Maggie DeSantis on Chandler Park’s Ambitious Transformation

The Chandler Park Conservancy plans to overhaul recreation and education for eastside residents. Here’s how.

Stephen Henderson talks with Maggie DeSantis, president and CEO of the East Side Community Network, about the Chandler Park Conservancy‘s plan to transform the park.

  • People respond to nonprofit letdown: DeSantis says that the vision for the Chandler Park Conservancy began when a nonprofit that had promised to build a community center in Chandler Park abandoned the project.  She says the community felt let down, and people decided to take on improving the park themselves. 
  • Urban conservation: DeSantis says that Chandler Park will become the first urban conservation park in Michigan.  She says it will be a “living lab”, and have a designated flower garden.
  • Working with city: DeSantis says that they have created a good working relationship with the city. She says that because the conservancy brought attention to the park, it is now designated a premier park, and receives weekly city maintenance.  She says they went to Detroit Police Chief Craig with concerns about drugs at the park, and he initiated a park patrol.  She says these improvements make people feel safer using the park, and that now residents ask questions about noise concerns and parking instead of about drug-related activity.   
  • High performing school: DeSantis says she is not at liberty to disclose the school yet, but a high-performing K-12 charter school will open as a part of a $25 million plan to improve the park.  She says it will be built on the unused land that the community center would have been built on, and construction will begin next year.  She believes that this school will provide quality education that is not currently available from public schools in the eastside.
  • Bringing together stakeholders: Stephen asks what DeSantis would say to people in other neighborhoods who want to improve their own parks.  DeSantis says that she would start by bringing together the most trusted stakeholders in the neighborhood to find out what residents want. 

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.