20 by ‘25: Take a tour of the rapidly expanding network of pocket parks of NW Goldberg

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Daniel A. Washington, founder and executive director of NW Goldberg Cares
20 by ‘25.

That’s the goal of Daniel A. Washington, founder and executive director of NW Goldberg Cares. Washington has made it his mission — well, one of his missions — to build 20 public green spaces in his NW Goldberg neighborhood, and to have the 20th finished by December 31, 2025. Located between Wayne State University and New Center, NW Goldberg is largely residential with a number of cultural touchstones within its borders, including the Motown Museum, Marble Bar, and Recycle Here!

While 20 new parks by 2025 may sound lofty to some, it’s looking more and more achievable. On Monday, Sept. 27, the NW Goldberg Cares community development corporation celebrated the grand opening of Spotlight Park, the CDC’s fourth pocket park since Washington founded the organization in 2017.

They’re almost a quarter of the way there and only gaining steam.

“Even in the city of Detroit — outside of Belle Isle and Campus Martius, for the most part, and which in some ways can be inaccessible at times — we always go to other cities for their public spaces. And you go there because, Why? You enjoy the public spaces, you enjoy a downtown that has a nice beautiful space where you can stroll and parks you can walk in and out of,” Washington says. “So why don’t we do that in our own communities and neighborhoods, as well?”

Washington expects their fifth park, Curtis Jones Park, to break ground next spring — (more on that later).

As part of the Model D Explorer Series, we turned our Instagram account over to Daniel A. Washington and he showed us around his neighborhood, shining a light on the parks and programs his organization has successfully built and implemented. Each of the NW Goldberg Cares pocket parks has a theme and the CDC organizes programming around said theme — Spotlight Park features a stage for public performances, Holland Maze Literacy Park features literacy programs for neighborhood children, and so forth.

“In a lot of ways, we see public spaces being only as good as the programming that exists within them,” he says. “So for us, it was very important to go into every public space with the intention to actually develop, launch, and offer programs that brought value to the community.”

What follows is a tour of the public spaces and pocket parks built by NW Goldberg Cares thus far, as well as one that’s on the way.

Holland Maze Literacy Park
6134 15th Street

One of Washington’s favorites, Holland Maze Literacy Park was made possible, in part, by Detroit Future City and its Working With Lots program, utilizing their Holland Maze blueprint. NW Goldberg Cares complemented their beautification efforts with summer literacy programs for neighborhood children.

“The Holland Maze Literacy Park is one of my favorite parks in the city of Detroit. It’s a place for young kids to come on a weekly basis during the summer, for about 15 weeks, for some literacy engagement activities. What is also really cool is that it’s the first of its kind in Detroit; we were the first place in Detroit that had a Holland Maze, a kind of tulip garden,” he says.

“I just really love this space — it’s a sacred space. We’ve gotten so much positive feedback from the residents of our neighborhood that stop by. It’s definitely up there as one of my favorite places in the city.”

Art Park
6102 16th Street

In September 2019, NW Goldberg Cares transformed an overgrown and vacant lot into Art Park, a pocket park complete with new landscaping, seating, a Little Free Library, and public art installations, including a piece from neighborhood artist Ryan Doyle.

“The Art Park was our first park ever. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I can last remember. I always wanted to create a park in our neighborhood that would be a safe place for artistic expression, a place for public art. I’m absolutely in love with that space — it’s our baby,” says Washington.

“It’s our first one as an organization and it really came together after a long time of planning and fundraising and everything that comes with placemaking. So I’m super grateful for that and it definitely kicked us off on our public space creation.”

Rest & Ride Park
6326 Linwood Street

Built in September 2020 was Rest & Ride Park, a vacant lot-turned-green space designed to give neighbors a comfortable and safe place to sit while they wait for the neighborhood bus, the 29 Linwood. The park features new landscaping, seating, public art installations, and play elements for children.

“Another really great place to visit. I think the biggest thing for me with that place is that it has to do with transportation. We were awarded a couple of grants to have a lot of play elements for children, so it was very much a park that fulfilled a lot of needs. It really does allow for kids to have a safe place to play, which we haven't had in our neighborhood for over a decade,” says Washington.

“That's one of the better places because it not only has the play elements for the children, but it also currently serves our residents by way of public transit.”
The mural, titled “The Waiting” by Nicole Macdonald, shows NW Goldberg residents boarding the 29 Linwood bus at the corner of Linwood and Ferry Park.
Spotlight Park
5945 Linwood Street

While Washington has successfully applied for local and statewide grants and awards to build the aforementioned parks, the most recently completed park, Spotlight Park, received funding from an unlikely source: FOX Entertainment. One of that company’s latest productions, “The Big Leap,” is set in Detroit and, according to a FOX representative:

“To celebrate the launch of FOX’s new uplifting drama, THE BIG LEAP, which is set in Detroit, FOX was looking to do something meaningful to give back to the local community there. Through our partners at Creative Riff, we were able to connect with NW Goldberg Cares and learn about the amazing pocket park initiative that Daniel and his team were spearheading and thought that this could be a way for FOX to make a long-lasting impact in the community.”
Spotlight Park opened on September 27, 2021.
The park features a circular stage for community-led performances, landscaping, and public art installations. Says Washington, “It definitely gives you a vibe where you just want to listen to music and relax. I just encourage everybody to come check it out.”

… and coming soon

Next up for NW Goldberg Cares is Curtis Jones Park, named in honor of local basketball legend Curtis Jones, who passed away in 1999. Washington expects to break ground on Curtis Jones Park in spring 2022.

“This is an active lifestyle park that will be home to a basketball court, a walking path, a pavilion, and a play area for our children,” he says. “Again, this is about serving a very glaring need. We’ve had no basketball courts in our neighborhood for a decade. We’re super excited to break ground and honor the legacy of Curtis Jones.”

Visit NW Goldberg Cares online to learn more about the 20 by ‘25 initiative and be sure to follow them on Instagram at @nwgoldbergcares for more neighborhood happenings. And be sure to read Daniel A. Washington’s 2020 op-ed, ‘Detroit’s new normal should include more public green spaces,’ only on Model D.
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