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Ann Arbor: Where Quality of Life Is Affordable

This Eastern Michigan region's arts, dining and entertainment offer big-city amenities with a lower price tag.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on December 28, 2021

Mural in Ann Arbor Michigan
Journal Communications/Heather Nash

As the home of a major research university, living in Ann Arbor brings an abundance of opportunity for young talent to create new businesses or start careers in promising industries. But the reasons the city made it to No. 2 on Livability.com’s Top 100 Best Places to Live in 2021 are largely thanks to its rich array of arts and cultural amenities, thriving nightlife and award-winning restaurants.

All these amenities can stand up to larger coastal cities, but with a markedly lower cost of living in Ann Arbor, the city ensures its residents can access all it has to offer.

Downtown Ann Arbor is a nexus of these attractions, making it one of the most desirable residential neighborhoods. “I think Ann Arbor is a magnet for an eclectic mix of businesses and residents because of the universities in the area, the numerous tech companies that have moved to Ann Arbor and the vitality of our downtown,” says Sandra Andrade, executive director for Main Street Area Ann Arbor.

“Behind the Walls” sculpture by Jaume Plensa

Ann Arbor’s Culture Shines

The abundant tapestry of arts, culture and entertainment in the Ann Arbor region enriches its residents and visitors. The arts are a participatory passion in the region, with works of local artists and creatives on display at dozens of galleries. The region is home to performing arts and musical organizations across the full spectrum of genres.

Since 1909, the Ann Arbor Art Center – or A2AC – has been sparking creativity in people of all ages and artistic abilities. The center supports professional artists with gallery space and retail opportunities. The famous Motawi Tile got its start at the A2AC.

“We know that public art has many benefits – creative placemaking, talent attraction and retention, and economic development. As the A2AC and other creatives continue
to install murals and sculptures and host festivals, we see
these benefits firsthand. These installations make Ann Arbor
a beautiful destination place for all.”

Meaghan Clark, A2AC

“Our vision at the A2AC is to continue to leverage the energy and creativity that already exists within the west side of our downtown area in order to manifest a vibrant and thriving Ann Arbor for all to enjoy,” says Meaghan Clark, A2AC’s development and communications director.

The facility also nurtures budding artists with classes and workshops, not to mention creating vibrancy throughout the cityscape with its public art program. A crowdfunded campaign to raise $50,000 launched A2AC’s inaugural mural program. Now, there are 14 murals around the city, and a new project will activate alleys using art installations.

“Areas of concentrated art and creativity not only continue to keep cities relevant and fresh, but they can also actually stimulate and spur economic development by increasing foot traffic, driving tourism and enhancing public safety,” Clark says.

Downtown Ann Arbor, MI
Heather Nash

Dining & Entertainment in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor’s eclectic immigrant population influenced its dining scene, pulling flavors from around the globe to booths and counters of restaurants in the city. The epicenter of Ann Arbor’s epicurean experience arguably can be found at 422 Detroit St., home to the famous Zingerman’s Delicatessen.

Beyond the deli counter, the company supports additional food entrepreneurs through its Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. This family of small food-related companies and entrepreneurial ventures are all located in the Ann Arbor area. They are operated by one or more partners who share ownership and manage the business.

About Zingerman’s

Started in 1982 by Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman’s Deli is an Ann Arbor institution, garnering thousands of visitors every year who walk out the door laden with farmhouse cheeses, estate-bottled olive oils, varietal vinegars, smoked fish, salami, coffee, tea and its signature sandwiches.

“I have a strong belief about doing business in a community in which one lives,” Weinzweig says. “Our business is here. We want to be part of the local ecosystem, benefitting from it and contributing to it at the same time.”

Food, art, local businesses – all these factors contribute to Ann Arbor’s quality of life that can go toe-to-toe with much larger metros. “Ann Arbor depicts the definition of a ‘livable community’ because of all the outdoor recreation, the vitality of downtown, the diverse population, and incredible culinary scene,” Andrade says.

“I hope (Zingerman’s) provides meaningful employment and dignified work experiences, and that we welcome people of all backgrounds and help people grow as individuals in positive ways,” Weinzweig says. “Hopefully all that enhances the experience for those coming in from out of town and that welcoming atmosphere will contribute to the overall economy growing.”

Clark also agrees those cumulative experiences lead to a great community. “As downtown Ann Arbor continues to grow both geographically and in density, we found new and creative ways to attract visitors and businesses alike,” she says.

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