Here's Model D's guide to moving to University Commons area. Also check out our guides to visiting and investing in the neighborhoods.
Out of every area in Detroit, why choose University Commons to settle in? Well, perhaps it is the amazing homes. Or maybe its access to the Woodward corridor and northern suburbs like Ferndale, Royal Oak and Birmingham. Is it the proximity to Downtown? Serene Palmer Park? The stability? Take your pick, really. Residents of any one of the neighborhoods — Green Acres, Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest and University District — that make up this area all heave their reasons and are certain that their neighborhood is the right one for them.Green Acres, Palmer Woods and Sherwood Forest
Green Acres might be one of Detroit’s best-kept secrets. Nestled around Woodlawn Cemetery at the southwest corner of Eight Mile and Woodward, it contains a stylistic mix of homes built in the 1920s to 1940s. Its well-maintained lawns and pedestrian traffic bespeak a tight-knit community.
Green Acres resident Michael Griggs is currently developing townhomes and single-family homes on one of the few vacant parcels in the neighborhood. The teacher- turned-developer cites the “diverse housing stock and diverse residents” as aspects of the neighborhood that stand out to him. He also notes the proximity to shopping and food in Ferndale and Royal Oak.
Palmer Woods can be described in one word: spectacular. Once populated by auto barons, it remains populated with some of the region’s most singular homes. Many homes are Tudor-style, although there are several examples of modern architecture — most notably, homes by Minoro Yamasaki and Frank Lloyd Wright. Its winding, tree-lined streets both calm traffic and provide its residents privacy.
The Palmer Woods Association hosts homes tours, concerts, and dinner dances, keeping the community of residents in contact with one another. A mansion in Palmer Woods can run up to $750,000, although some have sold for as low as $300,000 in the last few years.
Sherwood Forest, located just west of Palmer Woods, offers a similar style of housing and street patterning as Palmer Woods, at just a bit of a smaller scale. The neighborhood was planned to resemble an English Village, hence the street names, curved streets, and Number of Georgian Colonials and English Tudors.
Although Sherwood Forest’s homes are smaller than those of Palmer Woods, they are large by any other measure: they average 3,600 square feet with four to six bedrooms. The 435 houses can range greatly in price, from as affordable as $170,000 to as high-end as $450,000.University District
The University District stretches all the way from Livernois east to Palmer Park
, from Seven Mile to McNichols. Unlike either Sherwood Forest or Palmer Woods, its streets are patterned in the urban grid more common around the city. Its homes — while still finely crafted and custom-built, featuring intricate plaster and woodwork — tend to be a bit more affordable, with prices ranging from $185,000 to $350,000. Deals can be had on the western end of the neighborhood—Quincy and Warrenington Streets in particular — where houses can often be purchased for $120,000-150,000.
Resident Kim Stroud, who is also a Realtor, feels lucky to live in such a beautiful setting and notes that her home “would sell for $1 million in Boston.” Echoing Griggs, she finds the area’s proximity to Ferndale to be convenient, but also points out that the University District is a mere 10-minute drive to downtown.
But why even drive that far when your own neighborhood provides so much variety? Stroud and her husband, who teaches at Marygrove College, take full advantage of their corner of the world. They purchase basic groceries at Sav-On Foods
on Livernois, which they supplement with trips to Natural Food Patch in Ferndale and Eastern Market.
They love dining at nearby Detroit institutions like Dakota Rathskeller Inn
, La Dolce Vita
, and Buddy’s Pizza, and spend weekend afternoons walking their dog in Palmer Park. One of their favorite local spots is Dutch Girl Donuts
on Woodward, serving donuts to the neighborhood since 1942.
Stroud characterizes her neighbors as a “professional mix. There’s UDM
people, Wayne State professors, police officers, [people who] work for the city, teachers. It feels pretty diverse, there are all different kinds of people.”
She points out Gesu Catholic Church and School
and All Saints Episcopal Church
as anchoring elements of the community, and UDM and Marygrove-sponsored lectures and athletic events as enriching activities that are within walking distance.
The neighborhood association puts out a newsletter, produces a home tour every other year, and holds an annual dinner-dance. Perhaps more importantly, it maintains a 24/7 volunteer radio patrol and pays for a professional security patrol and snow removal services.Palmer Park
Palmer Park is an amenity for residents of all of University Commons’ neighborhoods. Its two golf courses — the private Detroit Golf Club
and the public Palmer Park Golf Course
, tennis and basketball courts, and pleasant walking trails make it into a kind of “third place” for the community. It’s a place to jog to relax, to run into neighbors, to make new acquaintances.
As for living on the park, that’s certainly an option. The stately homes that line the western end of the park sell from $385,000-$725,000, and there are numerous rental options in the grand apartment buildings that line its southern edge. Your best bet to find a rental is to drive down Covington, Whitmore, Merton, Second and Third and jot down all the phone numbers. Be sure to check out parking facilities — some of the apartments have gated parking, which can be an important asset.
An Albert Kahn-design apartment building, 1001 Covington
, is becoming the first of the Palmer Park apartment buildings to “go condo.” This type of conversion is likely to have a stabilizing effect on the area. The 1001 Covington condos will start at $168,000.
As a whole, University Commons is an area of mostly owner-occupied homes. Besides the previously-mentioned Palmer Park apartment buildings, your only other option for rental properties would likely be in the westernmost portion of the University District. Flats range from $500-$800/month, and are often rented through word-of-mouth at UDM and Gesu Church.
Directions to University Commons-Palmer Park
From the East:
Take I-94 West toward Detroit and merge onto I-696 West via Exit 229 toward Lansing. Continue to I-75 South via Exit 18 toward Detroit/Toledo. Take the M-102 exit, Exit 59 toward 8 Mile Rd. Stay straight to go onto South Chrysler Dr and turn slight right onto 8 Mile Rd. Turn slight left onto 8 Mile Rd. West/MI-102 W. Make a U-Turn onto 8 Mile Rd. West/MI-102 W. Turn right onto Livernois Ave. and arrive in University Commons-Palmer Park.
From the North:
Take Woodward Ave South and turn right onto W 8 Mile Rd. Stay straight to go onto 8 Mile Rd W/MI-102 W. Make a U-Turn onto 8 Mile Rd. W/MI-102 E. Turn right onto Livernois Ave. and arrive in University Commons-Palmer Park.
From the West:
Take I-96 East and take the Davison Ave exit, Exit 186B. Merge onto Davison W and turn left to stay on Davison W. Turn right onto Livernois Ave. and arrive in University Commons-Palmer Park.
From the South:
Take I-94 East toward Detroit and take Exit 215B for M-10 on the left. Merge onto John C Lodge Fwy/MI-10 N and take the exit toward Livernois Ave. Stay straight to go onto John C Lodge Fwy. Turn right onto Livernois Ave. and arrive in University Commons-Palmer Park.
Take I-75 N toward Detroit and merge onto I-96 West via Exit 48 on the left toward Lansing. Merge onto I-94 E toward Port Huron and take Exit 215B for M-10 N on the left. Merge onto John C Lodge Fwy/MI-10 N and take the exit toward Livernois Ave. Stay straight to go onto John C Lodge Fwy and turn right onto Livernois Ave. Arrive in University Commons-Palmer Park.
Photos:Green Acres NeighborhoodThe Old Catholic Diocese Residence in Palmer WoodsUniversity of Detroit High SchoolDutch Girl DonutsPalmer Park1001 Covington
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger