Southfield’s Red Pole Park wins ASLA General Design Merit Award

November 1, 2020

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The city of Southfield’s Red Pole Park public art installation located in the Southfield City Centre won a General Design Merit Award from the Michigan Chapter of the American Association for Landscape Architects (ASLA) in a virtual awards ceremony October 23.

The General Design Merit Award was presented by ASLA President Wendy Miller to Landscape Architects Mijung Ko, ASLA, PLA, LEED GA and Mark Hieber, ASLA, LEED AP, Principal at HED, a national architecture and engineering firm with a local office in Southfield. HED was retained by the Southfield City Centre to design the first phase of a shared use pathway system and this environmental art feature as a centerpiece for community engagement.

"This design award is a nod toward the power of landscape, in all its forms, to enhance the positive perception of 'Place,'" said Mark Hieber. "It is the result of a broad vision by the City of Southfield and its planning department to advance Southfield toward a more walkable and bikeable city."

Mark Hieber recognized the partnership with the City of Southfield and Director of Planning, Terry Croad, AICP, ASLA, also a member of the Michigan Chapter of ASLA.

Red Pole Park is the first installation in a series of outdoor “rooms” or art installations planned along the Northwestern Highway Shared-Use Pathway and Greenway. A total of 65 poles have been installed, each towering approximately 35 feet above the ground and weighing 800-1,000 pounds. Eighteen inch tall stumps will be installed and dots will be painted along the pathway following the grid pattern of the poles. The various heights of the poles represent Southfield’s history, present goals, accomplishments and future growth. An additional 1,000 feet of pathway will also be added to the existing pathway this summer, extending the pathway north to Lahser Road.

The Northwestern Highway Shared-Use Pathway and Greenway was created by converting an “old goat path” into a bike-walk accessible greenway to join a growing network of trails and sidewalks throughout Southfield. The pathway currently runs between Civic Center Drive and Corporate Drive. The ten-foot-wide shared-use pathway will include over 2.5 miles of paved surface area for bikers, walkers and runners once completed as well as extensive landscaping and other pedestrian amenities, filling in a key gap in the City’s pathway system.

The city of Southfield and the MEDC successfully raised over $55,000 to create Red Pole Park. The campaign surpassed its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by August 4, 2017—earning the project a $50,000 matching grant with funds made possible by MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program. Additional funds were provided by the Southfield City Centre and city of Southfield’s Metro Act funds.

Public Spaces Community Places is a collaborative effort of the MEDC, MSHDA, the Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity where local residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of strategic projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC.

"We want to congratulate Mijung and Mark for working on this exciting project," said Terry Croad. "This was a goat path before the pathway went in and Mark and his design team created a series of outdoor rooms. This was built not along a river or an old rail-to-trail, but a freeway that has 110,000 cars that go by it every day."

The award is significant in that it was adjudicated by the Iowa Chapter of ASLA, rather than by a local panel. The jury said, "The creative solution and innovative approach to using existing utility infrastructure not only pushed the design further but worked within the limited budget.

Consisting of 65 red poles, each 35-feet tall, the installation intersects the extra-wide shared-use path at a segment of the Southfield City Centre Trail visible to the vehicles that traverse the Lodge Freeway each day. Red Pole Park represents the past, present and future of civic mindfulness in Southfield, with special historical recognition for past generations and founders of Southfield, as well as the growth and development of civic leaders yet to come.

At night, the tallest of the poles are lit with twinkling blue lights, which signal safe harbor, much like Michigan's many beautiful and historic lighthouses. Walkers, runners and cyclists on the Trail can interact with the poles, which are home among native wildflowers, trees and unique birdhouses.

"We felt that we needed something bold and exciting to get people's attention and it has done that and more," said Terry Croad during the awards ceremony. "It was the first piece of a 2.25-mile trail that has continued to be expanded along M-10 the Lodge through the city of Southfield. We want to congratulate HED for our partnership with the city on this project that has been a catalyst to a number of redevelopments along this corridor including a new North American headquarters for Clarience Technologies, a convention center, two new hotels and expansion at Lawrence Tech University."