Oak Park City Guide 2019

By Ingrid Sjostrand

CREATING CONNECTIONS AND BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS ARE SOME OF THE BEST WAYS to grow your company, but it can be difficult to meet other business owners and generate new sales.

That’s where TradeFirst comes in.

Fred Detwiler, president and CEO of the company, explains, “We are a trading or barter company; we act as a marketing agent to help companies buy and sell their products and services based on the reality that companies can sell tomorrow but you can’t sell yesterday.”

Barter companies allow members to exchange their services with other companies without the use of cash and to reach business owners they might not typically meet. But how does that play out in the real world? Detwiler provides a recent example, of which he has many.

 WE HAD A LEAK IN OUR ROOF AND THE ROOFER CAME OUT AND SAID, ‘Fred, we’ve had a million dollars’ worth of trade from you guys in the last number of years, which is good, but the best part of it is I’ve gotten three million dollars of cash because of that’,” he says. “’I would do a roof for one of your trade companies and right next door is a tool-and- die shop who isn’t a trade member because they don’t have anything to trade but they have the same roof as their neighbor so they hire me. I’ve gotten three-to-one cash to trade just from trade and that’s business growth.”

TradeFirst has over 5,000 members and office locations in Toledo, Ohio, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and their Oak Park headquarters at 23200 Coolidge Hwy.

“You join TradeFirst and get instant access to clients and business owners,” Detwiler says. “The business owners will give good referrals, you’ll have access to all those people and you’re getting income you wouldn’t have had before. You redeploy that cash more efficiently and you’re creating referrals.”

TradeFirst was founded in 1978 under the name Michigan Trade Exchange after Detwiler saw how he could expand upon the one-on-one trading he used working in radio advertising. The station often made deals with restaurants exchanging radio ads for meal credits to use with sales clients.

“I knew the benefits of one-on-one trade but it was limited because after a while the restaurant said, ‘I like radio time but I also need my menus printed, my grease traps cleaned and the roof repaired’,” Detwiler says. “When I was introduced to the ‘round-robin’ concept – where company A can buy from company B and B from C and so on – a light bulb went on. I was 27 when I left the radio business and started this trading company; we subsequently signed up a lot of radio stations because it was a natural, and now we have thousands and thousands of companies as clients.”

AS TRADEFIRST CONTINUED GROWING in the early 1980s, Oak Park was a natural fit for their headquarters. Detwiler’s family even has a historical connection to the city: his great uncle Harold Tanner founded the WLDM radio station and built its radio tower in Oak Park in 1948.

“When looking at the whole metropolitan area we found that Oak Park was at the center of it all. We have account people that service from Ann Arbor to Mount Clemens to Downriver to Grosse Pointe to Detroit to Rochester and we are about a half-hour from everywhere,” he says. “We liked the area and were looking to buy a building because we were expanding, and this made sense.”

For more than 40 years, TradeFirst has grown their network of businesses, but has seen the challenges of an ever-changing landscape.

“It is particularly tough in the current environment. Not only do you have all the struggles of running a business – regulations, taxes and all the other stuff – you’re also fighting against the big box stores and chains and the Internet which is taking a lot of business away from local customers,” Detwiler says.

HE ATTRIBUTES THE CONTINUED AND GROWING SUCCESS OF TRADEFIRST to the employees they’ve hired; some of which have been with the company for close to 40 years.

 “You look at restaurants, they all serve food but the successful ones have a better chef and I think we have a better chef; we put together the right combination of customer service and people,” Detwiler says. “We’ve always had our own technology platform and developed our own software, which has been instrumental in tracking and marketing, and I think we have a commitment to helping our clients try to maximize what they get out of trade.”

The loyalty of businesses using TradeFirst is even more proof of their success.

“We have a powerful network of businesses and probably the most fun is that not only do we have employees that have been with us for 39-40 years, we have clients that are going into multiple generations,” Detwiler says. “It’s fun to see we are all helping each other. That’s one of the more satisfying things: Watching businesses and people grow.”

By Sara E. Teller

Photos By Bill Gemmell

ALEX WASEL OPENED ALASKA FISH & CHICKEN in Oak Park in 2012. “I had a dream to open my own place after working in a fish market with a friend of mine,” he said. “I got to know how to manage everything then and I knew I wanted to have my own business.”

Right from the beginning, Wasel and his staff worked hard to keep their customers happy, and they now have many regulars who stop in “six or seven days” a week, according to the owner. This has to do in part with Wasel’s customer-oriented, close-knit team who truly understands the market. The food is cooked-to-order and served fresh daily, too, which makes Alaska a unique experience for those who appreciate high quality chicken and seafood.

“All of our seafood and other dishes are always fresh,” Wasel said. “And everyone loves working here – we’re like a family, and we take care of our customers. We’ve gotten the hang of everything here in Oak Park and have our operation under control. We are very busy.”

SOME FAN-FAVORITES INCLUDE Alaska’s jumbo shrimp, snow crab, and fried lobster tail. There are many types of fish available, too, either separately or in combos, including tilapia, cod,perch, catfish, whiting, pickerel, bass, and orange ruffy, among others. Chicken options include wings and tenders along with breasts, legs, things and even gizzards. Family combos are available, and Alaska offers a tempting dessert menu. There are ten cheesecake options to choose from, including specialty slices such as peach cobbler, sweet potato, and superman, as well as six traditional cakes by the slice, including chocolate, caramel, velvet, lemon, pineapple, and coconut. Overall, Alaska Fish & Chicken has something for everyone and is able to cater to a wide variety of dietary preferences.

“When people come in here and try our seafood, they don’t want to go anywhere else,” Wasel said. “They love how fresh it is and how we’re able to make it just the way they like.”

He added, “I had some friends come in here from out of town and when they left, they told others about it. Now, the people they told now come here all the time. I also have someone who comes in every morning to get chicken.” Wasel laughed fondly, “He says he needs my chicken! We’re always busy.”

WASEL LOVES OAK PARK IN GENERAL. He first started in Highland Park in 2008, but said he wasn’t in a good neighborhood and decided he would need to relocate. When searching for a new spot, he stumbled upon Oak Park and knew that’s where he wanted to be.

Four years later, that dream would become a reality. And even though Wasel still currently resides in Hamtramck, he hopes to relocate in the near future to be closer to the community he serves. He said, “I love this city. It’s safe and everyone’s friendly. The City of Oak Park is great. They’re good neighbors to have.”

Wasel is quick to show his appreciation to both his staff and customers, too, understanding they are responsible for Alaska’s success. “I really appreciate all of our customers in Oak Park. And, I really appreciate my staff,” he said. “They know what they’re doing and work hard every day to ensure we’re taking care of our customers.”

Alaska Fish and Chicken is located at 3701 W Nine Mile Rd. and is open Mondays through Saturdays 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 A.M. as well as Sundays 10:00A.M. to 10:00 P.M. Online delivery is available viaDoordash.com. For more information about the menu, call 248-556-0000.

By Kimberly Marrone, Director

THE CITIES OF OAK PARK, HUNTINGTON WOODS, AND BERKLEY RECENTLY EMBARKED on a joint planning effort to study improvements to the Eleven Mile Road and Coolidge Highway corridors. The main objectives were to study three elements that may be implemented uniformly through the corridors toward creating a cohesive flow between the three communities: Green Infrastructure, Lane Modifications, and Non-Motorized access and connectivity.

The communities applied to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) multi- community planning grant in 2018 and were thrilled to receive funding to conduct this study. The communities hired Spalding DeDecker in the Fall of 2018 through a request-for-proposal process and currently are finalizing the final report.

The project began with a traffic analysis, completed by the Transportation Improvement Association (TIA) and then analyzed by Spalding DeDecker. An important aspect of all projects in a community is gathering public comment to ascertain opinions and priorities of residents and business owners. Public- engagement workshops were held within each municipality to obtain input on these potential improvements. At these meetings several concepts were presented. The majority of participants were in favor of many of the design ideas presented in the workshop and the interactive map helped to determine the need for improved crosswalks between communities. Below is a brief list of the findings:


Any opportunity to redirect or slow storm water from entering the sewer system helps alleviate the surge or peak flow which causes the pipe network to flood. Green infrastructure initiatives involve slowing down or redirecting water infiltration and these concepts were well-received by attendees at the workshops.


This evaluation considered different operation or uses of the existing roadway pavement, such as narrowing lanes, eliminating lanes (road diet), adding or removing on-street parking lanes, reduc- ing the pavement footprint (long term), or using paved areas for other purposes, such as bike lanes or gathering spaces. With the exception of Coolidge Highway between Nine Mile Road to Ten Mile Road (I-696), a road diet is feasible in both corridors.

A road diet reduces the number of through lanes to allow other uses within the public right of way which may offer numerous benefits including:

  • Traffic calming, reducing vehicle weaving.
  • Reducing number of lanes a pedestrian has to cross.
  • Adding a center left-turn lane (CLTL) to reduce head-on crashes and rear-end crashes.
  • Adding bicycle lanes to provide a dedicated space for users and increase motorists’ awareness.
  • Improved emergency response services.


Each community has its own unique planning document that addresses pedestrian or bike routes. This multi-community planning effort sought to improve connectivity between the communities. During the public engagement workshops, participants were asked to map specifically where they cross each corridor, and whether they cross on foot or on bike. With an understanding of those preferred crossing locations, enhancements are recommended where they can serve the most users.

The most popular locations to cross Eleven Mile Road include:

  • Tyler Street/Buckingham Avenue
  • Coolidge Highway
  • Mortenson Boulevard/Scotia Avenue
  • Stanford Road/Meadowcrest Boulevard

The most popular locations to cross Coolidge Highway include:

  • Oak Park Boulevard
  • Eleven Mile Road
  • Catalpa Drive
  • Lincoln Street/Drive
  • Harvard Road
  • Twelve Mile Road

Spalding DeDecker has presented recommenda- tions for each different road segment after carefully analyzing all the data and public input. Each community will continue to analyze these corridors and identify potential funding sources to adopt some or all of these recommendations. The final study will be made available on each community’s website.


By Sara E. Teller

PETER BOSANIC AND MICHAEL KULKA STARTED PM ENVIRONMENTAL in Lansing, Michigan in 1992 after graduating from Michigan State University and working as project managers at a large Midwest geo-environmental firm.

The company began with “a single truck and business cards” as Bosanic and Kulka explained to area gas station owners the benefits and state incentives for underground storage tank manage- ment and removal, and started offering these services. The company quickly expanded, adding service lines, staff, and equipment, and branching out well beyond the Lansing area.

Since its inception, PM has continued to expand and is now ranked number one by EDR ScoreKeeper in Michigan. It is also nationally recognized as a top-20 environmental consulting and engineering services provider, with 15 offices nationwide and seven in Michigan.

PM OPENED ITS OAK PARK LOCATION THIS YEAR after having outgrown its office and warehouse space right across the street in Berkley. The Oak Park location was able to offer an additional 9,000 square feet for its Industrial Hygiene and Site Investigation Services departments, which the company desperately needed. And having the two facilities close to each other is “a huge plus,” according to Wieber, who added, “The new space provides ample storage space for PM’s specialized sampling drill rigs and other equipment, including 15 vehicles and four trailers and creates a secure and controlled environment for crews to dispatch from each morning.”

She said PM Environmental serves a wide range of clients, helping both businesses and individuals. She states, “We serve banks and credit unions, lawyers and developers, petroleum and industrial clients. Anyone who is investing in or redeveloping commer- cial real estate requires our services. Having an expansive amount of services allows us to be involv- ed in many aspects of a single project and see a project through from start to finish.”

The company currently offers environmental site assessments, site investigation services, remediation, underground storage tank management, economic incentives consulting, property condition assessments, and industrial hygiene services, and has been responsible for securing brownfield grant funding for major projects, including up to $6.5 million in reimbursable costs for the Iron Ridge development in Pleasant Ridge and Ferndale.

Wieber said, “PM prepared the approved brownfield and 381 Work Plan, securing up to $6.5 million in reimbursable costs associated with environmental assessments, due care responsibilities, demolition, asbestos abatement, site preparation, and infrastructure improvements.”

Four of PM’s clients were also recently awarded Environmental Project Agency (EPA) brownfield grant funding totaling $1.5 million, which only a very small percentage of projects are able to do each year. Wieber explained, “The process is highly competitive, with only 149 communities selected by the EPA this year. PM assisted these clients with their brownfield grant applications, which included collecting stories of the communities, researching data, visiting potential sites, interviewing stakeholders, and performing community engagement activities.”

WIEBER HERSELF HAS BEEN WITH PM ENVIRONMENTAL for four years, saying, “I started off as a Business Development Coordinator after working as a manager in retail for over five years. I eventually moved over into PM’s marketing department as the Assistant Marketing Director. A year later I took on the role of Marketing Director.”

She said the staff loves the community involvement of Oak Park and are amazed with the number of engagement activities the City offers. PM’s Oak Park location is part of the area’s up-and-coming Eleven Mile Rd. corridor, which is a prime spot to set up shop, and Wieber said, “We look forward to the upcoming developments.”

The Oak Park office is located at 15431 West Eleven Mile Rd. For more information, call 800-313-2966.

By Colton Dale

THIS SPRING, THE CITY OF OAK PARK ANNOUNCED that it is moving forward with a concept to maintain and beautify the fencing on the overpass bridge on Coolidge Highway over I-696. The bridge fencing currently is old, mundane, and slightly dilapidated, like most overpass bridges in Michigan. This provides a less-than-stellar image on behalf of Oak Park to the thousands of motorists passing under this bridge every day.

Soon, though, that fencing will become the latest public infrastructure improvement in the City, helping Oak Park with branding, beautification, and its image. When completed, this overpass bridge will be similar to the one in Auburn Hills on University Drive over I-75, if you can picture it.

The project previously faced a funding hurdle, as construction costs continue to rise at a record pace due to labor shortages and federal steel tariffs. These issues caused City officials to take a second look at the plans. They were starting to wonder if it would be worth it to move forward with this project at all. Luckily, though, at the City Council Meeting on March 18, the project overcame its obstacles as City Council voted to fully fund the project and award a bid for construction to Z Contractors Inc. of Shelby Township.

THE ORIGINS OF THIS PROJECT BEGAN in September 2017 and stemmed from a necessity to fix parts of the bridge’s fencing that had become broken and potentially dangerous. It then grew into a desire by City officials to take this opportunity as one to brand and beautify the City via the improvement of public infrastructure. Throughout the unfolding of this concept, it became lumped in with other public infrastructure improvement projects the City has undertaken lately, such as the repainting of the water tower on Eleven Mile Road and the Nine Mile Redesign. The City prides itself on its proactive efforts to improve and modernize the infrastructure we see and use every day.

“Branding is important for our community in terms of attracting new residents and businesses. Taking advantage of this opportunity to create a distinct impression by marketing ourselves to the thousands of motorists who use I-696 every day to commute through Oak Park is a good business move,” said City Manager Erik Tungate. “Cities that take on these kinds of quality of life improvements are cities that are typically thriving. It is no longer enough to rest on our laurels. We have to seize every chance we can to establish ourselves as a unique place to live and work.”

The project will cost approximately $628,000, with the vast majority being funded by the City’s Major Streets Fund. The project is broken down into two phases. The first phase is the fabrication of the metal design, which is expected to take about two months. Shortly thereafter, the second phase will begin, which is the construction phase to affix the fabricated metal design onto the overpass bridge, expected to begin mid-summer.

MOTORISTS CAN EXPECT MINOR LANE CLOSURES DURING THE WORK to affix the metal fabrication to the bridge, potentially on both Coolidge Highway and I-696. All lane closures will be communicated out by the City.

“Now, when travelers pass under Coolidge on I-696, what they see is barren-looking cyclone fencing. Soon this entryway to the City of Oak Park will look inviting with an attractive new fencing design and lights,” said Mayor Marian McClellan.

“Just as realtors stress the importance of curb appeal when selling a house because of the importance of a good first impression, the City will be making a great first impression on passers-by, visitors, and potential residents.”

If all goes as planned, the project is anticipated to wrap up in the Fall.

Note: Due to some confusion, it is important to note that this is an entirely separate overpass bridge than the one with Victoria Park on it that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will be replacing in 2024 due to leaks. ■

By Ingrid Sjostrand

Photos By Brita Brookes

MANY RESIDENTS PROBABLY DON’T REALIZE THAT OAK PARK IS HOME to one of the most internationally-recognizable creative collaboratives.

Through many different iterations and rebrandings since the 1970s – including General Television Network and most recently Ringside Creative – the address of 13320 Northend, off Coolidge Hwy between 8 and 9 Mile, houses the creative media company now known as Cutters Studios.

Steven Wild, CEO of Cutters Studios Detroit, provides an explanation of services they offer.

“Our skilled staff provide a wide range of creative and technical media content creation and delivery services to advertising agencies, businesses (including education and government) and the sports/entertainment industry,” he says. “We offer concept through delivery. Some examples include traditional broadcast advertising accounts; new digital media marketing (including apps, web, point-of-purchase, digital signage); documentary production; sports and other live event coverage; broadcast studio ‘live shot’ services for local, regional, national and international news organizations; high-speed/high-resolution photo imaging for automotive and other technology testing and analysis.”

Cutters Studios is made up of six brands, including Ringside Creative which was absorbed in April 2017 when Cutters took over the Oak Park office. Ringside Creative is best known for running sound stages and handling technical services for on-site production and videos. Other Cutters brands include Cutters Editorial, Flavor Design, Another Country, Dictionary Films and Picnic.

“Our Cutters Studios brands are all headquartered in our Oak Park office; however, our services are provided on location throughout the world depending on the project. We also maintain sound stages in Ann Arbor, Southfield, and Detroit,” Wild says. “Our partners, Cutters, Inc., maintain their primary office in Chicago, and have satellite facilities in Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York City, and Kansas City.”

Businesses both throughout the United States and internationally are clients of Cutters Studios Detroit, including many Fortune 500 companies. Cutters has received many national and international creative awards. Some of their more considerable projects include Super Bowl commercials and work for the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) that’s received award recognition.

“We service hundreds of clients in Detroit and throughout the Midwest, including all major automotive manufacturers directly, along with their advertising and marketing agencies and suppliers,” Wild says. “Additionally, other large and small businesses, advertising/marketing companies, and sports teams including the Detroit Tigers, Lions and Red Wings.”

Even with renowned success and opportunities around the world, Cutters Studios is happy to call Oak Park home and has a laundry list of reasons why it’s the best place to headquarter their business.

“Our commitment to Oak Park has been maintained over the years for a multitude of reasons, including the irreplaceable facility improvements we’ve made over the past 40 years, our expansive dedicated parking lot, reasonable taxes and strong support from local government agencies – building, fire, etc. – along with a desirable central location convenient to access highways to Detroit, the airport, in-state clients and service locations, and those out-of-state including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,” Wild says. “We’re proud to be part of the Oak Park community and appreciate the opportunity to continue our support.”

By Ingrid Sjostrand

DRUG AND ALCOHOL AWARENESS AND PREVENTION IS ONE of the most important conversations parents can have with their children – it’s also essential to building safe, strong communities. The cities of Oak Park, Huntington Woods and Berkley see the importance of this and have been working together for the past 22 years with the goal of spreading substance abuse prevention in youth.

In 1997, Ohio Senator Rob Portman and former Michigan Representative Sandy Levin developed the idea of coalitions to address substance abuse. Former Berkley Schools Superintendent Dr. Tresa Zumsteg created a 33-member panel to create the local initiative that today is the Tri-Community Coalition (TCC).

“All these people coming together having the similar desire to keep drugs and alcohol out of the hands of our youth, illegal drugs out of the community and alcohol to be properly and responsibly used by adults,” Executive Director Judy Rubin says, “That was the initial idea and they challenged the communities to come together and bring their sectors together.”

A 501C3 CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION, TCC is led by President Diane Duncan, an executive board and Rubin. They focus their efforts on three specific pillars: Youth, parents and the community at large. The youth program, Young Optimistic and United (Y.O.U.), has groups in both Berkley and Oak Park high schools that meet weekly with student members to build education around healthy choices. Parent Now! is an adult-focused group that regularly hosts speakers and information sessions about current trends and topics parents should be aware of.

“We’ve had Parent Now! events on topics ranging from social media and sexting, to depression and suicide. We’ll have a Drugs 101 seminar in September that will focus on vaping,” Rubin says. “We keep the community abreast of trends and vaping is definitely a trend.”

Several community-focused events are also produced throughout the year, including a Health and Wellness Fair in May in collaboration with each city’s recreation center and a fundraiser golf outing at Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods. The Tri-Communities Coalition Golf Classic held its 21st annual event on June 21, 2018, offering a 50/50 raffle, silent auction, breakfast and prizes to participants.

“We’ve made it a very fun event, we’re very lucky because we have great sponsors,” Rubin says. “We have a hole where you shoot a golf ball out of a cannon and it goes 300 yards and another where you aim to shoot the golf ball into a blow-up dinosaur’s mouth. It’s for serious golfers that like our mission, but it’s also really fun. We always like to incorporate entertaining elements into the event.”

Another major event for TCC is their Leadership Breakfast, held in November, that highlights a member of the community with a “Power of One” award and features a keynote speaker who has shown exceptional leadership. The 2018 event’s speaker was former Michigan U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, and Robi Mitra was honored with the “Power of One” award.

IN 2007, TCC APPLIED FOR AND RECEIVED the “Drug Free Communities” federal grant providing them with funding to develop and implement substance abuse prevention programming in their communities. Recipients are limited to a total of ten years for this grant funding, so when the funding expired in 2017 the Tri-Community Coalition shifted their efforts to incorporate conversations outside substance abuse that might also benefit the community.

“It was great for the community, but all good things come to an end and you can’t reapply once you’ve been given those ten years,” Rubin says. “We decided to broaden our horizons and expand to include mental health and awareness for the community since that could help us get other federal funding dollars and widen our mission statement.

“We are now in our second year of post-DFC and post- grant funding and we’re still here!” She adds, “Still kicking and still trying to bring events, programs and education to the three cities of Berkley, Oak Park and Huntington Woods about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and keep them abreast of what’s trending.”

For more information about the Tri-Community Coalition, visit tricommunitycoalition.org.

By Jenn Goeddeke

STATE REPRESENTATIVE ROBER WITTENBERG has an outstanding passion for helping others and is an effective advocate and resource for approximately 95,000 people. In his words, “I like to be socially-conscious and fiscally-responsible at the same time.”

I recently met with Rep. Wittenberg at a local coffee shop to discuss his past and present political activities, along with his future plans. He is currently serving his third and final term as representative for Michigan’s 27th House District. This broad area includes Berkley, Oak Park, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak Township.

Wittenberg certainly has a high regard for Oak Park. His grandparents moved here in 1967 and stayed until 2008. Since then, the home remained in Wittenberg’s family up until 2017 when it was sold. Wittenberg also attended Oak Park Middle School and is good friends with both the Mayor and City Manager. He mentioned with pride his “active and engaged” neighborhood block club, which is totally structured and holds monthly meetings, plus it hosts an annual Summer BBQ. He describes it as a “wonderful community.” And, even though it is the largest city in the District, it is more like a small town in terms of its residents. “I would love to keep serving this community!” he added with a smile.

WITTENBERG GREW UP IN MICHIGAN’S 27TH DISTRICT and was drawn to politics from an early age. While attending Berkley High School, then later at Indiana University, Wittenberg was continuously involved in various student councils and associations. He also volunteered his time for the campaigns of Mayor McClellan (Oak Park), Mayor Coulter (Ferndale) and also several city council races. By the time he got to the point of going into politics as his full- time career, many of his friends and family were saying, “What took you so long?”

 The issues of greatest focus in his political agenda include environmental issues (clean water and reducing chemical and other pollutants), equal wages for all, greater gun control and higher educational standards and funding. A further motivation behind his efforts is what he calls: ‘Universal Fairness.’ As he explained, “I see that people often get treated differently based on how they look or who they love, and so on. That’s just so wrong!”

He added, “People might have an issue, for example with their utility company, but then they get lost in the shuffle of trying to solve the problem. Typically, we can make one call and take care of it for them. I wish individuals could always get their concerns taken care of right away, but it often doesn’t happen like that. So my job is to advocate and point them in the best direction.”

REGARDING HIS THIRD TERM, WITTENBERG IS ENTHUSIASTIC. “I am loving it! I have good experience and I know how the system works. I have come to know my colleagues pretty well. With Gretchen Whitmer as the new governor, there is a big improvement overall. The Republican representatives come to us Democrats now, and we have to work closer together.”

By all accounts, Wittenberg has been a popular state representative. What has been the secret to his success (aside from his obvious desire to serve the people)?

“As a Democrat from a progressive area, I try to find the common ground ‘across the aisle,” meaning with the more right-leaning members. Maybe in part due to this, I had more bills passed into law than any other Democrat in my class.” Additionally, Wittenberg is a very ‘approachable’ elected official, with a large part of his time spent out in the community. For example, he particularly enjoys reading to students, and so far this term he has read to over 1800 students from four different school districts. “I want to continue on that path!” he added.

HAVING SERVED SIX YEARS, WITTENBERG IS TERM-LIMITED and will no longer be able to serve in his current position after the upcoming 2020 election. Therefore, he is making the most of his time now, while considering future opportunities to serve in Oakland County. Wittenberg mentioned that the terms of office for State Representatives are the most restrictive in the country. Wittenberg pointed out, “This is such a relationship-building business.  You have to get to know your fellow legislators! I consider [term limits] a failed experiment.”

I asked Wittenberg about his future plans. He replied that some changeover will be taking place soon, with L. Brooks Patterson not running for another term as Oakland County Executive. This will inevitably cause a shuffle. Wittenberg says he will not be running for county executive, but he is interested in the county treasurer position. (County positions are four- year terms with no term limits).

 Conversations regarding those possible positions have already started whereas campaigning will begin towards the end of this year. Wittenberg explained that Andy Meisner has been County Treasurer but will most likely be running for the county executive position. Wittenberg admires Meisner and wants to follow in his footsteps, “This would be a big jump in my constituency, from about 95,000 people to around 1.3 million. But I want whatever position that will allow me to stay involved.”

Robert Wittenberg can be reached by mail: PO Box 33014, Lansing, MI. 48909; by phone: 517.373.0478, or by email: robertwittenberg@house.mi.gov. Check out his website: www.wittenberg.housedems.com.

WITH AN AVERAGE OF 3,000 STUDENTS PER YEAR, Ferndale has the smallest enrollment of the three districts, something Good says helps make the Ferndale Schools exceptional.

“One thing I love about Ferndale is that we are a small community school district with enough resources to offer the same as other districts but in a smaller package,” he says. “A place where students, teachers and community members work together in a way which you don’t see in education today, that’s what makes Ferndale special.”

Ferndale’s district is comprised of seven schools, including an early childhood center, a lower and upper elementary school – the only school located within Oak Park city limits – one middle school, two high schools and an adult education and alternative program.

The diversity of the student body, Good says, adds to Ferndale’s appeal, much of which comes from Oak Park through district residents and School of Choice.

“It’s amazing meeting people from so many different backgrounds,” he says. “We appreciate the diversity that all of our kids bring through experiences and backgrounds. Oak Park is a very diverse, international community and we appreciate that rich international diversity.”

 FERNDALE ALSO TOUTS THEIR MANY SUCCESSFUL ATHLETIC TEAMS, including volleyball, baseball, softball and football district champions in 2018 and an internationally-ranked FIRST robotics team, IMPI Robotics.

“What I really love about Ferndale is that we have a robotics team that made it to international championships, a wrestling team with several members who made states, a baseball team with district and league champions – all of our athletic teams excel.”

The combination of a rich diverse student population, globally ranked athletic and extracurricular teams and smaller, focused classes cause Ferndale School District to stand out.

“I believe that we’re a really unique place in that we offer high- quality athletic, arts and academic opportunities,” Good says. “It’s really unique to see a school district excel in all the areas that way – the way Ferndale does with incredible diversity and rich culture and that’s what attracts people.”

By Colton Dale

Photos By Bill Gemmel

In 2018, the City’s Economic Development and Communications Department, along with City Planner Kevin Rulkowski, took the step to rezone a portion of Eleven Mile Road from light industrial to mixed-use.

After extensive research and development of the new zoning ordinance district, the rezoning was passed by the Planning Commission, and eventually City Council as well. That stretch of Eleven Mile Road from Tulare Street to Gardens Street, once a relic of decades past when small indus- trial corridors were sustainable and manu- facturing ruled the day, is now attracting interest from restaurants, breweries, retail and more.

The new mixed-use zone is intended to do just that, in fact. Cities often rezone areas to mixed-use because they want to create an environment more conducive toward a more socially and economically connected neighborhood. Mixed-use zoning, which often entails retail, office, and restaurant space on the ground floor with the possib- ility of residential on the above floors, is known to create settings that are friendly to new businesses, new residents, and commuters of all kinds.

THIS MIXED-USE ZONE IN PARTICULAR permits a wide array of uses that weren’t allowed before, such as specialty retail, sit-down restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, art galleries and more. Special land uses, which require extra parameters before approval, include brewpubs, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and restaurants serving alcohol. The wide array of business types outlined in the ordinance have the potential to create a vibrant, inviting neighborhood for all.

This three-block area of Oak Park was perfect for rezoning not only because of the character of the architecture or the fact that many of the buildings are zero-setback buildings, but also because of the three large public parking lots that sit immediately behind this corridor. This gives an extra incentive to prospective new businesses. The lots currently offer over 300 parking spaces altogether, though they may see changes in the future that would not only make them better in terms of traffic flow but also increase the number of spots.

“This section of Eleven Mile was studied extensively as part of the 2017 Master Plan and has all the ingredients to create a special local neighborhood place,” said City Planner Kevin Rulkowski. “Here you will find interesting industrial building design, great potential outdoor dining venues, and densely populated neighborhoods from four surrounding communities within walking and biking distance of the new business district.”

SO FAR, THE CORRIDOR HAS ATTRACTED A NEW BREWERY to the area, thanks to the rezoning. River Rouge Brewing Company, currently operating in Royal Oak, is planning to open a second location under a new name at 14401 Eleven Mile Road, the site of a former cabinet manufacturer. The new brewery, to be called Unexpected Craft Brewing, will be the first of many new businesses in the area as the corridor transitions from light industrial to mixed-use. The brewery is scheduled to open in the late Fall of 2019.

When all is said and done, City staff expect the corridor to look like a mini-downtown, with a wide variety of businesses, beautiful and unique facades, and plenty of foot traffic. The City is also currently studying the feasibility of putting bikes lanes and green infrastructure on Eleven Mile Road, partnering with the cities of Berkley and Huntington Woods to do so. Such street improvements would only further add to the commuter-friendly and business-friendly environment that is to come.