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Detroit RiverFront Conservancy reveals plans for East Riverfront redevelopment

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Green space and greenways and streetscapes, oh my!

The future Atwater Street -- public space on the water, development across the street

The next three to five years will be busy along the Riverfront from Rivard to Grand Boulevard and between Atwater and Jefferson. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy (DRFC), the City of Detroit Planning & Development Department, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation unveiled plans that could create a world class public gathering place in Detroit.

We’ll break it down into its four main components.

Parks and Green Spaces

Land along the waters edge — including three sites that were previously designated for development before — will be designated public park space in perpetuity. One of those spaces is next to the wetlands by Rivard Plaza. It’s been fenced off for years, and soon the fences will come down and the land will be used for park space. The next is the space between the lighthouse and Chene Park — also fenced off. That will be turned into a great lawn for park use. And remember Atwater Beach? It’s coming in 2018.

And possibly some of the biggest news of the night is that the RiverFront Conservancy will break ground on the Riverwalk on the Uniroyal site connecting Mt. Elliot Park to Belle Isle later this year.


You love the Dequindre Cut, right? We can expect two more greenways connecting the RiverFront to the neighborhoods in the coming years. One will be the Joseph Campau Greenway. The pathway is actually already there, leading through some of the residential developments in Elmwood. The DRFC will add benches, lights, and fix the pavement.


The second is the Beltline Greenway, running past the Wendy’s and Lofts at Rivertown up to the Downtown Boxing Gym.



Jefferson Avenue is currently nine lanes wide and is extremely dangerous for pedestrians to cross, even though many pedestrians do it every day. Starting this year, a streetscape project along Jefferson will add dedicated bike lanes and enhanced crosswalks to protect pedestrians.

There are also plans to improve Jos Campau between Atwater and Jefferson. Currently, it’s an area that gets a lot of use between offices and restaurants. The goal is to make it much more pedestrian-friendly in the future.


We’ll see a lot of effort going into redeveloping many of the warehouses between Atwater and Jefferson in the coming years. One RFP was just released (more on that soon) and more will follow. We can expect more mixed-use buildings, restaurants, and residential along Atwater.

They also want to keep the historical character of the area, calling it a Heritage Area. Here we can see a concept of what Franklin Street could look like in the coming years.


After the initial presentation, the public asked some important questions about the project including a possible dog park (if there’s enough interest) and parking (there will be parking included in the development RFPs released). Another issue they’re looking into? Making these areas ready with wifi ... they’re looking for grants to do this.

The first steps will be an RFP for one of the large warehouses, Jefferson Avenue improvements, and breaking ground on the Riverwalk along the Uniroyal site later in 2017.

Six local firms—McIntosh Poris, Birmingham; Giffels Webster, Detroit; Kraemer Design Group, Detroit; AKT Peerless, Detroit; Rich & Associates, Southfield, and E. Austell Associates, West Bloomfield—provided significant consulting and advisory roles during the planning stages. The strategic framework plan was developed by a team led by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM).

Under the plan, the East Riverfront area will continue to be transformed from a former blighted, industrial area into a vibrant waterfront.

“The riverfront belongs to all Detroiters,” said Maurice D. Cox, director of the City of Detroit Planning & Development Department. “Thanks to the involvement of hundreds of residents, we have principles that frame an international riverfront that can be accessed and enjoyed by all.”