Eastpointe hears development concepts from college students

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 12, 2014

 Students and faculty from George Brown College’s Institute Without Boundaries visit Eastpointe Oct. 27-30 for a project to come up with ideas to improve the city. The group toured locations throughout the city, including the downtown, city parks, a section of Kelly Road, the intersection of Eight Mile and Gratiot, and the former Colonial Dodge.

Students and faculty from George Brown College’s Institute Without Boundaries visit Eastpointe Oct. 27-30 for a project to come up with ideas to improve the city. The group toured locations throughout the city, including the downtown, city parks, a section of Kelly Road, the intersection of Eight Mile and Gratiot, and the former Colonial Dodge.

Photo courtesy of the city of Eastpointe

Advertisement
Advertisement

EASTPOINTE — University students, working with local residents, proposed several new ideas for future development in Eastpointe Oct. 30 during the “Eastpointe charrette.”

The charrette — which means a meeting of all the stakeholders in a project — ran from Oct. 27-30, during which time students from Lawrence Technological University and the George Brown College’s Institute Without Boundaries program from Toronto helped come up with ideas on how to redevelop parts of Eastpointe, City Manager Steve Duchane said.

The students were divided into teams, who then met with residents, city officials, council members and other local advisors. Each team worked on different parts of the city and came up with different ideas for each one, Duchane said. While there were presentations held at Eastpointe City Hall Oct. 30, the final summary report is not expected until the end of the year.

“I think it was creative, and I think it gave us some objectives (and) put things in perspective,” Duchane said.

He said the four areas the teams worked on were the Kelly Road area between Eight Mile and 10 Mile roads; the Stephens Road and Gratiot Avenue intersection; the downtown area around Nine Mile and Gratiot; and the Eight Mile and Gratiot area. They then came up with concepts of unified development plans for each of those areas, plans that would rely in part on the property owners and in part on zoning changes.

Kelly Road ideas included making Wi-Fi accessible along the boulevard, putting park equipment in the median, and adding bike lanes and sidewalk festivals.

The Stephens and Gratiot area idea, dubbed “The Pointe,” would effectively create a village in the city, Duchane said, where housing could be above businesses and a focus would be on making it a walkable area of commerce.

The ideas for downtown included better connecting with East Detroit High School, implementing a “food bus” run by the school’s Shamrock Café, and generally considering how the students could be an asset to local businesses, Duchane said.

The area around Eight Mile Road could be turned into a “multimodal transit center,” becoming a hub for both the regional bus services — Detroit Department of Transportation and Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation — as well as any future plans for the local Rapid Transit Authority, like bus rapid transit, Duchane said.

“Also, (it would involve) making it more than just a place to catch a bus or a high-speed bus, but a place that people congregate,” Duchane said. “Maybe have Wi-Fi cafés, because while you’re waiting to change buses, you could do some business. Or people doing things for service and sales — you could have something as simple as Burger King investing down there and building a store. Maybe entice bus riders to be there and make them feel at home; you could wait for a bus and not be mad about it.”

While the city has a history of getting consultants, engineers, architects and other groups to put together master plans for development, Duchane said this was the first time a study team of millennials worked on the issue and sought local input in the process.

Institute Without Boundaries Director Luigi Ferrara said that in the past, they have worked with cities including Chicago, Toronto, New York and Dublin, getting students from various disciplines — from journalism and political science to business and architecture — to learn how to work together as a team to solve bigger problems. Ferrara said the program originally was going to work with another Detroit-area community, but that fell through.

His staff got in touch with Central Michigan University — the university that Duchane went to — and the staff there was able to put them in touch with Eastpointe. Ferrara said from there they met with Duchane and Eastpointe Mayor Suzanne Pixley to determine key areas.

“It turns out Eastpointe was a really great place to look at this, because it’s really in the area right at the border of the city of Detroit and the larger Detroit region,” Ferrara said. “It is kind of like a node in all of that and would allow us to understand the region in a bigger way.”

He said Eastpointe was an interesting place to work, since the city has faced a reduction in population and tax base since the 1950s-1970s. Additionally, since it was an early suburb, it’s facing the same sort of issues as other inner-ring suburbs in Detroit and other parts of the world.

Ferrara likened older communities to a house or a street — after many years, a house needs to be renovated or a street needs to be repaved, he said. Similarly, an older city likely will need to be refreshed with new jobs, new residents, new industry and revitalized infrastructure.

Ferrara added that Eastpointe was one of the best places they have ever worked on a charrette.

“We do charrettes all over the world — Belgium, Italy, Ireland, other U.S. cities  — and I never saw such a friendly and committed group of people,” he said. “So it was remarkable for all of us who have been involved in charrettes to see the kind of hospitality, and kind of everyone just rolling up their sleeves and working positively.”

Advertisement
Advertisement