City hits goal for new smart park

Mayor dubs 2015 ‘Year of the Park’

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published June 15, 2015

 Mayor Jim Ellison thanks local restaurateur Bill Roberts for his $2,500 donation for the Royal Oak smart park. The donation helped the city reach its $60,000 crowdfunding goal.

Mayor Jim Ellison thanks local restaurateur Bill Roberts for his $2,500 donation for the Royal Oak smart park. The donation helped the city reach its $60,000 crowdfunding goal.

Photo by Victoria Mitchell

ROYAL OAK — Less than a week before the deadline to raise enough money for a downtown “smart park,” the city reached its $60,000 target.

The city reached its crowdfunding goal via Patronicity June 10 with a $10,000 donation from Emagine Royal Oak entrepreneur Paul Glantz.

As of press time, the city had raised $64,840 via 394 donors at www.ROsmartpark.com. The campaign kicked off May 18 and ended June 16.

The city of Royal Oak is now eligible for a 100 percent matching grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The city had to raise a minimum of $60,000 to be eligible for the match.

“It’s exactly what the people that are coming into Royal Oak — and the people that we want to attract to Royal Oak — want,” said Mayor Jim Ellison. “It’s perfect.”

The city partnered with livingLAB in November to create what they called the one-of-a-kind Center Street Plaza concept for the open area just south of the Second Street parking garage. The park would be bound by the Center Street garage, railroad tracks and businesses fronting Fourth Street.

The smart park’s features would include mobile charging stations for laptops and smartphones, walkways, a children’s running pad, sustainable landscaping with a rain garden and bioswale, tables for eating and working, public Wi-Fi, civic art, covered bicycle parking, and an interactive wayfinding kiosk highlighting downtown destinations. Seating would consist of knee-high walls throughout, picnic tables, benches and possibly lawn chairs provided by abutting businesses during daytime hours.

“It’s not just smart technology; it’s smart all the way around,” said Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids.

Restaurateur and entrepreneur Bill Roberts made a donation of $2,500 toward the park. Among other ventures, Roberts owns Town Tavern in downtown Royal Oak.

“It’s right on our corner,” Roberts said. “And I think it’s a great idea of taking a little pocket-type park and upscaling it, but then also bringing the 21st century into it with all of the little perks that they are doing.”

Roberts said he looks forward to the park.

“We have a lot of our guests use this structure, frankly, and when they come out of it, what a better greeting than to walk into a brand-new, green little park,” he said. “It’s just fantastic.”

Davids said the idea for the park formed when people started frequently using picnic tables stored in the city-owned space. Davids said the tables were chained together in storage for use during the Royal Oak Commission for the Arts’ Thursday evening concert series. She said people started flocking there for a space to eat, relax and work.

The pop-up park sees a lot of foot traffic, as up to 1,500 cars park at the Center Street parking structure daily.

Ellison said the fundraising accomplishment is a big win for parks in Royal Oak. Along with discussing plans for the upcoming Normandy park and the new play structures installed at existing parks through Arts, Beats & Eats donations, the mayor said that this is the “Year of the Park.”

“We haven’t been able to talk about parks for decades,” Ellison said. “There has never been enough money. And we finally are able to improve our recreation areas, which is nice.”

The MEDC crowdfunding initiative allows local communities and nonprofit organizations to access state funding for public-space projects.

Communities are eligible to receive a 100 percent matching grant of up to $100,000 for projects including parks, public plazas, alley reconstructions, trails and streetscapes.

According to the MEDC, the grant is awarded if a community meets the requirements and is able to raise money for the project through a reward-based crowdfunding campaign.