Keviyan Richardson is perfecting a kickflip at a skatepark in the middle of a nearly empty lot on the corner of Third Street and Selden Avenue. It’s called “The Wig” – named after the Wigle Recreation Center that once stood there. It’s a graffiti-covered, DIY effort with plenty of ramps and rails to ride, frequented by resident skaters and college students.
“If I can’t think of anywhere then I know that the majority of my friends will be up here, so I’ll come up to the Wig.”
Next fall, the makeshift park might not be there.
Earlier this month, Mayor Mike Duggan announced plans for the site’s future: a $77 million mixed residential-retail space with 335 units for tenants and 8,000-square-feet for restaurants and shops called “Midtown West.” City officials tout the development as the first utilization of the community benefits agreement, which requires developments costing more than $75 million to go before community representatives.
“[We need] to make sure we recognize that every neighborhood has a history, every neighborhood has an identity, and that’s integral to any development that comes to the city of Detroit,” says Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López. She supported a different community benefits proposal in November.
“We’ve got a seven-acre parcel next door that’s been abandoned for a decade. It’s been run down, it’s been a nuisance to the area. We went out for a selection process, and I’m really proud to say that in the fall of ’18, construction is going to start on Midtown West.”
Mayor Mike Duggan
Though Duggan calls the lot as “abandoned” and “run-down,” the skaters at the Wig disagree.
“To say this land is vacant is just an injustice. It’s anything but that. It’s the home of skateboarding in Detroit.”
Derrick Dykas, Founder of Community Push
As the end of the park looms, “The Wig’s Last Rites,” a contest celebrating and lamenting the end of the skate park, continues. The Wig started with Community Push, a group that’s maintained this property since 2014. “We were picking up dirty needles, condoms,” founder Derrick Dykas says,. He worked with the Detroit Parks and Recreation department to adopt the lot.
“There’s kids who were right out here, playing on recess, and there’s guys shooting up in the building next door. We got them out of here.” Dykas says he always knew the Wig’s life might be short because he doesn’t own the property; the city does.
The new development won’t mean the end of skating in the city. Community Push is working with Detroit officials to bring skating to the expanded Riverside Park and to an indoor facility behind the former Kiefer Hospital. But Dykas says any new skatepark won’t replace this one.
“It will be miles away helping out a different neighborhood, and not this one,” he says.
Among the skaters, Amir and Rashad Wright stand out. They’re 10-year-old, identical twin brothers who just learned to skate a few weeks ago at the Wig. “We saw it, we wanted to come, but we didn’t have any boards, so Derrick right there gave us some boards,” Amir says. The twins are fast learners, cruising around on their new boards, working on ollies. “We ain’t have nothing to do at home so like we’d come here and play with our friends,” Rashad says.
“And stay out of trouble,” Amir adds.