Live in Woodbridge

This is Model D's guide to moving to Woodbridge. Also check out our guides to visiting and investing in the near-West Side neighborhood.

When Vince Patricola organized a Woodbridge block party in the summer of 2000, he had little idea he was helping to spur community growth and residential development in the neighborhood. He says he was just looking to bring people together through music, food … and tequila.

“I was doing sales for (radio station) 89X and I wanted to do a promotion sponsored by the station and Jose Cuervo (tequila),” Patricola says. “We got some bands together, got permits to close off the street, and had a VIP lounge in someone’s house. I wanted to do it in what I thought was an up-and-coming neighborhood. We had a nice crowd of around 150-200 people.”

What Patricola learned later is that some who experienced the event were not only impressed by the music and the drink, but also with the hospitality of their hosts and the beauty of the neighborhood.

“What people found out — what I believe they find out every day when they come to Woodbridge — is that there is a real pioneering spirit in this neighborhood,” says Patricola, 36, who also publishes a locally produced music magazine called Detroit Electronic Quarterly (DEQ) and is perhaps better known around town as DJ Shortround.

“There are real people here, people who do real things. Woodbridge has been going against the grain for a long time. Now we’re saying, ‘Come join us, it’s a sweet place to meet people, it’s a sweet place to live.’ ”

Love city life

Ed Potas, founder Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corp. was one of those who attended the block party in the summer of ’00.

By October, Potas and his wife Michelle had purchased a house on Avery Street and took occupancy in January of the following year. Later in 2001, the couple, then in their late-20s, had their first child.

Potas says the house was “just a shell” when they began working on it. But its rich architectural detail, including varying kinds of original woodwork on each level, convinced the young family that they’d made the right decision in buying the house and moving to Woodbridge.

“It had been preserved by neglect,” Potas says. “It was weathered and the woodwork had never been painted.”

The house, built in 1906, has four bedrooms, a living room with an attached parlor, dining room, kitchen, and two-and-half baths. The house has about 3,000 square feet, counting an unfinished third level. The purchase price was $75,000, but the value has likely more than doubled in five years. Potas says a house on the opposite side of Avery sold for $240,000.

“My wife and I both grew up in Detroit and we love city life,” Potas says. “Our son will be starting kindergarten this year and we want to enroll him in Burton International School (on Pine St. in North Corktown). We feel it’s important to send our child to a school in Detroit.”

Seizing opportunities

Eric Gaabo moved from Ferndale to Woodbridge eight years ago. He says he kept tenants in his suburban house until recently, when he sold it to give his full attention to his home on Avery Street that overlooks the green space surrounding the Detroit Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. On a warm spring afternoon, Gaabo stopped Potas — who’d been walking through the neighborhood with a visitor — to show him some new landscaping he’d been doing. He also showed him bricks he’d selected for a backyard patio he was installing and talked about plans for a new garage.

“Being in Woodbridge gives me an opportunity to really engage with the neighborhood,” says Gaabo, 46, an attorney who works in the City of Detroit’s Legal Department. “There are projects to do, a real mix of people to talk to. You can take risks here. People who don’t get it, I think, are not looking at it rationally. There are so many opportunities here.”

Zac Cruse is another homeowner who seized his opportunity in Woodbridge.

He started a business out of his home — a two-level unit in an L-Shaped row house on the northeast corner of Commonwealth and Alexandrine streets. Cruse and his wife Renee bought the house, built in 1913, for $60,000. He’s finishing it himself. “It comes in handy that this is what we do,” Cruse says. His business is called Zac Cruse Construction and Fine Carpentry Services and his wife, who commutes to work in Ann Arbor, is an interior designer.

Cruse, 37, grew up near Wayne State on Prentis Street. He moved upstate to Gaylord and lived in Austin, Texas, for a while before coming back to the Detroit area. He says he has a realistic attitude about making the move to Woodbridge.

“I really love it here and I feel good about reclaiming an old piece of the city and making it beautiful again,” Cruse says. “But we still have to be aware of crime in the neighborhood, and we shop in the suburbs for a lot of our basic needs. I have to go there to get materials for my work.”

For groceries and other necessities, neighbors also head to University Foods, Eastern Market, and grocery stores in nearby Southwest Detroit.

Jesse Waters, a neighborhood resident for the past seven years, works for Cruse’s small Woodbridge company. Waters, 25, lives in the Trumbullplex community, which puts on political art and theater events throughout the year. He is also a beekeeper who keeps two hives at the building in Trumbull near Willis Street. “Who doesn’t need a little honey once in awhile?” he says.

Eclectic community

Patricola says it is people like Waters, Cruse, Gaabo, Potas and countless others who make Woodbridge such an eclectic community.

“Interesting people really make the place,” says Patricola, who made his own move to the neighborhood when he bought a house there about five years ago. He had been living in the Bankel Building on Woodward when he found out about a house for sale on Avery Street near Grand River.

“When I was shown the house for the first time, I saw this beautiful wood staircase going up to the second floor,” he says. “I said, ‘this is it. I don’t know if I can afford it. But I want this house.’ ”

After bringing the price down to a sum he could afford, Patricola purchased the house for $140,000. He’s close to a modest commercial stretch of the neighborhood that includes the Patterson Dog and Cat Hospital — where Dr. Glynes D. Graham has been treating small animals in the neighborhood for years — and has neighbors that include artists and musicians, firefighters and police officers.

“My neighbors are so nice that when I moved in one of them offered to do some landscaping in front of my house,” Patricola says. “I’m inspired to do things that I usually don’t have time to do — like pulling weeds and coming up with five bags of yard waste. You get inspired to do that because people are doing the same things, taking care of their properties. I can talk your ear off about Woodbridge because I really believe in this neighborhood. The more people that know about it, the better.”

Directions to Woodbridge

From the East:
Take I-94 West and take Exit 214 toward Grand River Ave/Linwood Ave. Stay straight to go onto Edsel Ford Fwy West, and then turn left onto Linwood St. Turn slight left onto Grand River Ave and arrive in Woodbridge.

From the North:
Take I-75 South and merge onto I-94 West via Exit 53B toward Chicago. Take Exit 214 toward Grand River Ave/Linwood Ave. Stay straight to go onto Edsel Ford Fwy West, and then turn left onto Linwood St. Turn slight left onto Grand River Ave and arrive in Woodbridge.

From the West:
Take I-96 East and take Exit 190B toward Warren Ave. Stay straight to go onto West Jefferies Fwy. Turn left onto Warren Ave to Grand River Ave. Arrive in Woodbridge.

From the South:
Take I-94 East toward Detroit. Take Exit 214A toward Grand River Ave and stay straight to go onto Edsel Ford Fwy West. Turn right onto Grand River Ave and arrive in Woodbridge.

Take I-75 North toward Detroit. Merge onto I-96 West via Exit 48 on the left toward Lansing. Take Exit 190B toward Warren Ave. and stay straight to go onto W Jefferies Fwy. Turn right onto Warren Ave and arrive in Woodbridge.


A Typical Victorian Home in Woodbridge

Bonnie Bridge Villa Townhomes

Woodbridge Estates Home

Dick and Sandy Dauch Scout Center

University Plaza Shopping Center

Patterson Dog and Cat Hospital, Since 1844

All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger

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Read more articles by Walter Wasacz.

Walter Wasacz is a writer and the former managing editor of Model D. You can find more of his writings here.