A border between Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park is set to come down.
An area between Grosse Pointe Park, a wealthy suburb of Detroit and the city of Detroit, has drawn some controversary, because of makeshift barricades that seemed to have been constructed in an effort to segregate two populations. However, the intersection dividing Detroit proper and GPP is finally expected to open to two-way vehicle traffic as officials have reached a tentative agreement to do away with the division.
This comes five years after a border-of-sorts was created with farmers market barns and terra cotta planters, until limited vehicle access between the two cities was put into place. The affluent, mostly white community allegedly insisting on making it difficult for those from Detroit proper to visit was seen as antagonistic toward the predominantly black city right at the border.
Additional development and streetscape work is also in the works along the borders of the two cities and the throughway is expected to be reopened by August 1.
“The distinction between the communities will be seamless,” former Grosse Pointe Park City Manager Dale Krajniak said of the plan for the Kercheval intersection. “It’s going to not only be a great improvement for the use of the site, it will provide an appearance that’s seamless between the two communities and that’s what both communities were trying to achieve.”
Tom Lewand, Detroit’s group executive for jobs and the economy said, “When there was a proposal to do additional development, we started to sit down and talk about what the development might look like and how it might go and the desire of both communities to reopen Kercheval to two-way traffic.”
Grosse Pointe Mayor Robert Denner added that the vote to reopen it would strengthen the relationship with the Detroit. He said, “We’re creating opportunities for residents of Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park to spend more time together.”
The proposed new design includes a bike path with one lane of traffic headed in either direction.
“Division between Detroit and the Grosse Pointe communities goes back decades,” said Peter Hammer, director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. “There used to be a point system within real estate transactions designed to keep non-Anglo-Saxon Protestant families out, and that practice continued in private even after federal laws prohibited it.”
“It’s going to take a whole lot more than a streetscape at Mack or two-way traffic at Kercheval to really get the kind of regional consciousness and reconciliation that the Metro area really needs to move forward economically as well as socially as a united body,” Hammer said. “We need to keep our eye out on the totality of circumstances and celebrate our victories. Opening up Kercheval is a huge victory, but then ask ourselves what are we going to do about public transportation, what are we going to do about a united school system, what are we going to do about thinking this is a region economically that needs to be coming together if we’re all going to benefit.”
Grosse Pointe Park resident Frank Joyce, who has lived near the Kercheval border with Detroit for three decades said he’s happy to hear of the upcoming plans. “Kercheval in a way was different than the other (closures) if for no other reason than it was closing a commercial thoroughfare as opposed to a residential street, and so both symbolically and for reasons of convenience of getting back and forth between the two cities sent a particularly powerful message,” Joyce said. “It was on the wrong side of history. We should be tearing down barriers, not building them up.”