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Detroit — Neighborhood families cut the ribbon Saturday at a new park on the city's northwest side named for "the First Lady of Song." 

More than 100 people gathered at Ella Fitzgerald park, located at 16625 Prairie Street in Detroit's Fitzgerald neighborhood, at what used to be a collection of abandoned houses and vacant overgrown lots. It is now a 2.5 acre community space that includes a sports field, basketball court, playground set, picnic area and murals. 

"We had the idea two years ago that one day this would be the Ella Fitzgerald park and we came together and planned during countless meetings and are proud to be here today," said Darnetta Banks, president of the Prairie Block Club and resident of 53 years. "Our community is here. Let's keep it as it is now and make it even better."

The park is the first completed component of the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a city-led plan announced in October to rehab 116 vacant homes, demolish 26 homes and reactivate 200 vacant lots. Developers began work rehabbing homes this summer and renovations will continue through 2019.

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The entire project is expected to be complete by 2020.

Mayor Mike Duggan attended the grand opening on Saturday saying the park is a step in the right direction, but there's still "a long way to go."

“We are not going to grow as a city unless we do everything in our power to lift up our neighborhoods and support our longtime residents,” Duggan said. “Part of that strategy is working with the families that live in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, and coming up with solutions to improve the neighborhood together. Today, the children of Fitzgerald have a brand-new central park. This is what we want to do with the residents throughout this city.”

Alongside Duggan was LaTanya Garrett, State Rep. for District 7, and Irma Clark-Coleman, Wayne County Commissioner for District 5.

"A very good friend of mine, Ed McNamara, used to say 'Just like blight spreads, so does hope and restoration,'" said Clark-Coleman. "Hopefully, this will be the magnet that starts it all off... People talk about money only being spent downtown, well this is one indication that money is being spent in the neighborhoods where we really need it like Fitzgerald."

A picnic area was decked out with tables and grills, new lighting and fencing. Prairie Street was permanently painted in sways of blue for the grand opening and a mural, created by award-winning artist Hubert Massey, stretches across the multi-use sports field. 

Community members plan to have more events held at the park on the second and fourth Saturday's of each month, Banks said. 

"I know sometimes it looks like we don't matter, but this shows you what happens when we come together as a team," Garrett said to attendees. "Participate, this is how we redevelop our communities. Fitzgerald, you do matter."

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

 

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