November 22, 2012"It's an exciting time."
That's how Grosse Pointe Park Mayor Palmer Heenan describes all the changes taking place in a little corner of his city known as Kercheval in the Park. But for many, "exciting" barely begins to describe the buzz being created about the area.
"Our goal is to make our city a destination," he said, "and beginning soon, we will be."
Heenan was specifically referring to three new eateries opening within the next year, brought to the Park by noted restaurateur Mindy Lopus. Known for her Birmingham establishments Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro and Bellapiatti, Lopus will be opening a casual dining spot, the Red Crown, in the old gas station on Kercheval at Beaconsfield. That restaurant is scheduled to open in late December.
Renovations to the longtime neighborhood landmark are in progress and will include adding a wood-fired smoker and grill, allowing the eatery to focus on burgers and barbecue. It will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with a brunch on weekends.
In addition, Lopus has taken over the former Mulier's Market and the adjacent parking lot, which she will convert to Bona Fide Baking. Plans call for this new venture to not only provide baked goods for her own restaurants in her Silver Pig Restaurant Group, but for other eateries as well. There will also be a retail bakery and coffee shop, featuring Great Lakes Coffee, and a breakfast menu.
While city officials are happy to share the news of Lopus' endeavors, they are a bit more circumspect when it comes to the development plans and rumors about the area.
What city manager Dale Krajniak will confirm is that there is lots of buzz about the area, with lots of interest, but according to Krajniak, nothing is in writing. When pressed about the rumor Kercheval could become a pedestrian mall, he said confidentiality agreements prevented him from discussing some of the building sales.
"We've had lots of interest in several propertiers," he said, "including the church and reports of a grocery store going in. But nothing has been sold at this point."
Krajniak did say there has been some talk of both a sports bar and a microbrewery moving onto Kercheval, and while there have been lots of lookers, "nothing is set."
However, at least one business will be re-locating away from the area, while still remaining in the Park.
Full Circle Upscale Resale is moving from its location on Kercheval to a new building on Mack at Harvard.
"We are really looking forward to our new location," said Mary Fodell, who founded the program in 2007, and which is now part of the Grosse Pointe Public School System. "We will finally have our own school and our own building, all under one roof."
Full Circle provides educational, social and employment opportunities for individuals with special needs. This new location will allow all aspects of the program, including retail sales, classrooms, food services and recreational facilities to be combined under one roof.
"Due to the generosity of the building's owner, Tom Strong, we were able to purchase the building and finally have a place to truly call our own," Fodell said.
They expect to have renovations to the building done by December 1, and assure customers they will be open for holiday shopping. Full Circle also continues to accept donations at the Kercheval location during the move.
Krajniak credits the Cotton family for the interest and the investment in the area, and cites their Grosse Pointe Housing Foundation as the beginning of what he and several other merchants see as an upward trend for businesses and housing in the Park.
"The Foundation has jump started our housing market," Krajniak said. "Not only has the number of university housing grants and participants exceeded our expectations, we are seeing renewed capital investment within our business district. Together they have created a positive attitude throughout the Park."
Joe Hebeka, owner of Belding Cleaners and president of the Grosse Pointe Park Business Association, agrees.
"It's terrific to see the changes, which are all positive," he said. "We're seeing a younger presence in the area and I think we all welcome that."
He is also quick to point out several of the venerable businesses in the area will remain, including his own 84-year-old establishment, and most of the businesses on his block.
"We'll have a nice blend of new and old," he said.
Which is exactly the kind of development Heenan wants to see in his city.
"I think it is important for us to refresh and renew," he said, "and we're fortunate that we have such a good relationship with our business owners. So often you see government get in the way of development, but that's not the case in the Park. We encourage and try to accommodate new developments.
"And that's good for our citizens. The Park offers so many advantages for our residents. I'm very proud of our city."