Construction underway for New Milwaukee Plaza, Henry Ford Health’s new pocket park in New Center

What’s happening: As the expansion and development of Henry Ford Health’s South Campus progresses, some of the smaller lots dotting the area remain vacant. But with major projects like the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion completed, having opened in 2021, it’s time for the Detroit-based healthcare system to turn their attention to some of the finer details of the developing campus, says Tom Habitz, urban planning specialist for Henry Ford Health. A new park, the New Milwaukee Plaza, is currently being built at the intersection of Milwaukee and Lincoln.

What it is: New Milwaukee Plaza replaces a paved lot with new landscaping, sustainability features, games and activities, public art installations, and more. Elevated features are planned to provide an “oasis-like” setting, shielding the din of traffic. Native plants and a rain garden serve as a bioretention area. Built-in chess boards and ping pong tables allow for activities. And public art installations will be incorporated throughout. Habitz estimates the park to be open under a “soft-opening” as soon as this July, with a formal grand opening celebration to follow in the fall.

Why it is: “We're making a concerted effort to bring placemaking opportunities into the area, and promoting health and wellness through that. Health and wellness is promoted when we have better places to exercise or to walk to, or just to feel relaxed in your surroundings — let alone the whole issue of creating community among all of us, whether it's employees or patients or residents,” Habitz says. “We're trying to create more community through our spaces, whether that's in our facilities themselves or outside of them, and we just want to use whatever properties we have in support of that.”

A touch of history: The new park will feature limestone salvaged from a historic church that was deconstructed to make way for the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion in 2017. Originally built in 1913, the church was first home to Church of the Redeemer before Redeemer Presbyterian Church took root in 1920. Most recently, Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church had the building from 1970 until 2012, when they left for a new location. The Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion also incorporates the historic limestone throughout.

Community effort: Henry Ford Health is building the park, which is to cost approximately $200,000, with support from the Hearst Foundations, Ralph C. Wilson Legacy Funds of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Gilbert Family Foundation, and Friends of the Rouge, which acquired funding through the National Fish and Wildlife Fund to build the rain garden. Northwest Goldberg Cares and West Grand Boulevard Collaborative are tapped as community partners. Make Art Work is facilitating art details for the ping pong and chess tables, by artists Tony Whlgn and Olayami Dabls, respectively. New Milwaukee Plaza will also feature sculptures from artists Yakov Agam and Maureen Voorheis.

What they’re saying: “We want this to be part of a network of parks in the neighborhood, so we collaborate a ton on design and programming with Northwest Goldberg Cares. They're developing a bunch of other similar spaces in the neighborhood,” Habitz says. “We want residents and visitors to feel that at a bunch of different, important points throughout the neighborhood, there's always an interesting place coming up, there's always a nice little park space to check out or to hang out at, not far from wherever you are in the neighborhood.”

[Read “20 by ‘25: Take a tour of the rapidly expanding network of pocket parks of NW Goldberg” as part of the Model D Explorer Series.]

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.