During the pandemic, we've seen how important greenspace is to a community. In one Detroit neighborhood, a non-profit has been adding parks to its landscape for the past few years, with plans to add many more.
When Daniel Washington started NW Goldberg Cares, he had the ambitious goal of developing 20 parks in the neighborhood where he grew up and lives -- an initiative called 20 by '25. Since 2019, four parks have opened, with another breaking ground this spring.
The neighborhood is bordered by West Grand Boulevard, the Lodge, 94, and Grand River Avenue. It's home to the Motown Museum and the Henry Ford Health Center, as well as Recycle Here! and the future Dreamtroit development. While these larger developments are taking shape, new parks keep opening for the residents of the neighborhood.
Washington has been working with local and national sponsors on these parks, with support from the Rocket Community Fund, the MEDC, Henry Ford Health Systems, and Detroit Future City. Washington has acquired the land through the Detroit Land Bank, the City of Detroit, and the Wayne County Auction. NW Goldberg Cares was recently gifted 12 additional parcels in the neighborhood from a couple in New Jersey who owned the vacant land.
The parks vary in size, with some being small pocket parks to rest, wait for the bus, or read - many of the parks include free little libraries. In the spring, the group plans to break ground on its largest park to date -- the Curtis Jones Park, which will have a full-sized basketball court, picnic tables, a playground, and an area for exercise.
"The community is extremely excited at the return of a basketball court," says Washington. "We have gone without one for more than a decade." He says the community has been very involved with the process of planning for the parks, offering feedback in meetings and surveys.
The park will also have programming such as youth sports camps, senior citizen fitness classes, health fairs, interactive sports, and educational programming.
The latest to open is Spotlight Park, at the corner of McGraw and Linwood. Spotlight Park has gained financial support from the new FOX series "The Big Leap," which takes place in Detroit. The show tells the stories of aspiring performers, and the park itself is a place for performers. It features a large stage in the middle, which can host live performances and screenings. The park also features flower beds, as well as murals from a local artist.
“Having a space in the neighborhood that can accommodate and support performance is a step toward reviving a resilient and sustainable connection to the arts in the community,” said songwriter and neighborhood resident Audra Kubat. “As an artist and educator, this gives me an opportunity to work directly with my immediate neighbors and develop new and lasting relationships through expression and performance.”
In addition to parks, the group works with neighborhood businesses in an initiative called Sustaining Detroit's Legacy. This program helps long-time businesses with marketing, planning, website development, and more. It's part of a holistic approach to improving the neighborhood.
"How we impact our community is very much so led by the physical transformation of spaces in the neighborhood," says Washington. "Whether you look at our parks, housing projects and programs - but what we ultimately will be judged by and remembered for is how much influence and change we have on the mindset of our people. The work we are doing is about changing perception and perspective on the community we live in for our residents, newcomers, and funders."