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#OTGYpsi: Ypsilanti's UM Health Center plans to relocate downtown


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: U-M's Ypsilanti Health Center to move downtown, tripling space and adding specialty care

Michigan Medicine

Ypsilanti Health Center



Rylee Barnsdale: You're listening to 89 one WEMU. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is On the Ground Ypsi. The Ypsilanti Health Center at 200 Arnett Street offers services from pediatrics to behavioral health to even dermatology. And by the end of 2024, they hope to have an even more robust menu by relocating their office to 300 West Michigan Avenue. Officials at Ypsilanti Health are hoping that this move to Ypsi's downtown space will not only offer them the ability to expand their services provided to include things, like radiology and specialty care--things that just aren't quite feasible with the space they currently occupy-- but also to become more centralized and accessible to the majority of Ypsi residents. To tell us a bit more about what this future move entails, Concentrate reporter Sarah Rigg is here. Hi, Sarah! Thanks so much for being here!

Sarah Rigg: Hi, Rylee! Thanks for having me!

Rylee Barnsdale: So, you wrote this story and spoke with officials from Michigan Medicine, which operates the health center. What prompted this move from Arnett Street to the downtown area?

Sarah Rigg: It really was a matter of two things. I think the first and biggest priority for them was space. They just didn't have room to provide any kind of specialty care beyond primary. And they're going to more than triple their space. And then, the other part, which is being more centrally located, if I've gotten like flu shots and stuff at this location and it's kind of a maze over there. And moving downtown into the MI-HQ building will put them just a few steps away from the Downtown Transit Center.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, we mentioned space as being one of these bigger aspects to this move. What is this change in space kind of looking like? You said, it's tripling in size?

Sarah Rigg: More than tripled, but they're still in negotiations with MI-HQ, or at least they were when I was talking to Mark Smith from MI-HQ. So, they're taking all of the fourth and fifth floor and most of the first floor of the five-story building, down there downtown. And they're going from about 15,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet.

Rylee Barnsdale: Oh, wow!

Rylee Barnsdale: But Mark Smith is still negotiating what total space they're going to take up on that first floor, because he wants to make sure to leave room for some of the smaller startups that are taking up space in there as well.

Rylee Barnsdale: And you mentioned this possibility of being able to offer more specialty care options. Did folks from the Ypsilanti Health Center kind of let you in on some things they hope to provide once the move is complete?

Sarah Rigg: Right. So, if anything, they would have to send you out of the primary care for, like mammography, radiology, X-rays, things like that, they would have to send people elsewhere and they're going to be able to provide all that on site. They're going to do a lot of wraparound care. They're going to have a food pantry. So, there's going to be a lot more stuff they're going to be able to provide right there at their location without having to send people somewhere else.

Rylee Barnsdale: That definitely helps with folks who maybe don't have the most reliable transportation to accessing everything all under one roof.

Sarah Rigg: Exactly.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, chatting with Concentrate reporter Sarah Rigg. So, Sarah, you mentioned this partnership that Michigan Medicine has now with MI-HQ. And for those who don't know, MI-HQ is a co-working space, as you described, located in what used to be Eastern Michigan's Gary Owens building. And as far as I was aware, they wanted to see those up-and-coming entrepreneurs and small businesses utilizing that space. How did these two entities kind of come together?

Sarah Rigg: Well, when U of M was looking for a larger space, there were limited places in Ypsilanti that were going to be feasible because they really needed a certain amount of space. They needed to have it broken up into exam rooms. They needed to have certain kind of circulation and water and all that kind of stuff that you don't get in just any building. And a lot of it was there. And, at first, in fact, U of M officials thought they were just going to slide right into that space on the fourth and fifth floor. But they realized that they had to redo some of it. So, they're doing a pretty extensive buildout.

Rylee Barnsdale: And that renovation project at MI-HQ--that's ongoing, right?

Sarah Rigg: Yes.

Sarah Rigg: It's a pretty large building.

Sarah Rigg: Yes. It is huge. I mean, not only is it five stories long, but if you get in there and you look from one end to the other, it is a really long building. Yes, it's very large.

Rylee Barnsdale: And, aside from having that additional space, what is Michigan Medicine hoping to achieve through working with MI-HQ and having this kind of anchor point, as they've called it there?

Sarah Rigg: Yeah. So, Mark Smith was pretty happy to have U of M there because they're primarily going to be focused on bioscience startups there. So, obviously, that's a really good fit. And some of the other companies coming in, you wouldn't necessarily recognize the names because they're pretty small, but they're coming in. And the way MI-HQ sets up its buildings is for, what he calls, "intentional collision," so that people will run into one another and maybe one company can help out another or maybe U of M's Ypsilanti Health Center will be able to partner with some of the startups in there. They've got a lot of spaces. They've got like a huge auditorium on the first floor that everybody who's the tenant there can use. So, I think they're anticipating that U of M will be taking up the lion's share of the building, but there will be lots of other startups in there, and they're really hoping that they will be interacting with sparking ideas off one another.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, theoretically, this idea for further collaboration with Ypsi businesses, too, I would assume.

Sarah Rigg: Right. One of the first steps is trying to remodel the frontage on Michigan Ave, because when it was a school building, all the kids used to come in--students used to come in--from the sides and the back, and they didn't have to interact with the downtown at all. And so, they're trying to make that Michigan-facing front more friendly to the community. So, they know that they can come in and take advantage when they have food trucks in their courtyard, or they can come in and rent space in the auditorium or whatever.

Rylee Barnsdale: And the Ypsilanti Transit Center isn't that far from the location either?

Sarah Rigg: It's a few hundred feet. I mean, it's right next door.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm talking with Concentrate reporter Sarah Rigg. So, Sarah, we've covered what this move is going to look like, what the collaboration between Michigan Medicine and MI-HQ is looking like. Are there any future collaborations that Michigan Medicine has maybe alluded to that they want to work with other Ypsilanti groups they want to partner with?

Sarah Rigg: Yeah. Well, one opportunity has opened up. Not exactly along the lines of what you just asked me, but one opportunity. this is opening up is they have the mobile mammography unit, which you actually did a story about several months ago. And so, since they're going to have mammography on there, they're going to be able to deploy that to other places that they haven't been able to service yet. So, that's one opportunity. The U of M folks didn't really talk, I think, because they're not moved in there. You know, they don't know yet what the partnerships are going to be. But certainly, they are hoping to be part of the downtown community.

Rylee Barnsdale: And I assume maybe educational opportunities as well.

Sarah Rigg: Yes.

Rylee Barnsdale: I know that there are student interns currently at the Arnett location.

Sarah Rigg: Right.

Rylee Barnsdale: They're moving alongside them?

Sarah Rigg: Right. And they were also talking about utilizing that first-floor auditorium to do stuff open to the public, like diabetes education or other health-related education as well.

Rylee Barnsdale: And as of right now, the hope is that this move will all be taken care of by the end of 2024?

Sarah Rigg: Yeah, they were a little cagey. They said by the end of '24. They wouldn't commit any further than that.

Rylee Barnsdale: And in the meantime, folks can still visit their primary care physicians at the Arnett Street location?

Sarah Rigg: Yeah, absolutely. I'm sure they've got some kind of continuity of care plan, and they're blasting out the news about the change in location to their patients.

Rylee Barnsdale: Sure. Well, Sarah, I want to thank you so much for being here and chatting with us and giving a little bit of insight on this big move for the Ypsilanti Health Center. It's pretty exciting to see this really important resource become more accessible to the community.

Sarah Rigg: Yeah, and I'm hoping that it's going to spark some economic development downtown, which is their hope as well.

Rylee Barnsdale: For more information on today's topic and links to the full article, visit our website at wemu.org. On the Ground Ypsi is brought to you in partnership with Concentrate Media. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.

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Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
Sarah has been involved in journalism since she began producing a one-page photocopied neighborhood "newspaper" in grade school, later reporting for and then editing her high school paper. She has worked on staff at Heritage Newspapers and the (now defunct) Ann Arbor Business Review and has written as a freelancer for various publications ranging from The Crazy Wisdom Journal to the News-Herald to AnnArbor.com. She began writing for Concentrate in February 2017.
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