After years of planning, a new Wayne State park is almost ready to open

A Wayne State University placemaking project years in the making is now just a few weeks away from a grand opening. Though the park is currently open and accessible to the public, a few more touches — a paint job here and a shade umbrella there — need to be completed before the Woodward and Warren Park will officially be activated as intended.

The new park is the result of Wayne State University and its Office of Economic Development’s efforts to transform a grassy open space into a more attractive and usable place. The park is located at what is considered one of the gateways to campus, the high-profile intersection of Woodward and Warren avenues.

It’s part of a larger effort to open up the campus to the community at large, says Emily Thompson, senior project administrator for Wayne State’s Office of Economic Development.

"The goal is to make clear that this is not just a university space, but a community space," she says. "The university is the largest public space in the neighborhood."

Plans for Woodward and Warren Park were first announced in fall 2017 with the launch of a crowdfunding campaign. That campaign, part of the state’s Public Spaces Community Places initiative, raised more than $25,000, resulting in a $25,000 matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan also contributed $50,000 to the park.

Construction began in the fall of 2018 with the installation of hardscaping, a shipping container, and landscape preparations. In May, the shipping container will be painted Wayne State yellow. Seating, shade umbrellas, and bike racks will also be installed and landscaping cultivated by the Detroit Biodiversity Network will be planted.

The shipping container will be staffed afternoons, six days a week. Details for partners and programming are still being finalized, but will play a critical role in the park’s activation.

"One thing I’ve learned from talking to people is that you have to have programming if you want people to feel comfortable using the space, at least at the beginning," Thompson says. "People are still getting used to it as a park."

A grand opening celebration will coincide with the opening of the Wayne State University Farmers Market season — held at the park through October — on Wednesday, June 5.

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