Dearborn looks toward the future of its City Hall Park

Dearborn City Hall Park is a community hub, drawing residents to walk, bike, relax, and enjoy events like the Dearborn Downtown Development Authorities' (DDDAs) summer Jazz on the Ave concerts. A new effort by the DDDAs is aiming to redesign the park to be even more accessible and enjoyable than ever before.


The DDDAs are about to kick off a community engagement process to seek input on how best to improve the park. That process will include both public meetings and an online resident survey, which will be circulated on the DDDAs' website and social media. DDDAs staff are anticipating completing their plan by February or March 2021, and completing construction work either in fall 2021 or spring 2022. The DDDAs will fund the project in part, but they're also seeking grant funding for it.


Julia Kapilango, board chair of the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, says the project was prompted by the park's existing popularity.


"We noticed that the park has been used by Downtown East neighborhood residents in ways that are encouraging healthy activities and mindsets," she says. "Through that observation, we wanted to support that and build from that."


Kapilango says the park redesign will create an additional way to engage the community, while also creating new revenue streams and economic development opportunities. One key goal of the redesign is to make the park more suitable to Jazz on the Ave, movie nights, and other events that were held in the park during warm months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.


"We're always pulling in large stages, temporary stages, light bars, and everything to fulfill the needs of the performances," says Cristina Sheppard-Decius, manager of the DDDAs. "We definitely do think that we need more of a permanent staging area. We've discussed having more permanent bathroom facilities as opposed to always having to rent portajohns to be out there."


Another important element is to incorporate art into the park in some fashion. The park is adjacent to Dearborn's City Hall ArtSpace lofts, which offers housing for artists, and Sheppard-Decius says she hopes the redesign will "really leverage" that location and "connect that artist community with the park itself." She says that might take the form of some type of rotating outdoor art exhibit in the park. Kapilango agrees.


"It's one thing to have a cookie-cutter, traditional approach," she says. "However, considering the location, ... it would help to really engage an artistic approach to the redesign."


Inclusivity will also be key to the project. Kapilango stresses the importance of ADA-compliant accessibility in the final design, and she says she wants the community input process for the project to engage as many Dearborn community members as possible.

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Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @patrickdunnhere