Detroit City Council votes to keep Spirit Plaza open in a last-minute reversal

Jul 23, 2019 at 1:08 pm
click to enlarge Spirit of Detroit Plaza. - Cody Ross, Detroit Stock City
Cody Ross, Detroit Stock City
Spirit of Detroit Plaza.

Actually, it looks like downtown Detroit's Spirit Plaza isn't going anywhere after all.

The Detroit City Council moved to preserve the Spirit of Detroit Plaza for five more years in a 5-4 vote Tuesday morning.

The pedestrian gathering space — which has closed off a section of Woodward Avenue between Jefferson Avenue and Larned Street since 2017 — will remain open, and roads will stay closed to automotive traffic.

The fate of the plaza had been uncertain since its opening, when some council members critiqued the city’s planning and department of public works for putting up the gathering space and causing road closures in one of the city's busiest intersections without the body’s approval.

Since then, the administration has needed to continuously request approval from the city council to extend the road closures.

Last Tuesday, Council members failed to approve another five-year extension at the initial vote, but council member Scott Benson, who voted in favor of the plaza, filed a motion to reconsider the vote.

Andre Spivey, who was not present at the initial vote, voted yes on Tuesday morning, approving the proposal to extend the road closures for another 5 years and keep the pedestrian plaza open.

Council members Brenda Jones, Mary Sheffield, Roy McCalister, and Janee Ayers voted against the proposal.

Those in favor were council members Spivey, James Tate, Gabe Leland, Scott Benson, and Raquel Castaneda-Lopez.

The council also approved a measure to remove the street medium and spend $800,000 on landscaping, street furniture, an eating area, stage, and a playground.

During last week's vote, Castaneda-Lopez said she supported keeping the plaza open because it created a welcoming space in downtown Detroit, which is more expensive than other parts of the city, with its free programming — which included food trucks and outdoor musical performances.

She told The Detroit News the space is one of the few that’s free to the public and it “removes barriers on equity” and is “welcoming to longtime residents.”

“That’s not always the atmosphere in some other spaces downtown,” she said.

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