Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park Detroit
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park in Detroit will reinvigorate a derelict waterfront site and create a dynamic new interface between the Detroit River and the city. The 22-acre park will engage the river by breaking down the static sea wall that currently defines its waterfront. The two-acre Water Garden will be at the experiential and geographical center of the park. An expanded and diverse shoreline will increase habitat for vegetation, birds, and aquatic wildlife. A series of rocky beaches, vegetated edges, preserved sea wall, and freshwater wetlands will provide new experiences of nature in the city for people of all ages and abilities.
Throughout the park, smaller lawns, gardens, groves, promenades, and plazas complement the most prominent landscape destinations. Comfort stations and two “park houses” containing facilities for indoor sports will be designed by architect David Adjaye.
The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy hosted six major community meetings between 2018 and 2021 to present design updates to the public, with over 800 in attendance. Additional outreach included information sessions, educational sessions with Detroit Public School students, block club meetings, and models of the proposed park being displayed in prominent locations throughout Detroit. These activities reached an additional 5,000 residents.
Upland from the water, a generous composition of new planting and topography frames the park’s core recreational landscapes, including a play area inspired by the ecology of the Great Lakes, sheltered sports courts, and a large event lawn with expansive river views. Prescribed program areas are sited to draw families from every part of Detroit and beyond with activities that meet community needs, while introducing users to a larger, more open landscape that they can make their own.