World-class entertainment, respected athletic teams, a prominent automotive headquarters, and a celebrated arts and cultural district set along an international waterway – Detroit, Michigan has always been a great events city. However, one of the city’s greatest assets, the Detroit riverfront, lay underutilized for years due to limited access and lack of connectivity. Then in 2003, an environmental non-profit called the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy was formed and urban design began on a 5 ½ mile RiverWalk from the Ambassador Bridge to the MacArthur (Belle Isle) Bridge.
Pavilions and plazas, to parks and green spaces, 3 of the 3 ½ miles of the East Riverfront, from Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, to Gabriel Richard Park, just east of Detroit’s island park, Belle Isle, have been completed as of December 2011. The tremendous progress of this project can be attributed to the city’s collaboration between public officials, the Conservancy, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, AIA Detroit’s Urban Priorities Committee, as well as local architects and urban planners.
At the 2011 River Days press conference, Mayor Bing remarked that “partnerships happen because of leadership.” Noting the leadership of Faye Nelson, President and CEO of Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and recipient of the 2011 Soul and Spirit Humanitarian Award. Not only does the RiverWalk project connect existing sites through landscape design, it's also given way to major renovation projects, park restoration, and sustainable mixed-use development.
Completed projects include the GM Renaissance Center Wintergarden and Plaza, the Rivard Plaza, Milliken State Park and Harbor, Stroh River Place, Omni Hotel, and the Port Authority. The Dequindre Cut, opened in 2009, also connects the RiverWalk to Detroit’s Eastern Market.
Detroit River Days will celebrate its 6th annual event during summer 2012. Follow @DetroitRvrfrnt on Twitter, for the latest RiverWalk happenings. From live music at Hart Plaza and Chene Park to Wheelhouse Detroit Bike Rentals at Rivard Plaza, this is truly an exciting new chapter for Detroit.
Of course, this chapter presents its own challenges, as the city begins the 18-month, $20 million site remediation project of Uniroyal Tire plant. Despite obstacles, RiverWalk is drawing major attention from developers considering new construction and adaptive-reuse projects along the river front.
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