A main road from Detroit to Grosse Pointe Park has been closed as crews begin converting a section of Kercheval Avenue into a farmers market that will cut off the historic east-west route in what some critics charge is yet another attempt to keep out Detroiters from the suburban community.
But Park officials emphasized that the farmers market will attract residents from both sides of the border and will enhance an area with more walkable space.
It is the fourth such barrier that Grosse Pointe Park has erected that prevents Detroit traffic from entering the predominately white community. That same location was blocked for months late last year because of what Park officials said were sewer line problems. And this winter, Kercheval at Alter was also blocked off by massive snow piles.
The latest plan is to create a farmers market in the middle of Kercheval at the border of Detroit at Alter, which has long been the symbolic dividing line between impoverished Detroit and affluent Grosse Pointe.
Crews have already blocked off the street and are building a concrete market square in the middle of Kercheval.
“I want to say I’m shocked,” Cynthia Jackson, who lives near Alter in Detroit, said. “But this has been happening for as long as I remember. Might as well put up a sign that says, ‘No coloreds.'”
But Grosse Pointe Park officials say the market square has nothing to do with keeping out Detroiters, pointing out that the plan calls for rerouting traffic to accommodate anyone traveling north on Kercheval. The market, they said, also is expected to attract Detroiters to an area that will be walkable with plenty of retail and restaurants.
Like most areas, the Park is trying to attract young professionals, many of whom are looking for walkable communities.
The market “will make the whole area more attractive for all,” Councilman Daniel C. Grano told us. “We are moving our farmers market down there to draw folks down to use the whole commercial district and expanding days to offer fresh farm produce to the area more regularly.”
Despite stereotypes of Grosse Pointe as a conservative enclave, the Park is considered the least conservative of the communities and even has a growing progressive movement.
“In front of the (market) stalls there will be a roundabout so traffic can turn around and go back down Kercheval without having to turn down Wayburn,” Councilwoman Laurie Arora said. “There will be access to Alter through the alley and vice versa – access from Alter through the alley to Kercheval.”
Mayor Pro Tem Gregory P. Theokas said the “inspiration came from Stone Creek in lower Manhattan,” where there are “outdoor restaurants, taverns and open market stalls.”
He added: “Foot traffic will be emphasized.”
The road closure comes at a time when the community is still trying to overcome a police scandal in which white officers were humiliating a mentally impaired black man. The city acted promptly and suspended the officers involved.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.