Grosse PointesJanuary 4, 2014
Pointes try to preserve past while adapting to present needs in 2013
By April Lehmbeck and K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writers
Although 2013 was a time of change in the Pointes, it was one that also saw community leaders trying to preserve the past.
From efforts — still ongoing at press time — by Beaumont Health System to find a new home for the historical Cadieux Farmhouse, to the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce taking the reins of the 38th annual Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade from the Grosse Pointe Village Association, many recognized the need to maintain the deep history of the Pointes even as times and needs change.
Services for Older Citizens is now bringing new life to a historical building, the Newberry House, and the historical former Cottage Hospital, now known as Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage, is evolving by adding senior housing on its upper floors, a development organizers say will be a model for other projects nationwide in years to come. Grosse Pointe Shores officials are looking forward to a forthcoming pictorial history book — being funded by an anonymous donor — that will share unique stories and images from the city’s more than 100-year history.
But those positive developments also were tempered by grief. The relatives and friends of recent murder victims Jane Bashara and Sabrina Gianino — both of whom lived in Grosse Pointe Park — might get some closure, as suspects in those murder cases head to trial in March 2014.
Bashara charged in wife’s murder
More than a year after his wife, Jane Bashara, 56, was strangled to death on Jan. 24, 2012, Robert “Bob” Bashara found himself facing charges that he orchestrated her murder. On May 1, Bashara was arraigned on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit murder, suborning of perjury during a capital trial, witness intimidation and obstruction of justice.
Bashara, 54, is accused of hiring a former handyman, Joseph Gentz, to kill his wife. Although Bashara has said he didn’t plot his wife’s murder, prosecutors say Bashara had her killed so he could begin a new life with his mistress.
The case has drawn national media attention for its many twists and turns, including Bashara’s involvement in S&M with his mistress and other women. Several of those women — including Rachel Gillett, the woman with whom Bashara is said to have been hoping to purchase a new house in Grosse Pointe Park — testified during a week-long preliminary examination in September.
In December 2012, Bashara pleaded guilty to a charge of solicitation to commit murder for trying to hire someone to kill Gentz in jail. Bashara currently is serving up to 20 years in prison on that charge. At press time, his murder trial was scheduled to begin March 3, 2014. It’s expected to take several weeks.
Neighbor arrested, charged in murder of Park woman
Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety officers found themselves investigating another murder when 35-year-old Park woman Sabrina Gianino was found dead in her home in the 1300 block of Wayburn around 12:11 a.m. May 16 by her boyfriend, with whom she shared the apartment. The head receptionist at Platz Animal Hospital in Grosse Pointe Park, where she had worked since 2006, Gianino was known as a kind, friendly animal lover who was well-liked by many, and her violent death left the community shocked and saddened.
Police zeroed in on one of Gianino’s neighbors, 42-year-old Myron Tyronne Williams, who was living next door to Gianino in the attic of his sister’s second-floor flat with his wife and their four children. He was arraigned on charges of first-degree murder, felony murder and unarmed robbery July 15 in Grosse Pointe Park Municipal Court. Williams has insisted he had nothing to do with the strangulation death of Gianino, but police and prosecutors allege that he killed his neighbor while stealing electronics from her home — including a cellphone and a laptop computer — to exchange for crack cocaine.
On Dec. 20, Williams rejected a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for the next 25-50 years. His case now is expected to go to trial starting March 10.
Gianino’s murder, and the fact that her suspected killer was illegally occupying an attic space, led the Park City Council to approve a somewhat controversial new landlord ordinance to crack down on what city officials say are the few bad landlords and tenants they have. Approved unanimously by the council Dec. 9, the ordinance mandates that landlords doing business in the city have a license to rent units; that maximum occupancy rules — as determined by the International Property Maintenance Code — be reiterated and posted; and that landlords who don’t live in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties designate a local agent as a contact and the person who’s responsible for operating the rental in compliance with city regulations.
Major projects add to community’s appeal
After about a year and a half of construction, a new, two-story, roughly 41,000-square-foot Neighborhood Club Recreation and Wellness Center opened Jan. 7 on the site of the old building at 17150 Waterloo in Grosse Pointe City. The nonprofit center, built in partnership with Beaumont Health System — with which it shares space — is considerably larger than its predecessor and features a 4,900-square-foot fitness center; a warm-water, zero-depth entry pool with a children’s area and lane swimming for adults; a gymnasium with six basketball hoops, courts for pickleball and volleyball, and an indoor batting cage; a community room that can be rented for parties or other events; a preschool on the second floor; and much more. Beaumont is now a long-term tenant of the Neighborhood Club, whose new facility cost about $10.6 million.
Another beloved local nonprofit — and former Neighborhood Club tenant — got its own new permanent home over the summer. Services for Older Citizens, which has occupied spaces in the Grosse Pointe Public School System and elsewhere during its 34-year history, opened the doors to its first-ever stand-alone facility at 158 Ridge in Grosse Pointe Farms in early June. SOC — which celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2014 — provides a range of activities and services for seniors in the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods.
The three-story, 10,000- 15,000-square-foot historic home it now occupies, behind Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage, has enabled SOC to increase its offerings, and many more local seniors are now taking advantage of dances, movie lunches, minor home repair and other programs and services. The facility was rechristened the John A. and Marlene L. Boll Building in honor of the philanthropic Grosse Pointe Shores couple, whose initial offer to match gifts up to $500,000 got the major fundraising rolling in June 2012 for the roughly $3 million project.
Henry Ford Health System donated to SOC the structure formerly known as the Newberry Nurses Residence. The building was designed by well-known architect Raymond Carey, according to Cottage Hospital records. About 20 nurses lived there at one time. The primary donor for the building when it was first constructed was Helen Newberry Joy. Construction was completed in 1930, and a grand opening took place June 10, 1930.
In November, work began on another project of interest to local seniors — this one at Cottage. The second and third floors of Cottage are being converted to senior housing. American House Senior Living Communities and the Southfield-based real estate development firm REDICO are working together to create American House Grosse Pointe — 84 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments for seniors, ranging from independent living to independent living with some assistance. There will also be memory care units for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Cottage will continue to offer a range of medical services on the first floor, but seniors will now have another housing option. Completion of the project could take place as early as fall 2014.
City eliminates in-house dispatchers
In March, the Grosse Pointe City Council approved an agreement with Grosse Pointe Park to have that city’s Public Safety Department take over emergency dispatch operations from the City — a move officials said would save the City about $100,000 annually. Although the proposal was not without its detractors, officials insisted that they needed to take this step as the City faces additional revenue shortfalls over the next few years. The City officially switched over to the Park system Nov. 4.
The City’s two full-time dispatchers were able to retire under an agreement they reached with the City, but the three part-time dispatchers were laid off as a result of the change.
The change could be the first step toward further collaboration or consolidation of the two departments. Park and City officials rejected the concept of a full merger of the two public safety departments after reviewing a report presented to them June 24 by the Washington, D.C.-based International City/County Management Association’s Center for Public Safety, but officials continue to explore their options as they look for new ways to trim expenditures.
Shores goes green to save green
In the spring, Grosse Pointe Shores undertook a roughly $3 million energy-efficiency project that’s expected to save the city substantial sums by reducing energy costs while upgrading an aging infrastructure. Honeywell — which is overseeing the project — guaranteed city leaders that the project would pay for itself, or Honeywell would pick up the tab.
Based on an energy analysis performed by Honeywell in May 2012, the plan calls for electrical, lighting, heating and cooling upgrades, a backup generator for municipal offices and the Department of Public Works, new garage doors, replacements for municipal sewage pumps, better temperature control systems and sealing exterior building cracks and gaps to retain heat and air conditioning.
At press time, many elements of the project had already been completed, and conversion of the 65-year-old city-owned streetlight system to LEDs was well on its way.
School system puts technology bond on ballot
For months last year, the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education and administration discussed technology needs in the district. A committee met over several months to nail down what the district might need to fix its major infrastructure, upgrade security and put the right technology into the hands of the students.
It wasn’t a unanimous vote, but the decision-making process on a possible $50 million technology bond proposal came to a close in late November with a 5-1 vote in favor of putting the proposal on the February 25, 2014, ballot.
It’s now up to the voters.
“This is a technology proposal that very much includes needed capital improvements and infrastructure in order to use this technology,” board President Joan Dindoffer said. “It’s not realistic that expenditures of this nature and major upgrades for buildings that are 80 years old are going to be coming out of the current income that we get out of the student aid budget.
“I think it’s a package that we need to take to the voters and see what they have to say,” she said.
Michigan Teacher of the Year works at North
The Grosse Pointe Schools received some big news last year when Grosse Pointe North High School science teacher Gary Abud was named the 2013-14 Michigan Teacher of the Year in an announcement last May.
Abud was chosen from 16 regional semifinalists in the state, according to a press release. A committee reviewed the applicants for Michigan Teacher of the Year and chose the Teacher of the Year in the annual program. The semifinalists were narrowed to four finalists and then to Abud as the standout among the state’s cream of the crop teachers.
“What a well-deserved honor,” North Principal Kate Murray said in an email last year. “Gary Abud is an exceptional educator with incredible pedagogical insight, a vision for 21st century teaching and learning, and a passion for all students.
“He is not just a content-area expert,” she said. “He possesses the ability to make complex content accessible and meaningful for all students.”
After being chosen as Teacher of the Year, Abud kept busy with his duties in the district and as Teacher of the Year, working on technology innovation in the Grosse Pointe Schools and visiting schools across the state in his work as Teacher of the Year.