Tell city council to vote NO on International Village

City of Ypsilanti

This email action is in regards to the International Village development proposal, set for city council vote on Tuesday September 19th at 6pm. We ask you to sign the petition if you wish to email city representatives your concerns about this proposal. A form letter is written, but we welcome you to write your own thoughts to city council. Email addresses for city council reps found here:

Email addresses of developer and contractor for International Village:

Information regarding International Village is included below:

International Village is the current development proposal for water street project, in which billionaire investors are using an EB-5 incentive to buy visa’s through investing millions in development deals. This proposed development is to buy the city-owned land for $1000 an acre (recently adjusted from $1/acre initial proposal) and build student housing (including luxury student housing)—aimed at attracting international students attending UM and other area universities. The proposed development does not include an affordability component. Water Street is the largest parcel of city-owned land— and this along with the next largest, 220 N Park which also has a developer proposal— are the last chances for Ypsi to have in say in how our city will be developed.

The process of getting the Water Steer development off the ground has happened largely behind closed doors and with little community participation or outreach. We have seen a string of new development proposals coming forth this year (whether Water Street, Thompson Block, or the Boys and Girls Club property). Unfortunately, by the time there is any public hearing on these matters, it is too late for members of the public to have any meaningful say in how developments are to take shape. And when public hearings do happen, they are done without adequate public outreach or media coverage.

Regardless of how you feel about International Village in particular, there is a need for greater transparency from the City in courting and vetting developers. On top of this, there needs to be greater consideration of potential harms or benefits that any potential development could bring to the community. We believe that equity is best served when affordability is actively cultivated and maintained in our City.

There is an urgent need to discuss how developing Water Street could help or harm affordability for low-income residents. Overall, we need to ask whether this development will provide adequate benefits to the community in terms of contracts for Ypsi businesses, jobs for people to work at future properties and businesses within International Village, and affordable housing for low-income people to live in our vibrant and diverse community. The City needs to spell out these benefits and build them into a community benefits agreement well before any purchase agreement is brought forth for Council approval. Sadly this has not been the case for this development, and the main concern the City has shown throughout this process has been for its bottom line and whatever tax revenue the property would develop.

Little attention has been paid to the myriad ways a development could help or harm City residents, particularly the most vulnerable residents. We urge residents to speak up for greater transparency and demand that the City sign no purchase agreement without an adequate community benefits plan in place. We are concerned that this development could induce demand for moderate-to-high income residents to move to Ypsi, raising housing costs and displacing low-income renters. This is a measure to reverse this process of economic displacement that our city’s lower income residents have been subjected to.

The reason that we want an affordable housing discussion specific to Water Street is not that we are trying to "solve" the affordability problem with Water Street (to paraphrase Dan Vogt) or that we want to "get everything at once" (to paraphrase Amanda Edmonds): it's that International Village could induce demand for moderate-to-high income folks to move to Ypsi and thus displace low-income residents. It's not that we're hoping to solve affordability with Water Street. It's not like International Village is this wonderful golden goose that can only bring marvelous things, or at that affordable housing is simply something to add to that list of marvelous things. It's that we're trying to stop or at least mitigate the harm that the development could cause to affordability for low-income Ypsilantians.

Petition by
Ypsilanti, Michigan

To: City of Ypsilanti
From: [Your Name]

We urge you to vote NO on International Village purchase agreement on September 19th. We urge you to vote no on all upcoming proposals for sale of city-owned land, until a community benefits agreement is written and passed by council.

We would like to know more about the proposed community benefits agreement, how that agreement will be tied to tax incentives and purchase price, and how a CBA may be leveraged for the sale of water street. Finally, we urge council to include Ypsilantians most impacted by development decisions, like renters and low-income residents, in the process of writing a community benefits agreement for sale of city-owned land.