Future updates for the Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue project include lights and sidewalk improvements within the bridge’s underpass.

Future updates for the Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue project include lights and sidewalk improvements within the bridge’s underpass.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Ferndale provides update on Eight Mile, Woodward project

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 27, 2021

FERNDALE — During the Oct. 11 Ferndale City Council meeting, an update was provided on the progress of a project focused on improving the Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue intersection.

Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy ran down the statuses of the physical improvements and human services that Ferndale and its partners aim to include in the project. Those partners include the city of Detroit, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the 8 Mile Boulevard Association.

Twardy shared a list of the current project goals, which include the physical improvements, facilitating lasting assistance for people experiencing chronic homelessness and other challenges, and providing a lasting structure for consistent service delivery to the intersection for human services and routine maintenance.

“These three goals are really focused on making that intersection safe, healthy and welcoming to everybody through improving it in ways that are not hostile to the individuals that rely on that intersection,” he said. “We are trying to avoid hostile design. We’re trying to be inclusive, we’re trying to be accessible, and we’re trying to be welcoming, and also celebrate this place as an intersection of Detroit and Ferndale.”

The progress on the project over the last year and a half, Twardy said, includes engagement with individuals at the intersection, obtaining MDOT’s approval for a mural installation, securing more than $237,000 in funding for human services and intersection improvements, and getting an agreement to ensure biweekly and as needed cleanups at the intersection.

In regard to human services, $12,000 was raised for HandUp Detroit to provide support for individuals at the intersection to help them get quality of life improvements like driver’s licenses, cellphones and more. The service teams, Twardy said, also have helped get one person in secure housing after relying on the intersection for five years; helped another person who is in the process of getting housing with special needs support; and helped three other people who are actively seeking housing.

As for the physical improvements of Eight Mile and Woodward, Ferndale’s Department of Public Works has made an agreement with MDOT to lead the cleanup on all sides of the intersection. MDOT also has approved the installation of a mural at the underpass, which the City Council later approved during the meeting on its consent agenda. The painting of the mural has yet to begin, as historical pictures on the walls currently still have to be taken down, but once the wall is clear, the process is expected to take no longer than a month.

The installation of a plaque and improvements to the lights and sidewalks in the area also were discussed. Twardy said they will look to finalize a design for a commemorative plaque that will be located near the existing state of Michigan historic marker. The plaque will commemorate and tell the story of the project while also providing information on how people can get involved to help those in need.

The approval from MDOT, which is still under review, for lights and sidewalk updates is expected by the end of 2021.

“If people are panhandling here, if they rely on this intersection for a source of income, if they’re trying to get out of the rain or the elements, people can still move through here safely and equitably in a way that is aesthetically pleasing,” Twardy said of these updates. “That is admittedly a tightrope to walk. We believe we have done that.”

The next steps for the project include fundraising with the 8 Mile Boulevard Association to increase human services and area beautification over time and maintaining project coordination among the participating agencies.

Mayor Melanie Piana told the Woodward Talk that the human services aspect of the project is a big focus for her and helping individuals residing under the bridge to get the support they need.

“For this bridge underpass location in particular, I’ve always looked (at the) bigger picture of this collaboration between government, nonprofits and the local government, as well as county government, and foundations about how do we take this model going forward,” she said. “We’re not the only city that has challenges or issues with safety and providing appropriate resources for individuals so they have more permanent housing.

“So that’s something I’m looking forward for, going into the future, but we’re still in this program of working through providing these services underneath the bridge,” Piana continued “How do we take this model going forward and what are our lessons learned? We still need to talk through those, what the lessons learned are from this collaboration, because we are still in the middle of it.”

Piana stated that a big step the project took since its inception was gaining some clarification on which entities are responsible for different aspects of the intersection, such as Ferndale’s responsibility for maintaining cleanliness at the intersection on behalf of all partners.

“That is a big difference to where we started to where we are now,” she said.

The entire presentation by Twardy can be found on the city of Ferndale’s YouTube page for the Oct. 11 meeting.