Plans unveiled for Hamtramck's Veterans Memorial Park

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Hamtramck — In the coming years, Hamtramck's Veterans Memorial Park could be transformed into a major destination brimming with features such as a splash pad, wooded trails, even outdoor "living rooms."

That's the vision officials have to help rejuvenate the historic site. Following public feedback and lengthy talks, preliminary plans for the 26-acre site were unveiled Friday night during a community meeting.

Renderings were displayed during the community meeting Friday night.

The long-gestating plan aims to help transform the land into "an activate and peaceful place that welcomes all of Hamtramck’s residents and visitors from Detroit and beyond," said Maura Rockcastle, principal and co-founder of Ten x Ten, the Minnesota-based landscape architecture and urbanism firm involved in the design. 

The plan presented by the group and Global Detroit, the team that led the design and community engagement effort, has not yet been finalized and will likely include more input, Rockcastle said.

"It’s still a draft," she told the audience of nearly 100 participants at the People's Community Center. "We have a few more meetings to pull it all together."

Officials have spent several years eyeing redevelopment for what is considered the city's largest green space. The spot includes Keyworth Stadium, where the Detroit City FC plays, and Hamtramck Stadium, which once housed the Negro National League Detroit Stars, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and has an historic marker from the state, according to the website.

The city and Hamtramck Public Schools partnered to develop a plan to upgrade the area, representatives said Friday.

The efforts  follow an $807,2000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation the Michigan Municipal League Foundation announced in 2018  to create a master plan and community engagement process for the park.

At the same time, a crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $65,000 to update the Hamtramck stadium, officials said.

Rockcastle said the plans were formulated over more than six months and incorporated feedback gathered during a series of community meetings, including with youths and women. An advisory group also developed shared goals that guided elements of the proposed blueprint for the property. 

Among the ideas Rockcastle presented: planting more gardens and natural paths; creating a promenade that connects Jos. Campau with Conant; forming "loop trails" geared toward enthusiasts; enhancing play and athletic spaces; reconfiguring a parking lot; adding areas for activities such as rock climbing and sledding.

Another feature: "living rooms" that could be buffered by vegetation and double as meeting sites "that might welcome people in a way that makes it easier to share information," Rockcastle said. 

The addition delighted Kamer Zindani, a Hamtramck resident and business owner who mentioned it during a women's focus group.

"The plan is beautiful and I'm so excited," she said after the presentation, adding that such spots make the park "more inviting. It's something needed here in a small town."

When finalized, the plan could unfold in phases, Rockcastle said. A timeline has not yet been set, she told the audience.

Amanda Jaczkowski stands at Keyworth Stadium in early January.

There are plans to have a nonprofit oversee and operate the site with a board including representatives from the city, school district, the Detroit City FC and other stakeholders, said Karen Sikkenga, a principal with Huron River Group, a design partner.

The ideas encouraged James Warunek, a longtime Hamtramck resident who views it as another draw to complement the city's food and cultural scenes.

"This is part of our legacy," he said. "We have to think about the future."