Let's get the bad news out of the way: New Center's Cityfest has been canceled, for at least 2010. While the economy and accompanying reduced sponsorship levels have something to do with the cessation of a Detroit tradition, the reality is much more complex.
Now for the good news: Improvements to New Center Park have created a neighborhood venue that will be programmed four days a week. New Center Council
president Michael Solaka says that is more conducive to realizing the organization's goal of community and economic development than is a festival that happens but once a year. "Our mission is to develop New Center into a thriving 24-hour neighborhood," he says. "(The park) is an economic development thing as opposed to an image-building event."
Phase I improvements to the park, which is located at the southwest corner of Second Ave. and W. Grand Blvd., were made possible through funding from the Kresge Foundation, the State of Michigan Cool Cities Initiative, and the United Way's Non-Profit Facilities Fund. They include a decorative perimeter fence, repaired concrete, re-graded landscaping for a larger audience viewing and event production area, a new brick paved patio, lighting and electrical upgrades, irrigation improvements, perimeter hedges, restroom access, and, most visibly, a 900-square-foot modern glass "conservatory" that will house equipment for food and beverage.
New Center Council now is moving forward with the design and construction of a permanent stage roof with an integrated presentation/movie screen, performance quality sound and lighting, and park furniture and food and beverage service equipment.
Programming will include Wednesday evening movies, Thursday after-work jazz concerts, Friday night rock and roll concerts, Saturday night "Camp Hi-Fi" and a harvest market on Sundays. "Basically it is Cityfest broken down into 80 days," says Solaka. "We're trying to get our arms around the community piece (of arts and cultural programming) and make people want to live here and open a business here."
The Council's acquisition of a nearby parking lot would also allow the production of "Block Parties" that would take place on an expanded site with the Park as their centerpiece.
Source: Michael Solaka, New Center Council
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh