On Tuesday DTE Energy broke ground on a 1.5 acre public park on the western edge of downtown Detroit.
The park will act as a family-friendly green space and help anchor the emerging neighborhood along Grand River Avenue, across from the Grand Army of the Republic building.. Residents, visitors, and downtown workers will be able to play, eat, and enjoy downtown Detroit.
“We see this as an opportunity to create connectivity in an area of the city that has ‘lived on an island’ for decades. Our vision and promise is to transform this piece of land into a magnificent public green space that will benefit the city and its people for generations to come,” said Gerry Anderson, DTE Energy chairman and CEO. “This park will serve as a catalyst for future development, and builds upon our strong roots in the community. For more than a century, DTE has been an integral piece of Detroit’s history and we see this as a continuation of our efforts to be a force for growth and prosperity in the city’s revitalization.”
The park will feature a year-round restaurant, a central lawn with intimate walking paths, and places to relax. There will also be a multiuse space for outdoor, programmed activities and a roll-in stage for performances. Areas for food truck vendors and bicycle parking are also being planned.
The idea for the park came in two parts. One, when he was challenged by an out of town visiting banker who said that the DTE Energy campus looked “what people stereotypically thought” Detroit looks like and DTE should do something about that.
“Can I level with you? Your office complex is really tired. It’s kind of what everybody expects and thinks of when they hear of or what they think they’ll see when they come to Detroit. You ought to do something about that,” said the banker, according to Anderson at the kickoff event.
And Anderson said he was right, and “we needed to walk to the talk.”
Then, DTE embarked on a series of improvements over the last few years including their newer entrance, green spaces, and additional projects. But yet, to Anderson, it wasn’t enough.
“We needed to help catalyze the redevelopment of the area I stared at all these years, and the right way to do that is to develop a public space, a park,” said Anderson. “Public spaces are the glue of a city.”
Not long after, Anderson took a walk through central Boston and saw a park that had a “very cool” landscape and design, and learned that the businesses around the park had funded it.
They found the architecture firm that did that park in Boston and paired them up with local resources, and from that, you have the design that you see in the renderings.
The contemporary restaurant will have three movable walls that can open during the warmer seasons, and it will offer:
- A free-flowing design for the bar and eating areas that can hold up to 75 guests
- A 735 square-foot roof deck for a panoramic view of the city
- A sustainable, green roof space that is designed to conserve and collect runoff water
- A theatrical, upward cantilever roof that extends over the sidewalk for unique flair and to pay homage to Detroit’s historic structures
DTE will work with the Downtown Detroit Partnership to develop park programming and identify a restaurant operator. The DDP currently programs Campus Martius Park.
Construction costs for the park are being funded by a separate non-utility DTE business, not by customers. A crowd-sourcing campaign will be held closer to the grand opening to solicit suggestions from the community to name the park.
“For all of the construction and redevelopment we are seeing in greater downtown, providing access to green space is just as important to our city’s growth,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “Thank you to DTE for building this incredible new multi-use park that will help to link downtown with the arena district and bring us another step closer to having a world-class walkable city.”
Duggan also hinted during his speech at a redevelopment project across the street at a historic building and former Purple Gang hangout known as the Leland Hotel. Rumors from multiple sources with wildly different numbers (albeit, all large) attached have been swirling around a project with a garage, ground floor retail, and rehab of the Leland – a building which has seen better days, but has a long history – but nothing solid at this time. The mayor mentioning it at the event may have been a slight political push to move that forward. The owner of that property, Michael Higgins, also is part of the Broderick Tower renovation recently completed just off of Grand Circus Park.
The new park is scheduled for completion in 2017.