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Building Bridges: Ferndale Mayor Earns Spirit of Detroit Award

Building Bridges: Ferndale Mayor Earns Spirit of Detroit Award

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 18, 2021)

Ferndale, Detroit, MI- This week Ferndale Mayor Melanie Piana accepted a Spirit of Detroit Award for recent collaborative efforts at the 8 Mile and Woodward intersection.

The cities are working together to make improvements to the busy intersection where overpasses and underpasses have become shelter for panhandlers and where litter has become an eyesore.  The cities are hoping that public art and lighting will help create a new sense of space that is welcoming and safe for everyone.  In December they heard proposals from design firms, and tonight there will be an online presentation about the human service needs of the people currently using the corner to ask passing drivers and pedestrians for money.

The award was presented via zoom at Detroit’s District 2 meeting.

“It’s not often when a public official becomes speechless, but this is how I reacted when I learned about Councilman [Roy] McCalister’s special recognition,” Piana told the council and audience, “I’m honored to receive the Spirit of Detroit award tonight, acknowledged by Detroit City Council members. Although we are elected peers, the Detroit City Council body represents the largest city in the State of Michigan. Your voices carry important weight regionally and statewide, therefore I’m truly excited to receive this distinction.

“I view my position as one that strives to improve the quality of life for not only my Ferndale residents but also residents in adjacent cities such as Detroit’s neighborhoods that border 8 Mile. When I bought my house at Livernois and 8 mile in 2004 I knew there was more that could be done to address deep racial and ethnic inequities that exist today as a direct result of structural racism resulting in physical barriers and barriers erected through policy.”

Piana was elected to Ferndale City Council in 2009 and was elected Mayor in 2019.  Her efforts have not just been on improving her city, but those around as well.  This is particularly true in areas of bike lanes and regional transit.  Ferndale has worked to bring MoGo bike rentals to several communities, as well as working with neighbors for connected corridors, bike lanes, and bike routes.  Improvements along Livernois happened on both sides of the city boundary thanks to efforts by both municipalities.

In addition to her role as an official, Piana has dedicated her professional career to helping communities.  She served as President of the Michigan Municipal League, as well as working for Michigan Suburbs Alliance and Jefferson East, Inc.

“During my time as Chief Operating Officer at Jefferson East, Inc, on Detroit’s eastside, I bore witness to long-time Detroiters speak of their history, personal experiences, and traumas from systemic racism. But what resonated with me most was their expression of deep love and commitment to their city, community, and neighborhoods. Hope brings us together and it’s where I find my inspiration in the people that I serve,” Piana said.

“As Ferndale’s Mayor, one important role that I take seriously is a bridge builder. How appropriate it is we are talking about the 8m/Woodward bridge today,” she said.

“What I know for sure is that people, no matter where they live, all want to live in a safe neighborhood, have safe streets, have access to green space and more importantly, feel like you belong and can be the person you are meant to be. The opportunity to listen to Detroiters has contributed to my personal and professional growth. I’m forever thankful.”

The Ferndale Mayor also gave specific thank yous, recognizing Ferndale staffers Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy, DPW Director Carlos Kennedy, Communications Director Kara Sokol, and Assistant Building Official Emily Loomis.  On the Detroit side she thanked District 2 Manager Kim Tandy, Dave Walker, Terra Linzner, Laura Urtega-Fuentes, Paul Corbett, and Winfred Blackmon as well as Councilperson Roy McCalister.

The 8 Mile and Woodward Improvement Project also has 15 partners, ranging from government agencies to human service groups that are working to provide solutions for those currently using the bridge for shelter.  Piana thanked them as well as Patty Rudd at the 8 Mile Boulevard Association.

To keep up with the latest on the 8 Mile and Woodward project, check out the City of Ferndale website.  Also be sure to sign up for Daily Headlines from Oakland County Times so you don’t miss any of our ongoing stories.

Previous stories:

8 Mile-Woodward Improvement Committee to Select Design Group (Dec. 6, 2020)

Housing Needs and Placemaking at Forefront of 8 Mile and Woodward Collaborations (Aug. 6, 2020)

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