An artist’s rendering shows Glade A, a potential design of the new 2-acre park in downtown Royal Oak.

An artist’s rendering shows Glade A, a potential design of the new 2-acre park in downtown Royal Oak.

Image provided by the city of Royal Oak


Royal Oak DDA supports downtown park plan

‘Glade A’ design calls for move of veterans memorial

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published January 29, 2020

 Glade B is a potential design in which the veterans memorial would remain where it is currently located. It includes one large and flat grassy area.

Glade B is a potential design in which the veterans memorial would remain where it is currently located. It includes one large and flat grassy area.

Image provided by the city of Royal Oak

 Glade A includes the relocation of the city’s veterans memorial approximately 30 feet to the east. The potential design features two grassy areas — one flat and one with a hill — divided by a concrete walkway.

Glade A includes the relocation of the city’s veterans memorial approximately 30 feet to the east. The potential design features two grassy areas — one flat and one with a hill — divided by a concrete walkway.

Image provided by the city of Royal Oak

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ROYAL OAK — On Jan. 15, the Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority unanimously voiced support for Glade A as the preferred concept plan for the proposed 2-acre downtown park to be located where the current City Hall and Police Department now stand.

Detroit-based landscape architecture firm MKSK presented two options — Glade A and Glade B — to the Downtown Park Task Force Dec. 18. The firm used input from residents, stakeholders and city officials to design the two concepts.

Glade A features two grassy areas — one flat and one with a hill — divided by a concrete walkway, and the relocation of the city’s veterans memorial approximately 30 feet east. Glade B features one large and flat grassy area and the memorial remaining in place.

The Infrastructure Committee met Jan. 7 and recommended Glade A. According to a memo by DDA Executive Director Timothy Thwing, the Infrastructure Committee thought the hill created unique spaces, the bisecting sidewalk leading to the library entrance provided pleasant sightlines, and the relocation of the veterans memorial provided a good setting for it.

However, the Infrastructure Committee wanted to see less concrete and hard surface materials along the walkway.

The resolution to support Glade A included caveats that multiple ideas have been discussed during the preliminary design phase; many details for the park still need to be prepared, reviewed and approved; and it was necessary to give the design team direction and narrow the focus of the park design.

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; an adventure path around the perimeter; and an open space that could host an ice rink in the winter.

Neither concept includes restrooms, which staff nixed because of added cost. Royal Oak Department of Public Service and Recreation Director Greg Rassel said the installation of restrooms will be part of the second phase of the park.

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

Members of the public expressed concern about the lack of restrooms and the relocation of the memorial.

During the public comment portion of the Jan. 15 DDA meeting, Royal Oak resident and longtime member of the Royal Oak Memorial Society Carol Hennessey spoke against the relocation of the memorial.

She said the society worked for three years and raised $180,000, with the help of the DDA, to move the memorial to its current location in 2006.

“We did a lot of studying and went to a lot of places to find the perfect place,” Hennessey said. “When you come out of the library, it’s not going to be staring you right in the face, and it’s going to be over here, and people are not going to notice it as much — especially children.”

She said the memorial has already been moved three times.

“I don’t know how many times it can be moved without more cracking. We already know there’s a big crack in it, so I’m just afraid moving it again could cause some problems,” Hennessey said.

She said the Memorial Society, when it last moved the memorial, added the names of seven veterans who died in the Vietnam War, were missing in action and whose bodies were sent home.

“We invited their family members, and they all came, and all of them were in tears and just couldn’t thank us enough, because to them it was the final resting place of their loved ones,” she said. “Now, to have to move it again, I think it’s disheartening to them and their memory.”

She said she feels that the new location is going to be smaller and have less room for people to gather.

“When you walk down the stairs of the library, you’ll still see it to the left,” DDA Director Jason Krieger said. “These are conceptual renderings that are going to be further advanced.”

DDA Director Gary Baglio said the decision was personally one of the most difficult he has made during his time on the DDA because of the veterans memorial’s importance to so many people.

“I really feel that, as difficult as this decision is, once we make it, I hope Carol is involved with the designers of the park to address some further concerns she has,” Baglio said. “Ultimately, we’re doing more to respect the veterans by what we create, not by what we’re going to dismantle and move.”

During the Dec. 18 Downtown Park Task Force work session, MKSK principal in charge Andy Knight said the cost to move the memorial would be a six-digit figure.

On Dec. 18, Royal Oak Public Library Director Emily Dumas said she hoped that the city would make the addition of public restrooms in the park a priority, since the park concept includes 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.”

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

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