Grosse Pointe Park quietly built a shed this summer for a farmer’s market in the middle of a main road at the border of Detroit with the intent of permanently closing off the historic east-west route.
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The move was highly controversial because Kercheval is a popular route for buses and Detroiters, and it’s the fourth street along Alter that blocks off the city to traffic.
Turns out, the property on which the shed was built actually belongs to Detroit because of an anomaly along the border, according to city and other mapping data. Wayne County tax records also indicate that the property is in Detroit.
By law, Grosse Pointe Park can’t build on Detroit property without city approval, which was never sought and likely would never be received.
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Detroit launched an investigation in response to our inquiry, and city crews were recently spotted examining the border.
Neither Grosse Pointe City Manager Dale Krajniak nor Mayor Palmer Heenan responded to interview requests. Several council members also ducked our questions.
A photographer working on a project about Detroit’s boundaries tipped us off about a notch in the city’s border at Kercheval and Alter. City and other government maps, along with tax records, indicate that the border between the two cities juts a block east, encompassing the heart of Grosse Pointe’s project to build a farmer’s market on Kercheval.
Much of the work has already been done.
In general, the border between Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit follows an alley just east of Alter. But detailed mapping data from Detroit and the U.S. government show a few anomalies along the east-west border, including similar notches near Charlevoix and E. Jefferson to accommodate large buildings.
Grosse Pointe Park’s charter does not account for the anomalies.
So what does this mean for the farmer’s market? It may depend on whether the city of Detroit challenges the blockade.
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Mayor Duggan, who has managed to avoid controversy during his first year so far, is withholding comment until the completion of a city investigation.
During the winter, Grosse Pointe Park occasionally blocked the same road with mounds of snow.
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.
Grosse Pointe has blocked six roads along Alter:
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.