Grosse Pointe Park builds a wall of mammoth potted plants at Detroit’s border

Large potted plants were placed at the border of Detroit. Photo submitted anonymously.
Large potted plants were placed at the border of Detroit. Photo submitted anonymously.

Grosse Pointe Park has found plenty of clever ways to block one of its busiest borders with Detroit – erect a large pile of snow, delay work on a water main project and build a farmer’s market in the middle of the road.

But after Motor City Muckraker revealed in December that the barriers were illegal, the affluent suburb reopened one lane – the one entering Grosse Pointe Park – as part of a deal with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to avoid a potential lawsuit.

This week Grosse Pointe crews lined the intersection of Kercheval and Alter with trees planted in giant clay pots that were delivered on flatbeds from California, reigniting a debate about real and perceived barriers between the two disparate communities.

Kercheval snow
This snow pile blocked traffic at the intersection in early 2014.

City officials said the planters are part of a beautification project and do not disrupt traffic. Some residents expressed support because the tall trees block blight on the Detroit side.

But others see an ugly symbol of intolerance and classism that harkens back to an era of segregation and elitism.

“Whether it’s covered in flowers or called a farmers’ market, a wall is still a wall,” Grosse Pointe Park resident Graig Donnelly said.

Between 1945 and the 1960s, the Grosse Pointe Homeowners Association employed a point system that made it impossible for black people to own property. It wasn’t until 1966 that the first African American family moved to Grosse Pointe, according to political scientist Andrew Hacker.

But Grosse Pointe Park is changing, attracting young professionals and transforming from a traditionally conservative community to a more progressive one. About 10.5% of the Park’s population is black, compared to just 3.5% in 2000.

In the 2008 and 2012, the Park was the only one of the five Grosse Pointe communities to vote in favor of President Obama .

Former Mayor Palmer Heenan
Former Mayor Palmer Heenan

But on the local level, many of the politicians, including the recently retired 93-year-old mayor, are staunch conservatives who have not developed relationships with the younger residents.

Detroit officials said today they don’t plan to voice opposition to the planters as long as traffic isn’t impeded.

Since Grosse Pointe removed a road-blocking farmer’s market and reopened one lane of traffic on Kercheval in December, many motorists have complained about the new street configurations. At least five accidents have been reported at the narrowed intersection, which now includes a cramped roundabout that some delivery trucks can’t maneuver. The farmer’s market sheds also have been struck at least three times by cars.

Grosse Pointe officials didn’t return calls for comment.



Steve Neavling

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.

  • AE interior

    The farmer’s market sheds also have been struck at least three times by cars thiet ke noi that cao capnoi that biet thunoi that chung cu

  • Rebecca Eatmon

    OK by me ever since the man murdered the teen sitting in her car.

  • Thee1tooth

    Honestly, who cares about GPP? I have no interest in going to a place and spending money or time where people like me arent wanted. If they want to build a wall, let them. That way, when Detroit is no longer the butt of the nations jokes, all those lovely white Christians in GPP will have their lovely wall of trees to stare at.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Well detroit not the butt of jokes, the whole thing ? That will never happen.

      Nice areas will pop up, sorta nice areas will pop up, there is just about no way 20% of the city will not remain among the poorest, fattest, least educated, most drug ravaged, off the charts violent place in america.

      You might have to wait more than 40 years just for the area next to alter to be sorta ok, in a ragedy ghetto way, but at least the ghetto future might entail maintained roads, street lights, more than 7 houses per block etc.

      I would love to just see everything painted, all the grass cut, all the garbage picked up, all the abandoned cars hauled away. Just that simple stuff would make a huge improvement and it can remain an area full of fat, uneducated, violent, drug addled criminals.

      Just cut the grass, paint the houses, fix the curbs, knock over the half burned homes.

      That seems like a far off dream world.

  • Tom

    I’ve never given this ongoing situation attention, but aren’t there legal ramifications to closing or impeding an established thoroughfare?

    • Mike C

      No. If the road is owned and maintained by the city they can block it off. Detroit has this is numerous locations within the city limits.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      How did they build the mack plant and the pole town plant if that was the case ?

      You do realize many streets have been closed off in detroit over the years for development, you do know the city was layed out over 100 years ago, and it is not exactly the same?

      How can someone not know this ?

      Did you not just say you have been in detroit for over 50 years ?

    • Mike C


  • John T. Feret

    I still think that this area that just happens to border GP would make a wonderful location for a garbage truck storage lot.

    • Mike C

      It already is. Go walk along the alley that borders the two cities and you will find a few garages that resemble garbage trucks.

    • Mike C

      AND by doing that you are also proving the point that GP is possibly trying to make, and it’s childish, and probably illegal.

  • RadioRon

    And of course the planters with the tree and spaces in between to walk through are a much bigger “wall” than the building that use to stand on the lot.

  • Jack Ramsey

    Tear down these flowerpots!

  • Jack Ramsey

    The voice of Reagan cries out from the grave:

  • Jack Ramsey

    Hey Homer– classism is far different than classicism. (Though a classicist certainly may be classist).”But others see an ugly symbol of intolerance and classicism that harkens back to an era of segregation and elitism.”

  • cielo2013

    Steve, why dont you and your socialist hippie friends move into this house and fix it up? It has a great view of the flowerpots too!

  • cielo2013

    1 of 4 abandoned houses with 200 feet of the flower pots

  • cielo2013

    Flower pots look better than this view that the inept Detroit Land Bank was supposed to clean up 8 months ago.

  • Sizz

    Duggan once again being pushed around by GPP.

    • Mike C


    • thevillagemalcontent

      Maybe you ought to look at the whole story by getting a look at the MLive coverage that has a link to the actual agreement Duggan signed last year. He is in violation.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      The pots on are the GPP side. GPP did not put them in detroit, send duggan the bill, then come flip his desk over and threaten him for not paying the bill.

      WTF is wrong with people on here, why does this site attract such flipping insane weirdos.

  • bebow

    The jumbo planters aren’t so bad. They redirect the eye away from the blight-scape without giving the impression of forming a barrier. When the trees mature, they’ll be more attractive.

    We shouldn’t expect other people to accept our filth and chaos. I don’t accept it myself and spent a good amount of time investigating various tall, indestructible perimeter options. Now, I’m waiting to decide before sinking another dime into this mess.

    Unlike Grosse Pointe Park, I can pack up and leave if Duggie doesn’t take care of business by the time I’m ready to go.

    • Tom

      Goodbye, don’t let the flowerpot hit you in the ass on the way out!

      • bebow

        Well, Tom, your comment is typical New Detroit. The city has more than earned my departure. I won’t be passing anywhere near the jumbo planters when I leave. You should consider what’s going to happen when people like me are no longer holding down the action in the neighborhoods. Brighton might not be far enough away.

        • Tom

          I’m about as old Detroit as they come, whites climbed over one another leaving 50 years ago.

          I would sit on a friends porch and listen to a real estate broker tell the parents that you better list now N—–s are taking over.

          Nobody here is excusing bad behavior, in fact city residents are excoriated for offenses that whites see much less consequence for in our court system.

          Brighton would be a perfect place for you

          • bebow

            I was present for the history lesson, Tom. My people have been here for ages. New Detroit wannabes are in for a big disappointment. Some residents, who clung desperately to the hope of exception, are learning what it is the hard way.

            I considered relocating within the city to a selected area, but after experiencing a decade of raw, government-sponsored discrimination, I decided my next move is out of here. Far, far from this nasty scene. Such behavior should not be rewarded, and eventually, as New Detroit realizes it cannot support itself, additional areas will become unselected, probably following the next major recession.

          • javierjuanmanuel

            What does that have to do with people who are sicking of looking at trash piles and burned up cars.

      • javierjuanmanuel

        ha ha ha what did he say that could possibly offend a sane person.

        He is sick of paying taxes, and looking at a disaster.

        How could that possibly get someone else upset.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    5 black families in grosse pointe by 1990, or grosse pointe park ?

    • Sheldon Silverbaum

      There were far more than 5 black families in Grosse Pointe in 1990. There were far more than 5 black families in GP in 1980. Neavling is not a journalist, he is a hack that is just trying to make a name for himself by trying to create a racial issue where there is none.
      He was fired by the Detroit Free Press after some very unprofessional conduct on his part took place. You can’t take anything said by a disgraced former journalist on an internet blog seriously.

      • Oberyn_Martell

        Of course there were more than 5 black families! There were more than 5 just in GPP.

        • javierjuanmanuel

          I thought so, I know a number of them, some from the early 70s. That was before I was even born, and well it just sounds like a made up number.

          Also it does not mean anything, so they did not move here, so what. There were no blacks in south field, or in layfette park, or indian village, or boston edison, or franklyn, or marine city etc etc.

          Yeah, thanks, old tymey blacks had it rough, if you were successful, and had money by white people standards you could not live with white people in a nice upper class area, that is a load of crap, Its disgusting.

          But there are lots of areas where there are hardly any black people, like minnesota, no one is keeping them out, the just do not want to be there, they want to be in DC, NO, atlanta, detroit. Who cares.

          So in 1990, not many wanted to be in GP. I feel worse for the black dude who owned 4 apartment buildings, or 7 car washes, or 5 barber shops that was not allowed to buy a nice 6 bedroom house in GP even though he had money to buy three such homes. That makes me ill.

  • Amber Greene

    They used to call it segregation, now they call it “placemaking”.

    • Mike C

      Wow…. That comment is an insult….

  • maggiemay

    In no way is the street blocked and it looks a lot better than concrete. What wrong with landscaping? Also, I can’t imagine anyone running into the sheds, they’re off to the side in their own area. Not even near the street. Get over yourself Steve and find another community to pick on.

    • Oberyn_Martell

      He just loves riling up GPers. Most of this is utter nonsense and that shot of pots is a vacant lot next to the street adjacent to a building. Not exactly a border wall.

    • muckraker_steve

      98% of our stories are about Detroit.

      • cielo2013

        Hey moron. You see the two houses to the right in your lead picture? They are both abandoned houses with crack heads going in and out all hours of the day/night. Both of those houses were supposed to be torn down by December 2014 per the written agreement between GP and Detroit but are still there. Why don’t you write a story about how inept the Detroit Land Bank is with clearing blight instead of some flower pots.

        • bebow

          Why call names? You make good points, but the insults damage your message.

          • cielo2013

            Bebow you are 100% and generally i would agree with you but this guy is a racebaiter that does nothing but drive a bigger wedge between whites and blacks and therefore doesn’t deserve my respect. He has a history of making everything about race. Anyone with a brain knows that the original road closure had NOTHING to do with keeping black Detroiters out of GPP. It had EVERYTHING to do with keeping thieves (whether they were black, white or purple or from GPP, Detroit or Roseville) from easily crossing the border into the ‘safe haven’ of Detroit after they robbed somebody. If a white guy from Roseville steals a car from GPP, is he going to drive it up Mack or Harper back towards Roseville or is he going to drive it down Charlevoix or Vernor into Detroit and then go up Gratiot back home? That is why the city so readily agreed to opening up traffic INTO GPP – welcome citizens of Detroit! But this moron and his socialist pals make it all about race, when it is not. 20+ years ago… yes absolutely. Now, not at all. Not naive and saying racism is dead, just saying this isn’t about racism.

          • bebow

            Cielo, I’m going to gently present you with a different perspective coming straight from the underbelly of Third World Detroit. In one way or another, everything that happens here involves some element of race. There is a long, well-documented history of hostility and discrimination that persists to this day. If anything, the situation is worse than ever. Still, I don’t criticize those who act to protect themselves and their property from criminals running buck wild in the neighborhoods outside of downtown and Midtown. Decent neighborhood residents do the same. The DPD is never coming for us, and that’s one very interesting form of present day discrimination for you to contemplate.

          • cielo2013

            Bebow – I agree with you 100%. I already said racism is not dead yet. I was just saying that the flower pots are 0% racist. They are trying to block the view of abandoned structures while there are West Park Market activities going on but race baiters like Mucky are going to stir that pot anyway. And you confirmed my theory of the road closure when you said ‘DPD is never coming for us’. Thus, my reasoning that criminals would head straight for Detroit after a crime. There are at least 8 communities in Detroit (Grayhaven, palmer PArk, Montclair, etc…) that have put up gates, cul de sacs, roadblocks in order to reduce escape routes to reduce crime in their neighborhoods. Black Detroiters keeping other detroiters out of their neighborhood and nobody calls them racists because they are not. Just because GP is mostly white does not make it racist to put in a cul de sac or flower pot. I know you understand this but the ‘moron’ does not. Again, I am not naive to the history of the border and realize that racists attitudes still exist on many levels, just not here on this particular issue.

      • Mike C

        I’d stick to the fire stories. They are a much bigger issue in Detroit and the surrounding area. The fires need to stop if the city ever wants new homes to be built.

    • Mike C

      You can even walk between the pots

      • maggiemay

        Yes, you can easily walk between them. Their purpose is to screen an unsightly parking lot. They don’t block anything and if they did, there’s a sidewalk within a several feet.

        • Mike C

          I know. It looks like a certain someone is trying to start something again with Grosse Pointe. He needs to find something of substance.