Minipark 'a win' for Grandmont Rosedale in Detroit

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — An awkward intersection along Grand River in the Grandmont Rosedale area frequently attracts speeding motorists and trash. So the community and the city came up with a big idea for a very small space: redesign the 7,500-square-foot patch as a minipark, or “parklet.”

Construction of the $700,000 Grand Parklet Streetscape Project at the corner of Grand River, Puritan and Plainview is expected to start this spring.

Renderings show landscaping that will give the space a park-like atmosphere with trees, flowers and grass. Space in the rear of the parklet along Puritan would accommodate food trucks. 

Sherita Smith, the executive director of the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, stands next to what will be a parklet built on a small parcel of land wedged inside the intersection of Grand River, Puritan and Plainview streets.

The project comes as the city works to make the Grandmont Rosedale area more walkable, with major streetscape work along Grand River designed to slow traffic and add in pedestrian-friendly features.

“This closes down part of that intersection, which overall makes traffic operations much safer as well on Grand River, which is a win,” said Caitlin Marcon, deputy director of Complete Streets of the city’s Department of Public Works.

“Adding another green space and another park on top of that streetscape investment, we hope will only add more of a catalytic effect on the corridor.”

The money will come from the city’s bond funding and will pay for sidewalks, drainage, lighting, landscaping and seating. It will operate as an asset of the city’s general services department and will be open to the public.

The Grandmont Rosedale area is a well-preserved section of the city that consists of quality single-family housing stock that weathered the recession through the efforts of the community and its nonprofit Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp., or GRDC. 

A variety of storefronts line Grand River, which serves as the main strip in the community that includes five neighborhoods: Rosedale Park, North Rosedale Park, Minock Park, Grandmont and Grandmont 1.

One thing the area lacks is green space along the corridor.

The parklet project will involve closing the one-way entrance to Puritan from Grand River and the installation of new sidewalks, lighting, decorative concrete work and a colorful seating wall.

The intersection at Grand River and Puritan has been on the radar for redevelopment for years, said Kenneth Wolfe, who has lived in Minock Park for more than 45 years. The parklet will sit in Minock Park along that neighborhood’s border with North Rosedale Park.

“For years, we have had to deal with it because it collects trash and nobody seems to want to be responsible for the cleaning of it with the exception of Minock Park and various other GRDC groups that want to come through to want to help in the neighborhood,” Wolfe said.

In 2018, the intersection was shut down as a temporary popup park through a collaborative project between the GRDC, the city of Detroit's planning department and Project 561, a student-led organization that partners high school students from Detroit and Oakland County for community service projects.

“It created an opportunity to try something out,” said Sherita Smith, executive director of GRDC.

Last summer, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the city of Detroit began an $8 million project to resurface and provide streetscape improvements to 2.8 miles of the road along Grand River from the Southfield Freeway Service Drive to Berg.

The work also involves two-way bicycle lanes, pedestrian islands, landscaping and new signalized intersections.

Construction on the streetscape will resume in the spring and continue through the summer as work on the parklet gets underway.

Both projects will complement each other, Marcon said.

There’s a trend in communities across the region to create pedestrian-friendly spaces, said Kevin Vettraino, manager of economic and community vitality for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. Ferndale and Oak Park have closed streets in favor of pedestrian traffic, he said.

Rendering of the planned parklet at the intersection of Grand River, Puritan and Plainview in the Grandmont neighborhood of Detroit.

“In general, people find it more comfortable and more suitable to move around and have things like trees and planters and pedestrian lighting,” he said. “Even changing the color of the pavement at times can provide that space that’s more welcoming for pedestrians.”

Next to the parklet, there’s a barbershop and event space on one side and a gas station on the other. Across the street and within a short walking distance is restaurant Detroit Vegan Soul and Pages Bookshop.

“What I’m really excited about is that it’s the first cool thing that I’ve seen out of downtown,” said Susan Murphy, owner of Pages Bookshop, of the parklet design.

Murphy said she hopes projects like the parklet and the streetscape improvements will increase pedestrian activity in the area.

Since opening her shop in the area five years ago, Murphy said there are still some residents surprised to find her store. Sometimes, passing motorists who notice the shop for the first time will turn around to visit. Once inside, patrons find a carefully selected inventory of fiction, nonfiction and children’s literature.

“Since I’ve been here, it’s not a walking neighborhood," she said. "I’m all for anything to make it more walkable."

Planning for the parklet has included one large-scale public meeting and smaller meetings for those with homes and businesses close to the site, Marcon said. Another large-scale public meeting is planned for later this month or early February, she said.

Marcon said the city hopes to wrap up design for the project in March and bid the project out to contractors. Once the Detroit City Council approves contracting for construction, they hope to start construction in May, she said.

Wolfe said he’s glad the city is behind the effort. Representing Minock Park as a board member for the GRDC, he says it always been left up to the residents to maintain.

“On a local level, we’d have difficulty doing anything with it, but with the city effort behind it, they should be able to make it work,” Wolfe said.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN