Grosse Pointe Park moves sheds blocking Detroit border

Christine Ferretti and Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

The city of Grosse Pointe Park on Friday relocated one of two remaining sheds blocking its border with Detroit after the two cities made progress on an agreement to develop the area.

Workers moved the farmers market shed on Kercheval Friday afternoon, shortly after the Grosse Pointe Park City Council convened an emergency meeting. Officials said they met because they learned Detroit had signed off on a conceptual plan forged this summer to erect a permanent market and plaza north of the existing site.

Critics who objected to the sheds said they created a physical and symbolic barrier between the two cities. Others said they helped protect Grosse Pointe Park from blight.

An initial agreement to relocate the sheds by November was delayed because Detroit leaders were embroiled in the city's bankruptcy case, said Gregory P. Theokas, Grosse Pointe Park's mayor pro tem.

The three sheds are being moved to a vacant lot at Wayburn and Kercheval, which officials say will be the future location of a more expansive public market and plaza space next year. The first shed was relocated about two weeks ago and the third and largest will be moved next week, Theokas said.

"Detroit today conveyed to our city administration the approval of the conceptual plan that we submitted, triggering another step in the process," Theokas said.

The City Council did not vote at the Friday meeting. Rather, the session was held to inform elected leaders and residents that Detroit's administration had agreed to the plans, Theokas said.

The sheds for the West Park Farmers Market initially opened in August. That same month, the two cities hammered out an agreement that called for the sheds to be relocated this fall. In exchange, Detroit would tear down some vacant structures along Alter, between Jefferson and Mack.

"We have been working cooperatively with the city of Grosse Pointe Park to reach a resolution on this issue," Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin Hollowell said on Friday. "We are to pleased see that significant progress is being made on the relocation of the sheds as the city of Detroit is making progress in its commitment to remove blight in the area."

No one protested the idea of a farmers market, but many residents opposed cutting off vehicular traffic on Kercheval at the Detroit border. Some took it as a sign that Grosse Pointe Park was trying to wall itself off from Detroit.

Dick Olson, a 31-year resident of Grosse Pointe Park, attended Friday's meeting where the plans were presented.

"The plans are a vast improvement over these sheds," said Olson, 68, as he watched a crew prepare to move one of the sheds on Friday afternoon. "I like Grosse Pointe Park but I also like Detroit so I think we should have a good relationship with them and normal traffic patterns."

Olson said he is a member of Diverse Grosse Pointe, a group of volunteers that has raised concerns over the sheds blocking access to and from Detroit.

"It wasn't being a very good neighbor (to put up the sheds), let's put it that way," he said.

A traffic roundabout already has been created on the Grosse Pointe Park side of Kercheval; the city of Detroit will build one at Kercheval and Alter. The two cities will also work together on a master plan for the area that will cover traffic, construction, demolition and marketing resources.

"It's never been about anything other than sitting down with Detroit and working out a mutual plan," Theokas added. "Both sides recognize it's about making that area better. This can be a win for both cities."