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Beline Obeid

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To the Editor:

Having moved here from Chicago nearly three years ago, we would constantly be asked the question, why would you move from Chicago to Detroit? We didn’t move to Detroit; we moved to Grosse Pointe.

We moved here for many reasons, but primarily for lifestyle and value; meaning, award-winning schools, parks and recreation, great homes, and a fabulous community to raise children.

While we think back to pre-9/11 and the cost of homes at that time, and comparing them to now, it is mind-boggling, especially when you read an article in Sunday’s (March 21) Detroit News about Grosse Pointe and its current real estate market.

While we all know Detroit has had its issues for decades, Grosse Pointe has remained one of the finest communities in the country to live and raise a family.

However, it seems Grosse Pointe is facing two critical issues; one, Proposal A has created spiraling school budget deficits and real estate taxes for new home buyers that are high and out-of-balance as compared to those who have lived in their homes for a number of years, and two, CVS’s acquisition of the Jacobson’s property has left one full city block in the Village vacant for nearly two years without a viable development plan.

These issues need to be addressed by our state representatives, city governments, business groups, citizens and newspapers. These issues, left unattended, could be and are becoming the ultimate demise of our fine community.

Proposal A: Bad idea! To achieve lower property taxes for existing residents you gave control of your school funds to the state, which have decreased the necessary funds to operate our schools at the level of excellence of the past.

This proposal also discourages existing residents from buying and selling homes, and creates such unbalanced property taxes between existing and new residents that it discourages new residents from entering our market. The lack of sales activity from new and existing residents has and will continue to decrease real estate values. This system failed in other states and is now failing this community and the entire state.

CVS purchased the Jacobson’s building for twice its estimated market value two years ago. Why? No one knows. They have an existing presence in the area, one store in the Village and two stores on Mack Avenue. Given that CVS is a drugstore chain and not a mixed-use developer, one can only conclude that they overpaid to block competition from entering the Village.

This strategy may have worked for CVS, but it has had a profound negative impact on the community and its local merchants. By example, Harvey’s Luggage is closing its store to move to Birmingham citing no traffic and low sales.

To put the CVS issue into perspective, all the other Jacobson’s properties sold at the same auction are now fully developed and open for business. As I understand, Velmeir, the designated CVS developer, has recently submitted its third preliminary plan to the City of Grosse Pointe. Two years later all they have are preliminary plans.

As an experienced real estate developer, I can assure you that this development will not be completed for another 18 to 36 months. This could be the demise of several of our local merchants who in many cases are our friends and neighbors, and cause the regional and national retailers to close or move their stores to other more viable communities.

The mayor proclaimed in the January 2004 city newsletter there is nothing the city can do to move this project along. I strongly disagree. Have the mayor and the city council heard of the two Latin words “eminent domain,” a legal development tool used by cities all across the country?

Granted this is a severe solution, but this problem is so serious we need a severe solution.

What caused us to write this letter was the front-page article in the Grosse Pointe News about the Grosse Pointe City Council wasting time on forcing the City of Grosse Pointe Foundation to change the two-year-old streetscape sculpture donated by the foundation and approved by the City (“Just another brick in the wall,” Feb.26). This community has far more pressing issues facing it than to waste its time and energy on redoing two-year-old improvements it has already approved.

As an experienced mixed-use developer, I for one will volunteer my time to the mayor and the city council in whatever way I can, and I call upon all of the Grosse Pointe civic and business leaders to do the same.

These are difficult and complicated issues that this community faces and will take the effort of all its citizens to resolve them.

In closing I would urge all Grosse Pointers to make a special effort to support all of its local merchants during these trying times.

John and Robyn Daley

Grosse Pointe Farms

John and Robyn Daley
March 30, 2004

Family Center Ask the Experts 3
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