Hazel Park

Public art, parks, and more: 3 ways Hazel Park is building on its reputation as The Friendly City

They call it the Friendly City.

When Hazel Park commissioned a redesign of the city logo that would debut at the tail end of 2020, the city’s official slogan “The Friendly City” was placed in a more prominent position as compared to the logo that preceded it. Where it was almost a part of the artwork itself beforehand, this new logo proudly declared how the city preferred to present itself by putting its tagline front and center. 

And while being friendly and welcoming has long been a point of pride around these parts, Mayor Mike Webb’s State of the City address in April 2023 demonstrated that city officials were leaning into the phrase as a key driver in the city’s revitalization. The 1990s ushered in a more difficult time for the city, with revenue from the Hazel Park Raceway declining (it would close in 2018) and the State of Michigan cutting funding for its cities.

“In order to survive, Hazel Park had to adapt to those changing times. I’m proud to announce that we haven’t just adapted to survive, we have adapted to thrive,” Mayor Webb said in his address.

So how’d they do it? Where’d they start?

“We embraced our motto, “The Friendly City,” and we made sure that everyone knew that everyone was welcome in Hazel Park, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, or political affiliation. All we ask is that everyone obey the law and be respectful of others.”

Hazel Park’s continued revitalization efforts have expanded upon that idea of being the region’s Friendly City through a variety of means. It’s a holistic approach to friendliness, if you will, creating a place where it’s friendlier to do business, find a home, and enjoy in its public spaces.

And they’re not slowing down anytime soon. Here are some of the ways in which Hazel Park is about to become even more friendly in the weeks and months ahead.

Six years in the making

The Detroit Institute of Arts created its Partners in Public Art (PIPA) program in 2018, partnering with select cities in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties to install community-minded public art projects. It’s a competitive application, and only a few cities are accepted into the program each year. Barbara Winter, who serves on the Hazel Park Memorial Library board, has been applying for the program ever since its launch in 2018.

Six years and one global pandemic later and Hazel Park has been announced as the latest partner to be accepted into the program. Sometime in late spring or early summer, a large-scale mural will be painted alongside Hazel Park Memorial Library — they just have to decide what it’s going to be first.
A community input survey asks Hazel Park residents what they want to see represented in a new mural at the center of town.
But that’s where the community comes in. The DIA requires that PIPA projects are community-driven, and public input is key. A simple two-question survey available online and at the library itself asks what themes and ideas Hazel Parkers would like to see represented within the mural. And a deadline initially set for Wednesday, Feb. 14, has been extended for at least one more week in an effort to entice residents to offer their opinions on a very public-facing art project.

It's an exciting time, says library director Corrine Stocker.

“I personally have been daydreaming about some kind of public art project on the exterior walls, and murals specifically, for years. I never thought we would actually be able to do one.”

Along with the final design itself, there are still several details to be sussed out as the process moves along, including which wall will be painted. Stocker says it will either be the wall diagonally facing the intersection of John R and Nine Mile roads, or the wall that directly faces Nine Mile. There are pluses and minuses to each; trees partially block the former but the latter isn’t as visible from the intersection. Either way, Stocker says it will be a welcome burst of color and creativity for an area that could use a splash of vibrancy against the otherwise beige-bricked walls.

“Ideally, in my mind, it would be library-themed and draw attention to the library but that's not the goal of this project,” she says. “The goal of this project, which is wonderful, is to bring art to people in public spaces. And I just think adding that pop of color, giving people something to feel inspired by, bringing art and giving us something to think about — honestly, I just think it's wonderful.”

Green Acres is the place to be

Hazel Park began 2024 with a flurry of good news when it comes to investing in its community assets and public spaces, signaling another productive year in upgrading its public infrastructure and overall quality of life. Nowhere is this more apparent than Green Acres Park, where a brand new playground has been tantalizing neighborhood children for months now.

The new playscape at Green Acres Park wrapped in construction fencing.

With the help of a $400,000 grant from Oakland County Parks and Recreation, work crews installed the yet-to-open playscape late last year. The inclusive playscape was designed with accessibility for children of all abilities in mind, and no doubt the neighborhood kids — and their parents — are growing impatient for spring to try it out.

Crews removed the old sign at Hazel Park Community Center to make way for a modern sign complete with a digital marquee.Around the corner, on Woodward Heights, is the Hazel Park Community Center, where work continues to reinvigorate the community space. In addition to renovations to the in-house Senior Center first announced in 2023, which included HVAC, plumbing, and other infrastructure upgrades, the Community Center began 2024 with the news of yet another win: a modern sign complete with an electronic marquee. The news complements anticipated renovations of an adjacent pole barn into a community gathering space.

Alternative treatments

Hazel Park’s reputation as a pioneer in allowing for marijuana dispensaries is well earned in Michigan. And while the state’s recreational marijuana laws don’t require a doctor’s signature to shop at a dispensary these days, Hazel Park’s abundance of cannabis provisioning centers means that the city has become a destination for those looking to utilize cannabis in their health and wellness treatments.

Spores is located at 1055 E. Nine Mile Rd. in Hazel Park.Enter the mushroom. In 2022, Hazel Park became just the third Michigan city to decriminalize psilocybin, or “magic,” mushrooms and other entheogenic, or “psychedelic,” plants. Such plants have increasingly become accepted for treating a variety of mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In this regard, Hazel Park remains at the forefront of alternative medicine in Michigan.

And though psilocybin mushrooms won’t be on the menu, Spores, a mushroom dispensary, could open on Nine Mile Road as soon as this spring. Spores won’t be selling mushrooms with psilocybin but rather functional mushrooms, a type of fungi touted to provide health and wellness benefits in addition to their nutritional properties. It’s kind of like the distinction between CBD and THC, with only the latter providing the “high” long associated with the plant. Alternative medicine seekers will have yet another option for treatment in the Friendly City.

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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.