A Cut Below The Rest

Aerial view of Dequindre Cut Freight Yard
Photo by Justin Randles

A new attraction has opened near Eastern Market just in time for summer fun in the city. Along the pathway of the Dequindre Cut, where walkers, joggers, cyclists and skaters enjoy the great outdoors away from the urban hustle, The Freight Yard, now offers locals multiple reasons to veer off the beaten path. Food, drink, music and artisan retail can all be enjoyed in the parklike setting, awarding fitness enthusiasts surprising amenities and Detroiters with a unique weekend night hotspot.

The grand opening of The Freight Yard, a collection of nine repurposed freight containers, was held on May 19 and attracted thirsty cyclists, hungry shoppers and music buffs alike. Its creative public art perfectly complements the Cut, a 2-mile long greenway formerly a Grand Trunk Western Railroad line, that runs below-grade from the Riverfront to Mack Avenue. The greenway is an important, non-motorized link for both locals and visitors to travel the area, with access ramps at Lafayette Street, Gratiot Avenue and Wilkins Street.

The Freight Yard is a collaborative effort between the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Build Institute, Ponyride, Groundswell Design Group, Lawrence Technical University and Western International High School. The students of LTU and Western International H.S. conceptualized the idea, built the pieces, and installed them. The program is funded by the Kresge Foundation, Knight Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. “The Dequindre Cut serves as an important neighborhood connector for pedestrians and cyclists,” said Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. “The Freight Yard will give people a reason to spend more time in the Cut, where they can appreciate its natural beauty, the public art, and some unique food and beverage options.”

The Hud is the centerpiece of the Freight Yard and consists of five refurbished shipping crates stacked to form a raised DJ booth and a bar underneath. Visitors can quench their thirst with the biergarten wine and local craft beer selection.

Additional shipping containers create a bridge over a gravel walkway and they feature local vendors. You can try a Wu-Tang cookie from Hip-Hop Bake Shop, grab a vibrant succulent from Pot and Box, or try on a necklace from Mend on the Move, handcrafted jewelry made by survivors of abuse. There are large wooden bar-like picnic tables and a small selection of food trucks like The Drunken Rooster and YumVillage. The food trucks and vendors will vary from weekend to weekend as will the live music. The grand opening was played by Detroit songstress Nique Love Rhodes.

The future of The Freight Yard is exciting with live musical entertainment and other activities in the works.

“People really want to see a lot of live entertainment in this space,” said Rachel M.B. Frierson, Programs and Community Outreach Manager for the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, who is pleased with its “mix of DJs” and “acoustic guitar performances.” Frierson observes how the space is “exploring what a comedy night and a dog night would look like.”

The Conservancy partnered with YumVillage and Brut Detroit to provide bar service and a variety of food trucks.

“We are excited to be at the heart of this new chapter in Detroit’s amazing story,” said Nicole Mangis, owner of Brut Detroit. “We look forward to contributing to the existing vibrancy and culture by bringing the best of our local and statewide food and beverage scene to Eastern Market and the Dequindre Cut every weekend.” While The Freight Yard is an experience in itself, the appeal is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Whether you decide to bike in from the Riverfront or walk down from Eastern Market, a feast of color and imagination await you. Vibrant graffiti murals, done by well known artists Ghostbeard and Patch Whiskey, combine with this long patch of green grass and blue sky to create an outdoor space you’d only find in Detroit.

Along the Dequindre Cut greenway are multiple murals of recovery, strength and hope that are sure to bring motivation to even the most cynical of people. Much of the art is the same graffiti that was sprayed on the walls in the days when the path was the abandoned Grand Trunk Railroad Line. So gather your Friday night crew, Saturday family funday horde, or your Sunday brunch posse, tie your shoes, and mount your bike (or one rented from the many nearby rental locations) and ride through the prideful murals along the cut, grab some farm fresh veggies from Eastern Market, and top it off with a cold Michigan beer. Now that’s a summer weekend well spent.

The Freight Yard is open through Sept. 16, on Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

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