The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DPP) revealed renderings for the redesign of Capitol Park at a community meeting for public feedback yesterday. Capitol Park, located at Griswold and State streets and behind the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, was the site of the state’s first capitol in 1837.
Crafted by Toronto-based urban design firm Public Work, the proposed design will support a growing residential and retail district, elevate the space’s historical significance, and restore greenery to Capitol Park. All of the buildings bordering the park have recently been renovated or are in the process of being restored.
“The redesign of Capitol Park embraces the future of our city, as well as its history,” says Eric Larson, CEO of DDP. “We see the resurgence of this neighborhood as an opportunity to enhance the meaningful connection all our public spaces have with Detroiters and visitors alike, while anchoring a bold future for this unique place.”
The redesigned space will celebrate Capitol Park’s history as the site for Michigan’s original capitol building and the burial place of Michigan’s first governor, Stevens T. Mason, who helped draft the state’s constitution. Capitol Park was also honor Finney’s Barn, one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad.
The new design features a long communal table with Michigan’s constitution inscribed into stone. It also proposes that the Mason statue be removed from its pedestal and instead put at ground level for people to interact with.
In addition, the design will feature natural elements and green spaces, including a rising tree canopy, river gardens, and streetscape improvements. There will also be a space for a food and beverage kiosk, as well as a designated space for food trucks.
Ground breaking is expected to occur in the spring, with the project’s completion slated for fall 2018. The DPP is currently accepting comments on the proposed design plans through the end of September, which can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Following construction of the Finney Hotel at the corner of Woodward and Gratiot avenues — Seymour Finney had purchased the tract in 1850 — the lodge, along with his nearby tavern and barn at State and Griswold streets, was an active site for housing and protecting slaves before they made their way to Canada (which outlawed slavery in 1819).
Part of the Underground Railroad, Finney, a tailor by trade, had a stressful time of simultaneously providing hotel rooms to slave masters as they pursued their former servants, while slaves were hidden in his barn. Helping to arrange safe passage across the river at night, many of the slaves adopted Finney’s name once they had safely reached the Canadian shore.