A chain-link fence is currently what separates the Maire Elementary School playground from the Village Kroger parking lot.

A chain-link fence is currently what separates the Maire Elementary School playground from the Village Kroger parking lot.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Kroger agrees to new fence, window displays for Village store

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 9, 2022

GROSSE POINTE CITY — A change that school officials believe will increase student safety is one of a number of improvements coming to the Village Kroger store, 16919 Kercheval Ave., this year.

Kroger officials said they’ve committed to installing decorative displays in their windows — as required by the City — and will be working with neighboring Maire Elementary School to install a solid fence between the Kroger parking lot and the school playground.

All that separates the Maire Elementary School playground from the Kroger parking lot now is a chain-link fence.

Eileen Proudlock, president of the Maire Parent Teacher Organization, said Kroger shoppers over the years have spoken to and attempted to lure children, and engaged in other unsavory activity. She said the PTO offered to split the cost of a solid fence with the grocery store chain, but store officials declined in the past.

Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak said they need a solid fence “for the safety of our kids.”

“We’re very lucky there hasn’t been an incident that tars all of us,” Tomkowiak said during a June 20 Grosse Pointe City Council meeting of some of the interactions between Kroger visitors and children over the years.

When a new Village Kroger store was approved in 2010, one of the conditions as part of special land use approval was that the store would put decorative displays in its windows, City Planning Consultant John Jackson, of McKenna Associates, said. Instead, Jackson said the windows have been blocked by refrigerators and storage units. For the walkable Village business district, contributing to “visual interest” by having attractive window displays is vital, Jackson said.

“We want to have those active windows,” Jackson said of rotating or seasonal window displays. “We want to have good merchandising.”

He said this is one of the issues the City has been asking Kroger to address over the last several years.

“It’s a violation of code,” Jackson said.

City Manager Peter Dame reasserted that contention.

“They have to fix the windows,” Dame said. “If we have to, we’ll pull those storage freezers off the wall.”

Main Street Grosse Pointe Board Chair Kasey Malley, who’s also a Village business owner, expressed support for the council’s insistence that Kroger comply with the rules.

“It is part of our mission to make sure all Village businesses practice good corporate citizenship,” Malley said, adding that regulations “should be enforced for businesses both big and small.”

Kroger officials insist that failure to install window displays or pay toward a fence was a result of miscommunication.

“Regarding the fence and the display windows, we believe this to be a misunderstanding,” said Rachel Hurst, corporate affairs manager for the Kroger Co. of Michigan, in an email. “We are in contact with all proper parties including PTO, MCKENNA and our real estate team to learn further how we can best financially support a new fence for the school. In addition, we are working on displays for our windows and look forward to a continued great partnership with the City of Grosse Pointe.”

Proudlock said she met with Kroger officials on the site July 1.

“At that point, they said yes (to the fence) — (they) just needed more information,” Proudlock said.

Although the exact percentage of payment by the PTO and Kroger hadn’t been determined at press time, the store is expected to share in the cost of a 6-foot-tall cedar wood fence on the east lot line that was estimated to cost just under $22,000, Proudlock said.

Kroger, Main Street Grosse Pointe and City officials were also in talks at press time to determine if Kroger would also be sharing in the cost for 6-foot cedar fencing along the alley, which Proudlock said was slated to cost another $26,000.

Parents and school officials are pleased to see Kroger’s willingness to work on the fence with them. City Manager Peter Dame acknowledged that Kroger was under “no obligation” to collaborate on the fence.

“They have really stepped up and been in communication with us and are willing to work with us,” Proudlock said.