Photo by Bennie White ©2022


In Metro Detroit we have the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), the Detroit Department of Transportation, the Q-Line and other, more hyper-local transit authorities. These all aim to help individuals go from Point A to Point B with ease. However, as we know, transportation in Metro Detroit does not always come with ease.

I am, and have long-been, a strong advocate for public transportation because of the
benefits it provides to the communities it supports. A robust public transportation system allows citizens greater opportunities to travel to jobs, educational institutions and health care providers. It encourages economic growth, and most importantly, breaks down barriers that could otherwise inhibit community and personal successes.

Photo by Bennie White ©2022

IN OAK PARK WE HAVE DILIGENTLY WORKED TO SUPPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION through our own programs and policies. Earlier this year, myself and City officials welcomed a new Transit-Oriented Development, The Nine. We also allowed for a pilot micro-mobility program that provides individuals the chance to easily go from a bus stop to their home or their home to the store, and so on. The focus of this program is giving individuals the resources to connect the last mile of their trip.

How does the program support this?

We also have five MOGO stations in Oak Park, which provide easy access to bicycles for those interested in utilizing non-motorized transportation. Oak Park has also invested in bike lanes over the years to further encourage use of non-motorized transportation and to provide safe ways to ride.

In terms of the more general idea of public transpiration, Oak Park residents have long “opted-in” to the SMART system. There are four SMART routes that go through Oak Park and the City utilizes the connector system too, which provides curb-to-curb, advance reservation service within a ten-mile radius of the beginning destination.

SUCH SERVICES CERTAINLY BOLSTER OPPORTUNITIES for individuals to traverse through daily life without a vehicle, but is what we – as a region – offer enough?

I don’t think so.

Look at cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and more. Their interconnected transit systems allow for personal and economic successes. In Metro Detroit, we have come a long way, but I am certain a better-connected transit system – one that even allows us to get to-and-from the airport – will only push us even farther in the right direction. A dedicated public transportation route to the airport, guaranteed and regular routes into our inner-ring suburbs, transit lines to some of our most popular destinations (think sports arenas, universities, shopping districts) are fixed routes that we need. These are the same of type routes the cities with successful transportation systems have in place.

We are always looking for ways to exemplify our culture of excellence here in Oak Park and by creating an intentional, well-developed and expansive public transportation system we all can thrive, in Oak Park and beyond.

City Manager Erik Tungate
City of Oak Park


Photo by Bennie White ©2022

Just east down Nine Mile Road, the Ferlito Group broke ground on a $4.9 million transit-oriented housing project to be called The Nine. This 30-unit apartment, with studio and one-bedroom units, is located right by a bus stop, a MOGO station, and our newest electric scooters. These units will appeal to those looking for a live-work space that doesn’t require the expense of owning a car.

Owner Mike Ferlito raved about the ease of building in Oak Park because the staff works hard to facilitate and speed the development along. He said if we hadn’t taken the former five-lane street down to three with bike lanes he wouldn’t have considered the location, but the City has been pro-active in adding value to the area so we can expect more exciting development.

Cheerful Under the Radar Michigan star Tom Daldin visited BookBeat, one of the nation’s few successful independent book sellers. Led by Colleen Kammer and Carey Loren, BookBeat offers amazing personal service and an art gallery of african masks and other collectibles. Tom wrote the latest in his series, Under the Radar Michigan: Yet Another 50: Why Stop Now and his book-signing drew a great crowd.

REZONING A STRETCH OF ELEVEN MILE ROAD FROM LIGHT INDUSTRIAL TO MIXED USE allowed the City to birth a restaurant district with two delightful breweries: Unexpected Craft Brewing Company and Dog & Pony Show Brewery. Kenny Showler opened Berkley Coffee (in Oak Park), a one-of-a-kind coffee house with craft coffee, non-alcoholic drinks, sandwiches, sweets, and amazing entertainment. Come on down, this place is hopping.

Oak Parker, a friendly neighborhood gathering place in the white building at 13621 W. Eleven Mile. He likes to serve items that evoke memories so there will be burgers and schnitzel varieties.

Photo by Bernie LaFramboise ©2017

Mr. Bongiovanni was so impressed with the passion of the staff; he said there’s a real positive feeling in this city and he’s delighted to grow his business in the Oak Park market. Also on this active strip is a bistro called Oak Park Social, and soon owner Alex Bishai will add Salud Eleven, an up-scale Mexican restaurant.

BECAUSE OUR STAFF HAS BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL WINNING GRANTS, the City is looking to turn the run-down parking lot behind the restaurants into an active gathering place for the neighborhood that will attract friends from the region. Landscaping, lighting, tables, chairs and recreation amenities will be added to make this a showplace.

The staff put up a pop-pup mini park on Gardner just south of Eleven and held eight fun events there in October. Pumpkin Painting drew such a huge happy crowd, staff had to run out to get more pumpkins. Response to the pop-up park has been mostly positive and community engagement around the potential permanent park continues to determine its future.

We are delighted that economic development is now gaining momentum, attracting interested developers with growth ideas. Great things are yet to come.


The Nine will be a three story, transit-oriented housing development located at 8775 Nine Mile Rd., which is directly behind a bus station. This is a welcomed development to the City as it builds on Oak Park’s mission to provide diverse housing options that promote access to various resources.

“The Nine housing development amplifies our commitment to actively encouraging residential and business growth while providing the highest quality of life here in Oak Park,” said City Manager Erik Tungate. “The intentional location of The Nine near a bus stop and bike lanes, coupled with its work-live concept is exactly what Oak Park needs.”

IN ADDITION TO THE NINE BEING LOCATED NEAR A BUS STOP AND BIKE LANES, it is just down the street from the Nine Mile Linear Park, which has a multi-purpose path and various recreation amenities that span over several blocks. There are also two pocket parks, Sherman and Seneca, a future connector park and a MoGo bike station, all within walking distance of the development.

“We are excited that the Ferlito Group chose Oak Park to make the $4.9 million investment in the community,” said Economic Development & Planning Director Kimberly Marrone. “The project will help spur additional investment along the corridor as we try to attract mixed use developments within the City as we continue to grow. Increasing density with housing will allow our community to continue to grow even though we are almost entirely built out.”

The Nine is the first transit-oriented development in the City of Oak Park. Transit-oriented developments support sustainability, community health and strengthen the local economy. As more people choose to utilize public transportation and bikes the demand for transit-oriented developments is anticipated to increase.

ABOUT THE FERLITO GROUP: The Ferlito Group is one of the Southeast Michigan’s premier sources for real estate development and investment, having brought spearheading a wide range of successful commercial buildings, healthcare facilities, and retail and food service throughout Metro Detroit.

By Jenn Goeddeke

Jimmy Dowdle

Jimmy Dowdle

WE WISH TO EXTEND OUR HEARTFELT CONDOLENCES TO ALL FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND LOVED ONES OF JIMMY DOWDLE who died from a sudden cardiac event at his home on April 12th.

Dowdle resided in Detroit and was formerly of Battle Creek. He was much loved by his family and a great number of friends. Dowdle’s career in the food, bar and entertainment industry began at the Gaslight Restaurant in Battle Creek. He later moved to Detroit and worked for the Riverfront restaurant, before becoming co-owner of Menjo’s (Detroit). For the past 16 years, he helped manage Danny’s Irish Pub in Ferndale, alongside Dan Reedy (owner). The staff and patrons of Danny’s were all extremely close with him.

Dowdle was outgoing and friendly with a great sense of humor, and a quick wit, plus a talent for lighting up a room with his smile/laughter. He was also very generous and thoughtful towards others. Some of his interests included watching sports; he was a huge U of M football and also Tigers baseball fan. (One of his last outings was the Tigers’ opening day on April 8th, with a group of his close friends). Dowdle also cheered for the Pistons, Red Wings, and Lions teams. He had a diverse taste in music and listened to many bands such as Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, and Roxy Music. Fortunately, he had the opportunity to see one of his favorite bands, the Rolling Stones, at Ford Field last November, with one of his longtime best friends, Gary Wagner.

Dowdle loved animals and was a proud pet dad to a rescue dog named Willow. The memorial service was held on April 21st at the Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care in Battle Creek. Further celebrations of Dowdle’s life have been organized by Dan Reedy of Danny’s Irish Pub. (Event has passed). Memorial contributions can be made to any local animal shelter, and condolence messages may be sent to:

Tim Idzikowski

Tim Idzikowski & his wife, Tracey Kane

TIM IDZIKOWSKI, 36, CO-OWNER OF THE POPULAR DETROIT BBQ COMPANY food truck died in his sleep on April 14th, 2022.

We offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of Tim Idzikowski who died unexpectedly at his home on Thursday April 14th. No cause of death has been given. Idzikowski was originally from Fair Haven but resided in Royal Oak. He established the Detroit BBQ Company around 15 years ago, with his brother Zac Idzikowski, and worked full-time as a food truck chef for over a decade. He was also helping his good friend, Kevin Heaney, launch a brand of hot sauce called Man’s Best Friend Sauce Co.

His family stated that he loved cooking even as a child and closely followed The Food Network on TV. His favorite chef was Anthony Bourdain. His food truck was hugely popular at various local outdoor events, including the Pig & Whiskey annual event in Ferndale. Reportedly, this is also where he first met his wife, Tracey Kane, and she was immediately impressed with him. According to all sources, Idzikowski was extremely loyal, kind, and generous to everyone. Kane mentioned that he was also a big animal lover and was an outstanding pet dad to their two dogs, Ruthie and Mo Mo.

A celebration of his life was held on April 20th by his close friend Stephen Roginson, owner of the Batch Brewing Company in Corktown. The family has asked that any donations in his memory be made to Focus Hope or the Detroit Dog Rescue in Detroit, and condolence messages may be sent to


On March 10th, 2020, voters approved a $125 million bond to make a significant investment in our educational system. Due to rising property values and expiring debt, this bond was made possible at no tax rate increase to our community.

To learn more about all of the bond projects that will be completed over the next decade visit You can also visit our Ferndale Schools web page where we update the community on all of our bond projects as they are completed:

While the bond will ensure every classroom in the District is updated, the most significant investment is the construction of a brand-new, state-of-the-art, Ferndale Lower Elementary School. While we are still more than a year away from its opening, in April of 2022 Ferndale Schools hosted a ground-breaking ceremony at the schools future location within Jackson Park.

THE NEW FERNDALE LOWER ELEMENTARY IS 50 PERCENT LARGER than the current building and will expand classroom sizes while integrating new scientific insights from learning environment research. High-efficiency heating, cooling, and infrastructure will accompany advanced classroom technology for every student.

Construction will continue until 2023, but you can take a virtual “fly through” of the building and outdoor spaces right now at While small modifications may be made during construction, this video will give you a great look at what to expect from the new Ferndale Lower Elementary.

To all of our neighbors, thank you for your steadfast commitment to ensuring our students have the optimal learning environment. Your investment in their future will be the bedrock of our lifelong-learning community for generations to come.

Photo ©2021 by Bennie White

IN RECOGNITION OF THE UNPRECEDENTED TIMES and the immense loss so many have experienced, the City of Oak Park will create a space that allows for reflection on the pandemic and remembrance of those who lost their lives to COVID-19.

We recognize each individual has their own story on how COVID-19 impacted them and that each story has affected our community. Some of the greatest impacts have been felt by those who lost a loved one to COVID-19. To ensure victims of the virus are properly remembered, the City will be installing a thoughtful and permanent memorial. We invite Oak Park residents to share their input on what an appropriate COVID-19 Memorial may be, where it should be installed and, most importantly, to provide information on Oak Park residents who fell victim to the virus. The City will, on an ongoing basis take the information of those lost to COVID-19 to ensure their memory is preserved.

Information can be provided by utilizing the QR code on this page (photo); and pictures of Oak Park residents who died from COVID-19 can be sent to Communications Director Courtney Flynn at We thank you for your valued input and are humbled at the opportunity to provide a space for our community to honor and remember their loved ones.

Photo ©2021 by Bennie White

THE CITY OF OAK PARK HAS FIVE MOGO STATIONS and the numbers show that our community knows how to ride!

In 2020, Oak Park had the highest usage of any community in the surrounding area, with 1,667 trips taken. We hope our residents continue to utilize this service offered through the City’s partnership with MoGo.

For those looking to get on a MoGo bike and ride, the Oak Park stations are located at:

• West 11 Mile Rd. & Tyler St.

• Lincoln St. & Greenfield Rd.

• Coolidge Hwy. & Lincoln St.

• Oak Park Blvd. & Parklawn St.

• West Nine Mile Rd. & Manistee St.

To stay up-to-date on MoGo News, visit their website at or follow them on social media (@MoGoDetroit).

Photos ©2021 by Bennie White

THE Oak Park Water Tower Social District, on 11 Mile Rd., opened to the public in August and continues to offer opportunities for patrons to enjoy local businesses, both inside and out. The Social District welcomes those ages 21 and above to purchase from participating businesses to-go alcoholic beverages and enjoy them in the Commons Area.


• Monday through Saturday: Noon-10:00 P.M.

• Sunday: Noon-6:00 P.M.

• Closed on holidays recognized by the City of Oak Park


• Oak Park Social

• Dog & Pony Show Brewing

• Unexpected Craft Brewing Company

• Berkley Coffee

Social districts were created through a state initiative in 2020 with the hopes of spurring social and economic involvement in local communities. As the Water Tower Social District in Oak Park continues to experience its rebirth, this initiative will surely only help the businesses in that corridor grow while also helping to foster a deeper sense of community.

Photos ©2021 by Bennie White


OVER THE LAST YEAR THE CITY OF OAK PARK HAS WELCOMED several new faces to the leadership team, including Human Resources & Labor Relations Director Megan Burke, Library Director Kimberly Schaaf & Communications and Public Information Director Courtney Flynn. These staffing updates will continue to ensure Oak Park remains in line with its commitment to excellence, innovation and high-quality service.

“I am proud of the team we have in Oak Park, as we all work to meet the needs of Oak Park residents and continuously look for ways to improve how we deliver our services,” said City Manager Erik Tungate. “The additions of Directors Burke, Schaaf and Flynn to our team have solidified our culture of excellence in this City and make me confident we are blazing a bright trail for the future.”


MEGAN “MEG” BURKE IS AN EXPERIENCED HUMAN RESOURCES (HR) PROFESSIONAL, who came to the City of Oak Park with knowledge from both the private and public sectors.

She attended Wayne State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, and in 2020 she completed a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership, with a concentration in Human Resources. She began working in the City of Oak Park in August 2020.

Burke’s philosophy on HR is that empathy, humility and relationships are the foundation of Human Resources, and that focusing on these principles creates a productive, safe, and comfortable working-environment. Some of her favorite aspects of the job include labor relations, compliance review, contract/proposal writing, and benefit administration. She holds various certifications, including:

• Certified Labor Relations Leader (CLRL): Michigan State University.

• Certified Professional in Public Sector Human Resources (IPMA-CP): International Public Management Association of Human Resources.

• Yellow Belt in Lean Six Sigma: Six Sigma Global Institute.

• Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Adult & Youth: National Behavioral Council.

Burke serves on the Board of Directors for both Macomb County Community Mental Health (MCCMH) and the Michigan Public Employer Labor Relations Association (MPELRA) and is an active member of Woodside Bible Church in Troy.

She lives with her husband, Tim, an IBEW Local 58 electrician, in Chesterfield Township. She enjoys golfing, traveling, cooking, and spending quality time with family and friends.


KIMBERLY SCHAAF JOINED THE OAK PARK TEAM IN THE SPRING OF 2021, with a wealth of knowledge related to libraries and program. Prior to taking on the Director of Library role at the Oak Park Library, Schaaf served as the Head of Adult Services at Springfield Township Library.

Overall, she has 14 years of library experience. Schaaf is also professionally involved in the Library Network Committees Group and serves current chair of the Shared System Users Group.

In addition to her library experience, Schaaf also has several years of corporate business management experience and holds degrees and certifications in the following:

• Bachelor of Arts in English with a specialization in secondary education, University of Michigan.

• Master of Library Science: Wayne State University.

• Professional Level One Librarian Certificate: The Library of Michigan.

• Certificate in Library Community Assessment.

Schaaf is married with two teenage boys. In her free time she enjoys gardening, hiking, doing mixed media art projects and spending time with family.


COURTNEY FLYNN JOINS THE CITY OF OAK PARK’S MANAGEMENT TEAM as the Director of Communications. She formerly served as Public Relations Manager for the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.

She is well-versed in government communications with an emphasis on community engagement and programming, crisis communications, media relations and policy analysis. Prior to serving in the public sector, Courtney served as a local government and education journalist.

She earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Print Journalism from Bowling Green State University. In addition to her extensive communications experience, Courtney woks with the Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies analyzing socioeconomic data and policies.

In her free time, Flynn enjoys walking her dog, road trips centered around hiking, live music and finding the best places to eat.

By Sara E. Teller

SHELL CLEANERS, ON COOLIDGE HIGHWAY, OPENED ITS DOORS ON MARCH 13, 1982. Narendra Patel, originally from India, had immigrated to the United States already with a college degree, but without speaking a word of English.

“My sister lived in Oak Park,” said Patel, which is why he chose to settle in the area. “I was looking for something to do here and the people were very nice.”

A laundromat seemed like a great option. Patel would be able to interact with many Oak Park residents and could learn English along the way. He also began to night school in Southfield after work. It wasn’t the easiest start, but he found his way, learning the language of his customers and eventually feeling at home.

“I was able to clean clothes for many customers and serve the city,” he said, which gave him great satisfaction.

Shell Cleaners served the city for 40 years and became an institution largely because Patel was known for doing great work at a reasonable price, which allowed his business to boom. He began to get to know many of his customers on a first-name basis and they would return to the the cleaners time-and-again for a quality job.

Patel was not only known for taking care of his customers’ clothing but serving them “always with a kind smile.” She added that he was such an integral part of the city that former U.S. Representative “Sander Levin wrote a letter to help bring [Patel’s] wife from India north of Bombay.” Eventually, the two were able to settle in the area together.

Patel enjoyed serving the people of Oak Park as much as they loved the work he did. They became more than just clients to him over the years. “They weren’t just customers, they were extended family to me,” he said.

YET NOW, AFTER ALL OF THOSE YEARS IN BUSINESS, Shell Cleaners has officially closed its doors. The pandemic has brought about many unforeseen changes and has hit small businesses especially hard. Unfortunately, small cleaners like Shell have been unable to obtain the same quality soap customers have come to expect and the prices of essentials such as poly bags and hangers have tripled. Because many professionals are working from home, they’ve transitioned from wearing business suits that need to be dry cleaned to more casual clothes.

All of these things affected Patel’s business. He tried to keep Shell afloat for as long as possible but there came a point that he had to make a very difficult decision. It was time to sell the building and close Shell’s doors.

“The Coronavirus has affected the whole country,” Patel said. “But it has very been hard on small businesses and their supply chains. I’m retired now but I wasn’t ready to.”

He said, “I miss the city. The city was my family.” He added he especially misses former and current Mayors Jerry Naftaly and Marian McClellan, respectively.

When asked what the future holds, Patel said he would like to eventually do something else but hasn’t decided what that is yet. Because of the pandemic and the continued difficulties small businesses face, “Right now, I’m just trying to take it easy,” he replied. Patel added he is no longer in Oak Park but may like to return someday.

Even though Shell has closed its doors, it will never be forgotten by all of the customers served over the four decades it was in business. Flynn said, “We are delighted he settled in Oak Park and wish him joy in his retirement.”