“We are certainly making progress in providing a riverfront that can be accessed and enjoyed by all,” said Nelson. “And 2006 will be a banner year for construction all along the river. At year’s end, close to 75 percent of the east RiverWalk will be complete along with plazas and pavilions along the walkway.”
The RiverWalk spans a five-mile stretch from the Ambassador Bridge to the MacArthur Bridge and into Gabriel Richard Park, which is past Belle Isle.
George Jackson, president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., said riverfront development is vital to the city’s resurgence.
“In the city of Detroit, there are several sites that we awarded to be developed,” Jackson said. “We selected three developers and all of them will be doing condominiums with some retail.”
What makes Detroit’s riverfront redevelopment different is that some of the city’s hometown heroes are participating. Entrepreneur Dave Bing will own one of the condominium sites. Super Bowl champion Jerome Bettis and Pittsburth developer Chuck Betters are also among those who will also be involved in the transformation.
Bettis announced his plans to renovate the riverfront in 2004. He will own a condominium site with a few retail stores. Bing has also asked basketball greats Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, among others, to participate. Word has not come yet as to whether Dumars and Thomas have made any binding commitment.
Tri-Centennial State Park and Harbor opened in 2004. This marked the first phase of the Michigan’s first urban state park.
In 2004, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority terminal and dock. General Motors, also in 2004, opened its $25 million plaza and promenade. This marked the opening of the RiverWalk.
Additionally, the organization hosted a membership campaign to encourage community participation and purchase of bricks and pavers. This initiative aimed to raise enough money for the organization to have consistent income.
“We are launching a membership program that has two important goals: to invite all members of the community to participate and invest in our riverfront project, and to build a strong base of financial support for the conservancy,” said Derrick Miller, DRFC co-chair.
The bricks and pavers will be installed at the plazas at Rivard Street and Gabriel Richard Park and will be unveiled as part of grand opening ceremonies next spring.
The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy was founded in 2003 as a non-profit organization that manages the Detroit Riverfront. It is also charged with creating a RiverWalk and managing the parks along the riverfront from the Ambassador Bridge to the MacArthur Bridge at Belle Isle and beyond.
Additionally, a river festival is scheduled to be held every year, among other activities. The first river festival is planned for next summer.
“As the Conservancy, we want to officially launch a new tradition along the riverfront, and we plan to start it next year,” Nelson said.
“We are calling it ‘River Days’ and we envision a festival on the riverfront for all ages, with entertainment, food and river-related activities. We want to announce it this year so we can engage the community into getting involved with this significant undertaking and ‘walk the water’s edge’ on the Detroit International Riverfront.
“We are excited about the enormous amount of activity that we have planned for this. We are looking forward to completion of a transformed riverfront with access to all.’”
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