Daily digest: Giant slide reopens at Detroit’s Belle Isle after bruising debut, gateway design at Marsha P. Johnson Park revealed, and more

Wax On, Wax Off

Daily digest: Giant slide reopens at Detroit’s Belle Isle after bruising debut, gateway design at Marsha P. Johnson Park revealed, and more

Rendering of a colorful new gateway that will be installed at Marsha P. Johnson Park in Brooklyn. The waterfront state park was previously known as East River Park. The “Pay No Mind” refers to the “P” in Johnson’s name. (Courtesy NY State Park)

Happy Monday! Kicking off the final workweek in August (!), here are a few notable, end-of-the-month news items on our radar, spanning from London to Detroit to Brooklyn and several points in between.

Although many readers are in full-on vacation mode as Labor Day weekend fast approaches, the AN team has plenty in store for the week including a roundup of fall academic lectures, breaking news items, and much more. Thank you, as always, for reading.

Detroit’s Belle Isle Giant Slide reopens after ouch-making viral fame

A popular summertime diversion at historic Belle Isle Park in Detroit reopened last Friday after being shut down by officials just four hours after first opening to riders the weekend prior. A series of wince-inducing viral videos captured during the Belle Isle Giant Slide’s short-lived initial run depicted riders hurling down the structure before going airborne and crash landing hard at the bottom, making it abundantly obvious as to why it was temporarily closed. The giant slide’s bruise-making  internet infamy prompted a TODAY show segment and inspired a song by Detroit rapper Gmac Cash.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) made “small adjustments” to the slide during its brief closure to ensure for smoother, slower, and less potentially injurious rides. Per the New York Times, the current 80-foot-long giant slide was relocated to the Frederick Law Olmsted–designed Belle Isle Park from the old Michigan State Fairgrounds in the 1980s, replacing a slide that had been in place since 1967. The Belle Isle Giant Slide has been a beloved summertime staple at the park for decades, and Detroiters flocked to the revived attraction for an abbreviated summertime run after a two-year closure due to the pandemic. Many, however, were unprepared for how gnarly the experience would be. “The waxing was a little robust,” Ron Olson, chief of parks and recreation for the DNR, explained to the Times, calling the slide a “very coveted treasure.”

“The idea is to create a balance between having an adventurous ride, yet at the same time keep the speed so it doesn’t accelerate too much,” Olson said. “If you go too fast, you can get airborne, and that of course was what went viral.”

The Belle Isle Giant Slide is open Friday–Sunday through Labor Day and costs $1 per ride.

H/t to the New York Times

Museum of London begins celebratory 100-day countdown to its closure

The Museum of London is observing its forthcoming departure from its longtime home at London Wall with a bang. Last Friday, the 45-year-old-institution kicked off a six-month slate of special programming with free ice cream, goodie bag giveaways, a performance from the Grand Union Orchestra, and the unveiling of a digital countdown clock that will mark the remaining days until the museum closes its doors on December 4 ahead of its move to the historic General Market Building in West Smithfield. The museum relocation scheme—one of the largest cultural projects in Europe—is a costly and high-profile one, with as much attention being paid to the redevelopment of the museum’s current home within the Barbican complex as to its new digs in West Smithfield designed by Stanton Williams Architects and Asif Khan.

Upcoming festivities and events include a special, behind-the-scenes Open House London weekend (September 10–11); Black History Month events in October; a series of after-hours curator talks; a pair of closing weekend soirees (November 26–27, December 3–4); and more. “Our jam-packed series of events will allow visitors to peek behind the scenes and learn about some of London’s most historic moments,” said Museum of London director Sharon Ament in a statement.

The new Museum of London, rebranded as The London Museum, is slated to open in West Smithfield in 2026.

Initial design for welcome gateway at Marsha P. Johnson Park in Brooklyn revealed

Two years after the former East River Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was renamed in honor of the late Marsha P. Johnson, a LGBTQ activist, drag performer, and sex worker who played a key role in the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, the 7-acre waterfront green space is getting a new “ornamental gateway” at Kent Avenue and North Eighth Street.

The office of New York Governor Kathy Hochul unveiled the preliminary design for the gateway last week to coincide with the recent birthday of Johnson, who would have been 77 years old in July. New Jersey–born Johnson, who self-identified as a gay man and a drag artist during her lifetime but who has contemporarily been referred to as a transgender woman, passed away in 1992.

Design work on the gateway, which serves as the concluding element of a larger $16.5 million renovation project at the park and is “intended to communicate Marsha P. Johnson’s spirit and legacy,” will continue through the fall with fabrication slated to begin next year. Other improvements at the state-operated Marsha P. Johnson Park include a new great lawn and perennial garden, new trees, new park furnishings and signage, a new stormwater management system, public bathrooms and community/classroom space, and a permanent installation featuring interpretive panels that tell the story of the remarkable life of the park’s namesake trans icon and trailblazing New Yorker.

“This is such a historical event, a park designed for the community by the community, and named after a fearless leader. Marsha P. Johnson is someone we consider a pillar in our Trans community of color, and someone who broke down barriers for us to be able to be seen and heard. We celebrate you! I hope you are proud of the movement,” said Chanel Loopz, New York State Executive Chamber Deputy Director of LGBTQ+ Affairs, in a statement.

Kevin Hart and multiple Kardashians outed as among the biggest water wasters in L.A. County

As water supplies in the West reach alarming, historic lows and Southern California enters another severe drought emergency, one water district in Los Angeles County has put its most egregious water wasters on blast. As first reported by the Los Angeles Times and later confirmed by NPR, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which serves several tony L.A. enclaves including Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, and Westlake Village, revealed that 1,600 of its customers have surpassed their allocated monthly water usage budgets multiple times since restrictions were first enacted. Naturally, there are some notable names in the mix including Kevin Hart, Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union, and Sylvester Stallone. Both Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, who reside in Hidden Hills and Calabasas, respectively, have exceeded their water allowances by 150 percent for months on end. (Wade and Union said that a swimming pool malfunction is to blame, while Stallone has cited the need to irrigate fruit trees on his property.)

“For the celebrities or musicians or athletes who all live in the area, monetary penalties are going to be meaningless to them because it doesn’t matter. They have plenty of money and if they want to, they could spend $5,000 a month on a water bill,” Mike McNutt, a spokesperson for Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, told NPR. As high fees don’t seem to be a deterrent for wealthy scofflaws, the district is now considering installing flow restriction devices to keep the water hogs of Calabasas and environs in check.

H/t to NPR

a historic building in washington state
The historic Weyerhaeuser Office Building pictured at the Port of Everett. It has since been relocated to a nearby waterfront park. (Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Historic Weyerhaeuser Office Building to be restored and reopened as waterfront whisky bar-slash-coffee shop

A historic building at Washington’s Port of Everett is getting a full revamp and will be transformed into The Muse, a waterfront venue that the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce described as a “community coffee house by day and speakeasy-style whiskey bar by night.” Located at Boxcar Park, the English Gothic–style structure was built in 1923 as administrative offices for global timber behemoth Weyerhaeuser. Designed by Seattle architect Carl Gould, the National Register of Historic Places–listed building was first constructed at Weyerhaeuser’s first Everett plant and relocated via barge a small handful of times during the following decades. It eventually settled at Boxcar Park in 2016 with plans to revitalize and repurpose the space. Hospitality company NGMA Group, joined by design firm Flat Rock Productions, is leading the transformation, which will retain the 6,000-square-foot building’s historic architectural elements and incorporate QR codes that patrons can scan to learn more about the rich history of both the building and the lumber industry in Everett. The renovated building will also include rentable event space and meeting areas for local yacht clubs.

“Our plan is to take the building back to its 1920’s roots,” said Rachel Escalle, vice president of operations at NGMA Group, in a statement. “We really want to respect, pay homage to and highlight the history of the building and the Weyerhaeuser corporation’s impact on the area.”

The Muse is scheduled to open March 23, 2023, to coincide with the building’s centennial.

Meanwhile, redevelopment work is underway at Weyerhaeuser’s former corporate campus, now known as Woodbridge Corporate Park, south of Seattle in Federal Way. Designed by landscape architect Peter Walker, founding principal of Sasaki, Walker and Associates (SWA) and SOM’s Edward Charles Bassett, the sprawling campus opened in 1972 and is noted for its seamless integration into the lush, Pacific Northwest landscape. While the iconic headquarters building itself will be preserved as a planned innovation and education resource center, “limited” sections of the surrounding landscape have been cleared and graded to make way for new development, including two large industrial buildings. The move set off a national preservation firestorm, with critics arguing that any alteration of the landscape would mar Walker’s original vision. Weyerhaeuser, founded in 1900 in Tacoma, is now headquartered in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

H/t to Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce