Foundation donates $25K to Farmington park project in hopes of inspiring hometown pride

The Farmington Enterprise published its first edition in November 1888. Nearly 135 years later and the city’s first newspaper is still reporting on the goings-on of Farmington today, albeit in a slightly different fashion. Bought and sold over the years, the Enterprise is now the Farmington Observer and has been for decades now. Most recently, as of December 2022, the newspaper became a digital-only publication as run by its parent company, the mass media Gannett corporation.

We’re a long ways away from those early days of the locally-owned Enterprise, no doubt, but you have to imagine that its founders would be pleased to know that their paper at least somewhat exists nearly 135 years later, and on some newfangled invention called “the internet,” to boot.

Like the newspaper itself, the building that was once its headquarters has survived the century in one form or another; the original building was rebuilt in 1926 and still stands today. The Enterprise brand may no longer be represented in name, but you can still see “1926 The Enterprise” stamped into the brick facade of 23623 Farmington Rd. nearly 100 years later. As long as that building stands, the Enterprise and its history is one Google search away for an especially curious passer-by to look up and wonder enough to type the name into their phone, learning about the old newspaper and, by extension, this town’s long, rich history.

John Dinan, former Farmington City Manager (1960-1971). Courtesy of Cathy Dinan Dillon.That’s a sentiment not lost on Cathy Dinan Dillon, who grew up here and runs the John D. and Jean E. Dinan Foundation with her sister Denise Dinan-Panico. It’s their father John who started the charitable foundation in 1997, and it hasn’t stopped making donations to area nonprofits and charitable organizations since. The Dinan family has their own rich history in Farmington; John Dinan was the City Manager from 1960 to 1971 and oversaw developments and projects throughout the city that still shape Farmington to this day. John passed away in 2003 and his wife Jean would follow some two years later in 2005.

But like the Enterprise, enough time has passed where the people that remember John Dinan are few and far between – and, as it goes, increasingly so. It’s one of the reasons that the Dinan Foundation has donated $25,000 to the Enterprise Pocket Park project, a crowdfunding campaign that hopes to raise $75,000 to build a universally-accessible pocket park in downtown Farmington. The gift grants the family naming rights to the park, and now the Dinan name will carry on John’s legacy in downtown Farmington for years to come. 

Newspaper clippings courtesy of Cathy Dinan Dillon.“There's still people out there that remember my dad, but now that's happening less and less. By doing this, it kind of rekindles those connections to the city for people going forward. You know, he could be completely forgotten unless you looked up some city meeting that was scheduled in 1960,” Cathy says. “This is a way to keep that legacy alive, which I think is really neat for the city. I like knowing things about the history here, like the Power family that Power Road is named after, or the story behind Warner Mansion. There’s a lot of history here.”

A place to connect

The Enterprise Pocket Park project will transform a former parking lot-turned-temporary pocket park into a permanent park. The small parcel is nestled between the old Enterprise building, now home to Wina’s Therapeutic Thai Massage & Spa, and Sipp Smoothie & Juice Bar. It’s a project led by the Farmington Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and aligns with their mission, transforming an underutilized patch of asphalt into a public greenspace designed for accessing and gathering community.

The park will feature public art, overhead string lighting, firepits, outdoor seating, greenspace, and improved landscaping, which includes trees, hedges, and plant containers. The pocket park is also part of the city’s Syndicate social district, which allows for alcoholic beverages in designated public areas. It will host concerts and performances, workshops, and more. It’s expected that the park will be open sometime this summer.

Renderings courtesy of the MEDC.

“Community is such an important part of our lives, and having another place for people to connect, to be social and be together, I think that's really important. I think it adds to the appeal here as you're driving through; it might make you want to just stop and check it out,” Cathy says. “If you see this cute little area where you can have a smoothie or stop after you've been to the farmers market, a place to sit and chat with someone, it's going to catch your eye.”

One of the most significant aspects in the design of the Enterprise Pocket Park project is that the park will be universally accessible. The park surface will be built at grade to ensure that it will be accessible to users of all abilities, including those on wheels. The Farmington DDA has partnered with the Disability Network of Eastern Michigan and Grissim Metz Andriese in designing the park.

Cathy Dinan Dillon at the new pocket park site in downtown Farmington. (Photo: David Lewinski)

It’s why the crowdfunding campaign was set at a lofty $75,000, a first for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and their Public Spaces Community Places placemaking initiative. The MEDC program typically caps the program at $50,000 but has recently greenlighted placemaking projects that are universally accessible to try for $75,000 in their crowdfunding campaigns. As part of the program, should the Farmington DDA successfully raise $75,000 by Tuesday, Jan. 31, the MEDC will then contribute an additional $75,000 matching grant.

Renderings courtesy of the MEDC.The crowdfunding campaign, which is accessible online, is nearly there, having reached upwards of $73,000 as of publication. The support from the community has come in myriad ways, including from downtown businesses like the Civic Theater and Bodhi Yoga, with each donating money raised from special movie showings and yoga classes, respectively. Those individuals that donated $25 online would receive a $10 gift card to downtown Farmington businesses, thanks to a DDA partnership with DTE Energy. Downtown officials recommended recipients to use their gift cards at Sipp Smoothie & Juice Bar so as to help the business out while construction occurs outside their doors.

Newspaper clippings courtesy of Cathy Dinan Dillon.A lasting legacy

Per campaign rules, $10,000 of the Dinan Foundation’s $25,000 gift went to the crowdfunding campaign goal, with the rest going directly to the project itself. Cathy says that it’s still too early in the process to reveal the official name of the new park, although the Dinan family name will no doubt be front and center. 

“My parents are already part of the history here and to continue that history with our name, I think it's important for the city to have that, and that the park isn’t named after a credit card or corporation but a local family that continues to be part of the investment here,” Cathy says. 

“My Sister Denise and I really believe in the enhancement and advancement of Farmington. We see great things happening in this city where we grew up. And we want to be a part of it and to leave a family legacy that can inspire other families to live and invest here, too.”

Visit Patronicity online to learn more about Enterprise Pocket Park, the crowdfunding campaign, and more.
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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.