DTE’s new downtown park adds power to development

Jo Kroeker
The Detroit News

The wedge of land on Grand River and Cass avenues used to be a building with barbed wire and graffiti surrounded by gravel, but now it’s a beacon for future development.

That space is Beacon Park: 1.5 acres of green space with a restaurant, concert venue, light features and 600 planned events for the year. From Thursday until Sunday, free activities will celebrate the grand opening, including free concerts, light-up seesaws, a light show, Detroit’s first night market and food trucks galore.

“It’s been one of those projects that’s a labor of love,” said Dave Meador, vice chairman of DTE Energy. “We’re targeted to get 1 million visitors to a piece of property that, yesterday, there was nobody on … it’s really exciting in terms of transforming this neighborhood.”

According to Meador, the three-year project meets the area’s needs: renovating blight; giving area employees access to lunch food trucks closer than Campus Martius Park; and creating a green space closer than Belle Isle Park and bigger than Grand Circus Park for young professionals moving into the area.

The name of the park is supposed to reflect the spirit behind it and embody the themes of energy, light and motion.

“We’d never want this to be called the DTE Energy Park,” Meador said. “But when you think about energy, light and motion, for all of us it’s a beacon of hope and revitalization for downtown, so we eventually settled on that one.”

Lisa Carleton, manager of Parks & Rec Diner and Republic Tavern, is excited for the park, the only green space in that part of town.

As a business, she said the team is adapting to the park, coming up with to-go options lunch, drinks and desserts diners can take to the park.

“It’s been great,” she said. “You can see the park come to life. When they brought in truckloads of plants and flowers, it went from one day, all brown, to instant garden.”

She said she and her staff are looking forward to the special events and just having a place to relax and take a breather on break. Before, she said, people who work downtown would go to get shawarma and bring it back to the office. Maybe now they have a place to gather, she said, hopefully.

DTE Energy has been forthcoming with its plans, she said. The designer of the park even came to Republic for dinner.

As for the park being a beacon for development, she said the area could use it, especially since parking lots dominate the landscape.

Now, Parks & Rec diner has a park to go with it, something she said worked out beautifully.

For Chief Public Spaces Officer of Downtown Detroit Partnership Bob Gregory, the name is appropriate.

“Beacon Park is brand new from the ground up,” he said. “It’s a public space park in the heart of downtown that was created by a private company, one of the major companies and employers, and it’s in a part of downtown that hasn’t seen a lot of the development and growth yet.”

Gregory speculates this western corner is now prime for development in the coming five years, citing proposed redesigns of Capitol Park, Bedrock Real Estate’s renovations to the Book Tower, planned renovations to the Leland and Olympia Development’s master plan to develop the parking lots near the park into mixed-use buildings.

He said the park will help create energy in a lifeless neighborhood and connect the districts and neighborhoods of downtown back to Woodward Avenue.

Early on people dubbed the park “the second Campus Martius,” he said, but while there are similarities, the name falls short because the two parks serve different communities: Campus Martius attracts nearby professionals, while Beacon Park will attract residents.

The parent company of DTE Energy paid for the park and will not disclose the amount it cost, Meador said. Those funds, however, did not come from customers. All programming, totaling $1.5 million for this year, is paid for by the DTE Foundation.

Meador said a beacon will go up that will make the park a distinctive gathering place.

“If you’re downtown and see that light in the sky, people will start saying, ‘Meet me at the beacon.’ ”

Beacon Park opening

Thursday through Sunday

Cass and Grand River avenues, Detroit




Thornetta Davis; Robert Randolph & the Family Band, 8 p.m. Thurs.

Lord Huron, 8 p.m. Fri.

Plena Libre and Saturday night market, 7 p.m. Sat.

Gospel brunch with Bishop Marvin Sapp, the Gospel Truth Choir and Praise Dance Ensemble, noon-3 p.m. Sun.

Sphinx Nonet; The Michigan Philharmonic Orchestra’s Movie Music Spectacular, 3-6:30 p.m. Sun.

“Back to the Future” film, 6:30 p.m. Sun.


$5 parking will be available for the grand opening weekend at the adjacent surface lots at 2205 Cass, 2130 Cass and 2121 Cass. The facilities only accept credit card and general parking capacity is approximately 700.

The lots are directly adjacent to the new DTE Grand River Park and located along Grand River and Cass Avenue between Adams and Columbia streets. The addresses work in Google Maps, but satellite imaging of the spaces is not up to date.