Grosse Pointe Park no longer buying former Joe’s Garage parcel in Detroit

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 8, 2023

GROSSE POINTE PARK — A purchase agreement between Grosse Pointe Park and the nonprofit Urban Renewal Initiative Foundation to purchase the former auto body shop Joe’s Garage at 1038 Ashland St. in Detroit has been amended because the city no longer needs the property for its Department of Public Works.

Joe’s Garage is a shuttered auto repair business that was established in 1946.

According to the amended agreement, the city is no longer buying 1038 Ashland and the adjacent parcels — identified in the agreement as 1021, 1029, 1037, 1038 and 1050 Ashland — from the URIF. At a meeting Jan. 9, the council voted unanimously in favor of the amended purchase agreement.

On Oct. 28, 2019, the City Council voted 6-1 in favor of the purchase, with then-City Councilwoman Lauri Read casting the opposing vote. In 2019, the URIF agreed to sell the property to the city for $366,000 — the same amount the URIF paid for it.

In October 2019, then-City Attorney Dennis Levasseur said the purchase agreement and related land contract with the URIF and the city were for the construction of the Paul and Carol C. Schaap Center for the Performing Arts and the Richard and Jane Manoogian Art Gallery, which will be constructed on property adjacent to City Hall and will partially be in the Park and partially in Detroit. The venue is slated to be the new performance home for Grosse Pointe Theatre.

The former Joe’s Garage building, which abutted the art center property, had been slated for use by the DPW for vehicle storage, but that’s no longer needed because the city is in the process of constructing a new DPW — with adequate vehicle storage capacity — at the corner of Mack Avenue and Wayburn Street. Ground was broken on that property in fall 2021, and at press time, work was expected to be completed soon. Construction was delayed by supply chain and material shortages, including the recent challenge of acquiring concrete.

Some residents and officials have raised concerns about the art center, including whether or not the URIF has enough money to erect the building. Construction on the art center hadn’t begun as of press time, nor had a groundbreaking yet been set.

At the Jan. 9 meeting, City Councilman Vikas Relan said that “it behooves us as a fiduciary” to make sure that the URIF has enough money to build the art and performance center.

City Attorney Dan Kelly said the city hasn’t gotten financial statements from the URIF, but “they’ve confirmed they have sufficient funds to go forward” with the center’s construction. Kelly agreed that the language calling for the URIF to reach its funding goals was vague.

“We’d like better, but that’s all we have,” Kelly said.

City Councilman Tom Caulfield said the city received a letter from the URIF’s attorney stating that they had achieved substantial funding toward the project.

City Manager Nick Sizeland said the city has reached out to Detroit officials and hasn’t heard anything from either Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office or the Detroit Historical Commission that they aren’t in compliance with Detroit.

Mayor Michele Hodges added that the Park had held up its end with regard to a memorandum of understanding between the Park and Detroit, including reopening Kercheval Avenue at the Detroit border to two-way traffic and creating a bus turnaround.

“It is very important for this community to be good partners with our neighbor, the city of Detroit,” Hodges said.

Kelly said he “would expect” that upon receiving Sizeland’s email, Detroit officials would have responded if they had any questions or concerns.