• Firms that designed the High Line, Maggie Daley Park, de Young Museum Gardens and the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park are in Detroit for final selection round.
  • West Riverfront Park project is utilizing an innovative community-led design process that is gaining notice across the country.
  • The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy’s international design competition is made possible by a grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

DETROIT, February 8, 2018 – Four world-class design firms are presenting their visions today as part of an international design competition led by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy (DRFC) that will transform the 22-acre West Riverfront Park into one of the most dynamic public spaces in the world. Renderings and information for media are available here.

“Our vision for the Detroit Riverfront is bold and aspirational,” said Matt Cullen, chairman of the DRFC Board of Directors.  “This is a special moment for our city.  We are working to complete our vision for the East Riverfront, which has become a catalyst for billions of dollars of economic development and is visited by millions of people every year.  West Riverfront Park will be a regional magnet for recreation and it will have a profound impact on the lives of Detroiters for generations.”

At 22 acres, West Riverfront Park is comparable in size to Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City, Maggie Daley Park in Chicago and Riverside Park in Buffalo. Development of the park is estimated at $50 million. 

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy’s ultimate vision is for 5.5 miles of revitalized riverfront from “bridge to bridge,” meaning the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle on the east and the Ambassador Bridge to Canada on the west.  With the East Riverfront more than 85 percent complete, the Conservancy is turning its efforts toward expansion along the West Riverfront, which runs from just west of Joe Louis Arena to Riverside Park, at the foot of West Grand Boulevard.

The West Riverfront Park Design Competition incorporates a unique community-led design process in which the public has been encouraged to share their ideas and input all throughout the project. The design presentations, which are open to the general public, will be held on Thursday, February 8 from    9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at 1001 Woodward in downtown Detroit. 

The four design firms, whose notable projects include Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park, also in Chicago, the High Line in New York City and de Young Museum Gardens in San Francisco, are among the most well-respected and innovative firms in the world.  Numerous Detroit or Michigan-based firms are represented among the teams as well.  The four principal firms include:

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN), in collaboration with Arup and Guy Nordenson and Associates. Local partners include Rossetti (Detroit), Conservation Design Forum (Grand Rapids), Building Community Value (Detroit), Salonnière (Detroit), and Mannik Smith Group (Detroit). GGN is a landscape architecture firm based in Seattle. Notable projects include the National Museum of African America History and Culture (Washington, DC) and the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago.

Hood Design Studio (HDS), in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, West 8, Richter, Arup, Fluidity, Ken Greenberg, Lotus Water, Altus and Culture Lab (Detroit).  HDS is based in Oakland, California. Notable projects include the de Young Museum Gardens in San Francisco and the Coastlines in Wilmington, California.

James Corner Field Operations, in collaboration with nArchitects, Sherwood Design Engineers, Milton Fearn, HR&A Advisors, Ann Zoller / Strategy Design Partners, ETM Associates and CMS Cost Management Services.  Local partners include Austell Associates (Bloomfield Hills), Detroit Collaborative Design Center (Detroit), Giffels Webster (Detroit) and AKT Peerless (Farmington). James Corner Field Operations is a landscape architecture, public realm and urban design firm based in New York City. Notable projects include the High Line in New York and South Park Plaza at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), in collaboration with Utile and Mobility in Chain (MIC).  Local partners include LimnoTech (Ann Arbor), PEA (Detroit) and NTH Consultants (Northville).  MVVA is a landscape architecture based firm based in Brooklyn, New York. Notable projects include Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn and Maggie Daley Park in Chicago.

A $345,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation made the West Riverfront Park Design Competition possible.  The grant comes from the foundation’s “Livable Communities” focus area that seeks to create strong and sustainable communities by supporting parks, trails and green design.

“A project of this importance and impact comes along once in a lifetime,” said David Egner, president & CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.  “A transformed West Riverfront Park improves the quality of life for Detroiters by providing the community with a place where everyone can come together as one.  Not only will this project bring our neighborhoods and local communities together, but it will also be a significant regional draw for generations by bringing visitors and investment to the riverfront.”

The competition also features a world-class jury with representatives from the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, the City of Detroit, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, and architectural design and planning experts, including Leslie Koch, former president and chief executive of the Trust for Governors Island; Deborah Marton, executive director of New York Restoration Project; Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership; and Deborah Weintraub, chief architect/chief deputy city engineer, City of Los Angeles.

The jury begins deliberating on February 9, with the announcement of the winning team made this spring.  Once a team has been selected, the Conservancy will continue community engagement work through 2018 to refine the design concepts.

“This project is driven by a community-led design process,” said Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.  “We started this work by taking Detroit residents to see amazing parks around the country.  This public design exhibition will allow thousands of people to interact with these design concepts. Our process is turning heads around the country.  It has taken community input to a new level and other organizations are following our lead when it comes to public engagement.”

In addition to hosting several community meetings, the Conservancy assembled a Community Advisory Team (CAT) made up of every-day Detroiters who visited public places in world-class cities like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia so that they could report back on their experiences.  CAT members will be on hand to engage with visitors when the public gets another chance to see the renderings and models during a public exhibition from February 10- 22.  The exhibition takes place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 1001 Woodward in downtown Detroit.

“This competition is among the most compelling that we’ve seen in the United States in recent years,” said Maurice D. Cox, director of the City of Detroit Planning & Development Department.  “The firms that are vying to win this competition have created some of the most unique and celebrated public spaces in the world.  They’ve spent a significant amount of time learning these last five months what Detroiters want to see at West Riverfront Park, so we are excited to share these visions with the public.”

The site where West Riverfront Park is located was privately owned and closed to the public for nearly 100 years until the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy purchased the property and opened the park in 2014.  Since then, the park has become a popular destination for people to enjoy the outdoors and striking views of the Detroit and the Windsor skylines.  The park has also been the site of several large-scale concerts.

In addition to the support received from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation for the design competition, riverfront planning is made possible by the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, Fifth Third Bank, FORD/UAW, the City of Detroit, Hudson Webber Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.