This tiny town surrounded by Detroit, with its diverse mix of folks and flavors, is gearing up for a green future.
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Hamtramck’s most notable-and laudable-trait is personified by its pizza, not its famous Paczki.
This is a town where you can find a pie topped with halal meat (prepared according to Muslim beliefs), Indian Tandoori sauce, fiery Ghost peppers, fried fish or plain ol’ pepperoni.
The tastes are eclectic, just like the town and its people. You can even see its diversity in the signs. About half display “at least two different languages,” says Jason Friedmann, Hamtramck’s director of community and economic development.
German immigrants originally settled Hamtramck, but it grew when immigrants from Poland and other central European cities came to work at the Dodge brothers’ Hamtramck plant, Friedmann says.
Hamtramck also had a history in the 1920s and 1930s of being a “pretty well-integrated town,” says Greg Kowalski, chairman of the Hamtramck Historical Commission. A black man served on the first city council in 1922, and the city’s schools were integrated, as well as its police and fire departments.
Today, the town has a growing Bangladeshi and Yemini population, which is evident on Conant Street-known as “Bangladeshi Avenue”-and in the southern region of Hamtramck, Kowalski says. There are African American, Albanian, Arab, Bosnian and Hispanic families living in the city, and there’s “still a lot of that traditional Polish population in the city as well,” Friedmann adds.
The city is tiny, about 2.1 square miles, but Friedmann says it’s packed with “about 550 different businesses”-from restaurants and markets to clothing stores and record shops.
Hamtramck's future looks bright-and decidedly green-thanks to some new developments. The city’s working with WARM Training Center’s Reclaim Detroit program to deconstruct abandoned homes and recycle the materials for other building projects-all while creating more jobs. Green Power Technologies is stationed in Hamtramck, too.
The company sorts solid waste and recyclable goods while creating biomass from organic material-a substitute for coal. And Friedmann says the city is also working with the state to construct a bike trail that connects to Detroit’s Dequindre Cut greenway.
A February Tradition
Love it or loathe it, but for many metro Detroiters Hamtramck is the place to be on “Fat Tuesday,” or “Paczki Day.” Fill your face with jam- or custard-filled pastries before Lent- or just for the heck of it-by heading to one of Hamtramck’s polish bakeries on Feb. 12.
"Our address is more than a place to hang our hats, it’s where we hang our hearts."
"Hamtramck is truly a jewel in Southeast Michigan. It is an area that not only brings together people of all backgrounds but also celebrates the cultural diversity that is so important to our community. Ford Motor Company has a long history of supporting programs that unite people. Whether it is one of the many cultural institutions we fund or innovative programs like Concert of Colors or African World Festival, Ford Motor Company Fund has always been a strong supporter of our region." – Pamela Alexander, director of community development for Ford Motor Company Fund