Blog: George Lenko

Look in the dictionary under community involvement and you're likely to see George Lenko's face. A second term city commissioner in Pleasant Ridge, he spearheaded the NextCruise event during Dream Cruise and has a passion for regional development and transit issues --topics he will be writing about in this week's Guest Blog.

Post No 1: Dream Cruise

You’d might easily miss Pleasant Ridge. The "ridge" in Pleasant Ridge is the old Native American Saginaw Trail and, here, it converges with historic Woodward Avenue. Nowadays, Pleasant Ridge is more recognizable as the crossroads where Michigan’s busiest freeway (I-696) intersects with Woodward, Michigan’s M-1.  

Last month, Pleasant Ridge also found itself at the crossroads of our Automotive past and future. Among the Woodward Dream Cruise activities, on August 15/16 we hosted our inaugural NextCruise, which attracted national and even international attention.  

For several years, I’ve wanted to put our space along Woodward to better use during the Dream Cruise. We have landscaped parkland bordering Woodward.  We’re conveniently situated between Royal Oak and Ferndale, within easy walking distance of both. Most of the city is a designated historic district, and we were recently recognized by This Old House magazine as one of "The Best Eight Places to Buy an Old House". 

In all, a very fine place.

Yet, despite the ambience, the Woodward Dream Cruise largely passes us by. I think this is mostly because the classic cars generally take the chute under I-696 and miss half the city by the time they emerge. Also, bars and parking lots may have more draw to cruisers than trees and parks. 

This year, I floated a new concept past Paul Eisenstein, a national automotive journalist who just happens to live in the neighborhood. "What if", I asked Paul, "What if we pulled together a display of new automotive technologies to show people what they’ll be cruising in for years to come?"

The idea clicked and, by the end of our lunch, Paul had commitments from several manufacturers. On top of that, he insisted that we give the public a chance to drive these new technologies….hybrids, fuel cells, advanced diesels…so we’d have "butts in cars". It would be Lean, Mean, and Green.  

The timing was so right that talented industry insiders, like Events Solutions International and G-2 Communications volunteered instantly. The vision was so compelling that nine manufacturers signed up for our inaugural event.

How’d it turn out? Our inaugural event was a huge success. The cars were amazing. The ride & drive worked flawlessly. Over 85% of participants were delighted or very delighted in power of the cars they experienced. Almost 90% said they would consider purchasing a green vehicle, and nearly half would do so within two years.  

Some might think that it’s incongruous to showcase new technologies with the classic cruisers. Not so. Any of us around in the '60s or '70s know that cruisers were showing off the latest technologies. Many residents of this region, built in the glory days of the autos, are intimately involved in its newest innovations.

Around here, the past is the future. Nothing incongruous.