When Grosse Pointe Park officials surprised even their own residents this summer by placing three farmers-market sheds in the middle of Kercheval Avenue, blocking access to Detroit, they said the structures were designed to develop a growing dining and entertainment district in that part of their city.A compare-and-contrast of prodigious length follows. (No mention of notorious preppy hangout Sparky Herbert's, or of the Rustic Cabins tavern ...) But the farmer's market will come down, and Kercheval will be reopened, with a rotary at Alter Road.
That explanation was greeted with skepticism by Detroiters - and many Park residents - who noted that, over the years, the Park had blocked nearly a quarter of its residential streets that connect with Detroit as the neighborhoods on the city side were becoming majority African American.
At a public meeting of the Grosse Pointe Park city planning commission in September, Mary Anne Barnett, a Park resident who is white, told commission members: "The sheds are a blazing symbol of what Grosse Pointe Park used to represent, that you say isn't true now."
"The history of the Grosse Pointes is one of segregation," Barnett told Bridge after the meeting. "Everybody knows this. Grosse Pointe Park likes to claim that we have the most diverse population of any of the Pointes. But on the other hand, they don't really mean it because they continue to do things that would indicate that they're not really welcoming, especially to African Americans."
A FRONTIER WITH THE THIRD WORLD.
Years ago, a newspaper article (I recall it as being in The Wall Street Journal, but can't verify) described Alter Road, shared by Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park, as separating West Beirut from Disneyland. At one time, I lived just northeast of Alter, in an area of Grosse Pointe Park known as the Cabbage Patch. And if anything, the contrasts have become stronger, although there's a tradition in urban sociology viewing the five Grosse Pointes as sundown suburbs. More recently, Grosse Pointe Park's government has been closing streets.