The article I read for this week, “Symbolic barrier between Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park poised to fall”, describes a lesser-known but similar boundary between Detroit and the suburban community of Grosse Pointe Park, located at the intersection of Kercheval Ave. and Wayburn St. I’ve always been interested in urban studies and learning about the history behind social divisions in cities, so this article naturally caught my eye. For years a one-way roundabout has existed at this intersection, allowing motorists to enter Grosse Pointe Park through Kercheval from the west but preventing them from entering Detroit from the east. This roundabout is part of a long history of division between the affluent, mostly white community and the neighboring predominantly black city where almost half the residents in the bordering ZIP code are below the poverty line. Five years ago, Grosse Pointe Park erected three barns for a farmers market that blocked passage to and from Detroit at the intersection, which many saw as an antagonistic move towards Detroit. Though these were removed months later, Grosse Pointe Park ended up replacing them with the one-way roundabout in addition to setting up over a dozen large planters, maintaining a physical barrier between the two municipalities.
According to the article, officials from Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park have now reached an agreement to reopen the roundabout to two way traffic by August 1 and develop the area around the border. The discussion has been happening for a year and a half. The proposed new design for the intersection will have one bike lane each way, one traffic lane each way, and a parking lane on the south side. The hope is that “the distinction between the two communities will be seamless”, “creating more opportunities for residents of Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park to spend more time together.”
The new developments described by the article made me happy because they demonstrate the metro area’s growing willingness to better integrate the city of Detroit with its surrounding suburban communities. Since Metro Detroit began to undergo suburbanization in the 1940s, racial and class divisions (which are often intertwined with each other) have been exacerbated in the area. Though reopening the intersection to two-way traffic and developing the border area will no doubt play a role in promoting better relations between Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park, there is still much more that can be done in order to truly make Detroit and its suburbs unified both socially and economically. In particular, the metro area’s public transportation system could see improvement; for example, greater interconnectedness of the various bus services in the area- DDOT, SMART, and FAST will in turn create greater interconnectedness between the different communities that make up the vast Detroit metro area.
The article also led me to draw parallels to the physical and symbolic divide between Duke and the surrounding city of Durham. There definitely is a bubble of elitism and privilege within Duke’s campus, and this divide is physically manifested by the wall around East Campus. Duke feels isolated from Durham, and from what I’ve observed there isn’t much integration between Duke students and Durhamites. Many of my classmates tell me that they never go into Durham because they feel that it’s unsafe. I’ve also heard that Durham residents often harbor animosity towards Duke. I felt that this two-way disunity was extremely unfortunate because both entities have so much potential to mutually help each other out, so since my fall semester of freshman year I’ve strived to bridge this gap by volunteering in the local community and getting to know some of the people of Durham. The progress described by the article and fulfilling experiences I’ve had talking to locals of Detroit over the past few weeks have inspired me to continue making an effort to engage with the Durham community. Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park are moving towards greater unity, and so can Duke and Durham.