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Grosse Pointes, Detroit work on 2nd phase of Mack Avenue improvements

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 10, 2019

 Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer serves as the keynote speaker for a Nov. 19 kickoff event for phase II of the Mack Avenue Corridor Improvement Plan — a joint project among Grosse Pointe City, Grosse Pointe Farms and Detroit, covering the stretch of Mack from Cadieux to Moross roads — at St. Philomena Catholic Church in Detroit.

Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer serves as the keynote speaker for a Nov. 19 kickoff event for phase II of the Mack Avenue Corridor Improvement Plan — a joint project among Grosse Pointe City, Grosse Pointe Farms and Detroit, covering the stretch of Mack from Cadieux to Moross roads — at St. Philomena Catholic Church in Detroit.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

DETROIT — The big city and some of its suburban neighborhoods are working together to improve a major commercial strip that runs through them.

A kickoff for the second phase of the Mack Avenue Corridor Improvement Plan — a joint project among Grosse Pointe City, Grosse Pointe Farms and Detroit, covering the stretch of Mack from Cadieux to Moross roads — took place Nov. 19 at St. Philomena Catholic Church in Detroit.

Dennis Archer, a former Michigan Supreme Court justice and the former mayor of Detroit, gave the keynote address to an audience of residents, business owners, city officials and community activists, all of whom are hoping to revitalize the prominent commercial corridor.

By coordinating and working together, the cities and stakeholders can come up with “something that can be very beautiful for the three Grosse Pointes and Detroit. … I think you’ve got the makings of something really exciting,” Archer said. Grosse Pointe Park was part of the first phase.

By creating a “shared vision of Mack,” identifying appropriate local uses, marketing, landscaping and undertaking other shared endeavors — all with input from businesses, residents and city leaders — Archer believes this project will greatly improve the Mack corridor.

“The people that will benefit are the folks who live in the Grosse Pointes and the city of Detroit, and the (general) community,” Archer said.

Phase I of the Mack Avenue Corridor Improvement Plan was undertaken by Wayne County and the Eastside Community Network, along with Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park, and covered the stretch of Mack from Conner Street to Cadieux. It included beautification and streetscape enhancements on both sides of Mack, among other efforts.

John Jackson, of McKenna Associates, a planner for this phase of the project, said they are building on phase I and extending that from Cadieux to Moross.

“(Mack Avenue) shapes all of our lives on a daily basis,” Jackson said. “It’s a short corridor … but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in opportunity … to do something truly special.”

Jackson said that business owners will be receiving a hand-delivered survey so that project leaders can develop business objectives and determine what this project can do to help the businesses. Bettering the experience that visitors to the corridor have is another goal, he said.

Phase II of the project has received a joint community planning grant from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and a Smart Growth grant from the National Association of Realtors. Grosse Pointe Farms City Manager Shane Reeside said the project’s entire budget of $24,500 is covered by the grants, with SEMCOG giving the project $20,000 and the National Association of Realtors providing the remaining $4,500.

Jackson said they’ll be focusing on redevelopment opportunities, opportunities and obstacles for accessing the corridor, getting input on what does and doesn’t fit on Mack, and more.

Three other community meetings — two of which will be focus groups — are slated to take place next year, with the next one expected to be scheduled for February 2020. At press time, those dates hadn’t been set. For more information on upcoming events, visit the Eastside Community Network website at www.ecn-detroit.org/mack-ave.

Donna L. Givens, the president and CEO of the Eastside Community Network, said they hope to make Mack a destination that’s also a source of pride for the community. Bringing the city and suburbs together is also a positive, she said.

“I think it’s an exciting project,” Givens said. “We want to change Mack Avenue from a boundary to a living room.”

She also said that the Mack project is intended to complement other nearby improvement initiatives.

Grosse Pointe City Manager Pete Dame said his city’s master plan calls for rezoning Mack to general business to make it “a more uniform commercial district.” But then he said his council realized it would make even more sense to approach leaders in Detroit, Grosse Pointe Park and Grosse Pointe Farms about possibly rezoning, so that the corridor could be more consistent as a whole.

Reeside agreed that a unified approach would be beneficial for all of the communities.

“Mack Avenue is a hodgepodge of zoning and design standards throughout the corridor,” Reeside said after the kickoff meeting. “This is a real opportunity to create a cohesiveness. Beyond potential aesthetic and functional improvement to the area, this project has already opened up dialogue with our neighbors in the city of Detroit. I have been extremely impressed with the vision of the representatives from the city of Detroit and the Eastside Community Network. We all have the same objective of building a better community.”

Jim Saros Real Estate Services President Jim Saros, who recently opened his new office at the corner of Cadieux Road and Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe City, said he’s been a developer in Detroit for 42 years.

“Take advantage of what’s here right now with the Pointes and the city (of Detroit),” Saros urged attendees at the phase II kickoff event. “We have unbelievable opportunities.”

Mack has rebounded in recent years, and the plan should only make it better, according to officials. Grosse Pointe Farms City Councilman Joe Ricci, a retired car dealership owner, said he had one of his dealerships on Mack from 1979 to 1998, but then he left for Dearborn.

“I thought this area was a dead end,” Ricci said.

That’s no longer the case, he said.

“One of my objectives (in running for office) was the revitalization of Mack Avenue,” Ricci said. “It’s such a vital part of our community, and a bridge to Detroit.”

Jackson said the timeline “is fairly aggressive,” as they hope to complete phase II around June of 2020.