Grosse Pointe City, residents clash over DPW proposal

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 28, 2018


GROSSE POINTE CITY — The Grosse Pointe City Council’s decision to keep the Department of Public Works building on City Hall property — made after a planned move to Detroit got derailed — found City officials engaged in heated debate with residents whose homes abut the DPW.

After Detroit officials in January 2018 rescinded their earlier approval for the City to renovate an old Ascension St. John warehouse at 4849 Canyon Road in Detroit, behind Village Hardware, City leaders were left scrambling in search of somewhere they could construct a new DPW — a search that officials said has been going on for years. Unable to find another workable site in Detroit or in the City, the council decided to tear down the existing City DPW and build a new, completely enclosed facility — along with storage for salt and other materials — on the current site.

But that didn’t sit well with neighbors, who thought the DPW was moving, not expanding. During a series of packed council meetings, nearby residents accused City leaders of a bait-and-switch with regard to a facilities bond that voters narrowly approved in August 2017 for a new public safety building, an improved municipal court and a new DPW. Residents said City leaders sold the bond to voters on the basis of moving the DPW to the Detroit property, but City officials said the bond language didn’t legally commit them to that move, although officials insisted that was their goal.

Residents said they feared the project would negatively impact property values and aesthetics, among other concerns. City officials said they believed a new, fully enclosed DPW would look better than the existing facility and would actually improve property values.

Working with Partners in Architecture, City officials tried to take into account feedback from residents to make the DPW more palatable, reducing the size and height from earlier designs. Also in response to concerns voiced by residents, City officials agreed to save the historic current public safety building — built in 1928 — and renovate that to become the home for municipal court hearings, offices and record storage.

An addition on the back of the public safety building that now houses the court/City Council chambers will be torn down to make room for parking, but the historic portion of the building will stay. To keep costs in line with the bond, renovations on the old public safety building will only be done on the first floor; renovations could be undertaken on the second floor in the future, should officials need to use that area, but it would need an elevator to make it accessible.

At a meeting Oct. 15, the City Council voted unanimously in favor of an updated design build agreement with Partners in Architecture that has a guaranteed maximum price of $12,627,250 for all three projects. That’s less than the $12.96 million that voters approved in August 2017 for the new facilities.

The first building slated for construction is public safety, which will be built on the site of the former Alger Deli & Liquor store at the corner of St. Clair Street and Mack Avenue. Demolition was underway at press time. Construction on the new public safety building is slated to take place from March to December 2019, weather-permitting.

Work on the DPW is expected to start with utility relocation and demolition between February and April 2019, with DPW construction to take place from April 2019 to January 2020.

The municipal court and council meetings will need to move to a new site some time between February and March 2019, although that location hadn’t been finalized at press time.

The last building slated for work will be the old public safety building/new court, where renovations are scheduled between February and April 2020.