April 7, 3:30 PM. 1900 Harris Rd (east side of the road, between Geddes and MacArthur)
Wednesday, April 7th, at 3:30 p.m., the Ypsilanti District Library will finally break ground on a new Superior Township branch, and the entire community is invited to join this outdoor, socially distanced celebration.
The Superior Library groundbreaking ceremony takes place during National Library Week, April 4–10, which has the very fitting 2021 theme “Welcome to Your Library!”
The rain-or-shine community event will feature hard hats, masks, balloons, entertainment, and some fun! Former State Representative David Rutledge, a neighborhood resident and friend of the project, will be on hand to speak, along with Library Director Lisa Hoenig, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and Superior Township Supervisor Ken Schwartz. Those unable to join in person are encouraged to watch the groundbreaking livestream, courtesy of Bank of Ann Arbor.
The new library site is located on the east side of Harris Road between Geddes and MacArthur, with parking available on the northeast corner of MacArthur and Harris.
After Superior Township joined the Ypsilanti District Library in 2006 by a vote of the people, YDL opened a temporary branch in one room of a fire station on the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Harris Road. YDL planned to build a full-service Superior library branch shortly thereafter, and began searching for an appropriate site. As libraries are largely funded by local property taxes, the Great Recession nixed that dream in 2007. YDL was faced with laying off staff and cutting services. A new branch became out of the question.
Despite budget challenges, the Library Board’s vision for a Superior library building never wavered. When Library Director Lisa Hoenig took the helm in 2015, her charge was to restore the library budget to fiscal health and find a way to make it happen. In 2018, voters overwhelmingly approved an additional .7 mills of funding for YDL, enough to operate the new facility and restore the library’s savings once the branch was built. Superior Township leadership supported the library millage and pledged a parcel of land within walking distance of the existing “temporary” library, just north on Harris Road.
In early 2019, the Library conducted public input sessions to determine what Superior’s residents most wanted and needed from its library. The Library heard an overwhelming desire for a drive-up book return and meeting space, and an additional restroom in the Youth area. This feedback led YDL to increase the planned size of the building from 6,000 square feet to 7,800.
The increased building size, coupled with Trump-era tariffs and the global pandemic, have more than doubled the original $2.5 million budget for the new library. To ensure the new facility has everything the community wants and needs, YDL launched a capital campaign with a goal of $2 million. The campaign is currently in its quiet phase, with a public fundraising campaign to begin in June.
$200,000, or 10% of this goal, was earmarked for the YDL Endowment at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, to ensure the new facility would be supported far into the future. As if in answer to this wish, YDL recently received a tremendous gift, the new James W. and Marla J. Gousseff Fund for the Ypsilanti District Library. Part of a larger $1.8M gift to the Ypsilanti Area Community Fund, the endowment is intended to enrich the community the Gousseffs loved. Through their generosity and dedication, they left an incredible lasting legacy for Ypsilanti. YDL is honored to have been selected as a beneficiary.
YDL’s temporary Superior location has now served the community for 14 years. At less than 1,000 square feet, it could fit inside the lobby of YDL-Whittaker. Before the pandemic, youth from the neighboring housing developments constantly frequented the library during its 28 weekly hours of operation.
“This library is the best thing we have,” said Sentra, a Sycamore Meadows resident. “My kids can come here and play and be safe. I don’t know what we would do without it.”
The facility has served as a community gathering space providing early literacy services and homework help, computer and Internet access, employment assistance, and much more. The space was renovated in 2016 to improve safety and make the room more welcoming. Due to its close quarters social distancing is impossible, but staff continue to operate the facility through curbside and virtual services.
The new library will serve residents from across the entire district, but its impact will be felt most keenly by residents in the nearby subsidized housing developments—Sycamore Meadows and Danbury Park Manor—which make up the highest density, lowest income housing block in Washtenaw County. These MacArthur Boulevard neighborhoods have a high proportion of children (72%) living in poverty, and almost half don’t have access to personal transportation. Many of those residents rely on the Superior Library, and with few public places available nearby, the new building should be a hub for education and enrichment, as well as social and financial services.
“Our small, but mighty, branch has filled a lot of needs for people in that community,” said Library Director Lisa Hoenig. “It’s exciting to be moving forward with a facility that allows us to provide another level of service and will surely transform the area by creating a safe, vibrant hub of community life that is welcoming to all.”
The new 7,800 square foot library is expected to open in the summer of 2022. It will be a full-service branch with the same hours of operation as YDL-Michigan, and will have its own dedicated staff. It will feature a Community Meeting Room that can seat 50, dedicated youth and teen areas, 20 public computers, two group study rooms, an accessible learning garden, and more.
This will allow local organizations like the Parks and Recreation Department, United Way, Washtenaw Literacy, and others to reach residents with vital services. We will be able to offer services like our free summer lunch program, vaccination clinics, tutoring, tax help, and more, as well as serve as a community warming and cooling center.
YDL engaged architect Dan Whisler of Daniels & Zermack Architects to design the new Superior building. Whisler was the lead project architect for YDL’s stunning Whittaker Road location. The construction manager for the Superior project is O’Neal Construction of Ann Arbor.
To learn more about the project, visit ypsilibrary.org/newlibrary.