally, many of the protestors denounced a trip Ypsilanti Mayor, Amanda Edmonds took to China with two other members of council. This trip was mentioned at the beginning of the meeting when Edmonds said she had just returned. The journey was claimed to be a way for members of council to see the architecture that would be used in the village.
The protestors said that the funding for the trip was dubious and the meaning behind it was not well explained. Several claimed that the developers of the village offered the excursion and thereby it was unethical for members of council to take it. The claims are currently under investigation but have not been proven as truth. Due to the policy of audience participation, the council members did not offer any reactionary comments to the words of the protestors.
Amber Fellows, a member of Ypsilanti’s Human Relations Commission, was among those who spoke on the podium. She spoke about the rising rent that is possible with the building of the complex and its effects on Eastern Michigan’s students.
“EMU caters to a very diverse crowd of students, including students who don’t necessarily qualify for universities that are high powered like U of M.” She said, “…It [the village] could effect that accessibility to Eastern especially if the rent is way too high.”
Fellows also encouraged students of EMU to do their own research on the project and draw their own conclusions.
Three Chinese companies are developing International Village: China Vanke Co., Ltd., Vanke Architecture and Shanghai Tongtian Real Estate (TOSPUR). Along with these companies are various domestic agencies to work on construction.
Decisions on the development are to be made by Dec. 31 of this year.