Courtesy of The Detroit Free Press
Legs relaxing over the soft give of beach chair fabric end in delighted toes that wiggle in the sand. Around the periphery, as music blares, three people sculpt the silica into the shape of an airplane, colored umbrellas shade people sipping drinks from a make-shift beach bar and cars zoom between the buildings.
Life’s a beach — and so is Campus Martius Park.
The traffic island on Woodward Avenue in the of downtown Detroit has been transformed into a more exotic one, thanks to the Downtown Detroit Partnership, whose shopping list included approximately 150 tons of golf-course bunker sand.
The beach, at the southern end of Martius, is modeled after a similar program in France called Paris Plages, according to Senior Vice President Bob Gregory. It has been operational since earlier this month, though the official grand opening is Friday.
Gregory declined to say how much the beach project cost. It will close for the season at the end of September.
Dozens of people enjoyed the sunshine and hot weather Wednesday afternoon, some slipping off their heels and oxfords to feel more Beach Boys than Brooks Brothers while eating lunch or chatting with friends. A toddler ran the sand through her hand; across the grainy expanse, a man in an outback hat read a copy of Sports Illustrated.
“It’s all about activating public spaces, including parks, streets and sidewalks, so people have a great experience in the public space,” said Gregory. “The point of it is to revitalize downtown Detroit and the city of Detroit by getting people outside and enjoying their city and generating new business, restaurants and cafes. It’s both social for the people and economic development. … It was done as a fun experiment to see if people like it. If people like it, we’ll bring it back.”
Doreen Drapkin, 47, of Wyandotte works as a legal secretary at one of the nearby firms and stops at the beach every day.
“I want to move my stuff out here and work,” she said.
Megan Stryd, accompanied by her two grade-schooler daughters, biked over from the Detroit Riverwalk to check out the beach — and was impressed.
“There’s something about sitting at the beach with your feet in the sand,” said the 36-year-old stay-home mom from Dearborn. “You don’t feel you’re in dirty Detroit.”
But Kevin McKeon, a 58-year-old human-resources manager from Canton, wasn’t buying it completely.
“It’s not a beach without water, but you get 50%,” he said.