GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The small piece of property next to Southwest Middle High School in Grand Rapids just doesn’t look like much: just mounds of weed-covered dirt. But give it some time, said Karie Enriquez.

“We have plans for an entire park. We’re really excited about it,” said Enriquez, the city Parks and Recreation Department’s project manager for the proposed park at Rumsey Street SW and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. “There’s going to be some flexible seating options, a new picnic shelter, some play equipment — really as much as we can kind of put into this small park space to make it really great for the community.”

There’s no exact timetable for the project. The city parks millage will cover about 30% of the $1.5 million price tag. The city is hoping fundraisers and grants covered the rest.

The site of a proposed park on Rumsey Street SW at Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in Grand Rapids' Roosevelt Park neighborhood. (Jan. 18, 2023)
The site of the proposed park. (Jan. 18, 2023)

The park will have a real neighborhood feel because the neighborhood is helping plan it.

“We put on events. We did canvassing. We did a whole bunch of flyers. And we did direct feedback sessions to collect information about what people wanted to see, what would benefit people the most and to get some consensus about what the priorities were for the space,” said Steff Rosalez, the CEO of the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities.

The group was in charge of bringing the neighborhood together to contribute to the design of the park. That design effort continues.

“We’re going to engage the community again to pick out the specific shelter they want, the seating options, as well as bringing in some historical elements from St. Joseph the Worker Church,” Enriquez said.

For decades, the church was an important part of the community and its people. It’s gone now but reminders of the church like the cupola and organ pipes will live on.

“We’re looking at ways to add that into the park space so there’s just kind of that connection from the historical aspect of the space with the future,” Enriquez said.

The school and new housing and new businesses have brought a resurgence to the area. Nearby Roberto Clement Park already provides the neighborhood with more traditional park space, but the hike home from Clemente features quite a climb.

“Because of the elevation difference, it’s hard for people to be able to get down there. So this will be a great space for everyone to walk to,” Enriquez said.

While fundraising for the project continues, the city plans on having some amenities for the park in place by the end of this coming summer.

“Right now, it’s not super usable, so being able to bring in maybe some table and chairs, the community could utilize while they’re waiting,” Enriquez said.

Once the final phase of construction is completed, Rosalez predicted the payoff will be in the reaction of the neighbors who helped make it their own.

“I already know once people are walking through there, they’re going to be like, ‘This is what we asked for! Here it is!’ It’s exciting to see that,” Rosalez said.