Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’

Detroit RiverWalk community meeting, groundbreaking & love letters

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Perhaps you’ve seen Mt. Elliott Park fenced off for construction or watched the heavy equipment remediating the soil at the Uniroyal site. There’s much work being done on the Detroit RiverWalk right now.

To update the community, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is hosting a meeting form 6pm to 8pm on Wednesday, October 17th at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources. The building is on the Detroit RiverWalk at 200 Walker Street.

It’s a free event, but you need to RSVP by October 12th by emailing or calling (313) 566-8248.

Globe building groundbreaking

The city of Detroit, DEGC, and DNR and hosting a groundbreaking event for the new Outdoor Adventure and Discover Center at the Globe Trading building. This event is on Saturday, October 6th at 10:30am. The Globe Trading building is at 1900 Atwater Street or more commonly recognized as the large brick structure at the intersection of the Dequindre Cut and Atwater.

What’s this building becoming? According to the DNR, “With hands-on experiences in everything from archery to ziplining, the Outdoor Adventure & Discovery Center will become a base camp for residents and visitors seeking a destination for fun and fitness.” We’re in!

There will be a bike on the Dequindre Cut and a complimentary lunch after the groundbreaking. RSVP by emailing or by calling (517) 241-0341.

DNR seeking love letters

The DNR will be burying a time capsule at the groundbreaking and they are seeking submissions.

The DNR is looking for stories, sentiment, and visions for the future that can be included in a time capsule that will be buried on the grounds of the Outdoor Adventure & Discovery Center. Submit your Love Letter by October 1 and become part of Detroit’s legacy. Detroit Riverfront Love Letters can be sent via email to Erik Thornbury at

You have until Monday to submit your best work!

Updates: Detroit RiverWalk, Belle Isle and more

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Much of this is older news and others, like Mode Shift have done a fine job covering last month’s RiverWalk announcements. We’ll just in some gaps and clear up some misconceptions.

In case you missed it, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Governor Rick Snyder and others broke ground more sections of the RiverWalk. More specifically, the Mt. Elliott Park makeover is underway. Not much has begun yet except for some construction fencing, but that will change soon.

As we mentioned, Mode Shift wrote a very good article on this event, as did the Free Press, Detroit News, and Click on Detroit (with video.)

The Governor has shown great interest as well and made this statement.

It’s a win for all Michiganders. The riverfront in Detroit coming back is a great thing for the citizens of Detroit and for all Michiganders. I encourage anyone in our state to come down and enjoy the experience. I’m looking forward to going for a bike ride myself one of these days.

Saddle up, Governor. Summer’s coming to an end.

The Governor continued his comments by stressing the importance of placemaking, which he views as a combination of “economic development, environmentalism, and community all coming together.” Former DNR Director Rodney Stokes has been transferred to the Governor’s office to work on placemaking, including Milliken State Park, the Globe Trading Building, and Belle Isle. This is a very positive move as Stokes is a former Detroit Recreation Department director and has put a priority on engaging urban youth in the outdoors.

Snyder also applauds the Detroit RiverWalk’s public-private partnership model, which he is also pushing for the new Detroit River bridge.

The Uniroyal site just east of Mt. Elliott Park continues to be cleaned. With some luck this work will be completed so that the RiverWalk connection to the Belle Isle bridge can be started next year.

That $44 million that was announced at the groundbreaking is funding we’ve already mentioned in earlier stories. Only now is the Conservancy able to spend it.

Some media stories have said this is the “final phase” or that these project will complete the RiverWalk. No, they won’t. They’ll complete the eastern portion of the RiverWalk. The western portion from Joe Louis Arena to Riverside Park, just beyond the Ambassador Bridge still needs to be completed.

Belle Isle

The state’s interest in helping Detroit with Belle Isle has gotten much press and attention. There’s both strong support, opposition and misinformation.

Here’s some questions and answers:

Q. The Belle Isle assistance is in city’s consent agreement. Does that mean it’s a done deal?

A. No. According to city councilmember we spoke with, it’s only an affiliated project. It’s not part of the agreement.

Q. If Belle Isle were part of Milliken State Park, would there be an admission fee?

A. No, but motor vehicles on the island would probably have to have a Recreation Passport. The Passport costs $10 a year and is valid in all state parks and state forests. It’s a bargain and costs less than a few gallons of gas.

Q. Does this bring Detroiter’s state tax dollars back to the city?

A. No. Since 2004, state parks have not received state taxpayer funding. Councilman Gary Brown, Deadline Detroit, and others have been mentioning this as a benefit, but they’re not correct.

There have been many concerns voiced about the state having a long term lease on the Belle Isle. We’re not concerned. Leases can be written to say what the state can and cannot do. It doesn’t mean the state will be building condos. These leases are common.

In fact there’s a similar lease just down the river. That land under Milliken State Park? It’s city land that’s on a long term lease to the state.

How’s that working out?

Faye Nelson: Leading the RiverWalk effort

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Continuing the topic of woman leading biking and walking improvements, BLAC Detroit magazine has this article on the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s director, Faye Nelson.

One most impressive aspects of the RiverWalk is its public-private partnership model. We wouldn’t be able to bike or walk along much of the river if not for the Kresge Foundation, General Motors, DNR, MDOT, and many others. This is touched on during Nelson’s interview.

How do you respond to people who feel the focus on the riverfront is at the expense of other parts of the city?

No city tax dollars have been used. The Conservancy is a non-profit that has formed a public / private partnership. Private partnerships include the Kresge Foundation and its $50 million grant. There is the public collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources for Milliken State Park and Harbor, just to the west of Chene Park, the first urban state park in Michigan. Then there are the corporate contributions, like General Motors that spent $500 million renovating the Ren Cen, including building a riverfront plaza that it then donated to the Conservancy.

There is research showing the RiverFront is attracting people downtown, and they spend money downtown. Development is attracted to downtown by the RiverFront. We’re proud to say this project is helping to revitalize and sustain the entire city.

There is a minor downside to being so successful in getting private funding for biking and walking trails. When groups like the Alliance for Biking and Walking compile funding numbers to compare cities, they ignore private funding. That $50 million Kresge RiverWalk investment? General Motor’s $25 million RiverWalk investment? The Alliance purposely does not include that funding in their report and it makes Detroit look bad. That’s just one reason why groups like MTGA and others have declined to participate in their future reports.

Detroit: a national model for public-private partnership

Monday, February 27th, 2012

As the MTGA Detroit Greenways Coordinator, I worked with different City departments to complete Detroit’s Bicycle Friendly Community application, which was submitted last Friday.

One question was to name three primary reasons Detroit deserves this recognition. Here’s one of the given reasons:

Detroit is a national leader in developing and maintaining greenways/biking facilities through public-private partnerships. Philanthropy, community development organization, business organization, and other non-profits are the driver behind much of the bicycle friendly infrastructure in Detroit. For example, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has raised $104 million to transform Detroit’s industrial riverfront into a world class greenway. That said, a limitation of this BFC application is it presumes the city is always the project development and maintenance lead. That is not often the case in Detroit. For example, while there is approximately city of Detroit 1 FTE working on bicycle issues, there are approximately 30 FTEs among the non-profits and retained consultants.

This recent video from the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy highlights their public-private partnership on greenway security. In most cities, security would be provided by a police agency or perhaps contracted by them.

Maintenance on the RiverWalk and Dequindre are similar in that the Conservancy hired Clean Detroit and others to perform the work. In other cities this work is more commonly performed by city staff.

The other two reasons

The Bicycle Friendly Community application asked for three primary reasons. Here are the other two.

Detroit is bike friendly in 2012 for many of the same reasons it was bike friendly in 1910. There are not that many cars on the roads, which is not something that’s reflected in this application. The city’s population has dropped over 61% since 1950 and we’ve added a comprehensive freeway network. Both issues have pulled cars off the surface streets. Detroit has 23 linear feet of road for every resident, nearly double the rate in Los Angeles. Cyclists dont always need a bike lane when they have a car lane to themselves. During a recent meeting on creating another Detroit bike map, we realized that there are so many roads that accommodate bikes well in their current state. We agreed it would be easier to just mark the few roads that don’t.

Detroit has a burgeoning Black bike cultures perhaps unmatched by any other city. Despite being the Motor City, that’s not unexpected since Detroit has the highest percentage of African American residents among U.S. cities over 100,000. There are at five Detroit riding clubs that have formed in the past 2 years. These clubs are growing in popularity. One club, Grown Men on Bikes (GMOB) just released their own theme song to ride to. These clubs along with the youth clubs and Hispanic bike clubs are helping overcome the stigma of the bicycle as a last choice mode of transport.

We should know in a couple months whether Detroit will be recognized as a bicycle friendly community. Currently there are none in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. Ferndale applied years ago but was unsuccessful.

It would be quite exciting if Detroit was the first.

Green jobs: American Cycle & Fitness and the Detroit RiverWalk

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

If you’re interested in working at a bike shop, American Cycle and Fitness is looking to hire.

Their job application is on their web site.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy also has a few jobs posted.