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 An artist’s rendering shows a possible layout of the new 2-acre park in downtown Royal Oak.

An artist’s rendering shows a possible layout of the new 2-acre park in downtown Royal Oak.

Image provided by the city of Royal Oak

Downtown park design phase 30% complete

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 27, 2019


ROYAL OAK — On Dec. 18, Detroit-based landscape architect MKSK provided an update to the Royal Oak Downtown Park Task Force regarding the new 2-acre park to be located where the current City Hall and Police Department now stand.

MKSK principal in charge Andy Knight said the design process is almost 30% complete.

Using input from residents, stakeholders and city officials, Knight presented two concepts that feature the preferred “rooms” style park, as opposed to “commons” or “terrace” styles.

The two elements that vary between the concepts are topography and placement of the city’s veterans memorial. The first model features two grassy areas — one flat and one with a hill — divided by a concrete walkway, and the relocation of the memorial approximately 30 feet east. The second model features one large and flat grassy area and the memorial remaining in place.

Several members of the Downtown Park Task Force favored the first model.

“I think it’s brilliant,” said Frank Arvan, a member of the task force. “I think moving the war memorial to the east makes it a wonderful place for quiet contemplation. I think the path through the middle is something very important, and the hill creates a great amphitheater.”

Task force member Sarah Kindinger said the first concept adds more focal points and interest than the typical park.

“It seems like more of a destination to me,” she said.

The budget for the park is approximately $5 million, and the goal is to break ground on the park this year.

The two concepts do not include restrooms, which staff nixed because of the added cost. Royal Oak Department of Public Service and Recreation Director Greg Rassel said the installation of restrooms would be part of the second phase of the park.

Library Director Emily Dumas said she hoped the city would make the addition of public restrooms in the park a priority, since it does include a water feature and families with little ones would likely use the library’s facilities.

“I love the thought of a water feature, but a lot of kids will be getting wet and trying to use the library restrooms. They’re really small. We just don’t have an adequate restroom to support a lot of people,” Dumas said. “I also imagine people will be tracking water into the library.”

Several members of the public spoke on the topic of moving the veterans memorial, expressing concern about how moving it might cause further damage to the granite slabs, which were cracked during the last time it was moved.

Others felt that moving it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. Knight said the cost to move the memorial would be a six-digit figure.

“I don’t like the plan to move the memorial to the east,” said Royal Oak resident Bill Harrison. “It takes away from the focus of coming out of the library and going straight to the memorial.”

Knight said the veterans memorial needs to continue to exist in the park and that MKSK is exploring how to best display it in a prominent position.

“It plays a very strong role, and there’s a lot of emotional and personal attachment to it,” he said. “We’re working collaboratively with all the people involved right now to come to the best location for it.”

Other amenities in the park concept include a plaza with movable furniture and overhead lighting strung from trees, a water feature with a series of jets that come out of the ground, a low stage, a nature play area and butterfly garden, an oak grove including an existing oak tree, an adventure path around the perimeter, and an open space that could host an ice rink in the winter.

The Downtown Park Task Force will look more closely at the proposed park concepts at its Jan. 15 meeting. Ultimately, the Royal Oak City Commission will have the final say.

The park is part of a civic center project that also includes a new City Hall, a new Police Department, a six-story Henry Ford medical outpatient building and a 581-space parking deck.

For more information, visit or call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.