By Sara E. Teller

THE PROMISE ZONE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM IS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION founded in 2010, with scholarships first being awarded to the class of 2012. It is one of ten original “Promise Zones” created through legislation signed by Governor Granholm in 2009.

More than 60 percent of jobs in Michigan and throughout the country are projected to require a post-secondary credential by 2025, yet only 15 percent of Hazel Park adults currently hold a degree or certificate. “With this in mind, the Hazel Park Promise Zone Scholarship Program was created to eliminate finances as a barrier to higher education for Hazel Park students, to increase educational attainment in the community, and to incentivize families to move into or continue residing in the school district,” said Hazel Park’s Promise Zone Executive Director Kayla Roney Smith.

“The program guarantees a tuition-free path to an associate’s degree for students who reside in the school district, which is made up of the city of Hazel Park and a portion of the city of Ferndale, and who attend Hazel Park Schools from 5th grade through graduation.”

Students who complete the application process are eligible to get full tuition and fees paid for at Oakland Community College (OCC). The scholarship covers 62 credits within four years following high school. Students must reside in the school district at the time of graduation in order to qualify, and to receive the maximum scholarship they must have attended Hazel Park Schools from fifth grade (or earlier) through their graduation year.

Students who enter the District after fifth grade are also eligible for partial scholarships, and a student who chooses to attend a Michigan institution other than OCC may be able to utilize it there as well.

“​Students are encouraged to apply during their senior year of high school through a brief electronic application,” Roney Smith explains. “This application is released to students during ‘College Month,’ which is celebrated in October. In the spring, they are asked to sign a hard copy form acknowledging they understand the requirements and benefits of the program.” Students must also complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and any additional financial aid application steps required by the colleges they plan to attend. “While there is not a strict application deadline, we ask that they complete these steps prior to their last day of school in order to ensure quick processing,” she said.

THE PROGRAM IS NON-COMPETITIVE, meaning as long as students meet the requirements and
complete an application, they are eligible. The only exception is if they receive a Pell Grant larger than the amount of the Promise Zone scholarship. If that’s the case, students are able to use their scholarships during the semesters they do not receive Pell Grant funding.

The scholarship may be used at any college, university, or approved vocational program located in the state of Michigan. If students receive a federal Pell Grant that does not exceed the Promise Zone amount, the amount of the grant received is subtracted from their total Promise Zone scholarship for that semester.

While the Promise Zone was created for the purpose of providing scholarships, it has evolved to provide other programming and services, as well,” said Roney Smith. “We provide a full-time college adviser at Hazel Park High School to pro-vide individualized and group assistance to students and families to assist them through the college preparation, exploration, application and financial aid processes. This adviser also assists students in accessing other, non-Promise Zone scholarships.”

Hazel Park administrators are also constantly working to create new partnerships and bring services and re-sources designed to assist students in preparing for the colleges. Roney Smith explained, “We worked with UAW Chrysler to create a two-year skilled trades training program, which operates each afternoon during the school year and recently graduated its first cohort of Hazel Park High School as well as Hazel Park Alternative High School students. We have also worked with the School District, the City, and business partners to offer paid summer internships and professional development training to high schoolers.”

By Ingrid Sjostrand

IT MIGHT BE HARD TO BELIEVE A CITY THE SIZE OF HAZEL PARK –ONLY 2.8 SQUARE MILES – HAS 12 PARKS WITHIN ITS LIMITS. Even more surprising is that among those parks are a BMX course, dog park, two community gardens, and an art park.

These 12 parks are maintained by a small recreation department led by Sareen Papakhian, Recreation Director and assistant planner. Papakhian describes their mission as “to enrich the lives of Hazel Park residents by providing quality park and recreation facilities, green spaces, programs, and services to the community.”

Their responsibilities expand far beyond just park maintenance, including everything from managing programming for seniors and children, coordinating many of the City’s annual events and renting community center space for activities and classes.

“We oversee senior programming, a congregate meal program for seniors, we provide senior event planning and a space for seniors to congregate in the evenings,” Papakhian says. “But, most importantly, we handle senior transportation and that’s in collaboration with SMART.”

“Beyond that, we also provide recreation and youth programming for residents and non-residents. That includes a summer camp program called Kids Camp and various sports leagues – our largest activity true to Hazel Park is baseball.”

The Recreation Department oversees eight annual events, and will be adding a ninth on August 4th with their Family Fun event in collaboration with Oakland County Parks. Other events include the Daddy Daughter Dance in February and Earth Day celebration and annual Spring Clean Up with the Department of Public Works in April.

“Our largest special event we held over Memorial Day weekend, the Hazel Park Memorial Festival,” Papakhian says. “Skerbeck Family Carnival from Escanaba comes down and helps us out with that. There’s also a refreshment tent taken care of by the Hazel Park Lions Club.”

Papakhian has been director of the Recreation department since 2014. She has her master’s degree in urban planning from Wayne State University, and also acts as assistant city planner aiding in economic development and coding enforcement.

IN HER FOUR YEARS WITH THE RECREATION DEPARTMENT, Papakhian has been working tirelessly to improve the quality of Hazel Park’s green areas through new initiatives like the tree planting program. “This was our first tree planting in over a decade, in partner-ship with ReLeaf Michigan. As a pilot program they gave us double the amount of trees, and we were able to plant 20; 16 in Scout Park and four in Karam Park, in and outside the dog park,” she says. “That was a big accomplishment for me because I love trees, and we are in dire need of increasing tree canopy within the parks and the city.”

In addition to the tree planting program, the Parks and Recreation Department has been replacing and re-purposing playground and park equipment.

“Our five-year plan would be to provide new park equipment for our parks in the city. Our parks are in dire need of new equipment, and what we’ve done for a few decades has been to maintain that equipment,” Papakhian says. “My number one goal as Director is to replace equipment as best we can through fundraising, reaching out to businesses in town which I’ve been able to do during my tenure.”

These fundraising efforts have resulted in $5,000 solicited for new baseball pitching machines, a playscape sourced for Scout Park at no cost to taxpayers, a partnership with the United States Tennis Association with a $25,000 grant for new tennis courts at Hazel Park High School and another playscape installed at Karam Park through the assistance of matching grants from playground company GameTime.

“Additionally, a family that provided many generations of civic betterment to Hazel Park donated a fitness park within Green Acres Park,” Papakhian adds. “From what I know that’s the first fitness park in a public park in the region. We also have a bike pump station there and planted a tree there in memoriam to that family.”

While the Recreation Department is doing great work with what they have, they still see the struggles of a small staff and an even smaller budget. Papakhian is the only full-time employee, working with the assistance of just a part-time office employee, sports and camp supervisors, three drivers and three building attendants. There is also a Recreation Advisory board of six members that meet bi-monthly to review and approve projects.

“We try to do what we can with what we have. The main struggle is the cost of everything – that’s our number one detriment.” Papakhian says.

“Personally, I think we’ve done a great job of being resourceful. My staff is the hardest-working part-time staff I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m proud of what we do here.”

PAPAKHIAN SEES THE WORK ETHIC OF HER STAFF reflected in the residents of Hazel Park every day, and that volunteers who help with park clean up and community gardens are just as important to the success of the Recreation Department.

“Hazel Park is a city of fighters. I don’t know any other city that has done what Hazel Park can do with what we have. I’m proud to work for a city of fighters and proud to work with the residents of Hazel Park,” She says. “Anytime a resident wants to clean a park we would support that endeavor in any way we possibly can.”

By Ingrid Sjotrand

BEAUTIFYING PUBLIC SPACES IS OFTEN THOUGHT OF as the responsibility of the government, but when citizens pitch in it can make all the difference. The Neighborhood Enrichment Committee is the perfect example of this in the things they do for the City of Hazel Park.

Founded in 2004 in collaboration with former Mayor Jan Parisi, the group takes on projects to enhance the appearance and livelihood of Hazel Park. This includes building community gardens throughout the city, hosting fundraising dinners and donating to local organizations.

“Neighborhood Enrichment is about inspiring our citizens to make their little corner of the city the best it can be. We are part of the community. We are your neighbors and friends, and all of us are doing what we can, with what we have, where we are,” their mission statement (listed on their Face-book page) says.

Probably the most well-known contribution of Neighborhood Enrichment are their many “greenification” efforts. One of their first and biggest projects was adopting Kennedy Park on Merrill St., where they updated playground equipment, in-stalled benches and built a community garden consisting of 17 plots available for residents to grow their own produce. Since 2005, the group has continued to maintain and improve the park.

They have since created a planting team, called the Flower Power Committee, which is responsible for gardening and landscaping public areas. One doesn’t have to look far in Hazel Park to see the impact they’ve made, from making over the corner of John R. and 9 Mile roads by building a display and adding flowers and trees in front of City Hall, to recently collaborating with residents of American House to fill planters outside the Hazel Park Recreation Center. One mission of the Flower Power committee is bringing the hazelnut bush – Hazel Park’s namesake – back to the city. They’ve plant-ed some in Kennedy Park and celebrate St. Filbert’s Day on August 20th. The filbert is a variation of the hazelnut, and the celebration is derived from the Roman Catholic holiday celebrated in France and England. Typically, the City puts on a memorial race on the holiday.

NEIGHBORHOOD ENRICHMENT ALSO WORKS for the betterment of residents and future leaders of Hazel Park. The group has been funding and installing the “little free libraries” seen around the city, and in June of 2017, they donated two benches with the Hoover PTA to Hoover Elementary for their “Buddy Benches” program. Buddy Benches are a safe space on the playground where more introverted students can sit if they need a friend or playmate. The project hopes to encourage empathy among students.

Neighborhood Enrichment also hosts occasional garden tours of Hazel Park neighborhoods, decorates City Hall for Halloween and Christmas and created the Curb Appeal Awards, recognizing the best-looking homes in the area. In July, they coordinated a city-wide garage sale.

All the work Neighborhood Enrichment does to better Hazel Park is supplemented by donations and fundraising. Their largest fundraising event is an annual dinner held in May with raffles and prizes. Typically a spaghetti dinner, the past two years the organization has taken advantage of May 5th falling on a weekend and held a Cinco de Mayo-themed event. The 2018 event was co-catered by Country Boy restaurant and featured a taco bar with sides and desserts.

The group is always accepting donations and looking for new members interested in beautifying and bettering Hazel Park. Meetings are scheduled to be held the first Thursday of each month at the Hazel Park Recreation Center and event details.

By Mary Meldrum

IT IS ONE OF THE LARGEST REDEVELOPMENT PROJECTS IN OAKLAND COUNTY,” said City Manager Ed Klobucher, referring to the Tri-County Commerce Center. “This is the largest building in Hazel Park, and overnight became the biggest taxpayer in the city.”

Ashley Capital partnered with the owners of the Hazel Park Raceway in 2015 to develop a 575,000 square foot building in the west parking lot of Hazel Park Raceway at 10 Mile and Dequindre. Ashley is one of the largest property holders that primarily markets to tier-one auto suppliers, and they planned and developed this property to be a light manufacturing center. The site is ideal for light industrial, manufacturing and distribution businesses.

The building is situated on the northwest corner of a 120-acre site located near the intersection of I-75 and I-696. The 36-acre site is surplus land for the thoroughbred horse race track that was in operation until April of 2018. This is a perfect location within the Detroit Metropolitan area, and is considered “ground zero” for any business needing to quickly access major expressways heading north, south, east, and west. The building was completed in the spring of 2017 and is roughly 80 percent leased.

The Tri-County Commerce Center currently houses three tenants: an Amazon distribution center, LG Electronics, and Bridgewater Interiors, which is a logistics company related to Adient, formerly Johnson Controls Automotive. There are two spaces left to lease out in the center; one is 55,000 square feet and the other space is 68,000 square feet.

THE CENTER SITS ON HAZEL PARK’S FORMER DISPOSAL SITE, which means the developer is cleaning the site to meet environmental standards and guaranteeing the $2.1 million loan through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The Tri-County Commerce Center will help to add between 200 and 300 jobs and $300,000 to the city’s tax revenue.

Ashley Capital has purchased the rest of the remain-ing raceway land, and will be breaking ground on their second building within the next year. The third development is undetermined at the time of this writ-ing. Both of these proposed sites are speculative as of right now and no tenants are in place. According to Kevin Hegg, VP of Acquisitions and Leasing for Ashley Capital, they are investigating and research-ing what types of commercial real estate is in demand for these sites.

The location is the primary factor that attracted Ashley to develop here. Hazel Park offers fantastic ac-cess to highways and all quadrants to Metro area markets.

“Hazel Park has been very supportive of our endeavors,” Hegg explains. “The city is progressive, pro business, and easy to work with. I want to commend them for their efforts and recommend other companies to take a hard look at Hazel Park. They have the right people in place right now in City Hall, a great location and a great story.”

Hegg emphasized that, “We are very confident in the location, and plan to continue to develop the area with a second 650,000 square foot building as well as additional building thereafter. We plan to be there for the next couple of years developing.”

When asked about working with the MDEQ, Hegg added, “Michigan has been at the forefront of brown-field redevelopment as far as protecting new buyers from past polluters. [The racetrack property] is a brownfield site and a great example of how to take blighted areas, improve them, provide economic impact to an area and provide a protected environment that helps to separate any toxins from the area. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

While the Tri-County Commerce Center is growing and supporting Hazel Park’s economic turnaround, the plans for further development on the site are steadily progressing, too. Evolution of the site from historical racetrack to economic catalyst for the city marks a very tangible and persuasive shift in Hazel Park’s renaissance.

Sara E. Teller

THE HAZEL PARK LIBRARY HAS BEEN IN BUSINESS FOR OVER 80 years, and has a rich history. It occupied two different locations before the City of Hazel Park constructed the current building on 9 Mile and
John R in 1970.

In May 1936, the Hazel Park Parent Teacher Association Council invited representatives from all religious, fraternal, business, social, and community groups to meet at the High School and discuss establishing a public library in Hazel Park. On November 4 of that year, a permanent library organization was established, a constitution adopted, and officers elected. The Library was formally opened on December 12, 1936, in a room loaned by the Board of Education in the basement of the Lacey School.

The Library operated in the basement until two lots were eventually purchased at the corner of Pearl and Rhodes in 1937, at a net cost of $368.89, for the purpose of providing a permanent site for the building. Current Hazel Park Library Director Corrine Stocker said, “As a true community project, more than 1,000 Hazel Park residents contributed either money or labor toward the building and equipment. Hazel Park pioneered in this field and proved that no community need be without a library.” The official opening of the new building was January 6, 1941, and that site is currently the home of the Hazel Park Historical Museum.

The Library’s present location was designed by Machida and Associates, who also designed the Hazel Park City Hall and Fire Station. The new building was constructed to replace the former Erickson Library, which was overcrowded.

“As the years passed, the Library took on a greater role, not only as a source for reading material but also as a center of the Hazel Park community,” said Stocker. “Services increased and changed with our increasingly technological times. Computers were installed in the 1980s, and WI-Fl access was installed in 2010, so patrons could bring their own computers and connected devices to the library to access the Internet as well. We now have 19 computers available for our patrons to use.”

The Hazel Park Library subscribes to Overdrive and RBDigital to offer its visitors access to thousands of books, audio books, and magazines. A whole host of programming is also offered, including regular book clubs, children’s story hours, Fun Fridays for Teens, movie nights, craft programs, Detroit Institute of Arts programs, and outreach services to senior citizens in the area.

“Every day, we generally offer one or more free programs to the public,” said Stocker. “For adults, regular monthly programs include stitch & Knit Night, a Make & Take Craft Club, and Book Club. For children, regular monthly programs include Family Fun Night with free pizza from Nick’s and Lego Club. We also offer weekly baby and preschool story times, weekly yoga, and computer tutoring. Once a month, we hold a Pop-Up Farmer’s Market with locally-sourced food.”

THE HAZEL PARK LIBRARY FRIENDS (HPLF) is a charitable organization serving the Hazel Park District Library, and helping provide many programs and services. The HPLF organizes and runs fundraisers to benefit the Library, including selling snacks, candy, baked goods, plants, books and other items. Occasionally, the HPLF also raffles off gift baskets. Much of the money raised by the HPLF also gets donated back to the Library to pay for things that ii could not otherwise afford, such as perform­ers throughout the year, summer reading prizes, promotional banners, new folding tables, a scanner, and professional development conferences for Library staff.

“The organization donates thousands of service hours to the Library every year,” Stocker said. ‘Volunteer activities include cleaning and painting the windows, seasonal decorating, organizing the library’s storage areas, sorting donations, grooming the grounds, shelving materials, and assisting with programs. The Friends also promote Library programs and services via social media and represent the Library at community engagement events.”

The HPLF stocks the Library’s Little Free Libraries (LFL). LFL is an international program in which communities put out boxes, usually with the help of volunteers, and fill them with free books for residents to borrow and return. ‘We offer four,” Stocker said. “They’re located at Tuski Park, Scout Park (soon lo be moved near the fire department), the Rec Center, and the art park. These are full of donated books.”

“Thanks to the support of our tireless volunteers, our elected Library Board, as well as the help and assistance of the Hazel Park Library Friends, the Hazel Park District Library continues to grow and develop its resources to adapt to the needs of its patrons,” Stocker said.

CORRINE STOCKER HAS BEEN EMPLOYED at the Hazel Park Library for 14 years. She assumed her current role after Hazel Park’s former Director, Jessica Keyser, left her position to take on the directorship role at the Ferndale Library.

Leading up to that point, Stocker explained, “I started as a half-time adult services librarian in March of 2004. Then they created a full-time position for me, and I worked in that capacity until I was promoted to Library Director in 2013.”

Stocker earned a four-year degree in English from Michigan State University and took a position at Gale Research following graduation, where she was employed for several years. The company paid for her to return to obtain a post­graduate degree in library sciences from Wayne State University. She eventually left Gale to be a corporate librarian for Arthur Anderson before heading to Hazel Park’s library.

She said to be successful in her position, “you have to like helping people.” She added, “I love being able to help people in a meaningful way.” She also enjoys the ability to be constantly learning. ”You learn something new every day. When someone comes to the reference desk to ask a question, you may not always have a ready answer, so you have to try a bunch of things and learn together.”

Stocker loves to read but doesn’t necessarily have a favorite book or author. “It’s constantly changing,” she explained. “It just depends on the day. I love to read, of course. I read every night and prefer this to watching television. I also love to garden, go hiking, and just be outdoors.”

The Hazel Park Library offers a unique opportunity for her to provide a variety of resources and activities to patrons while getting to know each and every one of them. “Our library has a reputation as the little library that does a lot,” said Stocker. “And, everyone knows everyone – it’s kind of like Cheers!’

LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES ARE A TREND, AND POP­PING UP IN YARDS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. And, thanks to Neighborhood Enrichment, Hazel Park has a few LFLs of our own to promote reading and access to books for kids.

Started in 2009 by Wisconsin resident Todd Bol, Little Free Libraries are small wooden containers mounted on a post in a public place and filled with books. Bobby McDermott, a member of Neighborhood Enrichment, spearheaded the Hazel Park initiative, and already they have helped create four Little Free Librar­ies around the city.

“The goal is to encourage kids to read. And adults too, with children, and to have conversations about books with kids. That conversation may be more important than the number of words a child knows entering school,” McDermott says. “Let kids experience the joy and adventure of reading, the book you ‘don’t want to put down’ with a flashlight under the blanket!”

The containers used for the project are recycled newspaper stands built by resi­dent artist Richard Gage, and books for the libraries have been donated by Neighborhood Enrichment President, Lois Reithel.

“Richard Gage built the structure designed to look like a library that sits on top. He donated his time, materials and creativity,” McDermott says. “Susan Fried­man, now a retired art teacher who taught here in Hazel Park, did the artwork to transform Richard’s wonderful construction into a library.”

Friedman describes how she dressed up the newsstands, using inspiration from a Beverly Cleary book for the one located in front of Hoover Elementary School.

“I used the images of her childhood experiences as inspiration for the four sides of the little library form. The roof is patterned with a quaint shingle design. Each side represents a season and three of the sides are painted with windows that reveal the activity inside the library,” she says. “There are shelves of books with children, a dog, a librarian helping a little girl, and a cat in an upper window. Hand imprints of kindergartners cover the old newspaper base.”

These libraries have added creativi­ty to the landscape of Hazel Park, and are seeing interest among chil­dren.

“I was pleased to be a part of something that supports reading and the experience of holding books rather than electronic devices,” Friedman says. “I thought it unlikely that they would get much use, but have since learned that they are visited fre­quently, and children love the idea.”

McDermott says the groups plan to add another Little Free Library to the city in the future, and that the benefits of the project are endless.

“They improve literacy, strengthen our neighborhoods and schools, bring families and kids together, build trust and community,” he says.

By Maggie Boleyn

IF YOU OR A MEDICARE-ELIGIBLE LOVED ONE would like to spend more time talking with your healthcare provider, or learn more about managing your health and attend fun classes, you might want to investigate the Hazel Park branch of Oak Street Health.

“We’re making an impact,” says Rafe Petty, Regional Vice President, Detroit Region, at Oak Street Health. “Oak Street Health offers Hazel Park residents more access to a higher quality of care that wasn’t previously available. We filled a gap by providing excellent primary care, close to home, for many of our patients.”

Oak Street Health aims to deliver value to patients, versus volume of services. Petty says, “Our care is personal. Our physicians spend more than twice as long with each patient than a typical doctor.” He adds that patients are assigned a health care team, consisting of a primary care physician or nurse practitioner, a medical assistant, a care manager, a registered nurse and a “clinical scribe” to document notes. Petty says all staff at the Hazel Park center live in the surrounding communities.

The focus is on prevention. “If a patient receives any other medical treatment, like hospitalizations, rehabilitation services or specialist visits, we are accountable and will pay that bill,” Petty says. He says this approach has decreased patient hospitalizations by 44 percent.

“AT OUR HAZEL PARK CENTER, we work with our local, community partners to provide five-week courses on diabetes management, healthy eating and fall-prevention for our patients,” Petty said. The center is located at 1142 Nine Mile Road, between John R and Dequindre.

There’s entertainment on the agenda, as well. “There is a full calendar of fun, social, educational, and health-promoting events in community spaces within our centers and
in the community itself,” Petty said. He added that the Hazel Park center hosted a Community Car Show Series every other Saturday, from the end of June to mid-August.

At the Hazel Park center, patient events include: computer classes, a monthly birthday celebration, classes including jewelry-making and clay sculpting. Patients that qualify also receive services like transportation to and from appointments. “We also host outdoor BBQ events and casino days as well as exercise such as chair yoga and tai chi. We really focus on the community aspect of health for our patients,” Petty said.

To make an appointment, schedule a tour, or learn more about Oak Street Health, call 1-844-808-8262, or send an email to

By Mary Meldrum

EXLTERRA IS AN INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE COMPANY located on 10 Mile Road in Hazel Park with strong business contacts in Switzerland, India and Japan.

They are mostly known for their HAZL drill rig, but they are a little bit of a mystery since their web site doesn’t give viewers a clear understanding of exactly what they are doing.

That’s sort of intentional.

In short, Exlterra uses innovation, technology and experience to create reliable, long-lasting solutions to environmental industry problems.

Frank Muller, CEO of Exlterra, explains that maintaining some mystery to their business is necessary right now. They are in the process of completing two new technologies that they will announce later in 2018. These are just the first two in a substantial pipeline of currently classified revolutionary environmental technologies that will come online in the near future. For now, the two new technologies as well as the pipeline must remain a secret for a little longer, but Muller is extremely excited about the direction of their innovation and the future of Exlterra.

Muller is very quick to give credit for Exlterra’s innovations to Chairman, CTO, and inventor Andrew Niemczyk.

“Andrew was born in Poland in 1960 under communism,” Muller explains. “He has a gift for understanding the systems of the world, the environment. It was a prison for him growing up in communism. There, you are capped and your knowledge is not valued.” Niemczyk eventually escaped, and came to the United States where his long-stifled creativity has been erupting into breakout discoveries.

An established businessman searching for more meaning in his life, Muller moved to the U.S. in 2011 from Switzerland. He was introduced to Niemczyk, and it was the beginning of their close relationship. Muller sees it as his purpose and duty to protect Niemczyk and help him bring his remarkable products to market. Niemczyk develops the technologies, and Muller – with his understanding of business and professional connections — brings them to market.

“The more time I spend with Andrew, I realize how much this man went through,” Muller says. “We have not seen even one percent of what he can achieve.” By all of Muller’s accounts, Andrew Niemczyk is a gifted creator, a renaissance man, someone to watch.

THE SMALL TEAM AT EXLTERRA INCLUDES NIEMCZYK’S TWO SONS – both engineers – Robert and Patrick Niemczyk. Together, they are working on building more technology that will equip humans with the tools to prosper and help the earth to heal.

Explosive growth of modern civilization has put tremendous pressure on the environment causing imbalances. Exlterra recognizes that many standard systems used today that address environmental issues lack sustainability and often result in unintended consequences and unnecessary costs.

Exlterra’s mission is to invent better ways to combat major challenges affecting the environment and civilization. Their focus is on developing technologies that generate significant economic, environmental, and social value.

In 2010, Exlterra invented and patented a passive groundwater recharging system. This product revolutionized the way to address certain water issues.

In 2017, HAZL was born; a versatile drilling machine to accelerate the installation of their soil moisture management system, and for other drilling applications.

Exlterra realizes that nature works in systems. Awareness, appreciation and deep knowledge of how to work within natural systems is the key to Exlterra’s success. The concept of a circular economy presents a unique opportunity to build greater value through our world’s abundant yet finite resources.

TODAY, EXLTERRA IS WORKING ON IMPROVING ITS EXISTING DRILL TECHNOLOGY while continuing to pursue new projects and ideas. It is in the DNA of Exlterra to invent and market powerful technologies that will benefit humans and improve the way we treat the earth.

“The only way people will adopt a new way of doing something is if they experience a benefit,” Muller says. “Find a way that people will see the benefit, and they will adopt it.”

As a business professional, Muller clarifies, “If you try to impose change through sanctions or in a way that is inefficient, that will never succeed. If you want to achieve things on this planet for the environment, you have to do it in a way that there will be a benefit and a profit. And it is my job to make sure that message is heard for Exlterra.”

Muller values Exlterra’s strong relationship with Hazel Park.

“Exlterra came to the city in 2013, and we identified this place as a great area to start manufacturing,” Muller says. “We got a good price with our building and solid support and understanding from the city. We have a happy and harmonious relationship with the city of Hazel Park.”

Stay tuned to Exlterra to discover what new technology they will be unveiling in Hazel Park in the coming months!

Story By Sara E. Teller
Photos by Wes Brooks

TO SAY THE HAZEL PARK RACEWAY, which initially opened its doors to the public in 1949, will be missed by the City and its residents is an understatement. The track ultimately closed in April of this year due to financial difficulties, leaving behind nostalgic memories for many longtime members of the community.

“The Race Track was an iconic, signature business for the City of Hazel Park,” explained Hazel Park City Manager, Ed Klobucher. “It was what [the city was] most known for throughout the state and region. For many years after it opened, the track and the City had a symbiotic relationship, and in the ‘50s, the revenue racing generated made up roughly 50 percent of the City’s general fund.”

However, this changed significantly along with the times. “That percentage, over time, declined, and very substantially in recent years. It’s been a shame to see,” he said.

Klobucher called the track a “casualty of Michigan legislation” adding, “In 2004, casinos paid for a ballot initiative to limit other types of gaming, and it passed.” Many foreshadowed back then that this would ultimately lead to the downfall of horse racing in the state.

Over the years, the City of Hazel Park would host events at the track and Council members would be invited to attend Kentucky Derby day, which Klobucher said, “was a great, fun day” for all who went. “We would from time to time have special events at the race track, and work with them on a cooperative basis to do annual activities such as the fireworks and our Promise Zone dinners. The Promise Zone is a program that helps students pay for their first two years of college. We worked well together.”

He feels the fireworks and Kentucky Derby day are two events that will no doubt be missed the most. “I was very disappointed to hear the track would be closing right before Derby day,” he said.

He did mention that Ashley Capital, who has bought the site, offered to host fireworks, but added, “While I want to thank them for the kind gesture, it just can’t happen in its current state.”

Klobucher’s experience at the Raceway dates back much further than his time in office, and he is certainly among those who will always view the track and the fond memories he’s had there as a big part of his life.

“My parents would visit the track when I was a kid, and sometimes my brother and I were able to go. We’d head over there on Sunday afternoons with them and watch the thoroughbreds. One day, my mom hit a trifecta. She had walked down there with the neighbor ladies and came back excited to tell us she’d won,” he reminisced. “I spent time quite a bit of time at the track myself as a kid and as a young adult. I, too, hit a trifecta at 18 and remember the joy of cashing in that ticket.”

He explained that horse racing was so popular in the 1970s, “You used to see the roads around the Raceway all chained off. That’s how many people would go. It was the only legalized form of gambling for many years – before the lottery, then the casinos and the Internet.”

While the City’s 2018 revenue will take a bit of a hit with the closing of the raceway, Klobucher is hopeful that future plans for the site will make up for the temporary dip. “Ashley Capital, the company that bought the area on which the northwest Tri-County Commerce Center was developed, purchased the remaining property at the track. There is a plan for two new industrial facilities. The company has been very successful so far, and the Center has done a lot of good for the community,” Ed explained. “We’ve attracted Amazon and LG Electronics. Drawing in LG is very exciting. They are going to be the exclusive builder of the batteries for the new Chevy electronic vehicles and will be doing this in Hazel Park.”

The new facilities only bring more promise to the city. “They will bring new opportunities to Hazel Park and create jobs for residents. The project will increase the city’s tax base overall.”

However, nothing can replace the Hazel Park Raceway. Klobucher said, “If I’d had a magic wand to wave that would have saved the raceway and built the facilities, I would have used it. It’s very sad to see it go.”


HOW DOES A CITY FIND A WAY TO STAND OUT from its neighbors? And how can it highlight its residents and bring them together? The City of Hazel Park is using art as one way to set itself apart.

The Hazel Park Arts Council was founded in 2010 when City Council Members Andy LeCureaux and Jeff Keaton discovered they shared a love of art and wanted to display the work of local artists. Amy Aubry, treasurer of the Arts Council and Chair of the Art Fair Planning Committee, explains the goals of the organization:

“To bring art, in all its forms to our community. This means everything from public art installations with sculptures and murals to finding ways to feature our performing arts such as dancers and musicians, as well as hosting events that feature our local artists and engaging our residents in making their own art,” she says.

In the group’s eight years, they have built an art garden and created three annual events to pro-mote the creativity and craftsmanship of residents. The most permanent of those is the Art Garden, dedicated to former Mayor Jan Parisi and located next to Dairy Park at 21809 John R Rd. It features a sculpture by local business owner Richard Gage, and has a chess table, benches and a “Little Free Library” where residents can take and leave books. The group is working to bring more sculptures and murals to the city.

“This not only beautifies our town but provides work for our local artists,” Aubry says.

Another way the Arts Council brings local art to the forefront is through their events, the largest of which is the Hazel Park Art Fair. Now in its seventh year, the fair is held August 25th and 26th at Green Acres Park.

“Currently we are focused on having between 50 and 70 amazing artists who bring a variety of work to the fair,” Aubry says. “In addition to live music, we have artists that will produce art on-site while you watch, a magician is known to make an appearance or two, and even aerialists. The fair is free, so come join us to see it all!”

Other events produced by the Arts Council include Art in the Park – a free children’s crafting event held during the Growers and Makers farmers market on Sundays through summer and fall – and the Artober Art Crawl where temporary art pieces are installed around Hazel Park throughout the month of October.

Art Council currently has 10 members and Aubry encourages anyone to join, noting you don’t have to be a resident to become a member. Just fill out an application at

Aubry and other Art Council members, including its Vice President and City Council Member Alissa Sullivan, praise the city and its residents for their creativity and involvement, and realize they wouldn’t be here without the support.

“The community is so very helpful and supportive – they have embraced our art ‘offerings’ and really seem excited to participate,” Sullivan says. “It’s nice to bring things to our community that other communities have – art fairs, bazaars, murals, free kids art. I’m proud to be a part of that!”

By Ingrid Sjostrand

ARTS PROGRAMS IN K-12 SCHOOLS ALWAYS SEEM TO BE THE FIRST TO GO WHEN BUDGETS GET TIGHT, AND SCHOOLS OFTEN HAVE TO GET RESOURCEFUL TO FIND FUNDING. This is what prompted the creation of Hazel Park Creative Arts, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting the Hazel Park School District’s art programs.

“We noticed that while the band program had a booster organization to raise money for the band, the other art programs did not,” Mike Vanderveer, president of Hazel Park Creative Arts, says. “We formed Hazel Park Creative Arts in an effort to support all of the art programs in the Hazel Park School District that do not have their own booster organization.”

Since its founding in 2014, the group has accomplished quite a few noteworthy projects. They started small by collecting art supplies for Hoover Elementary and tuning the piano for the high school choir, but quickly moved on to larger, more impactful goals like procuring a new kiln in November 2016.

“Our first major project was an effort to replace the pottery kiln in the high school. The kiln was estimated to be about 30-years-old and was showing its age in down time, repair costs and electricity usage,” Vanderveer says. “Working with the high school art department, we helped raise $15,000 to replace the old kiln with a brand-new, front-loading kiln. Many students in the district have been awarded scholarships for their ceramic art abilities, and the new kiln is a small part of that success.”

Most recently, they replaced the high school auditorium’s lighting control console. The mechanism was 15-years-old and produced by a company no longer in business, making it hard to find repair parts. Hazel Park Creative Arts was able to raise $6600 through fundraising and had the new lighting console installed just in time for theater season.

“The new console arrived at the school in February of 2018, and was used for the first time in the Hazel Park Drama Club’s performances of Seussical the Musical in April,” Vanderveer says.  Hazel Park Creative Arts is made up of four board members that meet the first Monday of each month. The majority of their work is completed through fundraising events; their two largest being a Fall Dinner held at the Junior High on October 5th and a Spring Night Out the Friday before the high school drama club performance.

“We very much appreciate the support the City of Hazel Park, its residents, and local businesses have given our organization and fundraising events,” Vanderveer says. “It’s great to see our city come together to support the arts in the school district;  None of what we do is possible without that support!”
Hazel Park Creative Arts is currently looking for their next major project. Anyone interested in attending board meetings or donating can reach out through their website,