Miracle on Woodward Avenue
A Detroit native goes home to see whether Campus Martius Park lives up to its billing.
By Linda McIntyre
Having grown up outside Detroit in the wake of the devastating
1967 riots that drove the middle class to the suburbs, I’ve been
accustomed to viewing attempts to revitalize the city as hope trumping
experience. So I wasn’t expecting too much from Campus Martius Park,
a project conceived as part of the city’s celebration of its 300th
anniversary in 2001 and opened in November 2004. It’s hard to fault
any effort to bring back the city, but it was difficult to believe
that the area’s famously skittish suburbanites would be drawn to
mix and mingle in a park smack in the middle of the city’s blighted
downtown, no matter how good the intentions or the design.
How wrong I was.
Campus Martius Park is a small, bustling oasis that brings
the heart of downtown Detroit to life with two elements that have long been in
short supply here: greenery and pedestrians. It packs a lot into its 1.6
acres—planted areas, fountains and water walls, performance stages, a café, and
tables and chairs that can be easily moved among the paved, gravel, and lawn
surfaces. Visitors can enjoy a lunchtime concert, hobnob with friends, read a
book under the shade of a tree or an umbrella, admire some of the area’s
historic architecture, or gaze down Woodward Avenue toward the Detroit River.
Typical urban activities, yes, but ones that Detroiters have not enjoyed
downtown for quite some time.
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