Longtime Park business purchases city-owned properties

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

GROSSE POINTE PARK — A series of adjacent properties in Detroit formerly owned by Grosse Pointe Park have a new owner.

During a meeting July 10, the Grosse Pointe Park City Council voted unanimously in favor of selling the properties — located at 2170, 2174, 2180, 2186, 2194, 2226 and 2500 Alter Road — to Pointe Hardware Group LLC, which operates Pointe Hardware at 15020 Kercheval Ave. in the Park. The Alter parcels are usually collectively referred to as the “Pitters property” because they once housed Phil Pitters Inc., a landscaping, concrete and masonry company.

Pointe Hardware Group LLC agreed to buy the land — which also includes Grosse Pointe Park-owned properties identified in the contract as 1269-1275 Wayburn Street in the Park — for a total of $420,000. City Manager Nick Sizeland said Pointe Hardware “is excited to be partnering with both municipalities” to expand its hardware and lumber brand.

Pointe Hardware is believed to be more than 80 years old. The store had been owned by the Becker family since it was purchased by Clarence Keith Becker in 1965; he retired in 2005 and died March 28, 2022, at the age of 87. Becker started working in the store at the age of 14 to help his family. He moved it to its current location at Kercheval Avenue and Maryland Street in Grosse Pointe Park in 1972. Becker’s children — daughter Kathleen (Becker) Cousineau and her husband, Randy, and son Richard Becker — had been running the business over the last couple of decades. On July 1, the business was officially purchased by another local family, Waref and Danielle Hawasli.

Sizeland said the Park bought the land for a total of $392,000 in 2016 and made the last land contract payment on the parcels in January 2022. He said the city bought the property — located just across the Grosse Pointe Park border — with the intent of constructing a new Department of Public Works building there. Instead, the city built a new DPW in the Park at 15000 Mack Ave., between Maryland Street and Alter Road; DPW staff moved into the new building at the end of last year.

Sizeland said city officials in 2016 wanted to acquire the Alter parcels because there was talk at that time of a used car dealership being built there, and the Park wanted some say in whatever might occupy that site.

Sale of the land might not have proven controversial, but the original acquisition of said land has for years raised ire and eyebrows among some residents and officials, including City Councilman Vikas Relan.

Relan, who is not seeking reelection this fall, was first elected to the council in 2019, along with two other newcomers — one of whom is current Mayor Michele Hodges.

With the Wayburn properties added to the mix, Relan said the total the Park shelled out for these parcels was about $635,000, pointing out that the city is getting less money for the land than it paid. In addition, he said the city paid to demolish homes on the Wayburn properties, an additional expense.

City Councilman Thomas Caulfield acknowledged it’s easy to look back and question the decisions made by prior Park officials to buy these properties.

“No one on this body approved any of this,” Caulfield said. “We’re (stuck) with the cards we’re dealt.”

Relan concurred with that sentiment.

“I’m not blaming anyone here,” Relan said. “It’s (something that happened under) a previous mayor, a previous City Council.”

He has also accused some past property deals of not being approved in public as required, something previous officials have denied.

Caulfield said the city should be selling these properties because he saw no reason why they should continue to own them.

Sizeland said they budgeted $100,000 of revenue in the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year for the anticipated sale of these properties, money that would go into the water and sewer fund. The actual price was much higher than that estimate.

“This is in excess of what we were expecting to get from a budget standpoint,” Hodges said.

On Nov. 8, 2022, the council approved consideration to sell the Alter parcels, and on Feb. 13, 2023, the council voted to list the land with Iconic Real Estate because of its commercial real estate background, experience and insights. Sizeland said there were multiple entities that expressed interest in acquiring the parcels.