By Tara Cavanaugh
The Oct. 9 East English Village Home Tour is offering a glimpse of more than just pretty homes at bargain prices.
The tour also offers visitors a chance to become part of a thriving Detroit neighborhood that is determined to stay that way.
Beckie Themer, chair of the tour, has lived in the neighborhood with her husband for 24 years. “We have a really eclectic group of people that live in this neighborhood – we have all shapes, colors, sizes, you name it,” Themer said.
Kate Devlin, who has lived in the neighborhood with her wife for seven years, said one of her favorite things about the village is the active neighborhood association, which helps residents stay involved keeps the village clean and comfortable.
“It’s very community-oriented,” Themer said. “We spend a lot of time socially together, and we’re real big on helping each other.”
While idyllic, friendly neighborhoods seem a relic of the past, the village is bent on securing its future. The neighborhood association created a crime watch, and neighbors know each other’s names. The village is nothing like the often-alienating suburbs, Themer said.
“We don’t want to be that kind of community. We want to be the kind of community that is concerned about their neighbors and knows what’s going on. If somebody is parked out in front of my house, I want to know if that car doesn’t belong there.”
Scott Teran has lived in the neighborhood since 1996. “East English Village has kept its prestige throughout the years,” he said. “The home values right now are very low, which makes it really appealing for people to come and move in.”
The village is also appealing for its architecture. “The Dutch stone masons were in here and they did the facades on most of these houses,” Themer said. “There’s limestone inserts and different colors of red brick and it’s beautiful. Most of the homes are very well-built. Every one of them is different, too.” Homes range in size from 1200 to 3500 sq. feet.
The neighborhood is a testament to the Detroit’s potential, said Themer. “I think in order to have a city thrive you have to have viable neighborhoods – and I mean the ones in the city, I’m not talking about the suburbs.
“(The neighborhoods) have to be safe. They have to be places where people want to be. And I think if we can encourage that and we can make this an enjoyable place to live, well, I think that will be better for Detroit and the whole southeastern Michigan in general.”
“When they talk about making Detroit into smaller, echo-villages, when they talk about this whole transformation, I have mixed feelings about it,” Devlin said. “But if the neighborhoods were to become more like villages, I think this would be an awesome village to live in.
“I don’t think all the gay and lesbian people are going to leave Ferndale anytime soon,” Devlin added, “but I think our neighborhood could be just as cool as Ferndale.”
The village is working with the Detroit Land Bank, which is buying up old homes and renovating them with federal funds, and Project 14, which is Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s effort to attract more police, fire and city workers back into Detroit neighborhoods.
The tour showcases four homes and gardens, but 18 properties are available for purchase. Real estate companies and a local bank will also be available at the tour. There’s no pressure to buy, Themer stressed. “We just wanted to make sure that if people wanted information, they’d be able to get it,” she said. “We really, really, really want this neighborhood full again.”
The tour, which is free, takes place from 1-5 p.m. on Oct. 9, starting at 4240 Kensington Ave. in Detroit.