Innovate Mound opens in Sterling Heights, Warren: Here are some of the great places it can take you

On Wednesday, Dec. 20, officials and community stakeholders from Macomb County, the Macomb County Department of Roads (MCDR), the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), and the cities of Sterling Heights and Warren gathered to celebrate the grand opening of Innovate Mound, a $220 million, multi-year project that launched in August 2021 with promises of transforming the Mound Road corridor into one of the most technologically advanced roadways in the United States. Of course, a completely repaved roadway, now completed from I-696 to M-59, will make the most immediate difference to motorists, and especially those that remember the lunar surface-like conditions that preceded the massive project.

“Celebrating the grand opening of Mound Road, Innovate Mound delivers on its promise, reshaping our infrastructure into a model of progress,” says Sterling Heights Mayor Michael C. Taylor. “This transformation uplifts businesses, fostering a thriving commercial environment. We've ensured to connect our community not only by roadways but also through accessible pathways, cultivating a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere for all.”

The installation of connected vehicle and fiber optic communications technology, and the ability to coordinate traffic signals in real-time, stands to make getting from Point A to Point B as seamless as ever. While some work remains, the lion’s share has been completed – including that smooth new driving surface.

The intersection of 17 Mile and Mound roads in Sterling Heights. (Photo courtesy of Macomb County)

Mound Road is one of this region’s most significant corridors. In an Innovate Mound Q&A with Bryan Santo from 2020, the director of Macomb County Department of Roads outlines just how important Mound Road is to the region: “The Mound Road corridor has a substantial economic impact on the region, state, and country that reaches far beyond Macomb County. More than 47,000 people are employed along the corridor, which supports an additional 71,100 jobs in the County. Another 101,000 jobs in Michigan are supported by the corridor’s business activity. Combined, $8.7 billion in wages and benefits are paid to the more than 118,000 employees in Macomb County.”

In Sterling Heights, much of that economic impact is made by those employers situated along the corridor, a mix of manufacturing and light industrial uses from both local companies and multinational corporations doing business in sectors that include automotive, defense, and more.

But for those who don’t live or work along this new-look Mound Road and want to see it for themselves, here are some of our favorite places to visit along the Sterling Heights stretch of this innovative corridor.

International cuisine

There’s no shortage of incredible international cuisine in Sterling Heights, including both restaurants and markets alike. Two of the best in the region, representing two different parts of the world, are on the very same road in Sterling Heights.

Magdalena Srodek poses with some of Srodek's famous Polish sausage. (Photo: David Lewinski)
Srodek’s Campau Quality Sausage (40211 Mound Rd.) opened its location here in 2020, a 1,600 sq. ft. Polish grocery store and restaurant that carries everything from freshly-made pierogi to sausages and meats smoked in-house. There’s even Eastern European brands of cosmetics for sale, imported straight from the source.

Al Bataween Imported Food & Bakery is known for its freshly baked Middle Eastern breads. (Photo: David Lewinski)

Al Bataween Imported Food & Bakery (37821 Mound Rd.) specializes in freshly-baked Middle Eastern-style breads along with a fully stocked grocery department, including meats, fresh produce, Middle Eastern spices, and more.

Vegan delights

Mound Road is home to Chickpea Kitchen (39525 Mound Rd.), one of Metromode contributor Blake Woodruff’s picks for great vegan dining in Sterling Heights. As Blake wrote earlier this year: “Mixing Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors, Chickpea Kitchen offers customizable bowls, soups, pitas, and salads. Customers are given full control over how they want to make their meal. With three different types of grains, various protein choices including falafel, four freshly made hummus flavors including lentil, over 12 veggie options, and seven sauces, the restaurant offers a staggering amount of combinations.”

Mixing Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors, Chickpea Kitchen offers customizable bowls, soups, pitas, and salads. (Steve Koss)

Chickpea Kitchen also serves dishes with meat ingredients, but keeps the vegetarian and non-vegeterian staging areas separated so as to avoid any cross-contamination.

A slice of wilderness

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor (L to R), Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, and Macomb County Commissioner Joseph Romano at the revamped Sterling Relief Drain. (Photo: Macomb County Public Works)The Sterling Relief Drain crosses under Mound Road, between Metropolitan Parkway and 15 Mile Road, and running from Ryan Road to east of Schoenherr Road. It’s also the site of the Sterling Heights Butterfly Flyway, a return-to-nature initiative, of sorts, led by Macomb County that retrofit two miles of the 1960s-era drainage system between Schoenherr and Van Dyke roads, daylighting the drain and planting more than 135,000 native perennial plants, over 1,000 shrubs, and hundreds of trees. What they created was a Butterfly Flyway, reestablishing native habitat for butterflies and other important pollinators. The project was awarded Project of the Year (Quality of Life/$1 million to $5 million) by the Michigan chapter of the American Public Works Association in 2021.

In September 2023, the Macomb County Public Works Office announced their submission of a grant proposal to extend the green infrastructure project another 1.5 miles, and this time west of Mound Road.

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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.