The cities of Ferndale and Detroit hope to revitalize and improve the intersection of Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue.

The cities of Ferndale and Detroit hope to revitalize and improve the intersection of Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue.

Photo by Mike Koury

Ferndale, Detroit take next step in partnership to improve intersection

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 8, 2021


FERNDALE — The Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue intersection bordering the cities of Ferndale and Detroit could see major changes in the coming year.

At its March 22 meeting, the Ferndale City Council approved two items regarding significant projects at the Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue intersection. The first piece was an interlocal agreement between Ferndale and Detroit to form a partnership and share costs for physical improvements and human services support.

The second piece was a professional services agreement between Ferndale and The People of Detroit LLC for physical improvements to the intersection, subject to the approval of the Michigan Department of Transportation and any other necessary parties.

The professional services agreement engages The People of Detroit as a vendor of the city of Ferndale to lead the design, procurement and installation of improvements. Detroit and the 8 Mile Boulevard Association will provide support on project management and community engagement aspects of the project.

The two cities have been working for several years in an attempt to improve the intersection, which often has been used as shelter for those who are homeless in the area. In addition to Ferndale and Detroit, the cities also are working with the 8 Mile Boulevard Association, Oakland and Wayne counties, and MDOT to improve the intersection.

According to a presentation delivered by Ferndale Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy, the project aims to increase access to housing and support services for those who experience chronic homelessness and other challenges; to improve the intersection to make it safer, cleaner and more accessible to all who use it; and to form lasting partnerships with all government agencies and service providers to ensure sustainability of maintenance and human services work.

“We look at that in two ways … that’s human services and physical improvement,” he said. “We don’t see that as zero sum, we don’t see that as either/or. One of the anchoring values of both communities going at this project are both issues have to be addressed and need systemic improvements in the way the status quo is managed.”

Human services revolves around helping the individuals who have been living and panhandling at the intersection. This includes assisting them in securing safe, affordable and permanent housing; connecting them to health and workforce services; and reducing their need to rely on panhandling.

For physical improvements, the parties are focusing on improving the amenities, lighting and art in the area. They hope to invest in improvements and maintenance resources for the intersection that “create a positive, welcoming and safe environment without hostility towards any user of the intersection” and “ensure that buildups of materials, debris or waste that create unsafe or unsanitary conditions cannot occur.”

“In order to make this project work, we had to make sure we could organize all of the agencies involved, the different local governments, the Michigan Department of Transportation, all of these different nonprofits, and understanding what their strengths and limitations are and how the rules are that they operate so that we could build something that everyone can plug into so that the work can be sustained,” Twardy said. “And also to limit that silo effect so that whether it’s one of the individuals trying to access services or a resident just expecting things to get cleaned up, both things can happen in a streamlined, consistent way. That’s obviously something we’re trying to build as a new status quo.”

The overall budget for the project stands at more than $205,000. Ferndale is committing $105,000 — $100,000 for physical improvements that “fund the design, production, and installation of improvements to the intersection, driven by public input, including sidewalk enhancements, lighting, art, and other elements to improve the streetscape and enable safe, sanitary, and welcoming use by all.”

The $5,000 will go toward human services to seed a HandUP account, which is a platform used to accept donations to help those at the intersection, and it’s the city’s hope that other donors will contribute to the account. It will be used to help people obtain basic needs and meet goals such as getting a driver’s license.

“A lot of these folks in these areas, they’ve slipped through the cracks on programs,” Twardy said. “There are plenty of programs that exist, but some of these folks, if you don’t have a driver’s license or a stable address, you can’t fill out a form, you can’t have something sent to you. So your ability to engage in the process is limited.”

Twardy also stated that there has been $20,000 committed to the project through philanthropy so far.

With the agreements approved, what comes next in the project’s timeline is securing a concept rendering. Ferndale expects to have one this month. Once it does, work will begin with MDOT on the permitting process, and physical improvements are expected to take place from July to October. It was stated at the meeting that community meetings will take place to gather input on concepts prior to procurement and construction.

“Residents have great creative ideas about how to use lighting and beautify the intersection, but we’re constrained by the $100,000, and some of that is to cover the cost of the consultant,” Ferndale Mayor Melanie Piana said. “It’s not all going to capital. So the funds raised, the more we can raise, the more we can expand maybe the art and the concepts that the residents have come up with.”

Piana commended the work of those involved in getting the project off the ground, as she said it’s been several years since the idea of improving the intersection came about.

“It’s been a very complicated project and I come at it ... as we just needed to confess that we don’t have all the resources in Ferndale to do what was needed,” she said. “We needed a partner who could help, and Detroit has been an exemplary partner in lending their homeless expertise and weight to this.”