East Cross Street: Ypsilanti, Michigan
East Cross Street is the main thoroughfare in Depot Town, located in Ypsilanti, Michigan’s historic district. The development around the Ypsilanti Train Depot spurred a building boom throughout the city and surrounding areas, and great efforts have been made by residents and the city to encourage and protect small businesses. East Cross Street today is bursting with local flavor through its locally owned businesses.
In the 1970s and 1980s, East Cross Street faced many of the challenges common to city centers of the time. Crime was on the rise, jobs were scarce, a portion of the street had become a one-way state highway, and historic facades were crumbling. The community rallied together to attract new investment and new residents to the area, resulting in the Depot Town Downtown Development Authority, a commercial grant and loan support program for new businesses and infrastructure improvements.
Many of the businesses that started with the help of that program are still open today. The Ypsilanti Historic District was established in 1978, protecting the many historic structures on East Cross Street. As various strategies were undertaken to address walkability and economic development, Cross Street blossomed with new energy.
The Cross Street Neighborhood Improvement Plan of 2001–02 addressed the concerns of fast traffic, limited parking, hostile pedestrian environment, declining commercial district, and neglected property maintenance. New on-street parking, wide sidewalks, and bike lanes made the street a safer and more welcoming place for families and residents.
The sidewalk improvements include a connection to recreation trails, encouraging more residents to visit businesses by bike or foot. The street connects with both Frog Island Park and Riverside Park, each with its own system of walking and biking paths that connect to the regional trail, the Border-to-Border Trail System.
These redevelopment approaches all work together to support and strengthen the businesses and residents of the area. The Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority (YDDA) gives local stakeholders a venue to connect with each other and to work with the community to create a better community and district. The YDDA also provides the mechanism for financing of the grant and loan support for businesses, and for the infrastructure improvements that have been undertaken in the past 30 years.
Community involvement over the years to collectively improve East Cross Street has created a beautiful and thriving commercial district with lots of local character, and Ypsilanti plans to continue the good work. Future plans for the area include an Amtrak stop near the former Ypsilanti Train Depot, an adaptive reuse mixed-use development at the corner of River Street, and additional parks and infrastructure improvements to support the Border to Border Trail and pedestrian safety.
Defining Characteristics and Features
- Pedestrian-friendly streetscape has brick crosswalks, wide sidewalks, curb extensions, a pedestrian safety island, decorative street lamps, street trees to increase shade, rain gardens to reduce runoff, and wayfinding signs.
- Cross Street is a short walk to the Ypsilanti Transit Center. Nearby Ann Arbor’s The Ride transit system has a bus route with connections along Cross Street, which then connects to a regional bus system.
- Cross Street features many mixed-used buildings with commercial space on the first floor and residential units occupying the floors above.
- Many community events happen on/near Cross Street including the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Beer Festival, Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, Michigan Camaro Superfest, DIYpsi, Ypsilanti’s Independence Day Parade, First Fridays Ypsilanti, Cruise Nights, and the Ypsilanti Orphan Car Show
- Border-to-Border Trail System, a county-wide trail system, is accessible near Cross Street.
- Sidetrack Bar & Grill, where you can grab a drink and watch the trains go by.
Running from North Hamilton on the west to North Park on the east.