A crowdfunding campaign seeking donations to transform a vacant lot into a park is part of a larger plan to rehabilitate a neighborhood on Detroit’s west side.
The “McGraw Mini-Park” is the sixth pocket park project taken on by nonprofit community development organization NW Goldberg Cares. Executive Director Daniel Washington said the goal is to create 20 parks by 2025. Washington said redeveloping vacant land into pocket parks has already helped spur $1 million in private investment in the area since 2017.
“How do you stabilize and bring attention and resources to an area? The only way we could do it was to look at the vacant land,” Washington said. “A lot of people approach vacant land with cleanups and cutting grass, but it’s not sustainable when you think about the cost and creating long-term equitable impact. We want vibrant parks in our area, and if we start to get these parks we could encourage private investment.”
The fundraiser seeks to raise $11,000 by July 7. If successful, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. will match the funds for a pocket park at the corner of McGraw and 16th Street. The Gilbert Family Foundation pledged to cover the remaining expenses, which are expected to total $120,000. The Home Depot is also providing raw materials.
Plans call for a walking path, benches, plants and landscaping and an art installation at the 2,200-square-foot park.
Washington said the park sits across the street from a house that the community organization saved from being demolished. The home rehabilitation project will be finished next month, and was sold to a couple who is ready to move in this summer. Washington said the organization is in talks with the Detroit Land Bank Authority to purchase other homes in the neighborhood.
“We are really (against the) demolition craze that seems to be happening across the city for the last decade,” Washington said. “When you think about houses that stood 100-plus years, for them to stand the test of time and have strong bones, it’s really a shame we’ve torn down so many.”
Construction of the park is expected to start in July and finish by September. Washington said completed parks projects are used to host programs for youth sports, meditation workshops, stretching and yoga classes for senior citizens, literacy and music events.
“We don’t just build these public spaces and say ‘look how beautiful they are,’” he said. “We intentionally program to serve the needs of residents in our community,” Washington said.
The state grant is offered through a collaborative initiative between the MEDC, the Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity. It started in 2014 with MEDC providing matched funding of up to $50,000 for community improvement projects throughout Michigan.
MEDC has provided more than $11.4 million in matching grants as of April 30. Since the launch of the program, 343 projects have been successful in reaching their goal, with more than $13 million raised from 65,483 individual donors. Communities have a 97% success rate in achieving their goals and earning matching funds.