Dec 2017 / Jan 2018

Special Feature by Mary Meldrum

WITH AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF BARS and restaurants and a heavier volume of foot traffic, Ferndale has become a destination city. And, like many destinations, there is a need for parking. While this seems like a good problem to have, change doesn’t come easy to any established city’s infrastructure, and this subject has created angst for many in Ferndale. The growing pains experienced in Ferndale are being felt by many communities in the Detroit area, and even nationwide.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a push to move out away from downtown areas, like Detroit. That movement has recently reversed, and there is a shift in lots of communities to embrace downtown density again. There is a struggle in community development to navigate, accept and accommodate that change in cities across America.

After a lengthy development phase and input from businesses and residents, the City of Ferndale finally approved plans for a mixed-use parking structure on West Troy near Allen at its October 23 Council meeting. Dubbed “The Dot” (‘Development On Troy’), the project features 397 much-needed off-street parking spaces. It will also house over 14,500 square feet of ground floor retail and commercial space, over 39,800 square feet of office space, and a stand-alone residential development capable of supporting 14 to 25 units.

With the approval in place, the city will now finalize engineering, put out bids for contractors, and start construction on the parking deck by April of 2018. Many are relieved to know there will be more parking coming soon. But, while the debates regarding most of the details of this project have been put to rest with this approval, there are still some unhappy business owners and residents who have questions and concerns regarding loading zones, crosswalks, environmental impacts, as well as who will – and more importantly who will not – benefit.

For one thing, there are questions about the City devoting 100 per cent of the $200 thousand dollars allotted for parking mitigation towards providing free valet service.

Assistant City Manager Joe Gacioch provided me with an update on the progress since the October approval of the DOT.

“Right now, the architects are going through the schematic design process,” he reports. “They are finalizing calculations for engineering elements.” He expects schematic designs to be completed within the next four weeks and, once the final design happens, they proceed to competitive bids for construction. The City will then review bids for construction and select a general contractor.

They are looking to break ground in the spring of 2018, concluding an 18-month approval process that included research and public engagement.

“For the long-term view, I think this project is efficient in terms of addressing adequate parking, walk-ability, and density in terms of the daytime and nighttime activity,” explains Gacioch. “Mixed-use helps address the daytime activity because we want to increase foot traffic with the office space. These are all goals that line up with the city’s plan. One of the great things about office space is that they leave at 5:00 P.M., and we have a vibrant downtown economy during the evening, so those spaces become available to accommodate the evening traffic.”

“For the short-term, we recognize there will be discomfort for downtown. We want to minimize the disruption. We have been working with the DDA and businesses to come up with strategies to provide temporary parking solutions.” Gacioch shares, “This inward movement to downtown density is very difficult, and we have to be sensitive to that.” He admits that “nothing is perfect,” but they are working to ease the burden of the construction as much as possible.

They will be testing valet services downtown. A free valet service will be provided downtown during the testing periods (Small Business Saturday weekend, November 24-26, and during the DDA Holiday Lights Festival, December 8-10). The City is also looking to rent a parking lot close to downtown to add more parking spaces during the construction period.

There are grave concerns having to do with the survival of some of the small downtown businesses. They will feel the pain, more than anyone else, of the expected 15-month long construction project which will, of course, put even more pressure on the existing limited parking. Will their customers endure the difficulties of circling for a space or parking further away? Or will they just go somewhere else?

Pat Doran, Professional Guitars
Professional Guitar shop owner, Patrick Doran has been a small business owner in the city since 1990.

“There wasn’t always a robust nightlife here,” Doran says. Where Doran and others really feel the pain right now is on days of a big football game or St. Patrick’s Day. The bars patrons take up all the parking, and that becomes a problem for businesses like Professional Guitars or the Candle Wick Shoppe where somebody just wants to come and buy a guitar string or a candle. If somebody just wants to pop into a shop to buy an item, they will be put off by the lack of parking. Pat points out that it is also unlikely that his customers will circle the block multiple times to find parking.

“I think everyone in Ferndale realizes something needs to be done about the parking,” Pat admits. Most understand the need for additional parking, but they don’t all understand the City’s drive to make it a mixed-use project rather than just throw up a barn for cars. “I think it is going to be more of a hardship for retail businesses to survive when they start the construction.” In addition, night life brings its own flavor of change. “My store is adjacent to an alley, and I can’t count the discarded liquor bottles and beer cans that were not there in 1990,” he reports. “The place next to me has had problems with alcohol and fights.”

Prasad Venogopal, Ferndale Resident
Prasad Venogopal is one of many parents whose children attend the Mejishi Martial Arts Studio on Nine Mile, a business that backs up to Troy Street and is very close to the planned structure.

Venugopal and other parents drop their children off on Troy Street, and many of those kids cross that busy street to get to Mejishi’s. “Children as young as four and five are crossing, and I have personally seen numerous instances where cars have not stopped for the crosswalk and children have come close to being run over,” explains Venugopal. “With that kind of traffic and the dozens of kids who attend Mejishi, I am concerned about what impact the parking deck is going to have on this situation. I haven’t seen the architectural drawings, but if the crosswalk is not part of it, I think crossing the street will be more dangerous.”

Like others, Venugopal is not a fan of the mixed-use aspect of the parking deck. “I think if they need more parking, they should put in more parking. That’s all it should have been. That is how the conversation began,” he opines.

Chris Best, The Rust Belt
“This is very necessary. We are overdue for a parking solution in downtown Ferndale,” declares Chris Best, co-owner of the Rust Belt. Referring to the economic boom that the city has been experiencing, “There are no signs of slowing down as far as development; new businesses, lofts, condos and it is all adding density for businesses, which is great.”

Indeed, Ferndale has become a bustling town with several new businesses, more people and, as Chris adds, “Unfortunately, that is the path for most downtowns, in order to grow. You need people to patronize the downtown; you need density and walkable downtowns, which are very coveted by quality retailers.”

Density creates a rich diversity. Parking is a problem because the mass transit system in the area is anemic. “While it will be a disruption during the building time – which is a big bummer – it is very much needed as part of the evolution of downtown Ferndale.”

Martha Sempliner, Owner Library Bookstore
A landlord and business owner in Ferndale for over 30 years, Martha Sempliner has been following the progress of the city’s parking solution.

“I think this is going to be detrimental to every business. If they close the street for 15 months, where are the workers going to park? Where are the people who use the businesses going to park?”

With regard to the city providing valet or bus service to move shoppers, she doesn’t believe patrons will wait for that. In this day of instant access and convenience, she thinks shoppers just won’t come and will choose to go someplace else.

Referring to all the other more convenient choices available to customers, “Why would they wait to take a bus across the street?”

“What everyone here needs is parking. They don’t need the rest of that. We don’t need apartments or businesses,” She insists.

With clientele that routinely travels from areas like Detroit, downriver, and Ann Arbor, Martha is wary that the construction of the parking deck will disrupt their visits to her store.

As a landlord, the parking lot she owns already experiences people parking there who are not her customers. With regard to illegal parking in her lot, she says, “This project is going to exacerbate the problem we already have.”

Story By : Sara E. Teller

DURING A MEETING HELD NOVEMBER 3RD TO consider a proposal to develop a regional mass transit system, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation’s (SMART) Board of Directors
approved a budget amendment designed to fund the new initiative, which includes stops along Michigan
Avenue, Woodward Avenue and Gratiot Avenue.

The service would specifically connect downtown Detroit with Metro Airport, Pontiac, Troy and Chesterfield Twp. Washtenew County has been excluded from the plan thus far, and details regarding specific stops along the route have yet to be determined. Some of the current destinations will be eliminated, but only those that cross new points along the grid.

“One of SMART’s most important objectives is to provide reliable transportation to get people to work,” said the company’s Marketing and Communications Director, Beth Gibbons. “By improving service throughout the region’s major corridors our ability to connect jobs with workers is enhanced, which could serve to attract businesses across the spectrum to locate or expand in South-East Michigan.” One of these prospects, a valuable consideration for the new transit system, is Amazon. The well-known marketplace has been scouting a location for its second headquarters, and SMART’s proposal may help to entice it and other big names to establish in the Detroit area.

Amazon has been undergoing a competitive site selection process, asking leaders of population-dense areas to submit their cities as headquarter candidates. In choosing the location, Amazon has specified a preference for metropolitan areas with more than one million people, a stable and business-friendly environment, urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent, and communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.

Wherever the marketplace decides to set up shop, the site is projected to create as many as 50 thousand new full-time positions for residents, with an average annual compensation exceeding $100 thousand dollars per employee. “Amazon has not released any feedback for submitted proposals that would provide any concrete information on the likelihood of selecting Detroit for the HQ2,” said Beth. Of SMART’s plan, she said, “We have received a variety of responses from the public regarding the proposed service changes. SMART has reviewed the comments, and made adjustments to better meet the needs of our riders.” Additional meetings to solicit feedback are scheduled.

Riders are especially looking forward to being able to connect to the Internetwhile in route. “Wi-Fi service will be available to rediers…on the new express starting January 1st” of this coming year, Beth explained. “SMART is planning to add additional amenities to a number of the stop locations along these corridors.” She added, “SMART’s current fares will still apply to the new service, at $2 dollars one way.”

Regional transit service will begin on January 1, 2018, with a projected annual cost of $14 million, which will fund all expenses related to operating the new system. “This includes wages and benefits for additional drivers, maintenance and IT staff, fuel and maintenance on the buses, and all other operational costs associated with the service running on the road,” Beth explained, adding, “When SMART successfully increased our millage from 0.59 to 1.0 mils in 2014, we committed to balancing our budget, signing new union contracts, and replacing our entire fixed route fleet of buses. Now that those objectives have been accomplished, we have a small amount of funding to reinvest sustainably in improving service. Using the funding to leverage additional federal and state grant funding, we are able to fund about $14 million in continuing, additional service into the future.”

Robert Cramer, Deputy General Manager and EEO/DBE Compliance Officer of SMART, said, “The design of the new service carefully balances the desire to limit the number of stops with the need to connect to as many mobility options as possible. More specifically, the stop locations are selected to connect to other SMART and DDOT routes, park and ride locations, the airport, the QLine, the People Mover, Amtrak Train Stations in Pontiac, Dearborn and Detroit, MOGO Bike Share downtown and Dearborn’s Bike Share along Michigan Avenue. Using only the very limited number of stops on these three routes, you can directly connect to over 92 per cent of all SMART and DDOT routes. The seven-day frequent nature of these routes and this emphasis on connectivity improves a person’s ability to get around the region significantly.” Dan Dirks, Director of Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) believes SMART’s plan will complement its current services. “This complements DDOT service, which is a benefit to DDOT customers and city residents,” he said.

Public hearings began on November 15th for anyone who wants to attend. Comments regarding the new initiative are also being accepted through November 20th at the SMART Administrative Offices, via phone at (313) 223-2100 or email at

A message from the station organizers.

THANK YOU, FERNDALE! If you’re a Ferndale resident, a Ferndale Friends supporter, a Rust Belt Market patron or you’re just giving this article a quick look, you’re part of making our dream come true. Ferndale Radio has live programming on the air, and you made it happen.

We’ve been over the moon since we turned the mics on for the first time on Black Friday. A dedicated group of volunteers has been happily filling our live schedule, and we’re delivering music that’s rarely — if ever —heard anywhere else on the FM dial.

We appreciate everyone who has stopped by the station to give us a thumbs up or a word of encouragement. We are thankful for all of you who follow us on social media and spread the word to your friends and family. And we are forever grateful for those who donated to us when this was nothing more than a crazy idea. Your faith in us was inspiring.

The best part about all this is it’s only going to get better. We plan to broadcast hyperlocal news, high school sporting events and talk shows just as soon as we get our sea legs, and we hope to have a variety of specialty programming and a livestream up and running sometime in 2018.

We love this community, and we know that Ferndale is the best possible place to put a station like ours. Thanks for being part of this journey with us and believing in us. We truly could not have done it without you. We hope to make you proud.
Michelle Mirowski, Dave Phillips, Jeremy Olstyn, Keith Fraley, Dave Kim, Paul Schmalenberg

photos © Bernie Laframboise
photo © David McNair

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By : Hugh Nichol IV
& stephanie loveless

FERNDALE FRIENDS HAS BEEN RUNNING a series of articles regarding “Instant Runoff Voting,” which was adopted in 2004 as the preferred voting method for Ferndale’s mayoral and council races but, for a variety of reasons (legal obstacles, incompatible voting machines, etc.), has never been implemented. However, as of this year Ferndale has new voting machines which are IRV-compatible, sparking renewed interest in the subject.

Instant Runoff Voting allows the voter the option of ranking their choice of candidates 1-2-3. For example, a voter might have marked their 2016 presidential ballot as 1) Trump 2) Johnson 3) Clinton; or 1) Stein 2) Clinton 3) Johnson, etc. With IRV, no candidate can be elected until they have received at least 50% + 1 vote.
Minneapolis, Minnesota has been using IRV (also known as Ranked-Choice Voting or RCV) for ten years, after adopting it in 2006 – two years after Ferndale. Voter turnout went from 15 per cent in 2005 to 42.5% in 2017. In the most recent elections on Nov. 8, two transgender candidates were elected to city council.

The citizens of Maine voted in 2016 to adopt IRV for the entire state, but the measure has been at least temporarily delayed by the Maine Legislature. Now, volunteers are working to gather 60,000 signatures to put the matter back on the ballot. They reportedly gathered over 30,000 signatures their first day.

MARNE MCGRATH SERVES as our Ferndale City Clerk and, as such, she has an important role to play in terms of the implementation of IRV in Ferndale. The city clerk, along with the city manager and city attorney, make up the Fern-dale Election Commission.

McGrath, a Ferndale resident since 2001, was born in St. Ignace, in the Upper Peninsula. She started as a volunteer in the cable TV department at City Hall in 2001, rising over the years to a position of considerably greater responsibility as City Clerk since 2015.

We asked McGrath what she likes and dislikes about IRV. “I like that IRV/RCV gives the voter the opportunity to truly express their preference of candidates. If one candidate doesn’t win with a majority I think IRV is a great method to determine which candidates are more preferred by voters.”

As for her dislikes, “Since I haven’t had an opportunity to see it in action yet, I don’t have an opinion. Our new voting equipment can only be configured to six vote positions, so I am concerned about how we would manage a ballot with more candidates.”

According to Shane McKibben, of FAIR.Vote, “Minneapolis and Oakland both limit rankings to three candidates, and St. Paul limits rankings to six, so this is not without precedent and should not prove too large a concern.”

One of the obstacles in the way of implementation is the requirement for State-approved ballot instructions. In other words, the Michigan Bureau of Elections must approve the specific language used on the ballots which instruct the voter how to mark their ballot. Recent feedback from the Secretary of State suggests that several changes to current election law are required to move forward. Most recently, ballot instructions have been reviewed by Ruth Johnson’s office and are currently being reviewed by Legislative Services.

However, IRV has already been used in Michigan, in Ann Arbor in 1975, as well as in Kalamazoo in 1918. We asked if Ferndale can follow Ann Arbor’s precedent (up-held in Stephenson vs. Ann Arbor Board of canvassers) and implement without State-approved RCV ballot instructions.

McGrath answered, “Our City Attorney (Dan Christ) has long contended that preferential voting is permitted under the Home Rule City act. I believe this is how Ann Arbor was able to implement it in 1975. Since we work with the County to create our ballots and tabulate our results I’m not sure if there is a way to implement IRV without state-approved ballot instructions. I don’t know how much election administration has changed over the past 40 years, but it could be that at the time Ann Arbor created their own ballots and administered their elections locally, rather than through the county elections division. This may have given them more local control of the ballot structure and voting instructions.

When does McGrath expect we will be able to use IRV in Ferndale’s mayoral and council races?

“It is my hope that we will be able to use IRV in the 2019 local election. It is disappointing to be so close to implementing the wishes of our voters, and yet not be able to do so. At this time, the Commission is unable to approve the equipment because although it has been assured that the equipment is capable, it has not yet been demonstrated. The Election Commission looks for-ward to a demonstration of IRV so it can move forward with the implementation process, whether that be through updated state election law or a determination that the City Attorney’s opinion that IRV is allowed as a preferential form of voting through the Home Rule City Act.”

McGrath has a deep love for Ferndale. “I love working for the community I live in because I feel my efforts directly impact the quality of life in Ferndale. My background is in customer service, and I believe a customer-oriented mindset is crucial to effective public service. Prior to Ferndale I worked in the hospitality industry. I feel that every work experience has value, but none more so than being our City Clerk. I envision a future where we continue to be innovative, diverse, and always evolving to find the best ways to serve our residents.

“It has been a goal of mine, and every clerk since the ballot measure was approved in 2004, to see the implementation of IRV finally come to Ferndale. It was disheartening to learn that we are unable to do so without a modification to state election law, but I remain optimistic that we will be able to bring IRV to Ferndale by working with our legislators, IRV organizations, and our city attorney.”

If you are interested in working for IRV in Ferndale, contact:
Stephanie loveless at
Hugh McNichol : 517-420-8452;

For more information, contact:
6930 Carroll Ave Ste 240, Takoma Park MD 20912


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ORGANIZERS BEHIND THE Voters Not Politicians petition drive to end gerrymandering in Michigan are reporting an explosive response to their efforts. (See The Effort To End Gerrymandering In Michigan in the Fall 2017 Edition of Ferndale Friends.)

“We are excited about the out-standing efforts of our all-volunteer petition gatherers, and are confident we will be able to turn in sufficient signatures before the end of the year,” said Katie Fahey, President and Treasurer of Voters Not Politicians. “Citizens are unhappy to learn that politicians get to choose their own voters instead of voters choosing them. Michigan is ready to end the extreme parti-san gerrymandering by both par-ties that robs voters of their constitutional rights to hold representatives accountable at the ballot box.”

Gerrymandering is the legal process by which the political party in the majority redraws voting district lines in order to benefit their candidates at the expense of the candidates of other parties.

The grassroots organization’s 100 per cent volunteer petition circulation team collected over 160 thousand signatures in just five weeks. That’s a pace of over three signatures collected every min-ute. They have now collected over 350,000 unverified signatures.

“We have come a long way in just a few short months,” said Fahey. “Not many people thought we could gather sufficient signatures with volunteers. We’re proving them wrong. Now we are preparing to protect our petition from partisan elites who want to deny to the public the transparency and citizen involvement our proposal will bring to redistricting.”

In response to expected opposition from establishment organizations opposed to their efforts, Voters Not Politicians has hired Fraser Trebilcock, a noted law firm in Michigan, to bolster its legal resources. The public relations firm Martin Waymire (which has managed a number of successful statewide ballot campaigns) will also assist with communications and other aspects of the campaign.

The initiative campaign needs 315,654 valid signatures to reach the ballot. Although the signatures are being checked against voter databases to re-move invalid signatures, at this point, the campaign expects to turn in about 400,000 to provide a strong cushion in case some are found invalid. These signatures have been collected in every one of Michigan’s 83 counties. This demonstrates that Michiganders – from Houghton to Monroe – are behind fair, independent, and trans-parent redistricting reform in Michigan.

This campaign could not have reached this mile-stone without more than 3,000 trained volunteer circulators collecting signatures everywhere, every day, from flea markets to rest stops along I-75 to cow pastures and everywhere in between.

The organizers claim 13 times more individual donors than any other MI 2018 ballot initiative. These success stories suggest that the citizens of Michi-gan are ready for the change being proposed and are looking to finally end gerrymandering in our state.

Story By :  Jeff Milo
Photo By : Bernie Laframboise

FERNDALE HAS HAD ITS SHARE OF FAMOUS FOLKS HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT. BUT FEW ARE AS OUTGOING AS AUTHOR JOSH MALERMAN; HE’LL TELL YOU HIS STORY IF YOU BUMP INTO HIM. More likely, he’ll probably want to hear your story. As a writer, he’s naturally fascinated by people. He has a knack for getting familiar very fast. That’s expected, not just as an author who’s naturally fascinated by people, but also from years of touring with and performing at countless local rock venues with the band The High Strung.

Next year, Malerman’s breakout horror novel, Bird Box, is being adapted into a major motion-picture production, with a cast that includes Hollywood icons like Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich. His third novel on a major publishing house came out on Halloween, and his fourth will be out by Spring of next year. Oh, and you can hear his lead vocals over the rock music of The High Strung’s song “Luck You Got” during the opening credits of Showtime’s Shameless. Life begins at 40, they say, but for Malmeran, so does fame…, but that “fame” only comes after writing more than a dozen novels before his first publication, and after almo
st 20 years in his band during which they released seven LPs and logged about 2,000 days of touring.

“I knew from the moment Universal (Pictures) optioned Bird Box that I’d have no say in the script, the music, the process; I’m fine with that. Not just because that’s the natural process for an unknown author selling a book to the movies, but because I’m a true fan of collaborative art! I’m interested as hell to see what they do with it! Have fun with it, I say! The book will always be there.”

Bird Box made a big splash in the genres of horror and dystopic thrillers: a near future world (set in Michigan) where an uncanny new species has infiltrated civilization, the mere sight of these supernatural entities can spiral any observer off into destructive mania. “So, I just hope three things for the movie: that it’s scary as hell; that the music is phenomenal, and that everyone involved has a really good time making it. That’s where I’m at with it.” He said he feels the same way about next year’s Unbury Carol, another horror novel, which will be out on Del Rey, and has its own potential to be adapted some day.

His most recent, Goblin, came out on Halloween. It’s a novel told in six short, interconnected stories; effectively presented as “What if The Twilight Zone were an actual city?” And the citizens of this fictitious municipality known as Goblin seem to be aware that their town is naturally supernatural, and that an intangible entity of danger resides in its recesses.

“And that can easily be said about America as a whole, right now,” Malerman mused. “Things are crazy. We all know it. And yet, aren’t we all still proud to be from the USA? Aren’t we still glad to call this place home? Now, Goblin doesn’t have the same political madness, but it certainly has that pride. Everyone in Goblin is a bit obsessed…Behind every closed door and draped window, there’s a person fixated on something in their life that would sound crazy to the rest of us who are, really, in turn, fixated on our own infinitesimal things.” It being a horror novel, though, you can expect that Goblin residents often flirt with near or certain doom due to the malevolent magnetisms of their fixations.

Malerman says that Goblin shares very few similarities with Ferndale. Nevertheless, our city’s unique charms still influence Malerman’s imagination in other ways. “Ferndale is exactly the right-sized city in which, when you go out, you have a good chance of running into someone you know—but you still might not.

So when you do run into someone: it’s a spark! Ferndale is a great mix of
“small town” and “city,” so it definitely plays into the landscape of whatever book I’m writing. There are enough bookstores here (Library Bookstore, John King North) and in Oak Park and Berkley, where I can hope to find an old horror novel I’ve been searching for. Couple that with the coffee shops, here!Trip that with the bars! Then, let’s quadruple that with the folks inside those bars; yeah, Ferndale plays a major part in my life, which in turn plays a major part in the books.”

As Malerman tells it, he finds inspiration here in more eclectic forms. (And that, as you’ll read, is notably due to his partner, in life and in art, Allison Laako.) “Ferndale is the kind of smaller town that has completely adopted the big city freedom of expression,” Malerman says.

One weekend night, Laako enthused Malerman to head out to Zeke’s to see a band; that she’d catch up later. Only thing was, his driving ahead on this frigid winter night meant she’d have to walk there. “The band has already started and I suddenly see someone in a penguin suit outside walking up to the door. I think, ‘Hmm, we have a penguin suit…! I wonder…?’ And sure enough, brilliant Allison found the warmest thing in our house to wear, penguin-head and all. Everyone in the bar, they laughed, they got into it! You can be a freak in Ferndale! But…the locals are also hungry enough to ask a little something more of your freakishness—be clever about it, use it in a powerful or fun way. If you’re gonna let your freak flag fly, let us all hear it flapping in the wind. We like that sound in Ferndale!”

Laako is a hybrid, visual artist, improvisatory thespian, singer, and makeup visionary. Her creativity and vibrant imagination have certifiably inspired Malerman during their six years together—intimate scenes of which are captured in Quilt of Delirium, a recently released documentary streaming online, directed by Scott Allen. That film can continue telling the story of Malerman, beyond this page. It’s a story that includes his band, The High Strung, as well as unpacks the source of his deep love for telling stories.

Goblin is out now; Unbury Carol is on the way, and a movie version of Bird Box will be out after that. Oh, and then there’s that new High Strung album…All this creative output, surging right out of Ferndale.

By Sara E. Teller

THE LEXUS VELODROME, LOCATED AT TOLAN PLAYFIELD On the corner of I-75 and Mack Ave., will host its first event on December 9th, and opening to the general public in mid-January 2018. (A velodrome is an arena for bicycle riding and racing.)

“We really want to teach people to ride. We wanted a multi-sport facility that would take people to the next level,” said Jon Hughes of Downtown Ferndale Bikes. “In California, someone can easily train year-round. That’s harder to do here in Michigan because it’s cold for so many months out of the year. We wanted a place where people can come and work out that’s safe and clean. And, it’s indoors, so whether it’s raining, snowing or 80 degrees, it doesn’t matter. They don’t have to worry about traffic in there, either.”

Hughes is the son of Rochester Hills’ Dale Hughes, who has constructed more than 20 velodromes around the world, including those in China, Sri Lanka, Korea and Europe, as well as Chicago, Cleveland and, now, in Detroit. “My dad built the first track back in the ‘70s. It was a portable velodrome,” Hughes explained. “Then in 1996, his bid to do the Atlanta Olympic track was accepted. From there, he just continued.” Asked if his father holds the record for the largest number of velodromes built, Hughes said, “In the U.S., probably. There are really only three or four others in the world who do this.”

Hughes himself has a passion for cycling that began with both his dad and his grandfather. “I grew up in a bike shop. Oddly enough, my grandpa is my mom’s dad, but my dad happened to like cycling, too. That’s how my parents originally met. I’ve been doing this for a long time. Running the shop is a labor of love.” He said of his grandfather, “My grandpa built a velodrome at a park out at Mound and Outer Drive, and he trained three women from Royal Oak. They all went to Olympics and won multiple world championships.”

In fact, Hughes explained, “Bike racing was more popular than baseball around the turn of century until the 1930s or ‘40s. There are accounts of Babe Ruth coming up and asking for the riders’ autographs. It’s still well-known as an Olympic event. There are more Olympic medals in cycling than any other sport. China and Russia, especially, spend lots of money on cycling.”

Prior to the Lexus Velodrome, the Hughes designed the International Velodrome at Bloomer Park in Rochester Hills in the early 2000s. They felt there was a need to provide Detroiters with the same opportunities as competitors in warmer climates. “We have a pretty solid base of riders and racers there,” he said, adding that the Lexus velodrome won’t cost the City anything to operate. “It was paid for primarily by an angel donor, and there is no cost to the City of Detroit. The complex is run by the Detroit Fitness Foundation,” a non-profit entity.

Hughes said riders and sports enthusiasts of all ages are welcome. “Patrons can purchase a daily pass or a membership. Kids under 18 will be free and there are special programs for seniors.” He added, “There will be bike racing, and there will also be a track for walking and rollerblading. Once a month we will have rider competitions. Riders can sign up and sign a waiver. Initially, they’ll have to take a safety class that runs about an hour long, just teaches them track etiquette. After that, we can fit them with a rental bike, special shoes, helmets, and all the proper safety gear. We’ll walk them through the whole process. If they really get into it, we can help them at the Bike Shop, too.”

The primary goal of the facility is to train new riders. “We want to teach people how to race, or even just be a better rider,” Hughes explained. “We are recommended by the UCI, which is the governing committee for cycling, for riders preparing for a major event like the Olympics,” and teaching new riders is what he does best. “I tell everyone, to be in the NFL you’ll work super hard and dedicate your entire life to the sport. Still, there’s a slim chance, one in a million maybe, you’ll play professionally. With cycling, you still need to train and dedicate your time, but there’s not as big of a pool to get into. It’s a great opportunity for those aspiring to be in the Olympics. There will be open track times at the new velodrome. I encourage everyone to come down and try it out!”


Story By : Sara E. Teller
Photos By : Bernie Laframbiose

THE NEW TO YOU SHOP, located inside of St. John’s Episcopal Church off of Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, offers low-cost donations and consignment items with the purpose of raising money to support community outreach and various charities within the church as well as in the community at large. The shop has been in business for 37 years, originally opening its doors back in 1980.

“The New To You Shop went into business after a recommendation was made by a church member,” explained the shop’s manager, Kathy Williams. In the fall of 1980, the store was established by the Vestry at the recommendation of Ruth Ewing. The original purpose was to supply low-cost clothing and articles, offer an opportunity for profitable recycling of usable clothing, and to use the profits to aid other ministries all while welcoming people in the community.

“We sell clothing for infants, children, ladies and men, jewelry, accessories, collectibles, books, household items and more,” Williams explained, adding that “proceeds from the shop help to support the Open Hands Food Pantry located within the church (which is the largest emergency food bank for Oakland County), the Open Hands Garden, support groups that meet at the church, and a variety of organizations in the community such as Mariners Inn, Haven, SOS, Furniture Bank of Southeast Michigan, Common Ground and many more.” In addition to the items above, bedding, linen, DVDs and CDs and other goods are also accepted.

St. John’s established a Corporate Mission Committee to provide assistance for various types of outreach programs, and funds for the Committee come directly from profits of the New to You Shop. In 2015 alone, the store generated a total of $7,050 for this effort.

Although there are currently no volunteer opportunities available within New To You according to Williams, donations are always welcome and consignment is available on an ongoing basis. “We accept donations any time the shop is open, which is Monday through Friday 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., Saturday 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., and Monday evenings 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.,” she said. “We do not place limits on donations, but those interested in consignment should call the store to discuss as this is by appointment only.”

A consignment contract which outlines the terms of sale is available at the church’s website. These types of sales are slightly different from those made from donated items. Dropoff appointments are offered Monday through Friday only, and made by the manager. The maximum accepted per appointment is six manageable boxes with closed lids, or a two-foot span of hanging clothing. The shop sets all pricing.

New To You is located inside of St. John’s, with parking behind the church off of 11 Mile Rd. It is closed on snow days for Royal Oak School students, as well as throughout the summer from mid-June through Labor Day and major holidays throughout the year. All items are reduced once they have been on the floor for more than two months.

For more information, interested parties may visit the church’s web site at, call 248.546.1722, or email


OPEN HANDS FOOD PANTRY, housed in the lower level of St. John’s Episcopal Church, provides emergency food and toiletries to residents of Oakland County. Completely staffed by a dedicated group of Volunteers, the pantry is open every Saturday from 9:30 A.M. to 11:45 A.M. and every Monday from 12:30 P.M. to 2:45 P.M.

Open Hands Food Pantry volunteers place a premium on treating people with dignity and respect, so each household is met with individually to create a food or supply package that helps them most,” said Reverend Elizabeth Bingham.

Open Hands was founded in 1982 by a small group of parishioners from St. John’s Episcopal Church who saw a need to provide a few cans of food whenever families came by who needed some assistance. “The groceries were kept on a small bookshelf in a Sunday School room,” Elizabeth explained. “After a few years, the whole room was taken over as a space to store and distribute food. Over time, more and more space was required, more volunteers were added, and now an entire floor of the church is dedicated for food storage and distribution.”

She added, “Hunger is real in Oakland County” and the specified 2017 goal of the pantry was to feed 14,000 people. Of this goal, Elizabeth said, “14,000 is about the capacity that we can reach with our current hours of operation and current volunteer and funding base. If we were open more often or had more resources, we would serve more people. We don’t despair about that. We do what we can, with dignity and respect for our neighbors.”

Recently, some members of the parish invited students from the Oakland University’s engineering department to develop an irrigation system on a volunteer basis as part of their capstone project. “They got real-life experience in solving a problem for a ‘client’ using industrial engineering concepts and tools,” Elizabeth said of the endeavor and Open Hands Garden was the recipient of an automated irrigation system.” As a result, she added, “Open Hands Garden plants are always well-watered and producing – no matter what the weather!”

The Open Hands Garden is fairly new to the church, having been established only three years ago as part of an initiative to be able to provide both perishable and nonperishable food items. “We now have eight raised beds, and hope to expand the garden next year to lengthen our growing season and provide more vegetables. This is a volunteer-intensive project, and people come all over the region to help us plant, weed, and harvest. We always need more volunteers!” she explained.

The food pantry has been supported mostly by individual donations and a few local grants, such as The Village Club in Bloomfield Hills. “The ‘GM Men’s Club’ and ‘Corvettes on Woodward’ are very generous with us, as they use the St. John’s Parking Lot during the annual Dream Cruise and have become very supportive of our program,” Elizabeth explained, adding that donations also come in regularly from many of the local businesses, schools and organizations.

“Cash gifts are the best way to support us,” she said. These donations are tax deductible. “Also consider organizing a toiletry or non-perishable food drive for Open Hands in your faith communities, schools or businesses. It’s always best for us if you collect ‘just one thing’ – toothbrushes, canned soup, or tuna fish, etc.” Donating one specific item rather than mixing and matching makes it easier to shelve the product and distribute it from one place without having to sort lots of items. Some of the goods most needed are personal hygiene products, laundry and dish soap, soup and other canned goods, dried beans, peanut butter, socks, mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves and backpacks.

Small donations are accepted during the food pantry’s open hours. For larger donations, the church should be contacted first via phone or email: (248) 546-1255, option 2, or

The goal of Open Hands is to keep extending its reach. “Our goal is to expand our volunteer base and our pool of funders,” Elizabeth said. “We could do so much more if we had consistent funding. We are in the process of seeking gifts and long-term commitments from individual donors, as well as corporations, foundations, and other entities.”

Story By Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

KIMBERLY MARRONE ENJOYS HER ROLE as Oak Park’s Community & Economic Development Director, a position she’s held for over three years now. “I am committed to improving the economic outlook for the city by providing information to promote Oak Park as an appealing place to live, conduct business, and to visit,” she said.

“I work together with all stakeholders, including businesses, property owners, residents and neighboring communities to provide necessary staffing and resources to achieve continuous growth toward a thriving and sustainable community.

Marrone has also been charged with working with Oak Park’s Planning Commission to achieve continual improvement of the city’s zoning ordinance and site plan approvals, and updating the master plan. “We recently updated our city master plan this year, which had not been updated since 1996,” she explained. “Economic development can result in a stronger tax base, and I am focused on the implementation of key items recognized in the Strategic Economic Development Plan to increase the vitality of the city through the planning and implementation of initiatives.”

One of Oak Park’s goals is to ensure information is distributed to the community in a timely manner. “In my role I ensure that the city communications to residents and businesses are continuous, accurate, and timely. Our community engagement department is responsible for the city calendar, city magazine, event promotions, social media, website, and all videography.”

Marrone came from Imlay City, where she was the Downtown Development Authority Executive Director for over three years. “My prior position as a DDA Director was similar to the one I hold now, but with less responsibility and at a smaller scale. In my career, I have usually held positions related to sales, and this is true in my role here at Oak Park. The only difference is that the product now is the city.”

She added of her prior position, “As DDA Director I had to wear many hats. I was in charge of economic development, event-planning, communications, the website, working with businesses, applying for grants, and creating a business-friendly atmosphere. I created many strong relationships with businesses and the residents of Imlay City, and leaving there was difficult. I still keep in touch with many people in the community, though.”

Marrone said she found her niche in city development after leaving the workforce briefly. “I sort of stumbled upon it when I re-entered the workforce, after taking a few years off to raise my children,” she explained. “I initially began working for Imlay City as the Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, and within one-and-a-half, years, when the DDA Director position became available, they offered it to me. I graduated from Oakland University with a degree in marketing, and I created all the marketing materials for Imlay City when I worked there.”

She said Oak Park has many exciting plans in the works, especially the Nine Mile Redesign. “We are currently finalizing our plans for the Nine Mile Redesign. Streets and street networks provide a template for a rich combination of housing, shopping, and transportation choice. Nine Mile Road is the principal roadway through the center of Oak Park. Right now, it serves mostly motor vehicles, and neither creates an attractive environment for pedestrians to walk or take transit nor a safe environment for cycling or other modes of transportation. Together, this reduces the economic development potential along Nine Mile Road and makes Nine Mile Road an unattractive route for anyone not using a car.

“Streets and street networks should support a robust mix of culture and commerce. Street networks should integrate all modes of transportation. Aligning the goals set forth by the residents of Oak Park in the Strategic Economic Development Plan, and the Center For New Urbanism Nine Mile Redesign Plan, this project can play a catalytic role by better connecting people to the types of places they increasingly seek and providing them with choices for how to get to them.”

Kimberly noted her position can be challenging. “Balancing the needs and wants of a diverse group of residents and business owners” is one of the major challenges she faces. “In my role, change is a key component, which most people are adverse to. We try to communicate as effectively as possible and engage all stakeholders while planning any projects within the city.”

Of Oak Park, Kimberly says, “I love the diversity and working with all the residents and business owners. It is a great community with a great location, near many highways and within close proximity to downtown Detroit.” She enjoys spending time in Ferndale as well. “I love the vibrancy of Ferndale, and this is something I want to bring to the city of Oak Park. The Nine Mile Road Redesign project is one thing that will help us attain that in Oak Park.”