The planning phase for the much-anticipated Joe Louis Greenway is entering the home stretch. After 48 public meetings over the past year—some city-led, some hosted by community groups—the last scheduled event ahead of the release of the framework plan took place Tuesday, December 10 at the Unity Baptist Church of Detroit.
Christina Peltier, project manager with the General Services Department (GSD), gave a brief update about the 32-mile non-motorized trail that will loop around Detroit and pass through parts of Hamtramck, Highland Park, and Dearborn. Posters outlining possible path types, routing, amenities, and more were spread around the room with cards available for residents to make comments. Consultants Sidewalk Detroit set up a filming area for people to talk about their relationship to biking, transit, and green space.
City planners have been stressing the importance of community engagement in shaping the greenway. “Resident input has affected probably every dimension of the plan,” Meagan Elliott, GSD chief parks planner, says.
The route was originally 26 miles, but due to resident concerns about safety, it’s been expanded to 32 miles in order to take as much of the greenway off road and to intersect with parks, amenities, and bus routes.
For example, the new route will go along West Grand Boulevard to connect with Riverside Park instead of the previous plan of cutting through Clark Park. Further west, it’s going to connect with the under-construction Gordie Howe International Bridge, which will be accessible to cyclists. In large parts of Hamtramck, it will go through alleys.
Designers SmithGroup are expected to finalize the framework plan in early 2020. A month or two afterwards, the city will deliver a public release that summarizes the important features of the plan.
In 2017, when the city decided to take ownership of the greenway, it was expected to cost around $50 million. Elliott says cost estimates for the full buildout are still being determined, but that the final price tag will be higher. So far the city has secured $27 million through a combination of public and private funds.
Construction will take place on a phased schedule. The city is hoping to break ground in the fall next year, though the first stretch to be built hasn’t been determined yet. The full greenway will be assembled over several years, but programming and community engagement will take place continuously throughout that time.
All the land necessary for construction has been acquired or guaranteed by the various municipalities. Parts of that land offer some exciting opportunities. At its widest point, the greenway is 276 feet, which could allow for all kinds of developments. Expect additional parks, playgrounds, and for the city to RFP certain parcels for developments that compliment the greenway.
“In the areas that buffer the greenway, we have the potential to do a lot of great work for neighborhood stabilization, affordable housing, access to jobs—everything,” Elliott says.
If done well, the Joe Louis Greenway could be one of those rare transformational projects that gets widespread support.