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Detroit Riverfront Development Plans

November 03 2011 | 2 comments

Just a few years ago, our riverfront was dotted with big cement silos.  Today, Rivard Plaza…just east of the G-M Renaissance Center…has an outdoor café…a carousel, and a bike shop offering rentals and tours.

Just a few steps away from Rivard Plaza, the old warehouse district was home to some of Detroit’s favorite night spots—The Woodbridge Tavern…the Soup Kitchen Saloon. Those landmarks and much of the area was cleared out—for what was supposed to be the new home of Detroit’s casinos. But the riverfront casino district never became a reality.

Riverfront development plans came to a screeching halt during the housing crisis. But now there are signs of a rebirth for this prized land. “There is a buzz and excitement now that we’ve never seen before,” George Jackson, President & CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. told Detroit 2020. Jackson said there will be residential as well as retail. “I think you’re going to see a lot more activity here than you see in other parts of the state because of the pent up demand for urban lifestyle,” Jackson told us.

Stephen Clark has the latest on the riverfront development plans…



Detroit is trying to take a page from other cities like Baltimore that have successfully transformed their riverfronts. Much of Detroit’s riverfront redevelopment revolves around the RiverWalk..created by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “Our vision is to develop 5 ½ miles of waterfront going as far west as the Ambassador Bridge to just east of the Belle Isle Bridge.” Faye Alexander Nelson, the Conservancy’s President & CEO, told Detroit 2020.

The first phase of the RiverWalk—the east riverfront—is 80-percent complete. “I think the city is starting to change in front of our eyes…and I think the riverfront is a big piece of that,” said Matt Cullen, Chair of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

The RiverWalk goes through the Milliken State Park, which is Michigan’s only urban state park. Just across the street from the park and right next to the Dequindire Cut is the historic Globe Trading Company Building—where Henry Ford once worked as an apprentice. It will the become the Milliken State Park Adventure and Discovery Center, complete with an archery range, rock climbing, and outdoor activities. “The building is about 100-thousand square feet—we will be taking about 50-thousand square feet turning it into the discovery center—we’re looking for partners to come in and work with us on developing the other side,” said Rodney Stokes, Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Construction on the Discovery Center is expected to begin next year…and it could open as soon as 2013.

Support the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy:  Click here for a link to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy website.

Click here for a link to the Milliken State Park website.

Click here for a link to the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation website.

Click here for a link to the Rivertown Detroit Association website.

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  1. Auren Kaplan November 8, 2011

    I’d love to learn more about opportunities for young entrepreneurs as relates to this area.


  2. Diane August 1, 2012

    The river walk is quite nice. Glad to see something positive happening in Detroit


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