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Surprising Fact: St. Clair Shores Harbors Hip, Dwell-like Dwellings

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Meet a Curbed Detroit contributor: architecture critic Kelly Ellsworth. From time to time, she brings us detailed arguments about local development, buildings, marketing? or whatever else strikes her fancy. And she's quite fancy.

One of the great joys in life for a design enthusiast is the unexpected discovery. A great restaurant interior. That amazing thrift store find. Or as happened to me not so long ago, a wrong turn leading to the discovery of a perfect little modern neighborhood in the most architecturally uninspiring of cities: St. Clair Shores.
Just north of Eight Mile Road along the border of Grosse Pointe Woods, nestled between St. Joan of Arc church on Mack Avenue and Greek Assumption church on Marter Road, lies an enclave of California ranch homes that, if they were actually in California, would be one of the hottest neighborhoods in town.

Built as three-bedroom homes (but really more like two-bedrooms with a small office) the houses are efficient as they are cute. But it’s the massing of them that makes it all work. Unmarred by later development, they benefit from the same modern uniformity that give the Mies townhouses in Lafayette Park some of their appeal (architecture snobs back off—I said *some*.)

Of course St. Clair Shores is at its heart a working class 'burb, so these homes tend to be owned by people looking for a good price and location and not a sweet little modern abode. So don’t be surprised to find a lot of pickups in driveways, and many homes have fallen victim to some unfortunate DIY projects. The most popular? Converting the carport into a den.

An influx of young Dwell magazine-reading families could really make this neighborhood of starter homes a hip modern bookend for the more traditional Cabbage Patch neighborhood at the southern border of Grosse Pointe. The price is right on these places – a quick check of Trulia listings on these blocks reveals homes in the area run about $80 K, like this one on St. Joan St. And they’re all in walking, and certainly biking, distance from some great shops and restaurants on Mack Avenue, including Josef’s bakery and Merchant’s Wines.

I'm not generally inclined to push Macomb County as a place to put down roots, but you have to give credit where credit is due. With a little elbow grease to un-DIY some of the design mistakes and a few more Mini Coopers in the driveways, this neighborhood could be out-of-control cool. Take a google map tour to see for yourself or drive down these three streets between Mack Ave and Marter Rd: St. Joan, Sunnyside, and Avalon. Imagining unhappy hipsters captions to go with this dose of modernism is encouraged.

— Kelly Ellsworth

· All of Kelly Ellsworth's Posts on Curbed [Curbed Detroit]

Modern Homes Detroit

Avalon and Mack , St. Clair Shores, MI