Karen and Matthew Cullen Honored with Shimmer Award

Rivard Plaza is renamed Cullen Plaza in honor of their ongoing commitment and generosity; Cullens announce $4 million grant to nonprofit

DETROIT, June 21, 2018 – The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy announced today that it has presented its annual Shimmer Award to Matt Cullen and his wife, Karen, in recognition of their longtime support of the Conservancy and the community.

The Shimmer Award is presented annually during Shimmer on the River to an individual who has been critical to the success of the Conservancy and who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to the revitalization of the Detroit Riverfront. Past awardees include David K. Page, Faye Alexander Nelson, John and Marlene Boll, Peter Karmanos, Senator Carl Levin and others. 

"Matt and Karen Cullen have had a profound impact on our entire community," said Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. "Because of their tremendous vision and their selfless efforts, we now have a beautiful riverfront that welcomes more than three million people from across our community every year and that is a catalyst for billions of dollars of economic development. The Conservancy is fundamentally changing the City of Detroit, and we are thrilled to recognize Matt’s ongoing leadership and their tremendous work together in support of our mission by presenting them with the Shimmer Award." 

Additionally, during the Shimmer on the River celebration, Rivard Plaza was officially renamed Cullen Plaza in honor of Matthew and Karen Cullen Fund grants of $4 million to the Conservancy. The grants will support the Conservancy’s efforts to revitalize and redevelop 5 1/2 miles of riverfront in Detroit for all to enjoy.

Matt Cullen has been a driving force behind the transformation of Detroit’s riverfront since 2003, bringing together fellow corporate leaders, civic leaders and philanthropists to reimagine the riverfront as a beautiful public space that would spur economic development and showcase one of Detroit’s greatest assets, the Detroit River. 

He served as the Conservancy’s founding chairman and continues in that role to this day. Cullen, who was a General Motors executive at that time, led the charge that the riverfront needed to be accessible to all in our community. Today, Cullen is the CEO of JACK Entertainment and a principal of Rock Ventures, and is involved in numerous community organizations.

"Rivard Plaza has held a special place in our hearts since the RiverWalk opened more than a decade ago," said Matt Cullen. "It really was the initial gathering spot when the RiverWalk opened and a tangible symbol of what could be a very different future for our riverfront and our City if we worked together. Karen and I and our family have enjoyed many memorable moments there and we look forward to many more. We are proud to be able to provide this support to the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, and we hope that our investment will help continue the momentum of redevelopment from bridge to bridge so that generations to come will be able to enjoy its beauty."

The continued success of the revitalization of the Detroit Riverfront depends on the support of donors, such as the Cullens. As the permanent stewards of the RiverWalk and the Dequindre Cut, the Conservancy is responsible for raising the funds needed for construction, operation, maintenance, security and programming of the public spaces located along the riverfront

The Cullens are pleased to be receiving the Shimmer Award. "Matt and I are honored to receive this year’s Shimmer Award,’’ said Karen Cullen.  "It’s very humbling to be recognized for doing something that you feel so passionately about and that brings so much good to our community. I’ve always said that the RiverWalk really is our 4th child."  

The newly-renamed Cullen Plaza, which is located at 1340 Atwater Street along the East Riverfront, was the first of the three RiverWalk plazas to open. Since then, it has become one of the most popular destinations in Detroit with a café, a large sand box, a playscape, a glass map of the St. Lawrence Seaway, reflecting water features and colorful landscaping. The Diamond Jack Boat Tours and Wheelhouse Detroit also operate from Cullen Plaza.

Additionally, the plaza is home to the Cullen Family Carousel. Since its debut more than a decade ago, the carousel features creatures native to the Detroit River, including sturgeon, egrets and walleye, along with the mythical River Mermaid and River Monster. The carousel has become one of the most beloved and photographed attractions along the riverfront.

The eighth annual Shimmer on the River brought together more than 900 guests. Speakers at Shimmer on the River included U.S. Senator Carl Levin; Roger Penske, founder and chairman of The Penske Corporation; Terry Rhadigan, executive director of General Motors’ product and technology communications; Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and Faye Alexander Nelson, the founding president and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.

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