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Bartleby the Scrivener vegan27
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roosevelt park - vernor closing
I was thinking about the possibility of moving into the Bagley house yesterday, and about how it wouldn't be a permanent solution since I like living with the fewest number of people possible. It's a big house designed for either a family or boarders. Then I was thinking about how I wish I instead had a little cottage to fix up. And then I realized that I DO have a cottage to fix up! My own damn house! I don't want to foreclose on my house. But what else can I do? The repairs are not affordable, and it wouldn't make sense to pay for them anyway, while I owe $69K on a house that Zillow.com estimates is worth $33K. And then I think about Mindy's house, and the situation at 2150 Bagley, and that ridiculous amphitheater that's going to be built in Roosevelt Park.

Speaking of that, I attended a meeting hosted by the Roosevelt Park Conservancy a week ago Wednesday. The subject was the closing of Vernor Avenue through the park. These meetings are supposedly held in order to "get input from the community"--but I really have the feeling that all of the changes that those people have for the park are going to go forward exactly as planned, no matter what the neighbors say. And let me get this out of the way right now--"community" is a meaningless buzzword. It's just something we urban hipster transplants repeat as much as possible in order to seem socially engaged. When you replace "community" with synonyms like "our neighbors" or "local citizens", the things they say stop making sense.

For example, at this meeting Phillip Cooley stated that their plans for the park included a skateboard plaza because "the community" asked for it. Really? You guys were had no skate plaza plans until Corktown residents approached you and asked you to please built a skate plaza? Really?? For all the time I spend outside (walking a dog four times a day, working on two houses), I have a hard time remembering the last time I saw one of my neighbors on a skateboard. I'm not even particularly against a skate plaza. I mean, I cringe at the fashionable hipness of it all, but it's probably harmless. I'm just tired of being told that "the community" asked for it and that our input is taken into consideration, when it doesn't appear that either is true.


Although the subject of the meeting was the closure of the boulevard that runs through the park, the skate plaza came up a lot. A lot of lame OLD people (who evidently don't count as part of "the community") expressed misgivings about the skate plaza, including increased liability on the city's part and noise problems associated with a skate park in Livonia. Phil Cooley was defensive and insisted to all of my neighbors assembled there that "the community" demands a skate plaza. There wasn't the slightest indication that anything we said was going to affect their plans in any way.

The only question I asked at the meeting was whether the park was part of a historic district, and if the closure of Vernor would require the opinion of the Historic Designation Advisory Board. Mr. Cooley didn't know, but one resident said that the park was not actually within the district.

At the end of the meeting, an irritated-looking young man said, "Phil, on behalf of the community, just close the street." He also stated that there wasn't enough positive feedback at the meeting. But wasn't the whole point of the meeting to gauge the opinions of my neighbors, be they positive or negative? I guess not. In fact, their website lists this development time line:
  • Early 2011: Continued neighborhood outreach and dialogue for programming.
  • Spring 2011: Construction of the Michigan Avenue signage and commencement of skate plaza.
  • Late 2011: Planning and public hearings for closure of W. Vernor highway through the park.
  • Summer 2012: Closure of West Vernor to create park unification.
  • Summer 2012: Construction of the amphitheatre.

They have already decided what they are going to do and when they are going to do it, the public be damned.

Before the meeting ended, Ron Cooley (Phil's father and co-owner of Slow's) tried to turn around the negative mood by proclaiming with grinning condescension, "I JUST WANTED TO SAY HOW GREAT IT IS TO SEE SO MANY PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEIR COMMUNITY!" And then he just sort of started ... clapping....

I am glad that wealthy donors want to revitalize the park, and the skateboarders are probably benign. But a residential neighborhood is a wildly inappropriate setting for an amphitheater. I'm not going to go into battle mode over the street closure, but I would prefer that the historic layout of the park be preserved. This neighborhood's greatest asset is its history. The park was designed to be a grand, formal, and beautiful compliment to the train station. And now the building has been demoted to being merely being a "cool backdrop" to somebody else's project.

I guess simply re-landscaping the entire park to restore its historical look isn't as sexy as a "hip reboot" of the entire thing, but it sure would be nice to experience the park as it was originally intended.

Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

EDIT: Coincidentally, young men *were* skateboarding in a spot on my Lola-walking route after work today. Build that skate plaza! I wonder if they were local residents--because if they were, they probably wouldn't have driven their cars to that place. As opposed to, you know, riding their skateboards.

Brian Hurtienne is willing to give you advice on your house and take a look at it. I think I have his number somewhere if you don't.