Roosevelt Park

Situated between two dynamic, growing neighborhoods, Corktown and Mexicantown, is Detroit’s most historic landmark, Michigan Central Station. The Station, abandoned for decades, is fronted by an equally abandoned landscape, Roosevelt Park.  Community members have steadily made efforts to transform the park.  And most recently, the community has brought together Corktown Economic Development Corporation, Human Scale Studio, Mexicantown community and business leaders, and Assembly Design Studio to re-envision the park from the viewpoint of the communities-at-large.

Based on the community’s concerns and comments, Assembly developed three plan views and presented them at a community at-large workshop, during Open Streets Detroit.

The team first met in July where Assembly facilitated a workshop to gain further insight in how the surrounding communities live, what concerns they may have, and how they envision the space to become.  The community expressed the need to sustain and improve the connection between Mexicantown and Corktown, to preserve the iconic and historical importance of Michigan Central Station, and to create a vibrant, active space for communities to utilize.

Plan 1 (Top)
In this plan, a widened median for Vernor Highway and two major park parcels define a park that’s formally similar to what exists there today—restoring existing paths and preserving trees. The scheme improves access and safety by eliminating secondary roads through the park. New pedestrian-friendly intersections, perimeter car-park lanes, and protected bike lanes improve access and connectivity, while more precisely coordinating the way in which bikes and cars make left turns from Michigan Avenue toward Mexicantown.

Plan 2
Here Vernor Highway is re-routed to intersect with 14th Street at a 90-degree angle and extend 16th Street southward to generate vehicular circulation that is responsive to the underlying urban grid. This simple move also creates a safer intersection at the corner of 14th Street and Michigan Avenue.

A pedestrian and bike-only mall anchors the largest land parcel to re-enforce the Beaux Arts axis of the train station’s original approach, putting people before cars in a unified park area. The park’s formal hardscape is in direct dialogue with the former Station’s main façade—a relationship with the history of the place that community members had spoken of preserving in some significant way. 

Plan 3
This is the fully unified vision for Roosevelt Park and it ties all of today’s disparate parcels into a single plot. Vehicles navigate around the park, but not through it. This scheme maintains connectivity in the southbound direction by providing two left-turn options from Michigan Avenue onto 16th and 17th Streets, while Northbound traffic drives along the main facade of Michigan Central Station toward 14th Street where cars can turn north or continue westward along Dalzelle Street.

The scheme emanates from the concept of a ripple, starting on the northwest corner of the park toward the east, south, and west extremes where slight undulations in the topography rise and fall to form a gorgeous landscape of diverse experiences.

Over 700 people have touched this community-design process.  Although slower than traditional routes, the park’s redesign will better reflect the needs and aspirations of the surrounding neighborhoods, maintain a high-level of design, and build a stronger support system from the overall community.

With the City of Detroit providing a green light to move forward and with the support of Corktown and Mexicantown communities, the revitalization effort of Roosevelt Park will help shape how future urban design unfolds, not through one stakeholder but through many.