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Is Hamtramck Ready for a Dog Park? How About a Movie Theater?

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By Serena Maria Daniels

[Present-day photos by Chris and Michelle Gerard, Historic images via Virtual Motor City]

The site of Hamtramck's former Wendy's restaurant at 10301 Joseph Campau enjoyed 29 years of serving Frostys, baked potatoes and those square-shaped patties until earlier this year when declining sales forced the fast food outlet to shutter. The 2,549-square foot former burger hut has joined the ranks of downtown's roughly 12% vacancy rate and over the past couple of months has also become a topic of discussion among Hamtramckans, eager to see it replaced.

The top contender in the popular social media debate, and even among Hamtown's Finest, seems to be a Taco Bell to replace Wendy's. As it is, Hamtramck residents would be hard pressed to get to Metro Detroit's far flung Taco Bell restaurants (they might be better off hitting up a couple of local bars, Painted Lady on Wednesdays and Kelly's on Thursdays, for cheap, tasty tacos).

Former H-Town economic development director Jason Friedman says rumors that a Taco Bell is destined for Hamtramck have been floating around for ages. The problem, as he sees it, is the city, as densely populated as it is, likely does not have the requisite traffic needed to attract the Irvine-based chain. Instead, Friedman proposes another idea that we agree is more innovative: tear down the boarded up structure. In its place, lay down sod or dirt or bark and establish the city's first dog park until enough money is raised via Kickstarter, Hamtramck SOUP or other crowd funding sources to bring back one of the city's long-lost gems: the Martha Washington Theatre.

The Martha Washington Theatre was among the last remaining cinemas in the city until it was demolished amid controversy in 1984. If you thought Taco Bells were scarce around here, try counting on both hands the number of movie theaters in the metro area, particularly within Detroit city limits (Hamtramck is, after all, surrounded by Motown). City leaders like Mayor Karen Majewski say that landmarks like the Martha Washington Theatre are irreplaceable once they're destroyed. But what do you think? What should take Wendy's place? A Taco Bell? A Tim Horton's? A dog park? Or a new movie theater? Better yet, who's got $305,000 they'd like to invest in Hamtramck?

· After a 29-year run, Wendy's serves up its last meal [Hamtramck Review]