At the Gilbert Family Foundation, one of our important areas of focus in Detroit is ensuring that every resident has access to a thriving, inclusive public space within half a mile of their home. We believe that investing in quality public space provides opportunities for residents to connect in unique ways that improve their health, enhance their wellness and strengthen their sense of community.

There is no better example than the new Curtis Jones Park, which was created by the NW Goldberg Cares organization with funding from the Gilbert Family Foundation to serve residents in Detroit’s NW Goldberg neighborhood.

The Curtis Jones Park (affectionately referred to as “The CJ” by area residents) features a combination outdoor basketball court and event space, decorated with murals by New York artist Bisco Smith. The park is named in honor of native Detroiter and Northwestern High School basketball legend Curtis Jones, who passed away in 1999.

As Daniel Washington, Executive Director of NW Goldberg Cares explains, “he’s the greatest basketball player you’ve never heard of.” Sadly, despite being one of Detroit’s most talented basketball players, Jones did not receive the additional social and educational supports he needed to thrive outside of the court. Now, Jones story acts as both a celebration of his talent, while being a cautionary tale about the importance of building more equitable systems that ensure residents don’t slip through the cracks.  Check out the video below to learn more about Curtis Jones’ legacy and the story behind the creation of the park.

In addition to the colorful full-sized NBA basketball court, the park boasts a brand-new playground. Curtis Jones park will also host youth camps, health classes, educational programming, and pickup games throughout the season. During the winter months, there are tentative plans to install an ice rink. “This project encompasses what we at the Gilbert Family Foundation are all about,” said JJ Velez, Director of Public Spaces. “We want to create investments that tie those social bonds and really bring communities together. Looking at the impact that this park will have on the youth especially, I know that it will change lives.”

To learn more about the story behind the murals and the artist Bisco Smith, check out the video below.