Welcome to Metromode’s new “Walkable Suburbs” series, where we take a walk in some of the metro Detroit region’s least car-dependent places to live, work and recreate. We’ll meet the people who live there, the business owners who take advantage of the pedestrian-friendly environment, and the city officials responsible for keeping things walkable.
Along the way, we hope you’ll find new areas to explore and learn about how communities are creating and sustaining the kinds of places that experts say is so key to attracting and retaining young talent.
Our first neighborhood is one of metro Detroit’s oldest: the “Cabbage Patch” area of Grosse Pointe Park. The city’s population grows more diverse with each year, and the website walskcore.com gives the city a score of 67 out of 100, or “Somewhat Walkable” That number increases into the 90s for the area adjacent to the three commercial corridors within the district. The area is also served by DDOT buses and hosts a “K-Line Trolley” between town centers on weekends.
We hope you enjoy the walk. If you’d like to nominate a walkable neighborhood in metro Detroit, email Metromode’s Managing Editor Nina Ignaczak at email@example.com.
Approximate area of Grosse Pointe Park's Cabbage Patch neighborhood
What creates a neighborhood with character? Maybe it is the trees, their mature canopies creating cool shade. It might be the way the porches align so you can see swings, rocking chairs and friendly neighbors all in a row. It could be the homes, filled with the budding optimism of young grads, newly married couples and growing families.
Whatever the reason, there’s something idyllic about the sights, sounds, and streets of Grosse Pointe Park’s Cabbage Patch. The area bordered by the mighty avenues of Mack and Jefferson on one side and stretching between Alter Road and Somerset are woven together tightly with a patchwork of flats, bungalows, family-owned businesses, baseball diamonds and neighborhood schools.
“The walkability to shops, schools and all the amenities of life is tremendous,” said Steve Wereley, a Realtor who grew up in Grosse Pointe Park on Buckingham and has always loved the parks, businesses and waterfront location of his hometown. “A lot of the restaurants and shops are fixtures of the area and my childhood.”
It is the hometown feel that defines and identifies the Cabbage Patch to those who have lived, worked or visited there. That comes from the history of the area, which dates back to the earliest days of the Grosse Pointes and the development of Detroit’s east side. It also comes from the rich variety of ethnicities that have called this neighborhood home, residents said. They are the ones who preferred to walk to church, to the nearby grocer, to the schools as part of their everyday life.
Interestingly, the original Cabbage Patch was in the city of Grosse Pointe. There, Mrs. Henry Joy (spouse of the Packard Motor Car company president) in the early 1900s nicknamed the area between the Grosse Pointe War Memorial and The Little Club/Grosse Pointe Club as the Cabbage Patch. She did so because the area’s charm and detailed houses reminded her of a popular book, “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch” by author Alice Caldwell Hogan Rice.
Pam Scanlon and Izzy Donnelly at the Grosse Pointe Historical Society. Photo by David LewinskiThe name migrated across the street and down to Grosse Pointe Park, where the area formerly known as Fairview was located. Here, several busy blocks stocked with Belgian-owned businesses and residents took on the Cabbage Patch moniker, explains Pam Scanlon of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society.
“They bought their houses together so they could live together, and they’d shop at local businesses so their money could stay in the community,” Scanlon says of the Belgian community that defined the Cabbage Patch of the early 1900s. “They had bakeries, butchers, churches – that was their neighborhood. They didn’t need cars because they could walk to everything they needed.”
The term “Cabbage Patch” could have originated in part for this neighborhood because many of the homes had Victory Gardens, growing their own food as a matter of pride or during food shortages, Scanlon said. The nickname also is a reference to the young people who tend to take up residence in the flats, apartments and multi-family residences throughout the area – they grow where they’re planted, much like a little cabbage patch.
What brings so many people to make a home in the Cabbage Patch then and now is the kind of housing stock people love – think hardwood floors, plaster walls, coved ceilings and leaded-glass windows and doors. Apartments are warm and cozy, most including great details like sizable kitchens, fireplaces and large dining rooms that are ideal for entertaining.
Having such a rich and diverse stock of homes as well as retail opportunities nearby is why people of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities choose to live in the Cabbage Patch, local officials agree.
“The walkability of our city is one of the great benefits of living in Grosse Pointe Park,” said Bob Denner, Mayor of Grosse Pointe Park. “The northwest sector, often referred to as the Cabbage Patch, is in the center of it all. With its single-family homes and rental flats it has become a popular place to live for students, young professionals and families. Residents get to know their neighbors and enjoy the nearby places to shop, eat and relax.”
For Denner, having friendly faces at every turn is one reason why he loves to walk and talk his way through the Cabbage PatchGrosse Pointe Park Mayor Bob Denner. Photo by David Lewinski. on a regular basis.
“I live a short walk from all these areas. My favorite walk is to go to Kercheval, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant and an ice cream at Sweeties. The short walk home is perfect after-dinner exercise. I always see friends and neighbors on an evening out on Kercheval,” Denner says.
Adding transportation such as the free K-line trolley, available on Friday and Saturday evenings during the warmer months, also has made this walkable district easy to visit for neighbors in Grosse Pointe and Grosse Pointe Farms, Denner adds.
Going from spot to spot for a meal, dessert or entertainment is another reason why walking the Cabbage Patch is such a popular activity for residents as well as those living nearby, noted Wereley. The area has many amenities within walking distance, he says.
And if you do want a city feel or if you want a short commute to Detroit or nearby cities, then the Cabbage Patch has the kind of convenience that any commuter would love, Werely adds.
“The drive to downtown Detroit depending on where you live in Grosse Pointe Park is not more than 15 minutes,” Werely says. “There are short distances to I-75 and Metro Airport as well as quick detours to downtown in the case the freeways are backed up.”
Plus, even if you move away from the Cabbage Patch, a part of you always stays there, the Realtor said. Like other parts of the Grosse Pointe communities or Metro Detroit in general, the retail districts have gone through their ups and downs. But things definitely seem on the upswing thanks to new investments and exciting concepts, like Atwater in the Park, a beloved local brewery with an outdoor beer garden in a converted church at the corner of Lakepointe and Kercheval.
“My grandfather owned Sherwood's in the Park, which is now Park Grill. I have seen the transition first hand and am thrilled about the development of the area. I'm excited to see what is yet to come,” Wereley says.
Grosse Pointe Park resident Jeanette Evans agrees. She and her family moved to the Park two years ago, and they love exploring the neighborhoods in and around the Cabbage Patch. Her children, ages 10 and 13, are avid fans of the area, and Evans said they spend many hours visiting “the abundance of different types of businesses” that populate the neighborhoods.
Jennifer Evans at Cornwall Bakery. Photo by David Lewinski.
“I can shop for toys, baked goods, get a haircut, and find home goods all in one block,” says Evans, enjoying a trip to the Robot Garage and a fresh loaf of bread from Cornwall Bakery.
Seeing the same faces as they stroll through the Cabbage Patch and nearby neighborhoods during nights and weekends also gives Evans a deep feeling of connection with her community.
“It seems like we know everyone along Jefferson,” Evans says. “The bottom line is the sense of the neighborhood. Everything feels close – the library, the schools, groceries. I can get to all of them on foot or by bicycle. It’s the city vibe without the noise or traffic.”