Tag Archives: New Center

Saying so long to Cityfest / Tastefest

Cityfest, Detroit’s best summer festival, is no more. After a great 20-year run, the New Center Council, the organizers of the festival, have decided to focus instead on redeveloping New Center Park. Just as the award-winning Campus Martius has brought new life to downtown, organizers hope the renovated park will serve as a year-round anchor for the neighborhood. The park, which has capacity for 700, will host free movies and concerts Wednesday through Saturday all summer long.

New Center Park Site Plan

New Center Park Site Plan

As disappointed as I am to see Cityfest shut down, I can’t totally begrudge their decision. The New Center Council is an economic development agency, not a cultural organization. The motivation for producing Cityfest was to draw attention to the New Center and build the area’s image. In that regard, the event was a great success. Who didn’t gawk at the majesty of the Fisher Building while standing in line for ribs? But a four-day party doesn’t make a neighborhood. A great urban park can.

New Center Park Pavilion

New Center Park Pavilion

I’m certainly still rooting for Cityfest to make a comeback. Summertime in Detroit won’t be the same without it, especially with Festival of the Arts having met its end as well. But if the choice is between a great, four-day party and a round-the-clock neighborhood, I know which one I favor.

Street art in the New Center

Detroit’s not often pegged as a beautiful city, but art is pervasive here, if you just look. Hand-painted signs, community murals, and street art seem to adorn every building or the ruins that remain. As I walked through the quiet streets of the New Center today, along Second and Cass between I-94 and Grand Boulevard, I noticed some stunning pieces amid the grit.

First, I came upon the murals adorning the Detroit Children’s Museum:

Then I wondered alongside the train tracks. Much like the Dequindre Cut, the walls between the two sets of tracks function as an ever-changing gallery for graffiti and street art, visible only to the passengers of the Amtrak trains that pass by every few hours.

When a feral dog began to bark in the distance, I turned back toward Woodward. There I found a colorful youth mural, tagged over in parts with graffiti, that had been organized by the New Center Council. And in the distance stood the newest addition to Detroit’s skyline looking north: a bright blue, 9-story mural splashed across the side of a building on Grand Boulevard.