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Groups may team up to help historic avenue

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Woodward unity is planned

Groups may team up to help historic avenue

February 12, 2004



Metro Detroit's quilt of competing communities isn't known for harmony, but there has been a shining exception along Woodward Avenue.

For the last decade, a nonprofit group called the Woodward Avenue Action Association has kick-started a flurry of cooperation among communities in Oakland County.

Now a merger is in the works between the Oakland group and its counterpart in Wayne County, one that members say will be a big step toward a more prosperous, unified Woodward Avenue all the way from Pontiac to the Detroit River.

The merger is on the agenda today at a board meeting of the Woodward Avenue Action Association, said Executive Director Heather Carmona.

She hopes her group can consolidate with its south of 8 Mile counterpart, a group insiders call WOW -- for Woodward Heritage Organization/Wayne. The Oakland group includes officials of communities from Ferndale to Pontiac. The Wayne counterpart includes Detroit and Highland Park.

Over the last decade, cities on Woodward from Ferndale to Pontiac have forged links to stage the Woodward Dream Cruise, make postal addresses consistent, landscape the median and win government grants.

But the new, bigger regional link would breach more forbidding boundaries of race and politics.

It could help turn Woodward into "this region's version of Route 66," said Carmona, referring to the storied highway from Los Angeles to Chicago that has become a hot tourist attraction.

Supporters also say it could push a cool-cities agenda, to include mass transit, condominium development, the marketing of Woodward as an auto-history route, and the continued gentrification of Woodward from Wayne State University to Grand Circus Park in Detroit.

Carmona hopes to run the combined group.

The Oakland-based group has won a string of government grants. Merged with its Wayne County counterpart, it will qualify for a bigger share of state and federal aid, said Harriet Saperstein, secretary-treasurer of the Wayne County group.

And to draw tourists and developers, "we can do a lot better together than we can separately," Saperstein said.

Melding the plans even of neighboring cities is tough, said Jean Chamberlain, who represents Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson at the Oakland group.

A decade ago, Chamberlain rushed city to city to launch the Woodward Dream Cruise. At first, the cities fought "like dogs," but ultimately they "saw the greater good," she said.

Creating the merged groups "has been the same way."

Contact BILL LAITNER at 248-351-3297.

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