What's next for Detroit's beloved Bandshell, slated for new home in Palmer Park

Detroit Bandshell.jpg
Posted at 5:32 AM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 06:56:08-04

Earlier this month, preservationists rejoiced at the news from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan that the bandshell at the old State Fairgrounds would be spared from demolition.

The structure currently sits on the $400 million Amazon distribution site at the old state fairgrounds, which will also house a new transit hub for the City of Detroit.

Following outcry from people in the surrounding neighborhood and an online petition to save the bandshell which garnered more than 60,000 signatures, Duggan announced it would instead be relocated; slated to move to Palmer Park as long as residents approve.

“It’s a good idea. I think it will just bring more people to the park and plus, you know it won’t go to waste," said Cynthia Binns who frequents Palmer Park. “I think it would draw people in and we can even have concerts in the park."

The outcry from the public to save the structure only got louder when Dave Gifford, a writer for Transit Guide Detroit, wrote an open letter to Amazon, asking the tech giant to reconsider demolition given the bandshell's cultural significance to the city.

The goal is to now have the bandshell taken apart and moved by fall.

“What we would like to do given that it’s in a public park is really utilize the structure for family-friendly type events," said President of People for Palmer Park, Rochelle Lento, who asked the city to consider Palmer Park as the bandshell's new home.

"We would love love love to get the DSO to come out to Palmer and do a live performance.”

Palmer Park's location relative to the Fairgrounds is a plus for moving logistics.

"It's going to be a major challenge for the city to disassemble and move the structure. And it's a lot easier to move it less than a mile than to go anywhere else," Lento added.

District 2 city council member Roy McCalister, Jr. pushed to save the bandshell; he said his constituents weren't willing to let the piece of history go, no matter what it made room for.

“They talk about how back in the day they had seen this act and that act," he said.

Beginning in 1938 names like Ella Fitzgerald, Three Dog Night, Duke Ellington, and Alice Cooper all performed at the bandshell over the decades. Its last show was in 2009.

Moving the wooden structure will take time, organization, and money.

We asked the city for a price tag on moving it, but we're told it's too soon to give a number. A city spokesperson said it's also too soon to rule out help from other partners, though the City of Detroit is the lead agency.

Action News reached out to the Amazon site's developer, The Sterling Group, for a comment on the bandshell's relocation and have not received a response to our inquiry.

Julian Jones is one of the few people not thrilled about the prospect of having the bandshell in Palmer Park. He rides his bike there twice a week and walks his dogs there as well.

“It’s a peaceful place. And I think that would just bring a lot of noise confusion," Jones said.

“The park closes at 10 so any concert that is held is going to end by that time," Lento told Action News.

There's also now the question of the other three historic buildings at the old State Fairgrounds, which, unlike the bandshell, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The loss of the dairy cattle barn, coliseum, and agriculture building would disappoint the city's preservationists. Councilmember McCalister said it's his plan and hope to try and save those as well. How that would happen, is still unclear.

People for Palmer Park will host its annual public meeting via Zoom April 17 at 10 a.m., and plans for the bandshell at the park will be discussed.