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Mattie Dorsey's legacy lives on in new Ypsilanti housing development

Renovare Development
The groundbreaking ceremony for Dorsey Estates on North Park Street in Ypsilanti. From left to right: Renovare managing partner Jill Ferrari, John E. Lawrence, James Lawrence, Linda (Lawrence) Lee, Carol Lawrence, Renovare managing partner Shannon Morgan

This summer, the first units of a housing development near Ypsilanti’s Depot Town will open. With the name “Dorsey Estates”, it will honor a beloved champion of housing access in the city.

Back in 1975, Mattie Dorsey became the first Black woman to be elected to Ypsilanti’s city council. She fought against urban renewal and aimed to make quality housing more attainable for her residents.

When the 46-unit development had its groundbreaking ceremony, musician John E. Lawrence, Dorsey’s nephew, joined other family members in celebrating her legacy. He says his aunt was a trailblazer who stood alone and fought when no one else was fighting.

“She would ask us to pass out flyers fighting urban renewal. We didn’t know what it was about. We just did it because we’re told … we’re little. You do as you’re told, you know? I didn’t realize what a big impact she was making on the community.”

Dorsey Estates, located at 220 North Park Street, will be finished in 2024.

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Josh Hakala is the general assignment reporter for the WEMU news department.
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