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Broadway Park is a three-acre meadow on the south bank of the Huron River (see map). It is bounded by the river, the Michigan Central railroad, and the Broadway bridges. Across the Huron lie Riverside Park and the remnant of an old millrun from Ann Arbor's industrial era. This project seeks to focus attention on renewing public space along both banks of the Huron River.
The Broadway Park area offers an important opportunity for three reasons. First of all, it is Ann Arbor's most accessible riverfront-the only stretch of the Huron River adjacent to downtown, Kerrytown, and center-city neighborhoods.
Second, it is Ann Arbor's most neglected riverfront-the biggest gap in an emerging greenway of parks, nature reserves, and recreational areas. Broadway Park is the only park in the city's park system without a single amenity.
Finally, the site boasts a unique history: it is the center of Ann Arbor's first settlement, the heart of its 19th-century mill district, the anchor of its African-American and working-class neighborhoods, the city's rail link to the nation. Every part of our past not included in the "college town" story comes together at Broadway Park.
For a century, Ann Arbor has tried to "fix" Broadway Park and the Lower Town area. The legacies of industry and environmental contamination have defeated these efforts. Currently, three factors offer the best opportunity in a century to renew Ann Arbor's public riverfront. The City is rebuilding the Broadway bridges; developers are proposing plans to rebuild the Lower Town district; and a new regional Greenway Commission is channeling resources into park improvements along the Huron and other rivers.
The Ann Arbor community has the chance to reverse a century of neglect, to create a public riverfront of recreational and civic amenities in the center of town, and in the process to unearth some of the city's hidden histories. Let's not miss the opportunity.