Major improvements in store for Spirit Plaza in Detroit

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — Spirit Plaza is about to become even more spirited.

Look for $800,00 worth of improvements including a playscape with playground equipment for children, added green space, creation of a dedicated performance stage for entertainers, and new tables, chairs, charging stations and drinking fountains.

And yes, food trucks will be a mainstay.

Food trucks and pedestrians occupy the Spirit Plaza in downtown Detroit Wednesday.

The upgrades, which are expected to begin after Labor Day and conclude by the end of September, were announced during a Wednesday press conference in Spirit Plaza.

“Spirit Plaza is a great segue between Campus Martius and Hart Plaza,” Councilman Scott Benson said. “And there are about 20,000 employees who work downtown within a quarter-mile of the plaza, so it is a place to both work and play.”

He added: “We’ve got a great pedestrian oasis right here in the city of Detroit.”

This map, released to the media Wednesday, shows proposed improvements to the Spirit Plaza pedestrial mall in Detroit.

Controversy has surrounded the pedestrian plaza since it launched in 2017 as a three-month pilot without input from the city's legislative body.

Detroit City Council voted 5-4 on July 23 to make permanent the pedestrian plaza along a closed section of Woodward off Jefferson. The decision followed a 4-4 vote the preceding week that would have removed the plaza.

Benson had filed a motion with the City Clerk's Office that returned the measure to the council's formal session agenda.

Benson along with members James Tate, Gabe Leland, Raquel Castaneda-Lopez and Andre Spivey voted in favor of the park, according to the city. Spivey was absent when the first vote was taken.

City landscape architect John DeRuiter, from left, Detroit CouncilmanScott Benson and Parks and Recreation special events manager Erica Hill speak to the media during a press conference Wednesday about the improvements planned for Spirit Plaza.

President Brenda Jones, President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield and members Roy McCalister Jr. and Janee Ayers again voted against the measure, citing traffic and safety concerns.

Last month, the council also approved spending nearly $800,000 in bond funding for improvements to the plaza.

Also during the July 23 vote, the City Council approved a contract with Detroit-based Premier Group Associates for $794,750 for the build-out of the plaza.

A rendering of the new improvements planned for Spirit Plaza in downtown Detroit.

The city estimates more than 5,000 people visited the plaza in June and it employs at least 35 local artists weekly. Food trucks stationed there provide at least 500 meals per day.

Programming is expected to resume in early October with a kick-off celebration.

Erica Hill, a special events and programming manager for the city of Detroit, said the plaza will remain open all year.

“We will have heated tents in the winter to continue our programming,” she said.