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Atwater Beach officially breaks ground along Detroit’s East Riverfront

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A crowded beach area filled with people and umbrellas against the backdrop of downtown Detroit Courtesy of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy

A portion of the East Riverfront formerly used to store buoys will convert into a family-friendly urban beach in the next year. Although preliminary work has been underway at Atwater Beach since earlier this year, officials held a ground-breaking on Monday to signify the progress of the project.

Atwater Beach won’t be a swimming beach—the currents are too strong in the river. When finished next summer, the site will have a sandy beach; green spaces for picnics; a musical garden for kids; many seating areas; a shed with a garage door opening for shelter, special events, food and beverage, and retail; and a floating barge with food and drink options.

The floating barge
Courtesy of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy
The shed
Courtesy of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy
The music and play area
Courtesy of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy

Construction on the 3.2-acres site between Chene Park and the Stroh’s complex will start immediately. The foundations for the shed and playscape are first, and in the winter, underground utility work should be completed.

Matt Cullen, Chairman of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, said that the group is “accelerating” in their projects, and that in the next year, they’ll have more construction going than ever before. He also noted that the Riverwalk was segmented right now, and that when the work is complete, it will be all connected.

Work on the last segment of the East Riverfront—the Uniroyal site next to Belle Isle—is expected to start next year.

When the Gordie Howe International Bridge is completed, someone could bike from Belle Isle to the new bridge and across to Canada.

Atwater Beach was announced in early 2017, and the project won a Knight Cities grant just over a year ago. It’s part of a larger redevelopment of the East Riverfront, which will include two more greenways, an extension of the RiverWalk to Belle Isle, and redevelopment of warehouse buildings in the district.

On the West Riverfront, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates were chosen earlier this year for a complete redesign of the West Riverfront Park, which will include sports courts, landscaping and trails, a fishing jetty, a swimming area, and playscapes. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy continues to fundraise for the $50 million project.