DETROIT – Berkley City Council member Steve Baker and several other local officials were honored this week by the Woodward Avenue Action Association during a gala event at the Fox Theatre.
Baker was recognized Thursday during the WA3 Anniversary Celebration & Annual Meeting, "15 Years of Inspiring Change," for his work on the WA3 South Oakland Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Task Force. The group aims to explore the possibilities for extending public transportation along Woodward Avenue north of Eight Mile Road and to initiate dialogue and consensus among cities along that stretch.
The task force's work comes as the in Detroit also is progressing. The project would create a light rail line linking key areas along Woodward Avenue, from downtown to a site near Eight Mile Road. A draft environmental impact statement on the project is expected by late May or early June, Baker said Thursday.
The Berkley councilman has said in the past that he believes regional transit is key to supporting jobs and business investments, as well as to higher property values, better access to shopping and entertainment, reduced auto traffic, additional transit choices and more.
"Woodward Avenue is a great catalyst for bringing our communities together," Baker said.
To that end, he was honored along with several other local leaders, including: Huntington Woods City Council member Jeffrey Jenks (who was unable to attend) Birmingham Mayor Pro Tem Mark Nickita, Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison, the SMART bus system's John Swatosh, former state Rep. Marie Donigan, Beaumont Hospital's Jim Barrett and Ferndale City Council member Melanie Piana.
"Steve Baker has been one of those council people who has been fantastic to work with and is open, willing to innovate and bring people together," Piana said. "He's so positive, it's contagious."
Baker and the TOD task force developed a resolution of support among the communities from Ferndale to Birmingham and obtained state planning funds, WA3 Executive Director Heather Carmona said during the awards ceremony. The group also aims to have coordinated land use and zoning to support transit-oriented development north of Eight Mile, she said.
That was music to the ears of Huntington Woods Mayor Ronald Gillham, who serves as secretary on the board of the Woodward Avenue Action Association, which manages the street's America's Byways and All-American Road designations and works with communities along a 27-mile stretch of the road, along with Wayne and Oakland counties, to capitalize on the corridor's potential.
"It's been good to watch the activities and events grow. It's a vital organization. There's a lot they have done, and there's a lot more to do," Gillham said. "To go across lines can be a challenge, but I hope to see those lines disappear."
To learn more about the Woodward Avenue Action Association or the South Oakland Transit-Oriented Development Task Force, visit woodwardavenue.org.
Clarification: Huntington Woods City Council member Jeffrey Jenks also was among the honorees.