The colorful sculpture “Striving,” located on Central Park Boulevard, is one of numerous public art installations on and around the City Centre Trail. This piece was added earlier this year and speaks to the idea of emerging from the darkness of the pandemic.

The colorful sculpture “Striving,” located on Central Park Boulevard, is one of numerous public art installations on and around the City Centre Trail. This piece was added earlier this year and speaks to the idea of emerging from the darkness of the pandemic.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Southfield officials laud continued development of City Centre Trail

‘We are working to soften the impact of the automobile on our built environment’

By: Andy Kozlowski | Southfield Sun | Published September 21, 2021


SOUTHFIELD — As the City Centre Trail continues to evolve, officials say that the project has succeeded in enhancing the heart of Southfield with a vibrant “downtown” vibe.

The trail is 7.75 miles long, beginning and ending at the municipal campus at Evergreen Road and Civic Center Drive, with around 25 points of interest on the tour map.

The path heads west to the Lodge Freeway, through a wooded area near an office complex, and then turns southeast past Lawrence Technological University and its Blue Devils Stadium, before arriving at Evergreen Road, where it turns north and loops back to the start.

Residents and visitors can hike and bike the trail, which has been under continual development since 2011 — part of an effort to promote walkability by offering more pedestrian-friendly nonmotorized pathways. The project was a cornerstone of “Sustainable Southfield,” the city’s master plan circa 2016, where feedback from residents and businesses showed a desire for more space dedicated to outdoor activity. It’s also a conscious move away from the car-centric land use patterns that have characterized Southfield for roughly 60 years.

“Southfield, a boom city in the 1950s and ’60s, was designed around the automobile,” Kenson Siver, the mayor of Southfield, said in an email. “Freeways, multi-lane surface streets, neighborhoods without sidewalks and expansive parking lots were the norm. Today, we are working to soften the impact of the automobile on our built environment. We are working toward a more pedestrian-friendly city.”

The City Centre Trail is just one example of what Siver called “urban trailways” added over the past decade. In total, there have been 17 miles of new sidewalks and trails added during that time. Additionally, new construction in Southfield now requires installation of bike racks, and the city has reduced the parking space requirements for buildings and businesses. In some places, the city has even widened sidewalks to better accommodate bicycles.

But what’s a trail without sights to see? Siver said the city has addressed that, as well.

“To make use of our trailways more interesting and inviting, we have added a number of art installations along the paths,” the mayor said. “The Red Pole Parks installation is probably the most well known — I’ve been seeing many people taking and posting photos there. There are also decorative birdhouses along the trail. And this fall, tiles by Hubert Massey will be installed along the new pathway adjacent to Lawrence Tech.”

There are other installations as well, such as “Moby-Dick,” by Joseph Anthony McDonnell, originally commissioned in 1966 by the J.L. Hudson Co. for the Northland Center, where it was displayed in the center courtyard until the mall closed in 2015, following which it was restored and installed in the fountain at the Southfield Public Library in 2019; and “Pioneer Family II,” by Dutch-Canadian artist Andreas Drenters, a sculpture composed of copper and steel from found objects and repurposed farming equipment, donated by Mark Diem of Bloomfield Hills and now located at the Mary Thompson farmhouse on Evergreen Road.

“We have also partnered with organizations to hold walks in Southfield,” Siver said. “At the same time, the Southfield Parks and Recreation Department has been sponsoring a series of ‘Walks in the Parks.’ And the City Centre Advisory Board has sponsored a bike share program.”

Officials say that the trail is also emblematic of cooperation between the city and other entities in the area, such as Lawrence Technological University and Ascension Michigan, the school’s partner in nursing education and physician assistant programs.

Michael Mandelbaum, a member of the Southfield City Council, said in an email that the trail has become a vital place-making tool for the community.

“Starting with the City Centre area and expanding outwards helps serve two purposes. The first is to create a ‘downtown’ feel around City Hall, where our daytime population in our office buildings can go out and walk around and find places to eat. And the other purpose is to connect the neighborhoods to the area, and make it a destination. My kids and I love walking down Northwestern (Highway) through Red Pole Park — it adds a sense of excitement to something that would otherwise be a boring walk.

“I am excited by the continued growth of our City Centre Trail, and I encourage everyone to get out, walk and enjoy the scenery and sense of place we are trying to create,” he said.

Lloyd Crews, another member of the Southfield City Council, said in a phone interview that the trail is about improving quality of life for Southfield residents.

“We want a sustainable Southfield. We want to create a city that is happy and healthy. And we are being responsive to the community, who has been asking for these types of things in our city,” Crews said. “That was the impetus of us trying to work harder at this type of thing, and we have been noticed by planning organizations across the country in terms of what we’re doing with things like the Red Pole Park, and with connectivity across the city, where people can walk and ride, and stay safe, healthy and happy.”