A public input process for the redesign of Dearborn's City Hall Park is now underway, and residents have big ideas for the park ranging from public art installations to an outdoor stage.
The Dearborn Downtown Development Authorities (DDDAs) held two community meetings on Jan. 27 – one in English, one in Arabic – to solicit feedback on the project. About 15 members of the public attended the two sessions.
"This ... is a beautiful space as it is," said Cristina Sheppard-Decius, manager of the DDDAs, during the English meeting. "However, we are looking to make it more active, more interactive, and more engaging for all who come to the park, and hopefully those who come to the park in the future."
Through live polls presented during the sessions, attendees weighed in on a variety of issues, including how they currently perceive and use the park. The majority of attendees said they visit the park primarily for special events, and they otherwise just pass through the park when they visit. Attendees listed trees, no barriers, and existing cultural events (like the popular Jazz on the Ave concert series) as elements of the park that should stay the same through the redesign.
Attendees had lots of ideas when asked what they'd like to see added to the park. Restrooms were by far the most popular response, as the city currently must rent portable outhouses for public events. Other suggestions included an art sculpture park, a walking track, a pollinator garden or other garden areas, food trucks, a stage for live performances, canopies for tables, dark sky lighting, and holiday displays for kids.
"People wanted to see a park that was a draw to come to more often," Sheppard-Decius says.
Another recurring topic was the idea of incorporating more arts and culture into the park. Attendees suggested more live music of all genres, plays, ethnic events/festivals, and other cultural events in the park. In response to a question asking how the park might better integrate with the nearby City Hall Artspace Lofts, attendees suggested public art installations, pop-up booths for resident artists to sell their wares or public art activities led by artists.
Sheppard-Decius and her staff sought to engage a broad cross-section of the community in the meeting by promoting it on social media, on the City of Dearborn Television, and through mailings to over 2,000 surrounding homes. They're still seeking to engage even more residents through an online survey that will include the same questions posed in the meeting and will be posted to the DDDAs' Facebook page.
"Even though someone maybe didn't attend that session, they still will have the opportunity to contribute in the same way," Sheppard-Decius says.
After the survey is complete, project architects will create concept drawings based on public input. Another round of community meetings will be held to solicit feedback on those plans, likely in March. The city is set to begin construction on stormwater infrastructure improvements on the site this month, but construction on the redesign itself will likely begin in spring 2022.