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Bridge Michigan
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Outside the spotlight, a neighborhood gem shines in Detroit

Reinvigorating Detroit isn’t all about clearing blighted neighborhoods, fighting crime and wondering where the next job is coming from. Not to mention working through an unprecedented civic bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s about stabilizing a community that has not gone to the dogs but could be headed that way if no one steps in.

Even though it’s anchored by the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University, Midtown had to be lifted up from its knees. But Detroit also has three high-profile neighborhoods that have wavered but never fallen over the years: The Indian Village area on the east side; the University District and Palmer Woods on the north end of town; and the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhoods to the west. All have their assets and challenges, but North Rosedale Park (in the Grandmont Rosedale area) has something special.

“It’s the only community in the city that owns its own community house and park,” says Marsha Bruhn, an area resident and volunteer chair of the capital campaign to upgrade the facility.

It looks like it could be any other park in the city except for the 5,000-square foot North Rosedale Park Community House in the middle of its seven acres. Actually it’s kept up better than other parks, with three soccer fields and a baseball diamond. The house includes a stage where the local Park Players put on a few productions each year. There's an Easter Egg hunt with a petting zoo in the spring and a steak roast in the fall. During the summer a Grandmont Rosedale Little League plays there. The Community House partners with nearby Cooke Elementary School for tutoring and other activities. It is truly a center for vibrant life in the community.

“We're looking ahead to see what do we need to be doing in our neighborhood in order to be a neighborhood of choice,” says Bruhn. “We see all of these as real positives for the larger Grandmont area. It has the opportunity to provide a lot of programs that we have lost in Detroit Public Schools and the city recreation programs.”

All of this is done on an annual budget of approximately $130,000, with a part-time building manager and custodian and a lot of volunteer effort, making the organization’s ambitious plans all the more remarkable. The NRPCH is in the middle of a $625,000 upgrade to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, expand the parking lot to relocate the Northwest Detroit Farmers Market from a nearby church parking lot and accommodate more programming.

Moving the farmer’s market is the biggest addition and it is expected to create a synergy with programs already in place. Imagine getting some shopping done while the kids play baseball, or attending a nutrition class in the house and finding just what you need at the market.

The work is part of a plan developed through the Project for Public Spaces with input from community members about what they would like to see at the facility, which has served the community for 75 years. This is no pipe dream. Most of the money is already in place. Bruhn reports the project has raised $210,000 from private sources, $194,000 from a federal Community Development Block Grant administered by the city and $95,000 from a Kresge Foundation grant.

The Grandmont Rosedale area includes five neighborhoods with about 14,000 residents and 5,500 households; the park and facilities are open to anyone. The house can be engaged for wedding parties, funeral repasts, graduation and birthday parties.

Putting Detroit back together is something like assembling a gigantic puzzle. Each piece has its place and function in creating the total picture. Yes, we need a vibrant downtown and an entertainment district. We need to settle economic issues and create a regional transportation system to make the region function. However, when one really drills down to quality of life issues, we need great neighborhoods where families live and thrive.

North Rosedale Park has been that kind of Detroit neighborhood for a long time. And it seems that its residents have the vision to maintain that viability.

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