Eastpointe leaders consider plans for social district

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 1, 2021

 Some city leaders in Eastpointe have proposed a social district along Kelly Road, pictured. This special district would allow for outdoor events to take place on certain days in the summer.

Some city leaders in Eastpointe have proposed a social district along Kelly Road, pictured. This special district would allow for outdoor events to take place on certain days in the summer.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

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EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe leaders are considering the establishment of a social district within the city that would provide the community with a center for local events and programs.

The plans are still in the early stages at this point, but the concept was brought up at the Eastpointe City Council meeting June 15 by Councilman Cardi DeMonaco and Councilwoman Sarah Lucido.

“It is an outdoor gathering space where people can gather, eat food or enjoy cocktails,” said Lucido. “It could be used during the day for a farmer’s market or something, but this would only be on the weekend and only during the summer when it is nice outside.”

The area is proposed to be placed along a portion of Kelly Road. One of the goals of the proposal would be to encourage economic growth in that area of the city.

“I’d like to have somewhere in Eastpointe that feels more like a downtown area. Councilwoman Lucido and I thought Kelly Road would be a good place for that. It has openings for businesses, and it would be an ideal location for investment,” DeMonaco said. “Some people want to socialize and meet up with their friends, and they are taking their money outside of Eastpointe to do that right now. This would create a nice spot in Eastpointe so they don’t even have to travel outside the town.”

Lucido said that other communities have been having success with social districts of this type.

“A lot of communities such as Mount Clemens and St. Clair Shores are doing them, and we’ve been hearing very positive things about them in regard to what they’re doing for those communities,” she said.

The borders of such a district are still being determined.

“We were talking about Nine Mile Road reconstruction, and then we started talking about the vacant and open storefronts on Kelly Road. It was something we could do on Kelly Road to promote new businesses to come into that area,” Lucido said. “The location is flexible right now, since we are still only talking about it.”

“We proposed two different areas. We are using them more as examples, so they could be something between Empire (Avenue) to Rosetta (Avenue) or between Lister (Avenue) to Toepfer (Drive). We’re calling it a proactive social district. There would need to be businesses with three liquor licenses in the area and a common area, so we are trying to attract businesses,” added DeMonaco.

Establishing such a district would require some zoning changes in Eastpointe.

“We’re asking the Planning Commission to look at the zoning in the area,” said DeMonaco. “The master plan we approved in 2020 has some different zoning rules, so it would require some changes. We would probably need mixed use in the area.”

It also would require attracting new businesses to the area.

“Our first step would be doing some rezoning on Kelly Road. Then the state requires three businesses with liquor licenses in the area to move forward, as well,” Lucido explained. “We would have to talk to our engineers about possible lane reorganization on Kelly, as well.”

How the districts would function also is still being determined and would almost certainly be decided after feedback from the community.

“We’re not sure if it would mean blocking off half of Kelly on the days it’s open and redirecting traffic onto the other side or just making a detour on those days so it would be a one-way street for part of the time,” said DeMonaco. “Again, these are only proposed ideas.”

Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens said significant feedback from both community members and city officials would be needed to bring the plan to fruition.

“It’s a concept right now, but I want to make sure (that we’re doing what residents want) before we move forward on it,” she said. “I want to know what residents have to say and what our director of public safety has to say. Those living near the proposed district, in particular, may want to voice their opinions on the matter before we set anything in motion. We want to make sure it is safe and it is what residents want.”

Despite being in the early planning stages, many in city administration are excited about the idea and are hoping to gather support for it in the coming months.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for Eastpointe to grow,” remarked Lucido. “When we get closer to bringing this to fruition, we will definitely be getting public input from forums and so forth.”

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