Public Space Rejuvenation

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The Green Alley. Photo by Marvin Shaouni.

In Detroit, decades of declining property tax revenues have created circumstances such that the city is unable to maintain all of its numerous public spaces. (There are more than 300 parks alone.) But in the absence of official maintenance, individuals, communities, nonprofits, and businesses choose to take ownership of public space themselves. This page is intended to be a starting point for folks who'd like to rejuvenate public spaces near them or start to get a better understanding of this phenomenon. Let us know what you think we should add!

Adopt-a-Park

Ready to take over maintenance/programming responsibilities for your neighborhood park? Consider the city's official Adopt-A-Park program.

  • Residents adopt parks for a term of one year.
  • Park adoption includes grounds maintenance and waste disposal.
  • Since Mayor Bing started actively promoting the program in 2010, the number of community-adopted parks has grown from around 25 to almost 100.
  • Use this form to get started: Media: ADOPTPARKAPPLICATION.pdf
  • For more information, contact Trina Tucker of the General Services Department at (313) 530-5164

Park Conservancies

Several larger parks are maintained and managed by non-profit conservancy organizations. Incorporating as a non-profit gives communities long-term control of park space, makes fundraising easier, and allows residents to work out maintenance agreements with the city. Examples include:

  • The Clark Park Coalition
  • The Belle Isle Conservancy
  • People for Palmer Park
  • If your organization is thinking about incorporating as a conservancy, Brad Dick of the city's General Services Department can help. Contact him at dickb@detroitmi.gov.
  • Anthony Benavides, Director of the Clark Park Coalition for 20 years, imparted the following advice for long-term park management:
    • Maintain an open dialogue with the city. Be positive, be a partner, and learn the art of compromise.
    • Get different entities involved, like church groups, community groups, and corporations to enhance what you’re doing.
    • Whatever investment you put into a park, you have to have eyes watching. If you’re going to put something there, make sure there are people who are committed to taking care of it.
    • Regarding infrastructure and equipment, invest a little more in the beginning for stuff that’s relatively maintenance free. Less maintenance is always better.
    • Graffiti happens. Remove it in less than 24 hours: Invest in power washers. Limit paint colors in park and always keep extra cans on hand. Invite kids to help paint over it; they love to help.
    • Make sure there are people cleaning up the park every single day.

Detroit Parks Coalition

Looking for a community of park advocates? The Detroit Parks Coalition represents more than 50 Detroit parks. Members share resources and strategies, build volunteer networks together, and meet regularly with city officials.

  • Contact Detroitparks@gmail.com for more info

Vacant Lots

There are approximately 40 square miles of vacant lots in the city. More and more, residents (& city officials) are getting creative with the adaptive reuse of these lots as diverse community spaces. Here are a few examples in Detroit & Hamtramck:

Alleys

Detroit's alley network is another urban environment ripe for sustainable, community-focused development. Motor City Brewing Works & the Green Garage worked together to transform our shared alley into the city's first green alley, a pedestrian thoroughfare with abundant growing life and sustainable design features like permeable pavement. More information on that, as well as the Alley Project, a public street art gallery in Southwest Detroit, is available below.