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The Beach at Campus Martius Park

The Beach at Campus Martius Park


Campus Martius Park, once a lifeless area in the heart of Detroit, has become a world-famous example of a unique urban park. Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community Program and PPS collaborated with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, the City of Detroit, and the Detroit 300 Conservancy to help bring a taste of the northern Michigan beaches to an underused lawn in the center of downtown Detroit.

Building on other “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” Placemaking efforts in the area, PPS transformed Campus Martius Park into a seasonal beach that includes a curved deck with colorful seating, a Beach Bar and Grille, and a large sand-filled area with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and an extra-long shared table. The beach serves as a fun and relaxing community gathering place for workers, visitors, families and children during the summer months. Programming at the beach includes aerobics classes, sand castle building, live musical performances, and lots of informal play in the sun and sand. The park has transformed from a traffic island with nothing to do, to a bustling, playful beach. Locals have dubbed the park “Detroit’s Gathering Place,” as amenities like a seasonal ice rink keep locals engaged. Since its redesign, the space has attracted at least $1 billion in new investments and enticed many new residents to the area.

“It’s all about activating public spaces, including parks, streets and sidewalks, so people have a great experience in the public space…The point of it is to revitalize downtown Detroit and the city of Detroit by getting people outside and enjoying their city…”

– Robert Gregory, senior vice president of the Downtown Detroit Partnership

“A traffic island in the heart of downtown Detroit has been transformed into an urban beach…”

– USA Today

Project Client: 
Southwest Airlines
The Beach at Campus Martius Park
Umbrellas and moveable chairs give people comfortable spaces to watch a show, or sit on the beach with their feet in the sand.
The Beach at Campus Martius Park
Programming accounts for much of the success of the park. Photo Credit: Ara Howrani for Campus Martius
The Beach at Campus Martius Park
The Beach at Campus Martius Park
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Evalynn Rosado
The Key to Safe Streets: Five Cities Humanizing Street Design