City Of Detroit to Unveil New ‘Spirit of Detroit Plaza’ On Woodward Avenue, Creating a Vital New Civic Square for All City Residents

  • Single block of Woodward between Jefferson and Larned to be converted into a multi-purpose public space during 90-day evaluation beginning June 12
  • New plaza designed to provide a venue for increased civic engagement, while celebrating the diversity of Detroit
  • City will seek public input as it considers further improvements

Mayor Michael Duggan and other civic and community leaders today celebrated the opening of the new “Spirit of Detroit Plaza,” a vibrant new public space located in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue.  The 20,000 square-foot civic square on Woodward, between Larned and Jefferson, will celebrate Detroit’s diversity and complement recent enhancements to Woodward Avenue, such as the new esplanade between Larned and Campus Martius.

plan of the plaza

During the initial 90-day period, the civic space, as well as adjacent streets in the immediate area, will be closely monitored to evaluate the overall impact. .Similar public spaces have been created in many cities around the world to improve walkability, increase access to public space, and create new business development without negatively impacting area traffic flow.

project considerations

“Every world-class city has a central plaza where people can gather and celebrate its civic history, and in front of the Spirit of Detroit is the perfect place for all Detroiters to have the opportunity,” said Mayor Duggan.  “We are committed to a Detroit that’s open and accessible to all and this new plaza has been envisioned to celebrate all of the diversities that come together to make us a great city.”

Signature Attraction to Improve Safety

Since the Spirit statue’s dedication in September of 1958 by Detroit sculptor Marshall Fredericks, this block of Woodward has long been a natural gathering place for Detroiters to celebrate victories, protest injustices and rally together for unity. The new public space will serve as Detroit’s “civic square”—the city’s first-ever public space designed for all citizens to gather and engage and learn about local initiatives, as well as enjoy in civic, culinary and cultural attractions that highlight Detroit’s many voices and unique identity.

The project improves both safety and mobility for all users, creating a more direct pedestrian link between Downtown and the Detroit Riverfront, while reducing delay times for motorists travelling on Jefferson Ave, one of the cities’ busiest thoroughfares. The project also marks the latest step towards the City’s goal of establishing smarter, safer mobility for all and improving the city’s economy by reimagining Detroit’s streets to serve everyone.

To accommodate the new plaza, vehicular traffic will be redirected from Woodward Avenue onto Griswold or Larned Street, opening this block of Woodward to the thousands of people who live, work and visit Downtown Detroit and City Hall.  Traffic going south on Woodward looking to head west can turn right on Congress, remaining southbound Woodward traffic will have to turn eastbound on Larned.  Eastbound Jefferson traffic normally headed north on Woodward from Jefferson will have to continue to the turnaround at Beaubien.  Westbound Jefferson traffic will be able to turn north on Griswold.  

By connecting the underused traffic islands on Jefferson Avenue and providing additional crossing time, the project will also reduce the potential for crashes and injuries, improve the pedestrian environment, and draw people to area attraction. The simplified intersection and adjustments to area traffic signals are expected to maintain travel times and even reduce delays for east- and west-bound drivers at key intersections on Jefferson.

The project will also make the long-sought connection to the riverfront and Hart Plaza. By filling in the last missing link in a more walkable downtown, the design will also create the first-ever pedestrian connection to the Monument to Joe Louis, “The Fist,” long isolated in the traffic island at the intersection of Woodward and Jefferson avenues.

Partnership Project

The innovative project is the result of partnership between major city agencies – the departments of Public Works (DPW), the Police Department (DPD), Planning (PDD), Transportation (DDOT) and Neighborhoods (DON) – as well as the Mayor’s Jobs & Economy team, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) and Bloomberg Associates. DDP will furnish the space with movable tables, chairs and planters, provide landscaping services and ongoing maintenance for the new public space, and provide lively, diverse programming to draw new and repeat visitors. The flexible design will allow the plaza to serve many roles, from a venue for concerts and large events to an enjoyable lunchtime space for area employees.   “The Spirit of Detroit Plaza embodies an exemplary example public, private and philanthropic partnership that fosters and strengthens connections between the Downtown neighborhood and the network of Detroit’s communities,” said Eric B. Larson, Chief Executive Officer of DDP. “The plaza is a place for the city and its citizens, and will provide a dedicated location for ongoing community exchange and engagement.”

Funded by William Davidson Foundation, Knight Foundation, Rock Ventures, Bank of America, MDOT and the City of Detroit, the $300,000 Spirit of Detroit Plaza project will build on a chain of investments from the in local civic and streetscape improvements, stretching from Grand Circus to Campus Martius, and including the Q Line, MoGo bike share system, and DDP’s recently completed Esplanade Project.

“The public infrastructure of Detroit should not be designed for people to simply drive through; it should be a place where people want to be, where they want to walk on streets, interact with each other as well as with the local businesses,” said Ron Brundidge, Director of Public Works.


“We are anticipating growth by planning to move an increased amount of vehicular traffic through downtown more efficiently while at the same time encouraging other kinds of mobility.” said City Planning Director Maurice Cox. “This will be another key piece in making a more vibrant, walkable, diverse downtown. By simplifying the downtown grid and consolidating traffic flow, we are creating a more inviting street and safer pedestrian crossings. And of course, if something changes or the design doesn’t work as well as we expect, we can adjust it or even restore its original design. We expect this will reset expectations for what is possible on neighborhood streets across the city.”

Detroit’s newest public space has been set up using simple barriers, tables and chairs, and services like food trucks and other mobile attractions, while the city evaluates it and makes any necessary adjustments. During the assessment period, DPW, PDD, DPD and DDOT will continue to study the project’s impact on pedestrian activity, retail and traffic, while seeking additional public input on the change and making any necessary adjustments. If demonstrated to be as successful, Mayor Duggan and city agencies will seek to make the change permanent, allowing this great new civic plaza to be used and enjoyed by generations of Detroit residents, workers and visitors.