Network of small green spaces in Springwells Village grows with planned Beard Park expansion

The Springwells Village area of Southwest Detroit -- roughly bounded by Woodmere, Dix, Waterman and Fort -- is one of Southwest Detroit's stablest neighborhoods due, in part, to the strategic targeted investment of Urban Neighborhood Initiatives (UNI). "Everything we're doing is about trying to add value to the neighborhood, anything to transform problem sites, issues, into assets," says Michael Boettcher, UNI's community development director.

UNI, in collaboration with numerous other neighborhood stakeholders, recently completed a Neighborhood Improvement Plan for the area, which details stabilization strategies. One that UNI is already taking steps to accomplish is the creation of a network of small pocket parks throughout the community. "We are working on establishing little parks throughout the neighborhood, kind of counter to how the city (is moving) towards consolidation into bigger parks," says Boettcher, who points out Savannah's network of public squares as an "amazing model for the kind of thing we're doing."

Beard Playlot is located on the south end of the neighborhood. The park is a third of an acre, and the city has called for it to be "repositioned," says Boettcher, which means it would be decommissioned as a city-owned and -operated recreation space. UNI's plans, however, call for the expansion of the park by acquiring adjacent privately held and city-owned land. The property would then be turned over to the Detroit Recreation Department for maintenance and operations; the agency has signed off on the preliminary plan, which allows UNI to proceed with fundraising for land acquisition.

The expanded Beard will be two acres and will include an off-street bike path and soccer fields. "The closest are at Patton Park and the kids in this neighborhood are not going that far," says Boettcher. "We think it will be popular within the half-square mile that surrounds this site."

Other efforts in the area are complementary to vision of the Neighborhood Improvement Plan, including the expansion of a playground at St. Stephen Lutheran Church on Lawndale, Young Nation's Alley Project Gallery, last year's reinvention of Weiss Park and a proposed greenway along Woodmere Cemetery. "If we can link all of these things together, we'll have a great little network," says Boettcher.

Download a copy of the Woodmere/Springdale Neighborhood Improvement Plan here (scroll down).

Source: Michael Boettcher, UNI
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

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