Residents seek answers on proposed velodrome project

Christine Ferretti and Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — Community members are pressing for answers over land being considered for an indoor bicycle racing track near Eastern Market and the Dequindre Cut.

The City’s Planning Commission on Thursday got its first glimpse of the proposed velodrome that would be built on a four-acre lot at St. Aubin and Gratiot, where the former Joe Muers restaurant once stood.

The Detroit Velodrome Project is asking the commission to recommend zoning changes that would let the effort advance. The City Council would have to ultimately sign off.

The indoor track would be the second in the United States (Los Angeles has the first) and spurred questions from residents who complained at a hearing they hadn’t been engaged about the plan, associated noise and traffic.

Regenia Simmons, president of the 100-household Hyde Park Cooperative, was among those to express frustration over the lack of awareness among tenants.

“We’re not saying it’s a good or bad project. We just don’t know enough about it,” Simmons said of her neighborhood.

The privately funded project calls for the construction of the indoor race track, walking track, physical therapy offices and spectator infield with alcohol sales.

Velodrome designer Dale Hughes addressed planning commissioners on Thursday, saying the oval bicycle track with a BMX course and a 500-person capacity would be usable for all ages.

He said noise shouldn’t be an issue for the “minor sport” he anticipates would generate average daily uses of about 50 people. They plan to hold races on Friday and Saturday evenings, he added.

Myrna Capela, a substitute teacher at Bethune Fitzgerald and mother of two, lauded the plan as an asset for city children. “This is a great opportunity.”

The commission didn’t take action Thursday. Instead, the developer agreed to arrange a community meeting.