In 2001, Jim and Donna Jalosky had a vision of turning scrap metal into art. In search of a place to hone their craft that was both affordable and close to home, they opened their eclectic store, Iron Ivy, in the city of Eastpointe.
“When you think of art, you usually think of the west side,” says Donna Jalosky. “But a new business like ours couldn’t afford to start there. Eastpointe is a great place for entrepreneurs to begin their business ventures.”
Iron Ivy opened their first location in 2001 in Eastpointe. They enjoyed being a part of the community so much that they opened their second, current storefront in 2011 on Gratiot Avenue just south of 10 Mile.
“Eastpointe is a small city and the residents and city officials so are easy to work with,” says Jalosky. “People want to see it grow and want more interesting businesses here. I would love to see more shops like ours so people can come here to find unique crafts and furniture and make it worth the trip.”
Watermelon Man. Photo by Doug Coombe.Iron Ivy has art installations in various locations throughout the city, including “Watermelon Man” in the City Garden on 9 Mile Road. Their current store features work from numerous local artists including pottery, hand-made jewelry, fused glass pieces and more.
Another new business that has thrived in the City of Eastpointe since opening in October of 2015 is Detroit Wing Company. Owner Gus Malliaras had a slightly different reason for choosing the location of his restaurant.
“My dad had a plumbing company in Eastpointe so my parents had owned the building for almost 30 years,” says Malliaras, who had previously owned a Coney Island in Warren. “I dreamed of specializing my menu to just a few items with the hope of selling some wings.”
According to Malliaras, Eastpointe has been great for his business. He describes Eastpointe as a loyal, diverse, blue collar community.
“Being on Gratiot so close to major freeways, we get people from 10 miles away that come for our wings,” he continues. “I’ve owned restaurants in a number of cities and this neighborhood has been by far the most welcoming.”
In 2014, the city became “Redevelopment-Ready Certified” with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The program requires communities to streamline and consolidate the development process.
“We’ve heard good things from developers about dealing with the city as far as knowing the process and the speed in which developments are approved, she says. “It’s made us more efficient, we can help developers get things done more quickly, which is what they are most interested in.”
An affordable place to live
Eastpointe also proves to be an ideal neighborhood to purchase or rent affordable homes. The median property value in the city is $58,300.
“There is a constant movement of people both in and out of the city, and we are seeing fewer vacancies,” says Mary Van Haaren; Director of Community & Economic Development.
She explains that the city has an aggressive rental program and an assortment of home styles ranging from bungalows, to brick ranches, to large beautiful mansions.
“We have some older homes with unique architecture and sprawling lots that are being maintained very well,” she says.
According to Van Haaren, Eastpointe has reinvigorated itself in recent years to be a place that young couples, developers and business owners are finding opportunity in. Eastpointe has a current population of 34,077 residents and that number is increasing slightly each year, she says.
The city was recently granted federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds that allowed it to purchase vacant property that was a former school ground.
“We sold it to two developers,” says Van Haaren. “The first developer built a 40-unit senior living community. The second developer built Grafton Townhomes, a very nice 48-unit complex intended for low to moderate income housing.”
This same developer will also build two- and three-bedroom duplex apartments with attached garages. This construction will start in the fall of 2017.
According to Van Haaren, the city has been successfully encouraging the development of unused property.
“You don’t normally get a lot of new housing in a city this size, especially with Eastpointe being primarily residential, but right now we have less vacant land than we have had in recent years and we are seeing opportunities to welcome new residents.”
Improving parks and recreation
The city’s parks, which are operated jointly with the city of Roseville, have been actively improving recreational activities, parking, pavilions and paths in an effort to encourage more residents to stay local for their recreational activities.
Spindler Park, located on Stephens Drive, received a full makeover in the last two years.
“We repaved the parking lot, added a paved walking path, and built a huge snow hill for the kids to enjoy in the winter time,” says Van Haaren. The park will also be adding an outdoor hockey rink in the winter of 2017-18. The path has the potential to connect to walking trails in adjacent communities,
“The old building that was in the center of Spindler Park is currently being renovated to be an arts and education center. We plan to have an art exhibit there in the fall and use the building for various city training and voting.”
Kennedy Park on Schroeder Ave is another cool place for kids to hang out in the summer and winter months. They maintain a year-round ice/roller hockey rink and also a skate park.
“We are also excited to be renovating and upgrading the concession stand and locker rooms at Memorial Field on 10 Mile Road, west of Gratiot,” she says. “Our goal is to continue making the City of Eastpointe more livable and more enjoyable for our residents. I think the new businesses, and constant flow of residents is a sign that the city is thriving.”
Plans for the future
The City of Eastpointe adopted its new master plan last week, which, according to Van Haaren, consolidates plans and data into a more readable and accessible format, but doesn’t deviate too far from past policy.
A 2015 Eastpointe Charrette conducted in partnership with the Grosse Pointe Board of Realtors and the Institute Without Borders set out an ambitious program of innovative developments like green spaces, live-work units, a mobility hub and flexible uses for the central median along Gratiot Avenue, such as pop-up shipping-container shops, public space and art. Few of those ideas have since been implemented or adopted, according to Van Haaren.
A plan for a mobility hub along 8 mile lost momentum given the failure of the 2016 Regional Transit Authority Millage vote, she says. Other plans to green and activate public spaces along Kelly Road are still possible but slowed due to a lack of funds.
One challenge in implementing innovative planning and development is the city’s resources. Van Haaren’s roles include directing community economic development, building inspector and rental program oversight.
“We’re a small community, and the directors are stretched kind of thin to be able to go out and actively recruit developers to build cool developments,” she says.
But city officials were proactive in promoting and securing redevelopment for the Grafton Townhome project, And plans for mixed use redevelopment have since morphed into multiple family housing developments in other areas in the city, she says. Meanwhile, the city’s zoning is aligned with many of the visions in the charrette document, including live-work units.
“Live-work developments are absolutely still a possibility in the Downtown Development Authority area,” says VanHaaren. “And the property is zoned to do just that.”
Additional reporting contributed by Nina Ignaczak.