Orchard Grove Residents Resist New Developments

My name is Colin Dussault. I have lived on Orchard Grove since the year of my birth back in 1969. For most of my 50 years, there has been a Barry Buick car lot and body shop on our three corners on Detroit Avenue. I even remember the Starter Restaurant being on the corner for a while when I was a child. I vividly recall my dear mother giving us 75 cents every now and then for cheeseburgers from the greasy spoon on the corner where the body shop offices of Barry Buick stood until recently.

Sadly, the car dealership has closed its doors and sold off its three properties on the corners of Detroit/Orchard Grove/Rosewood/Brockley to developers. These developers are planning on erecting large two- and possibly three-story apartment buildings in place of the body shop and new & used car dealerships. (It is our understanding based on information available to us that the proposal from developer Jerome Solove sought to erect 150 units with parking for 186 vehicles. Now we are hearing rumblings of a proposal for 300 rental units.)

As more and more information about these proposed developments comes to light, the opposition to this drastic change to our cityscape increases. Having resided here for half a century, I have enjoyed the tranquility of this neighborhood. Now that I am a homeowner, I have grown to appreciate my neighbors even more. Orchard Grove is a great neighborhood in every sense of the word. We all get along; we look out for each other and enjoy spending time together when we can. I personally snow-blow sidewalks and driveways for many neighboring homes in the winter. I also regularly rake my neighbors' lawn in the spring, summer and fall (hey, they are nuns—and I need all the positive points I can get). We all look out for each other, as good neighobors should do. 

However, as these plans for development emerge, the situation is becoming increasingly worrisome for all of us who have made this street our home. We have major questions and concerns about many facets of this development. 

For starters, what about parking? We barely have enough spots on the street to park as it stands. What will happen when 150 to 300 or more new residents are introduced into this area? I think it is safe to say that there will be a minimum of one car if not more per apartment. Parking will be a nightmare for all involved. Where are we all supposed to park our vehicles? This is already an issue for our exitsting neighbors and home owners. 

Additionally, these new dwellings are being pitched as apartments, which indicates that tenants will likely be coming and going, moving in and moving out on a regular basis. What kind of people will be living here in such close proximity to our homes, children and pets? We have all spent our lifetimes maintaining and keeping up our homes. We have made major investments in this city and this street and this neighborhood. What will these "tenants" bring to the table? They're unlikely to be motivated to have the same dedication to the area that we who have lived here so long have!

If these were condominiums, it might be slightly less painful. At least with condos, the people moving in en masse would be "owners" and might have a vested interest in keeping this neighborhood safe and nice.

As it is, we can hardly exit off of Orchard Grove northbound onto Detroit Avenue due to the long lines of backed-up traffic. These ever-present backups have resulted from the new bike lanes and single lane "upgrades" and changes to the traffic patterns on Detroit Avenue. (Quite honestly, with the lights timed the way they are and the single and bike lanes being created, Detroit is unnavigable by car. If this was the city's intent, they have succeeded with flying colors!) Taking this into consideration, what will happen when we add a few hundred more drivers, vehicles and neighbors to this equation? Furthermore, we can no longer access Hilliard Avenue from Rosewood to the south due to that road being closed and blocked off with concrete barriers between the the park and church. We cannot come home down Rosewood from the south any longer due to these impediments to our travel.

Orchard Grove is a very busy cut-through and as such, cars and traffic are always speeding up and down our street. So much so that I worry every day for the safety and well-being of my 11-year-old daughter. Again, what will happen when we introduce several hundred new neighbors and cars to this area? I am also concerned about what types of people will be renting these new dwellings and how those people will affect my parental peace of mind as far as allowing my child to walk, run, bike and play on our street without my watchful and protective eyes upon her.

When I was only 7 years of age, I walked to the Midnight Market, Ross Deli and Lawson's all on my own to get my mom cigarettes (with nothing more than a note from her). I walked alone to the store at this age to get milk and bread. I would ride my bike down to Barry Buick or Lossman Motors and get air in my tires. I would hang out at Wings Hobby Shop and Kovac's Comics collecting baseball cards and passing my time. As I grew older I would walk or ride my bike to Miller's Dining Room for sticky buns, Melody Lane for records and Daffy Dan's to get my baseball jerseys lettered and have my last name placed on the back of my uniforms. Today I am very reluctant to allow my 11-year-old to walk or ride anywhere unchaperoned. If we add these apartments and introduce this many new strangers to our immediate area, my ever-present fears for her safety will be compounded a thousandfold. I am not happy with the changes being proposed. 

Aside from our collective concerns about parking and issues with entering and exiting Detroit Ave., speeding cars, hundreds of new tenants and strangers with no motivating financial ties to the neighborhood, where will the egress for each building be? Where and how will they enter and exit their respective parking lots and garages? How will this affect each of us who live on surrounding streets? How close will the buildings be in relation to our pre-existing property lines? What will our sight lines be? What will we see when we look out our windows? What will they see when they look out their windows?

These are all issues that we on Orchard Grove have been talking about amongst ourselves privately, in our backyards and on our front porches as we contemplate and come to grips with the rapid pace with which these major and life-altering changes to the blocks adjacent to our beloved homes are being proposed. The only clear winners here are the developers and the city in terms of income generated from rent and taxes. However, the "winnings" for those two entities come at the expense of the homeowners and lifelong residents of Orchard Grove and surrounding streets--homeowners who have dedicated themselves to this city. 

Many of us are contemplating selling our properties and moving away from a city, street and neighborhood that we have made and called home for decades. We don't want to do this, but we may be left with no choice. These thoughts never entered my mind until the sale of Barry Buick occurred. That potential mass exodus is the most disturbing result of these changes to our fine city and our street corners in particular. I have personally invested in this home thinking that I would raise my daughter here and grow old here and hand it down to her. Now those thoughts have been turned upside down. Now I am thinking about moving away and abandoning a home that I dearly love.

I hope that, contrary to what transpired with the dismantling of our beloved Lakewood Hospital, the city slows down and genuinely takes our concerns and interests to heart. I would think that my 50 years residing here in this home would be worth something to the decision makers at City Hall. If they take my concerns and dedication to my neighbors and neighborhood as expressed herein, and multiply them by the more than 1,000 neighbors who feel the same way that I do, perhaps the city will feel compelled to take a break, slow down and re-evaluate this entire idea of new apartments on the corners of Detroit and Orchard Grove, Rosewood and Brockley. 

We feel there needs to be much more discussion about how this is all going to play out. As it stands now, many of us are feeling compelled to move away from Lakewood, Ohio.

If anyone else from this area is concerned and would like to correspond or join us in our attempts to be heard, you can email me at: colindussault@gmail.com. My neighbor James Obarsky would also like to hear from you. He can be reached at: obarskyjames@gmail.com

Colin Dussault

Colin Dussault is a Musician/Bandleader and 50 year resident of Orchard Grove Avenue from Lakewood, Ohio.

Colin Dussault

Musician/Bandleader, 50 year resident of Orchard Grove Avenue from Lakewood, Ohio

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 7:53 AM, 04.03.2019