Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Begins Construction On Final Piece of East Riverfront - 3.5 miles of Riverwalk to Connect World-Class Parks and Belle Isle and General Motors Announces $2.5 Million Gift to Detroit Riverfront Conservancy 

  • Uniroyal site project will complete Conservancy’s vision of 3.5 miles of Riverwalk along the East Riverfront, providing connectivity between riverfront parks and Belle Isle
  • 2021 is the Conservancy’s busiest construction year to date
  • Conservancy has invested more than $200 million in revitalization of Detroit Riverfront, generating $2 billion in public and private investment

DETROIT [MAY 12, 2021] – The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and its partners broke ground today on one of the most transformational projects in Detroit’s history – the Riverwalk extension along the Uniroyal site which is the final piece of the East Riverfront. This significant project will complete the Conservancy’s vision of 3.5 miles of Riverwalk along the East Riverfront and provide important connectivity between world-class riverfront parks and Belle Isle. The project is slated to be an $11 million investment and anticipated to be completed by fall of 2022. A new video and images are available here.

 Matt Cullen, chairman, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Mark Wallace, president & CEO, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy were joined by Mayor Mike Duggan, business leaders, dignitaries and community partners this morning for a groundbreaking ceremony.

 “When we started transforming the riverfront 20 years ago, we had an ambitious vision and our promise was to connect the entire East Riverfront,” said Cullen. “Today, we are proud to break ground and deliver on that promise. Our community came together around this project — and I am pleased to say that the founding partners -- the City, The Kresge Foundation and General Motors -- are still with us supporting the project today. This final piece along the East Riverfront is a lasting gift to the generations who live, work and visit Detroit and critical to our long-term vision of revitalization from bridge to bridge.”

The project is being led by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the City of Detroit, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency.

 “For decades, the Uniroyal site has been synonymous with industrial contamination and inaccessibility to our waterfront,” said Mayor Mike Duggan, City of Detroit. “Thanks to the cleanup efforts that have taken place and the great work of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, future generations will know this stretch as one of the most beautiful sections of Detroit's international waterfront, which continues to be cited as one of the best in the world.”

 The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s founding partners, including the City of Detroit, The Kresge Foundation and General Motors, continue to support the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy 20 years later. In 2003, General Motors built the first section of the Detroit Riverwalk during the renovation of the company’s headquarters, the Renaissance Center.

 Steadfast in their commitment, GM has contributed to the revitalization of the riverfront in numerous ways, from donating the first half-mile of Riverwalk for the Conservancy to manage in perpetuity, to maintaining a presence on the Board of Directors and on an annual basis, as a presenting sponsor of the beloved literacy program, Reading & Rhythm on the Riverfront.

 Today, the Conservancy is thrilled to announce that General Motors has made a $2.5 million contribution that will help complete the final connection on the East Riverfront and also provide the essential funding that made this groundbreaking possible. In total, GM’s stewardship represents a $35 million investment in the Conservancy’s riverfront revitalization efforts.

 “This is a once in a lifetime project and the transformation of the Detroit Riverfront over the last two decades has exceeded all expectations,” said Terry Rhadigan, executive director, communications and citizenship at General Motors. “General Motors is proud to have played a prominent role in this revitalization effort and we will continue to be a strategic partner to help sustain the great work that the Conservancy does for our community.”

 Founding partner, The Kresge Foundation, made a $50 million matching grant in 2002 for the transformation of the Detroit Riverfront. The investment was the biggest gift in the Kresge Foundation’s history. This investment was met with an additional $110 million of philanthropic support and has stimulated over $2 billion of investment in the Detroit Riverfront. 

 “We at The Kresge Foundation have admired and participated in this long-term project since its inception,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation. “The celebration of this final piece falling into place represents a glorious, 3.5-mile-long testament to the region’s ability to come together to create a civic commons that will define Detroit’s waterfront for our children, grandchildren, and beyond.”

MDOT began working with the Conservancy in 2010 when plans were in development for Mt. Elliott Park. MDOT continues to be a dedicated partner and has activated funds to help pay for the Uniroyal project.  

“The Michigan Department of Transportation is responsible for building and maintaining roads, bridges and freeways, and we have also assisted with building trail systems throughout the state as well,” said Robert A. Davis, senior advisor for MDOT.  “It’s exciting to work with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to help transform the riverfront into a trail system that pedestrians can enjoy.  It’s a legacy project for us.”

The Uniroyal plant on this 42-acre site once employed 10,000 and closed in 1980. Next to it was the Michigan Stove company and right down the river was Parke Davis - the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. The Uniroyal plant was demolished in 1985 - clearing the last large scale industrial use of the riverfront.

“The Detroit Riverfront has changed the way that we come together as a city.  Detroiters have fallen in love with the Riverwalk,” said Wallace. “Once this final piece of the East Riverfront is completed, it will bring even more Detroiters together.”

This year is the Conservancy’s busiest construction year to date. The Detroit Riverfront attracts 3.5 million visitors annually and has remained open every day during the coronavirus pandemic. Since March 2020, use of the Detroit Riverwalk has increased 20 percent and Dequindre Cut usage has increased by 40 percent. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has invested more than $200 million in the revitalization of the Detroit Riverfront, which in turn has generated more than $2 billion in public and private investment. The Detroit Riverwalk was recently named Best Riverwalk in the country by USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.