Cool slideshow showcases Ann Arbor's soaring skyline

Detroit has been good to Ann Arbor. Way back in 1837, Detroit made a gift of the University of Michigan to the fledgling community, founded 13 years earlier by land speculators who bought up the future county seat for at $1.25 an acre. Generations of wealthy Detroiters have also carefully nurtured the university with countless donations, gifts, and endowments over the years. Taxpayers all over the United States have pitched in as well, helping U-M grow with gifts ranging from federal student aid to the G.I. Bill.

In fact, it is largely thanks to this prestigious public university that Ann Arbor has been much better able to weather recessions than gritty old Detroit can. In just 179 short years, U-M has gone from 40 acres to several hundred acres encompassing more than 500 buildings. 

All of which goes to show you how profitable a life of the mind had become.

As a new swipe-ready “before and after” slideshow illustrates, even as many metro Detroiters lost their homes and moved in with relatives, the cranes constructing luxury housing for the university’s jet-setting students still hovered over that Vale of Academia. It’s astonishing to consider the amount of money that has gone into quite literally raising the profile of the city, building new multistory housing.

That’s something not everybody is pleased by. Covering Ann Arbor’s development over the years, we’ve heard from reader who’ve complained that the city they once knew has changed so much in the last 40 years that they no longer are fond of it. One reader commented, “Overall, I think Ann Arbor is fine for people with money to waste and for students who will leave after school, I do not recommend it for anyone else.”

In fact, one of the more persistent problems plaguing Ann Arbor isn’t where the rich will live; it’s where the not-so-rich will live. Less than a year ago, MLive’s Melanie Maxwell pointed out that the lack of affordable housing is one of the main factors driving a labor shortage in the city.

Last year, in a report commissioned by the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, consultants predicted a need for 3,137 units of affordable housing over the next 20 years.

You’ll notice no private developers are lining up for that job. When it comes to providing luxury high-rises for wealthy students, they can’t build enough. So whose job is it to help busboys and baggers keep a roof over their heads? The answer is rendered in consultantese:

Ann Arbor needs to focus its attention on the preservation and production of affordable non-student rental housing for low- and moderate-income workers who are helping to keep so much of the Ann Arbor economy vibrant.

In other words, it’s the job of our pals in government to help see that the wage slaves needed to keep profits healthy in this consumer paradise can pay their rent. All while hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of development have rained down on Treetown to cater to well-to-do students at the multibillion-dollar public university.

You don’t need a degree in irony to appreciate what’s going on here.

To see the entire (admittedly cool) slideshow, click here.

About The Author

Michael Jackman

Born in 1969 at Mount Carmel hospital in Detroit, Jackman grew up just 100 yards from the Detroit city line in east Dearborn. Jackman has attended New York University, the School of Visual Arts, Northwestern University and Wayne State University, though he never got a degree. He has worked as a bar back, busboy,...
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