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 A rendering illustrates a sloping grassy area for the public to gather as part of the new 2-acre downtown park, which will be constructed near Third and Troy streets, where the current City Hall and Police Department stand.

A rendering illustrates a sloping grassy area for the public to gather as part of the new 2-acre downtown park, which will be constructed near Third and Troy streets, where the current City Hall and Police Department stand.

Rendering provided by the city of Royal Oak


Downtown Royal Oak park to move forward with relocation of memorial

Submit park name ideas by Feb. 14

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 5, 2020

 A rendering illustrates an evening view of the proposed confluence plaza, boulder climb and water feature included in the Glade A design. On Jan. 27, the Royal Oak City Commission approved the design in a 5-2 vote.

A rendering illustrates an evening view of the proposed confluence plaza, boulder climb and water feature included in the Glade A design. On Jan. 27, the Royal Oak City Commission approved the design in a 5-2 vote.

Rendering provided by the city of Royal Oak

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ROYAL OAK — On Jan. 27, the Royal Oak City Commission voted 5-2 to move forward with the proposed Glade A design for the 2-acre downtown park, which will be located where the current City Hall and Police Department stand.

The design features two grassy areas — one flat and one with a hill — divided by a concrete walkway, as well as the relocation of the city’s veterans memorial approximately 40 feet east.

The move of the memorial has been an issue of contention, especially among veterans groups and those who helped relocate the memorial to its current location in 2006. The Royal Oak Memorial Society worked for three years to raise $180,000 and find the perfect place.

Concerns include lack of space for people to gather, lack of privacy, lack of visibility, noise, traffic and further damage to the memorial. One of the slabs of granite has a large crack.

Others expressed concerns about the first phase of the park’s development not including bathrooms, especially because a splash pad will be installed and families likely will seek a place to change their children’s clothes. Bathrooms are planned for phase two.

The Glade A park concept also includes 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; a boulder climb; and an open space that could host an ice rink in the winter.

More than 1,500 people weighed in on the look and feel of the park, which has a budget of approximately $5 million. The goal is to break ground on the park in 2020.

Commissioner Patricia Paruch, who also chairs the Downtown Park Task Force, said the purpose of relocating the memorial 40 feet to the east is to move it to a less busy area and protect it with gardens and trees.

“We can’t do that if we leave it in the current location, and we’re concerned about the risk of pedestrian traffic if it remains where it is,” Paruch said. “People recognized (during the input sessions that the memorial is) a key component in the area and very special to the community.”

Commissioner Kyle DuBuc, who also sits on the task force, said he thought Detroit-based landscape architecture firm MKSK did a great job of incorporating community input into the park design.

“People wanted a community gathering space that was also beautiful and tranquil, but with elements of urban place-making. And folks wanted it to be very traditional, but also unique and innovative, but not like other parks,” DuBuc said. “I think we have threaded that needle.”

He said cost estimates for moving the memorial came back at approximately $25,000, instead of the budgeted $100,000, so MKSK could do more to enhance the space. If the cracked area needs to be replaced, it may cost an additional $25,000, Paruch said.

City Attorney and Interim City Manager David Gillam said a vote of the public would not be required to move the memorial 40 feet to the east, as some suggested.

He drafted the 2007 ordinance that designates the plaza as a memorial area to honor members of the American and Canadian armed forces who lost their lives in service to their country. The ordinance protects the space and requires a public vote before the property can be sold, which the current City Commission is not considering.

“If there are issues with events and traffic noise, if that’s going to be a problem, then we’ll work with the groups holding the events and close the roadway down — close Troy Street — for a period of time during the ceremony,” Gillam said.

Commissioner Melanie Macey said the city is changing. She highlighted the importance of envisioning what Royal Oak will look like 20-30 years down the road.

“I think we have to bite the bullet. This is not going to happen until 2021 at the earliest, so there’s a lot of time for planning, including all kinds of input,” Paruch said. “The task force made the stipulation that veterans groups be involved in the design of the final product, including accessibility issues.”

Commissioners Randy LeVasseur and Kim Gibbs both voted against the park design.

“My concern is the people who are most passionate about the memorial … are not convinced moving it is the best thing,” LeVasseur said. “I believe (moving the memorial) is the wrong thing to do.”

Gibbs said she feels moving the memorial is like “moving a grave site.”

“It’s not something you do,” she said. “I think it should remain where it is.”

 

Next steps
MKSK principal in charge Andy Knight said his firm is working toward 60% completion of the downtown park design.

“We’ll kind of fine-tune the estimate that we’ve been developing up to this point. We’ve still got a fairly good contingency, so we’re starting to dial in a little tighter on a lot of the details — that’s our next task within the next month, to be at 60%,” Knight said. “At that point, we’ll begin to work on construction documents so we have something out to bid probably in the summertime.”

Additionally, the Royal Oak Naming Committee recently put out a call for the public to submit names for the future downtown park. To share park name ideas, visit www.surveymonkey.com/roparkname. Submissions for a permanent name for the new park will be accepted through Feb. 14.

The current City Hall and Police Department are scheduled to be demolished this fall to make way for the downtown park near the corner of Third and Troy streets.

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 www.romi.gov/downtown or call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.

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