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Chene Park

Chene Park to be renamed for Aretha Franklin

The riverfront concert venue's rebrand is latest honor for the late Queen of Soul

Chene Park Amphitheatre will be renamed for Aretha Franklin -- if the proposal is approved by Detroit's city council, the latest in a series of tributes to the Detroit-raised soul singer.

Mayor Mike Duggan will make the announcement today during the final memorial service for Franklin at Greater Grace Temple, joined by Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones.

Talks of renaming a City of Detroit property for Franklin began swirling shortly after relatives announced she was ill earlier this month. Chene Park, built along the riverfront in 1984, is owned by the City of Detroit, but managed by The Right Productions, which has held a contract with the City since 2004.

“To be a part of honoring the legacy of Aretha Franklin is humbling. It’s a standard that will always have to be lived up to, and so I’m grateful for that,” Shahida Mausi, president of The Right Productions, tells The Neighborhoods just before kicking off a full-capacity tribute concert for Franklin held at the amphitheatre Thursday night. “I’m always grateful for the standard that she set in this industry as a woman (and) as a Detroiter, and a woman in an industry that is tough.”

For years, Chene Park has been a go-to concert venue for R&B and jazz artists, drawing some of the biggest names in their genres including Diana Ross, Earth, Wind and Fire, Wynton Marsalis and Babyface. During Thursday night's tribute, which Mausi says sold out in six minutes, more than a dozen singers honored Franklin in a showcase of classical, gospel, jazz and soul music from across her catalogue. 

At an August retirement party held at Chene Park for Charles Beckham, the City’s now-former Group Executive for Neighborhoods, Mausi noted that when the City was looking for a manager for the 6,000-seat park, several entities, including Olympia Entertainment and Palace Sports & Entertainment, expressed interest. Instead, City leadership chose Mausi's company, which has grown the park's stature ever since.

In 2017, the City of Detroit awarded Franklin a Key to the City and renamed a portion of Madison Street in her honor. A newer street, Aretha Avenue in a subdivision that includes streets named after The Temptations and The Supremes, is also named for the Queen of Soul.

Since Franklin’s death, several have called for other public places to be renamed for her, ranging from calls to christen M-10 -- the Lodge -- as the “Freeway of Love” to renaming the Detroit International Academy for Young Women, where she briefly attended while it was known as Northern High School. No word has been announced for any other renaming plans.

“(Franklin) commanded respect. And if we’re to bear that legacy we’ve got some broad shoulders, some tall spirit to fill. We’ll do everything we can to make it right,” Mausi says.

Detroit City Council is currently on recess but will return in September, where council members will be presented with the proposal to change the amphitheatre's name.