Sandy Bruss, of Ferndale, and Sean Laidler, of Hazel Park, enjoy the seventh annual Ferndale Pride in June.

Sandy Bruss, of Ferndale, and Sean Laidler, of Hazel Park, enjoy the seventh annual Ferndale Pride in June.

File photo by Donna Dalziel


Take a look back at key stories from 2017

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 1, 2018

 Dominic Geskey’s mother, Mary Blazevich; father, Steve Geskey; and sisters Ella, 12, and Claire, 10, listen to stories about him during a candlelight vigil in his memory in Huntington Woods March 17. Dominic, 15, died from sudden cardiac arrest March 13.

Dominic Geskey’s mother, Mary Blazevich; father, Steve Geskey; and sisters Ella, 12, and Claire, 10, listen to stories about him during a candlelight vigil in his memory in Huntington Woods March 17. Dominic, 15, died from sudden cardiac arrest March 13.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

 Drew and Katie LaCroix admire a bench dedicated in Jaycee Park in Berkley May 11 to their daughter, Leah LaCroix, who died in December 2016 from acute myeloid leukemia.

Drew and Katie LaCroix admire a bench dedicated in Jaycee Park in Berkley May 11 to their daughter, Leah LaCroix, who died in December 2016 from acute myeloid leukemia.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Jill Jack belts out a song on the porch of Francine Hachem’s residence on Troy Street during The Front Porch June 24. The Front Porch was a showcase of bands and artists from around Michigan who performed right on the front porches of homes in Ferndale.

Jill Jack belts out a song on the porch of Francine Hachem’s residence on Troy Street during The Front Porch June 24. The Front Porch was a showcase of bands and artists from around Michigan who performed right on the front porches of homes in Ferndale.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 In order to prevent a police chase from continuing into a parking lot, Abdulmalek Aldalaly crashed his work van into the escaping vehicle to stop the ordeal June 9.

In order to prevent a police chase from continuing into a parking lot, Abdulmalek Aldalaly crashed his work van into the escaping vehicle to stop the ordeal June 9.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

Here’s a look at several stories that shaped the last 12 months in the Woodward Talk’s coverage area.

 

Development of La Salette School site continues

A debate in Berkley in 2017 involved the continuing discussions on a project that would be developed on the site of the former Our Lady of La Salette School.

The plans for the project, called “The Berkley,” have gone through a couple of designs from developer Berkley-Coolidge LLC, with the first calling for 64 apartments that would be built into the former school building, a new building that would include 66 apartments, and an additional eight condominiums that would be built to face Oxford Road.

After those plans failed to become a planned unit development, as the Planning Commission stalemated in a 4-4 vote, the developers worked on the plans and brought forth a new idea.

The plans for The Berkley currently call for the old school building to be torn down and for a new apartment building to be built with more than 130 units. The eight townhouses still would be built to face Oxford Road.

The next time the project will come before the Planning Commission will be a public hearing for the PUD set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, at City Hall, 3338 Coolidge Highway.

 

Ferndale finally approves downtown mixed-use parking structure

The city of Ferndale has been looking to build some type of parking garage in the downtown for years, and in late 2017, that wish finally came true.

During an Oct. 23 meeting, the mixed-use parking structure called “The dot” was approved by the City Council. It will be located at 221 W. Troy St.

The project will contain 397 off-street parking spaces, 14,519 square feet of ground-floor retail and commercial space, 39,872 square feet of office space and a stand-alone residential development that could support 14-25 units.

The development of the project took around one year, with the city starting its own process after previous attempts in years past by private entities failed. 

As of right now, the city is working through the final structural engineering design work, which is expected to take through January and February to complete. The city hoped to break ground in January on The dot, but now expects to begin in the spring.

“I learned that just watching other development projects happen in Ferndale over the last few years — very few of them meet their original deadline for various reasons,” Mayor Dave Coulter previously said. “It’s not unusual. There’s a lot of things that have to fall into line perfectly. But I’m not concerned about it. Let me be clear about that. I’m not concerned about it. If we have to push it back a couple months, that’s not an issue and we’re still moving forward with good progress.”

 

Multimillion-dollar Iron Ridge District forming in Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge

An interesting project arose this year in not one city, but two, as Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge began working with a developer on a multimillion-dollar redevelopment project.

Developer Iron Ridge Holdings LLC is looking to invest $32 million into the “Iron Ridge District,” which would take up land in both cities for new apartment complexes, market space, a beer garden and brewery, office space, and commercial space.

The 13 acres of land consist of 3155-3351 Bermuda St., 3164-3350 Bermuda St. and 660 E. 10 Mile Road in Ferndale, and 400-404 E. 10 Mile Road and 660 E. 10 Mile Road in Pleasant Ridge.

The developer last was working toward getting a brownfield plan approved at the state level, which, according to Pleasant Ridge City Manager James Breuckman, was in October. 

He said the developer now has started the environmental cleanup work at the site and has obtained building permits for a couple of portions of the project.

“It is moving along,” he said.

Breuckman previously said that Iron Ridge Holdings will have to get site plan approval for some elements of the plan in Ferndale, as it is building new buildings and structures.

“In Pleasant Ridge, they’re going to be renovating and occupying existing structures. So there won’t be a site plan approval process here. They’ll come in for building permits. As long as the uses they want to put in there are permitted by our zoning ordinance, then they can get their building permits, refit the space and then occupy it,” he said.

Ferndale City Planner Justin Lyons said in an email that it’s his understanding that Iron Ridge Holdings is working on updated plans and should have something in the spring. 

“The next steps are in their court, but we are looking forward to seeing the next phase of the project,” he wrote.

 

Record-breaking cat measured in Ferndale

Downtown Ferndale was the site of a new Guinness world record after the cat with the longest tail was measured at the Ferndale Cat Shelter.

Cygnus, the silver Maine Coon belonging to Lauren and Will Powers, had his tail measured in September 2016 at 17.5 inches long. The couple also owned another Guinness world record cat, Arcturus, an F2 Savannah cat who was the tallest domestic cat at 19.05 inches.

The world record for Cygnus came about after Lauren Powers said they became concerned at how long his tail was growing.

“As he was growing and growing, the tail seemed to be growing, like, double the rate of his body, and we sort of thought it was a little strange,” she said at the time.

The couple posted a picture of Will Powers holding the cat with his tail up on the website Reddit on its vet page, asking if they should be concerned. 

The picture eventually shot to the front page of the site, according to Lauren Powers, which caught the attention of Guinness.

The cat was brought to the FCS, where Will Powers is the board president, and the cat was measured for his record-breaking length.

Sadly, both Cygnus and Arcturus died in a fire at the Powers’ Farmington Hills home Nov. 12. According to a Facebook post by Will Powers, it is believed they died from smoke inhalation.

 

Another flood causes damage in Berkley

Three years after the August 2014 floods damaged many homes in southeast Michigan, a rain event on Aug. 28 caused another round of floods in the city of Berkley.

Several inches of rain poured onto the city, with at least 700 homes reported to the city as having experienced flooding because of the storm.

With two floods because of heavy rain in recent times, residents in Berkley became upset and wanted to know what the city was going to do to prevent another situation like this from happening.

A meeting was held Sept. 7 to discuss these issues, where City Manager Matthew Baumgarten presented some ideas of what the city could do to help prevent floods, including installing rain gardens, early warning systems, separating the combined sewer system, building a relief sewer in the city, working with homeowners to install backwater valves, and putting in rain barrels, as well as homeowners putting in their own rain gardens in their backyards.

At another meeting Sept. 18, Baumgarten said the city was looking into adding more restrictive covers, which would mean more local roads would flood during heavy rain. According to the city, the benefit of the covers is that stormwater enters the system at a slower rate, but the consequences might include impassable roads during rain events and increased surface runoff.

The city currently is trying to get residents to install backwater check valves in their homes, which are devices that prevent sewage from flowing into residents’ homes.

Berkley has a reimbursement program set up through Feb. 28; Baumgarten said that if residents choose to install one, they first will pay a permit fee, then go through the normal permit process of having everything inspected and having it signed off on by the city’s inspectors. After filling out some forms and submitting them to the city, residents will be reimbursed for the fees.

“This, plus good information and a working knowledge of their home’s drainage and plumbing system, should just furthermore incentivize people to take the step and installing these inside their home,” he previously said.

 

Civilian hero stops police chase from continuing

A police chase June 9 that could have ended in tragedy came to a stop when one man drove his work van into the escaping vehicle and helped bring the driver to justice.

Abdulmalek Aldalaly, who works at AAM Wholesale Carpet, was at the Meijer at Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue when he heard the sound of police sirens coming from the main road.

Authorities were chasing 26-year-old Kolbe Kristopher Jordan, of New Baltimore, who was attempting to flee from police after they tried to pull over his vehicle.

Aldalaly said he knew something wasn’t right, and when he saw the escaping vehicle and police approach the shopping plaza, he came to the conclusion to put a stop to the chase before any serious damage could be done.

“I stopped him (to) save innocent life,” he said. “If he went through that parking lot, it would be devastation. It’d be chaos. They would do whatever it takes to get away, and police will do whatever it takes to stop him, because he’s going to start hurting innocent people on the road and, you know, people will be panicking and panic will lead to chaos and chaos will lead to people getting hurt.”

Aldalaly crashed his van into the driver-side door of the escaping vehicle, which stopped the pursuit and also kept Jordan from fleeing as well. This allowed Ferndale officers to place Jordan under arrest.

Aldalaly’s van took some damage and he had to make some repairs, but he said at the time he had no second thoughts about crashing his van into the suspect vehicle, even if it meant his life was in danger as well.

“When destiny has to go, you’ll go regardless,” he said. “When things happen, (they) happen. Is my life more valuable than other people’s? No. … I’ll put my life on the line to protect others.”

Jordan was arraigned on four charges: carrying a concealed weapon, a five-year felony; third-degree fleeing and eluding, a five-year felony; controlled substance possession less than 25 grams, a four-year felony; and driving while license suspended.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Oct. 10 in Oakland County Circuit Court. His earliest release date, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections, is June 8, 2020.

 

Berkley looking at constructing new community center

When the Berkley Ice Arena was closed in late 2016 because of coolant leaks, no one was sure if the building would be up and running in 2017.

The answer to that was no, as City Manager Matthew Baumgarten confirmed that the city will never be able to return to the ice arena for ice activities. A Citizens Advisory Committee was formed to help determine what Berkley will do next.

Going into the new year, the city will hold an open house at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the Berkley Community Center, 2400 Robina Ave., to allow residents to look at early concept designs and provide more feedback. These designs call for a 38,000-square-foot center with a multipurpose gym, classrooms, a senior room, a teen room, an indoor track, a fitness center, a dance studio and locker rooms. The preliminary costs currently are estimated to be about $15.5 million.

Mayor Dan Terbrack said the process is about finding what best fits the needs and services of the community.

“That’s something we need resident feedback on to know what makes sense in Berkley,” he said. “Would it be nice to have everything in there? An ice arena? A pool? Sure, but it’s probably not economically viable, and it might not actually be what’s in the best interest for our residents.”

If the City Council agrees to move the project forward, a ballot proposal could be ready for the May 2018 election. And if funding is approved, construction could begin in 2019.