Editorial: Detroit's $700K 'parklet' wrong priority
The city of Detroit is investing $700,000 into a 7,500-square-foot postage stamp of land in the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood to create a “minipark.” While we don't have anything against parks or green spaces, the city ought to focus its limited funds on real problems that residents care about.
Construction of the “Grand Parklet Streetscape Project,” planned for the intersection of Grand River, Puritan and Plainview streets, will begin this spring. It’s part of the city’s efforts to make the neighborhood of quality single-family homes more walkable.
Drawn from Detroit’s bond funding, the money will pay for sidewalks, drainage, lighting, landscaping and seating at around $90 per square foot. The resulting tiny park will be managed by the city’s general service department.
That’s all fine, but the city’s resources could be directed toward more pressing concerns. A recent survey from Arise Detroit of more than 100 Detroiters shows that while 40% believe their neighborhoods improved over the last two years, a majority report crime, underperforming schools, poverty and a lack of economic opportunity are the biggest barriers to their neighborhoods’ revitalization.
“While they acknowledge they are seeing improvement, they are seeing skepticism in terms of inclusiveness,” says Luther Keith, executive director of Arise Detroit.
Keith says there’s skepticism about whether revitalization efforts are reaching longtime Detroiters, or merely helping newcomers.
Grandmont Rosedale in northwest Detroit is certainly one of those areas that's experienced improvements and investment in recent years.
For example, the neighborhood has benefited from private philanthropy. In late 2018, Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO, and his wife donated $450,000 to the nonprofit Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp.
In addition, TCF Bank announced in November it would be buying play equipment and an elementary STEM lab, as well as aiding small businesses in the neighborhood, as part of the Detroit’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund — a $35 million commitment from multiple corporations that vowed to invest $5 million each into city neighborhoods over five years.
Meanwhile, between Detroit's east and west side neighborhoods, there are shootings on a weekly basis.
We’re not saying that $700,000 would fix violence in Detroit — or the impact of blight, foreclosure and poverty.
But those problems still affect too many Detroiters, and the city must target its resources on those pressing priorities — and let neighborhood organizations or other private donations cover projects like the Grandmont Rosedale parklet.
If Detroit leaders are looking to appease concerns over the inclusiveness of its recovery, this park project isn’t going to help.