Are you a freshman? You”re just getting used to Ann Arbor. You”re beginning to explore more of it and find the nuances of one of America”s great college towns.

Paul Wong
Stranger in the corner<br><br>Babawole Akin Aina

Are you a sophomore? You think you”ve got this town understood. You know where you like to drink. You know where you like to eat. You know where you like to see music and study and buy CDs and take walks and take dates. You probably don”t have it quite right. You”ll figure it out though.

Are you a junior? I am. Living in the Midwest is starting to bore me.

Are you a senior? I bet you”re feeling separation anxiety.

The truth is that I am too perhaps prematurely. I don”t really hate living in the Midwest. This town is too cool a place not to miss.

But my concern, my fellow students, is that my Ann Arbor differs too much from that of incoming freshmen. And it will continue to change so radically over the next few years at a rate that will be seemingly exponential until the Ann Arbor I return to will be unrecognizable.

The news earlier this week was that State Street was to undergo major renovations over the next year to the tune of $5.5 million. The area would be improved with better lighting, wider sidewalks, more trees and a redesigned traffic flow. The Daily featured an editorial Hands off State Street: Use Ann Arbor”s resources better elsewhere (2/18/02) suggesting that the city find a better way to spend its money. There are concerns over increased rent in the area that will eventually drive students away. And of course the recurring theme in the story of Ann Arbor commerce the balance between local business and national chains will surface during and after the renovations.

I don”t pay taxes in Ann Arbor because I am only passing through. But it pains me that my stake our stake in this city can be seemingly disregarded by both the city and the University.

Years ago, I traveled with my father to his alma matter a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania where he was able to point out the place where he and his buddies shared a slice of pizza or a pitcher of beer. I fear that with Ann Arbor”s increasingly changing face, I will not be able to recollect such memories in my later visits to the city. Even in my three years here I have seen establishments to which I had some sentimental or practical attachment come and go. The Burro on East William Street made way for a sub-par donut shop, which is now a General Nutrition Center. I want a quesadilla but I get creatine.

There seems to be a force at work that exploits the transient nature of students” time in Ann Arbor our stays here are too short for businesses to count on our loyalty. Before freshmen have a chance to find out that they can get a decent slice of pizza at New York Pizza Depot, a Famiglia opens up in a better location with a more aesthetically pleasing exterior and steals the former”s business.

It seems that Ann Arbor is destined to be overrun by the sort of franchises that benefit from a superior establishment”s inability to develop customer loyalty. That efforts are not taken by the city to keep rent low n order to keep local business here is unacceptable. If these renovations to State Street do drive rents up and local business away, an Ann Arbor that to me is worth coming to the Midwest for will lose much of its appeal.

As a sports writer for this paper I have had the opportunity to see much of the Big Ten. Let me tell you that our city is the best. The Columbuses and Iowa Cities and West Lafayettes of the country make me appreciate just how special this town is and how much we benefit from living in it. Ann Arbor cannot become like them a strip of Applebee”s/Kinkos/Starbucks/Gaps that makes me want to throw up my hands and go live in the woods. A city can have charm. Ours does, although increasingly less so.

When Daily alum (and current SportsCenter anchor) Rich Eisen visited Ann Arbor two years ago he spent some time with the Daily”s sports staff. He mentioned that the first two things he does when he returns to Ann Arbor are get a beer at Dominick”s and a hot dog at Red Hot Lover”s. I dig that, Rich. I hope I”ll be able to do the same in 15 years.

David Horn can be reached at hornd@umich.edu.

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