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Farmington Hills

January 30, 2013

Grand River: problems and potential

Summit brings residents and business owners together to form a vision

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
From the left, Farmington resident and business owner David Carren, of Plaza Veterinary Hospital, table facilitator Aaron Domini, an OHM consultant, and Farmington business owner Shawn Shelt jot down ideas during the summit.

FARMINGTON HILLS — The Grand River Corridor Improvement Authority hosted a group of community leaders, residents and business owners for a visioning summit at the Costick Center Jan. 23.

The purpose of the summit was to gain community feedback on the Grand River corridor, which stretches from Eight Mile to Power Road.

“Entice businesses with money and grants to beautify themselves,” said Tom Khalil, the 54-year-old owner of an A&W restaurant on Grand River in Farmington. “I maintain my building. The grass is cut. I pick up the trash. The parking lot is good. If everyone takes care of their own, then it will work, and if they cannot do it, (that) needs to be enforced by the city.”

“I think it needs more shrubs along the way to hide some of the poorly designed businesses,” said Brigitte Brey, a Farmington resident. “Trees and shrubs all along there.”

The majority of the summit was spent with attendees broken up into groups run by facilitators who asked them to share their ideas on what would make a better Grand River in the future and to identify areas that should be improved, enhanced or completely re-thought.

“If it is a reasonable thing to do, then my idea is for Farmington public services to do walk-throughs, like we do at Valley View, and pick-up the litter and look for things that need to be fixed,” said 64-year-old Farmington resident Tom Howard.

“One idea is to improve the walkability, crossability and the green space accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists,” offered 53-year-old Farmington Hills resident and business owner Cas Plotski.

Many of the ideas stemmed from issues with walkability and transit. To help participants better identify specific areas that need improvements, or that are positive features and should be enhanced, the corridor was divided into three districts: the southern district, which runs from Eight Mile Road to just south of Middlebelt Road; the middle district, which runs between Middlebelt and Nine Mile roads; and the north district, which runs from Nine Mile Road to Mayfield Street.

“In the southern-half of the middle district and in the southern district, we need to make it easier to get in and out of businesses because the speed of the traffic is such that, if you don’t know where you’re going or you don’t know where the driveway is, it’s a major hazard,” said Tony Haight, a 55-year-old Farmington Hills resident and owner of Helping Hands.

Farmington Councilman Bill Galvin suggested rapid transit.

“I’d like to make the whole corridor more pedestrian-friendly and to attract the bus rapid-transit system, which is set to go up on Gratiot, Woodward and Ford or Michigan Avenue, but I would like to bring it through Grand River all the way to Novi,” said Galvin, who also suggested moving telephone poles and utility lines below ground.

“Get them underground and make it a little more aesthetically pleasing. I think the aesthetic goes along with everything — the walkability, the shrubbery, the green spaces.”

After sharing their ideas, participants were asked to place red, yellow and green stickers on a map of the corridor to indicate the locations of areas that are positive, negative and neutral but needing improvement. At the end of the night, facilitators shared a few of the ideas that emerged from their tables and collected the idea lists and maps. Later, the authority, along with planning consultants from OHM, will use the information collected to develop a master plan for the corridor.

“This is a grass-roots, community-driven board,” said OHM consultant Aaron Domini of the authority board. “The purpose of the meeting tonight is to really listen to the community. Today, we want to listen, share our ideas, dream about the future and try to be agents of change for this corridor. Your ideas are going to help us create those plans and drawings that will guide the project in the future.”

Another summit will be held to showcase findings of the visioning summit. For more information on the Grand River Corridor Improvement Authority, call (248) 871-2507 or visit www.fhgov.com/grand river.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.