The Communicator

The Communicator

The Communicator

Ann Arbor Then vs Now

Ann Arbor in the 90s: A vibrant community facing challenges today.
Photo credits from Michelle Iaconelli Instagram

Ann Arbor has always been known to be a special town with a strong sense of community and has been a hot spot for liberal ideas, but especially in the 90s Ann Arbor flourished. Michelle Iaconeli saw Ann Arbor as an escape from Detroit where she lived at the time

“We would drive out to Ann Arbor to go bridge jumping and to slide down the algae slide,” Iaconelli said. “It was dangerous times, but very fun, like movie script fun.”

One of the most unique things about Ann Arbor was the events that drew it together. These events were pillars of the community.

“With Hash Hash and Art Fair, there was so much to do here all the time, and so like every time I came here, it kind of seemed magical.” Iaconelli said. Events like Hash Bash, Art Fair and Fool Moon were at their prime in the 90s, uniting the whole town for things like the drum circle. “The drum circle at hash bash has been one of my favorite memories. There used to be hundreds of people there and it was just so magical to see something that just formed and came together.”

Ann Arbor was a musical hub, with bands like Nirvana and Wu-Tang playing at the Blind Pig. “Everyone has played at the blind pig. You name them and they’ve played the blind pig I guarantee it.” Music was a means of connection that brought many different groups of people together. “There was a big hip hop scene in Ann Arbor back then in the 2000s. There was like a couple of hip hop nights and a reggae night those events were kind of just I feel like part of Ann Arbor’s fabric.”

Iaconelli chose to move to Ann Arbor because of its rich culture and diversity, however, recently Iaconelli has felt Ann Arbor has lost some of its spark due to its rising prices. “A lot of middle-class and working-class families have gotten priced out and that is what those are the people that make a community rich and interesting.” Ann Arbor attracted a richer community because of its affordability and as prices have increased the feeling of community has decreased.

Due to the lack of affordable housing gentrification in Ann Arbor is at an all-time high in places like Water Hill and Kerrytown which used to be diverse neighborhoods and now are completely lacking.

“I think just the demographics have changed so much now that the cost of living here is so expensive,” Iaconelli says. Iaconelli herself had to move away from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti which is now a common occurrence for many Ann Arbor residents. “The people that teach at our schools and are the cashiers at all the retail stores, those people can’t even live in our community.”

Ann Arbor used to be a diverse community with a rich culture and now Iaconelli says “I feel like the soul got sucked out of Ann Arbor.” Many people long for the Ann Arbor we used to have before prices became unmanageable and gentrification ran rampant

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