Hazel Park CNU24 Legacy Design Project is Inspiring

Designer Vinayak Bharne talks with Hazel Park residents about ways to improve their community as part of a CNU Legacy Project Tuesday.

Team Leader Vinayak Bharne of Moule & Polyzoides Archtects & Urbanisms talks with Hazel Park residents about ways to improve their community as part of a CNU Legacy Project Tuesday.

Hazel Park residents, city leaders and business owners got good news from an urban planner during a special design charrette kick-off meeting Tuesday. The news – Hazel Park has a tremendous market potential for restaurant growth and retail development.

Building on the highly successful and widely popular Mabel Gray restaurant could result in the economic boost Hazel Park leaders are seeking for the section of John R Road traversing through the heart of the southeastern Michigan city, said Bob Gibbs, urban planning and retail consultant director for Gibbs Planning Group of Birmingham.

This message came during the first of three days of an intensive design and planning charrette being done in Hazel Park by the Congress of the New Urbanism (CNU). It’s one of four such charrettes happening in southeast Michigan this week in conjunction with the international CNU 24 conference coming to Detroit in June.

Hazel Park residents participate in a CNU24 design charrette.

Hazel Park residents participate in a CNU24 design charrette.

The other three charrettes are April 15-17 in Pontiac and in two Detroit neighborhoods – Grandmont-Rosedale and Vernor Crossing. The work done at the charrettes will be presented to planners, architects, urban designers and municipal leaders at the CNU 24 in Detroit June 8-11, 2016 in what are being called Congress Legacy Projects. For details on the conference go to CNU24.org.

Gibbs’ market study was used as part of a much larger urban design strategy prepared by the lead design team from Moule & Polyzoides Architects & Urbanists from Pasadena, Calif. The entire project, called “Creating a walkable and connected downtown for Hazel Park,” was directed by MPA’s Vinayak Bharne with support from Madison Patrizi. The was work was two-fold – an urban design project and economic development strategy.

The team met with about 50 Hazel Park residents and supporters Tuesday, April 12, 2016, and told them the good news about their community’s development. Hazel Park, Gibbs said, has about 70,000 households and 160,000 people living in its primary trade area and about 200,000 people living within a short drive to the city’s restaurant district. A market analysis showed Hazel Park could support 165,200 square feet of retail. Specifically it could support 11,100 square feet of limited service eating, 10,300 of apparel and shoe retail; 15,000 square feet of general merchandise retail, 5,600 square feet of full-service restaurants, 21,200 of department store goods retail, 35,400 square feet of grocery retail, such as an open-air market.

“I was in an Ohio community recently and did a market study like this and their potential was a gas station and three vending machines,” Gibbs told the crowd Tuesday night. “Not all these market studies turn out as strong as this one in Hazel Park. It’s nice to know this community, in my own backyard, has such a large potential. Will this happen overnight? No. But it’s better to know you have the potential than no potential.”

Gibbs said main obstacles to creating this development is a lack of parking and the four-lane, pedestrian-unfriendly John R Road that goes through Hazel Park, Gibbs said.

Designer Bob Gibbs speaks about ways to improve Hazel Park during a CNU24 design charrette Tuesday.

Designer Bob Gibbs speaks about ways to improve Hazel Park during a CNU24 design charrette Tuesday.

To capitalize on this high density and potential customer base, Gibbs suggested the city look at narrowing John R – or putting it on a “road diet” – to allow for additional on-street parking much like Ferndale officials did on West 9 Mile in the early 1990s.

Designers, residents, business owners and city leaders will continue to spend today and Thursday working on the design plan that will be presented at the CNU conference in Detroit in June, said William Herbig, program director for CNU.

Hazel Park city leaders will also take the plan to help them make informed decisions on moving the city forward, said Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher.

“This is about our quality of life here and improving our quality of life and believing that we deserve this,” said Jeff Campbell, assistant city manager and planning director.

Ten-year Hazel Park resident Jennifer Jackson is actively participating in the charrette and was inspired and excited at the end of the first day of work.

Hazel Park Congress Legacy Project in action.

Hazel Park Congress Legacy Project in action.

“Today was fun and it was nice to see someone else’s vision for a city similar to ours,” Jackson said referencing Gibbs’ presentation that showed the design worked implemented and planned in other communities, such as Petoskey and Marquette. “I really want to see Hazel Park become a destination and be able to service our residents more appropriately. Right now to do any type of entertaining or clothing shopping or going out to dinner we have to leave the city limits and go elsewhere. We go to Detroit, Ferndale, Royal Oak, but I’d like to be able to stay in my own community and spend our money here.”

Jackson was particularly excited to see the correlation of creating a more vibrant community to an increase in housing values, job creation and tax revenues.

“I liked being able to envision having a vibrant downtown in Hazel Park,” said Jackson, who is working with another woman to start up a farmers market in the city. “I liked the idea of the road diet because it would require traffic and people to slow down and stop and take a look at what’s around.”

For more information about placemaking go to placemaking.mml.org and for details on the CNU24 go to cnu24.org. (View additional photos here).

Matt Bach is director of media relations. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and (734) 669-6317.