Lakewood is often described as the most densely populated city between New York and Chicago. So it would seem that a suburb with such scant green space would desperately cling to what little she has left. But not so in the City of Homes.
Lakewood has approved a $20,000 study to see if baseball and softball games at Kauffman Park can be relocated to another field, thus allowing the city to sell the park to a private owner. It would then be converted to a retail/condo development of undisclosed specifics, an improvement over the strip mall that now fronts the park on Detroit Avenue.
On the surface, it would seem a moronic notion. Most of the city’s 100-year-old homes have yards the size of grapefruits, making its few parks an absolute necessity. Lakewood leaders say the green space will remain, only moved closer to Detroit, though it’s hard to believe a private owner would leave much expensive land undeveloped. And any time a city hires a consultant, buyer beware. They’re often just an expensive way of providing an “official study” that lends credence to a pre-ordained position. Hey, this wasn’t our idea! This is what the experts are telling us!
All of which has residents buzzing that the fix is in. Some believe the study is being delayed until after the elections, so Mayor Tom George won’t take the hit for selling the park. George (who couldn’t be reached late Friday), is well aware of Lakewood’s penchant of rebellion. He won office after former Mayor Madeline Cain tried to use eminent domain – that’s German for “We’re about to take your shit” – to confiscate people’s homes for another development.
But Council President Robert Seelie says there’s no secret plot afoot. The city is merely examining its options.
If Kauffman’s sale brings a handsome price, Lakewood could use the money to rebuild other parks. “How much is the land worth?” he asks. “If there’s millions of dollars to be obtained there, we could improve the other parks dramatically.” Moreover, even if city officials love the idea, it still must go through planning, zoning, and architectural review boards, as well as the city council, says Seelie. That gives residents plenty time to raise hell and find really good bricks to throw.
“Oh shit,” says the council president, “there’s no done deal -- only don’t tell them about the nuclear silos going back there. It can’t be, because we have no idea we can take those activities elsewhere. This isn’t a done deal; this is an exciting deal. This is an opportunity to jump on board and see what we can do, or bring back Bob’s Big Boy and play baseball there every night.”
Unfortunately, he might find out that a lot of residents really miss Bob’s Big Boy. – Pete Kotz
UPDATE: The mayor responds.