Workshops collect feedback to update Hazel Park’s master plan

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 5, 2019

HAZEL PARK — A recent three-day series of public workshops by Hazel Park Parks and Recreation saw residents discussing topics related to updating the city’s master plan — the document that guides the future development of the community.

On the morning and evening of March 25, the discussion focused on what kind of town residents would like Hazel Park to be in the next decade; the potential of mixed-use developments in the city; whether a walkable downtown would benefit the community; the city’s plans for Scout Park, east of Hazel Park Junior High, which is being revamped this year with a grant from the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation; what features people want to see in pocket parks; and what recreational and cultural activities people would like to appear in the city.

On the morning and evening of March 27, the group discussed the potential narrowing of John R, including why it’s important, how it would impact business, how it would not have a detrimental effect on traffic, how it’s important to prevent John R Road from becoming a truck detour, and how a road diet would benefit the town’s infrastructure. The group also discussed matters such as housing and transportation, public events, gardens, and amenities such as pathways for walking and running.

And then, on the morning and evening of March 28, the group shifted its focus to strategies for growing the city, including mixed-use developments, the aesthetics of homes and buildings, the need for parking spaces and structures, the city’s overall identity and regional reputation, whether to focus on larger community parks or pocket parks, and whether recreational activities and events should be a priority for the city. There was also an exercise to discuss branding the plans for the city.  

Mike McFall, a member of the Hazel Park Downtown Development Authority, said that the proposed road diet for John R Road would be similar to road diets that have proven successful in other communities aiming to create walkable, pedestrian-friendly downtown districts.

“Additional on-street parking, protected bike lanes, and a decreased speed limit will not only make John R more pedestrian-friendly, but also more business-friendly by creating the downtown that unique shops and boutiques want to be located in,” McFall said. “These will bring new local businesses that will employ our neighbors and keep money here in the city.”

Jeff Campbell, the city’s planning and economic development director, said the City Council has already approved the narrowing of John R Road to three lanes from Eight Mile to 10 Mile roads, and that there will be a narrowing to two lanes from Felker Avenue to Woodward Heights Boulevard.

“A road diet makes the corridor safer,” he said. “Stats have shown that less accidents occur.”

McFall said that in the brainstorming group he moderated at the workshops, they discussed business and commercial redevelopment and how to increase mixed-use development. They also discussed ideas on how to repurpose industrial buildings.

Campbell said the groups discussed different types of housing structures, from tiny homes to row houses to development on narrow lots. And with regard to mixed uses for business, they talked about changing building standards so that their potential uses are more adaptable.

“The idea is that when a building is constructed or redesigned, it is done in a way so that the building potentially can accommodate multiple types of uses,” Campbell said. “We want to improve on efficiencies that improve the community and the residents’ quality of life.”

Regarding parks and recreation in Hazel Park, Campbell noted that there was a desire among residents to turn parks into destination points.

“The city is taking the lead with Scout Park,” he said. “We are also looking at more community-sponsored events and involvement that get people out to our parks. There were ideas related to themed parks that focus on a specific activity — for example, a disc golf course. We want to invest in our parks.”

He said that city officials also learned at the workshops that “there is a strong desire for a downtown feel without losing the small town feel that exists in Hazel Park,” and that this balance must be carefully considered as the city updates the community development goals in the master plan.

Campbell said that the city continues to accept written input from the public at City Hall, located at 111 E. Nine Mile Road, and that the city will ultimately present a draft of the master plan update this summer. More than 120 people participated in the workshops, which also had participation from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Oakland County.

“We realize great ideas can come from anywhere,” Campbell said. “The next step in the process is analyzing the data collected.”

McFall said he is pleased with the turnout and participation at the events so far.

“The citizens of Hazel Park are taking an active role in the direction of our city,” McFall said. “And our city will be better for it.”