Sheds for farmers market raise questions

GROSSE POINTE PARK, Mich. (AP) - Sheds for a farmers market blocking a roadway running between the poverty-pocked east side of Detroit and upscale Grosse Pointe Park have raised questions about the suburban community's intentions.

The development has some in mostly white Grosse Pointe Park cheering the quieter pace of less traffic along Kercheval while some in mostly black Detroit see the change as a hostile act, the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.

"This is a real transformation," said Bob Spitzley, 64, of Grosse Pointe Park, as he stood last week along the community's business strip. The project was "a way of stabilizing this business district," said the retired Ford financial analyst, who has lived near the strip since 1989.

Last week, workers finished building stone-trimmed traffic barriers and sheds to house those selling at the farmers market. The Rev. Joel Wallace, who preaches at nearby Abundant Faith Cathedral in Detroit, said the blockade had "a prejudice overtone" to his 100-member congregation.

"I'm going to pray for Detroit and pray for Grosse Pointe and hope that we can do something together, not isolate ourselves," Wallace said.

But Grosse Pointe Park officials said that the blockade was essential for revitalizing the business strip.

"We're not in some kind of conspiracy against Detroiters — that's just so far-fetched," Grosse Pointe Park Mayor Pro Tem Greg Theokas said. "A lot of jobs, a lot of good things can grow out of this, and for Detroit as well as for Grosse Pointe Park."

Grosse Pointe Park initially about a year ago discussed the idea of blocking Kercheval by constructing a five-story medical building, from curb to curb. After a burst of adverse public reaction, some from their own residents, Grosse Pointe Park's leaders retreated from that plan.

Detroit "was not notified or consulted at all, so we had no input one way or the other" about the new blockade, said John Roach, communications director for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Roach said the city is "reviewing its legal options."

Some other Detroit suburbs have worked to make improvements along the city's border without blocking existing traffic.

"You can go to Ferndale, Dearborn, and you'll see — you can create a walkable community without putting up a vulgar building that says: 'We don't want certain people here,'" said Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, who lives about 5 minutes away from the new sheds.

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