The North Main Puzzle
Waldemar Alfred Paul John--better known as WAP John--has been at 1200 N. Main with his sign-making and graphic design business, Grafaktri, long enough to remember the 1988 task force, headed by local designer Howard Deardorff. John relishes being an evolving, cutting-edge graphics designer in a "divey" part of town. He has fond memories of daily encounters with the Lansky brothers, whose junkyard is now the NEW Center. These visits served up treasures such as "a spare wheel for a moon buggy--still in its original box!"
While John is receptive to the task force's recommendations, he won't devote much of his own time to its work. "We've done this before," he explains. "There is, in existence, a whole plan for this area ... They spent a ton of money, it went over a long period of time, I went to all the meetings." But nothing much came of it.
The mission of the 1988 task force and the 2013 task force are strikingly similar. So are the barriers to making changes.
The biggest obstacle is that while the city owns much of the property along North Main, access is controlled by others. The street itself is a Michigan Department of Transportation business route. The city can make suggestions, but ultimately it is MDOT which decides whether the road will be widened, the lanes reconfigured, sidewalks put in, or pedestrian crosswalks established. MDOT also recently took ownership of the former Norfolk & Southern / Amtrak rail line that runs between North Main and the river.