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Spirit Plaza may close by November after City Council vote fails

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The Woodward Avenue gathering space has been open since June 2017

Several rows of seats, tables, planters, and games are set up along a small patch of road. There’s vibrant orange paint on the concrete. Photo by Michelle Gerard

In a vote on Tuesday, Detroit City Council failed to pass a proposal that would have extended the time period for a downtown gathering space.

The Detroit News reports that the city of Detroit was seeking a five-year extension for the Woodward Avenue closure between Larned Street and Jefferson Avenue that allowed for the pedestrian-only “Spirit of Detroit Plaza.”

But in a 4-4 vote, City Council failed to reach a majority. Those who voted against the extension were President Brenda Jones, President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield, and councilmembers Janee Ayers and Roy McCalister Jr. Those in favor were James Tate, Gabe Leland, Scott Benson, and Raquel Castaneda-Lopez. Andre Spivey was absent.

The Detroit News spoke with several councilmembers about their votes.

“I’m just not sold on it being a permanent place here in the city of Detroit,” Sheffield said prior to the vote, noting that the plan called for the removal of the median, something she wasn’t prepared to agree to without a longer-term study. “I like it. I enjoy it. I don’t like it as a permanent structure.”

Castaneda-Lopez was among those who’d been in favor of the plan. The space, she said, is one of 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.

The News also spoke with Brad Dick, a city group executive for services and infrastructure with the city, who said that “studies have concluded that the plaza doesn’t have a significant impact on traffic downtown.”

If the vote isn’t reconsidered or brought before the City Council again, the plaza will be closed by November.

The colorfully-decorated Spirit Plaza has been open since June 2017 and connected the esplanade down the center of Woodward Avenue to Campus Martius. It’s used as a place for people to eat, congregate, play games, and as a gathering spot for various events.

Woodward Avenue

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