Southwest Greenway Opens as Detroit’s Newest Public Space; Unified Greenway Campaign Announces More Than $70 Million in New Support for World-Class Detroit Riverfront and Joe Louis Greenway
- New Southwest Greenway connects the Detroit Riverfront with Michigan Central, Corktown and
Southwest Detroit neighborhoods; creates greater access and beauty for residents
- The Unified Greenway Campaign announces $229 million raised toward a $350 million goal to fund the
completion of the world-class Detroit Riverfront and the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway, and sustain both
for future generations
- The Unified Greenway Campaign announces more than $70 million in new support from Ralph C.
Wilson, Jr. Foundation, William Davidson Foundation, Gilbert Family Foundation, W.K. Kellogg
Foundation and Hudson-Webber Foundation
- The City of Detroit commits $6 million per year to support the operations and maintenance of the
Detroit Riverfront and Joe Louis Greenway
DETROIT (May 24, 2023) – Today, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Chairman Matt Cullen, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the State of Michigan, Wayne County, funding partners, dignitaries and community members celebrated the official opening of the Southwest Greenway, a paved trail running from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park on West Jefferson to Bagley Street. The greenway connects the Detroit Riverfront to Michigan Central and the Joe Louis Greenway. The greenway will connect the riverfront to surrounding neighborhoods, providing easy access and a beautiful public space for Detroit residents and visitors.
The celebration also included an announcement of more than $70 million in new funding for the Unified Greenway Campaign, a collaborative effort to raise $350 million which will be used to complete the world-class Detroit Riverfront, fund construction of the Joe Louis Greenway, and create an endowment that will support the maintenance and operation of both projects for future generations. In April, Mayor Duggan’s administration and City Council collaborated to authorize the City of Detroit’s commitment to providing up to $6 million per year to support the operations and maintenance of the Detroit Riverfront and Joe Louis Greenway.
“The Community Foundation is honored to manage the Unified Greenway Endowment which will provide for the maintenance and operation of both the world-class Detroit Riverfront and Joe Louis Greenway for future generations,” said Ric DeVore, President, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. “Beautiful public spaces and connected, vibrant communities have a tremendous impact for Detroit residents. Turning this vision into reality is the result of a deep, long-term collaboration between our partners and proves that, when we work together, we can create positive change.”
“The grand opening of the Southwest Greenway is the perfect occasion to celebrate the tremendous progress of the Unified Greenway Campaign, which will complete and sustain the Detroit Riverfront and Joe Louis Greenway for generations,” said Matt Cullen, Chairman, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and architect of the Unified Greenway Campaign. “The early success of this campaign thanks to our funding partners, together with the City of Detroit’s commitment of ongoing support, is historic for our community and is nationally significant in the development of urban public spaces.”
“Today is a great example of what can be accomplished when the whole community comes together,” said Mayor Duggan. “We are so fortunate to have incredible partners like the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the Unified Greenway Partnership, and all of our funders, as well as the strong support of Detroit City Council, to ensure this beautiful greenspace will be here for generations to come. The Southwest Greenway will be one of the most popular sections of the entire 27-mile path because it will feed directly into the stunning new Ralph Wilson Centennial Park.”
Ford Motor Company contributed $5 million to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy for the $8 million Southwest Greenway. The balance of the funding for construction of the greenway was provided by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Transportation and the Walters Family Foundation.
“We are proud to partner with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Mayor Duggan to create a public space for the community to enjoy,” said Mary Culler, Chair of Michigan Central and President of Ford Motor Company Fund. “The Southwest Greenway will connect Detroit to all that we are building at Michigan Central and will help strengthen community bonds by joining the west side, east side, and northern neighborhoods of our city.”
The Unified Greenway Campaign is an unprecedented partnership which includes the City of Detroit, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and the Joe Louis Greenway Partnership (JLGP). Launched in early 2022, the campaign is a unique collaboration of corporate, philanthropic, and governmental funders. The campaign has raised $229 million in less than two years, making it one of the most successful campaigns in the country.
“Together, we are making investments in local parks and recreation to make communities across Michigan better places to live, work, and grow,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Since I took office, we have made the largest investments in state and local parks in Michigan history. We also funded greenways in Detroit and long-overdue improvements to Belle Isle. Over the last few years, we have all seen how important access to outdoor spaces is to community-building and mental and physical health. Let’s keep investing in every region of our state to improve quality of life for Michiganders.”
Unified Greenway Campaign announces more than $70 million in new funding
Today’s funding announcement serves as a catalyst for the campaign and will have a profound impact for Detroiters. With lead gifts from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation ($35 Million), William Davidson Foundation ($20 Million), Gilbert Family Foundation ($15 Million), W.K. Kellogg Foundation ($5 Million), the Unified Greenway Founding Partners have committed more than $70 million to ensure this transformational project is maintained for generations. The Founding Partners to date include:
- Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
- William Davidson Foundation
- Gilbert Family Foundation
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation
- Hudson-Webber Foundation
“This is a historic moment as we join together to celebrate what has been built on our Riverfront over the last 20 years, an incredible vision to connect neighborhoods across our City, and a collaboration forged across public and private partners that will ensure this Unified Greenway will provide enjoyment today and for generations to come,” said David Egner, President & CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “In our effort to better connect this region and its people to one another through the Foundation’s Parks & Trails initiative, the Detroit Riverfront and the Joe Louis Greenway are at the center of it all uniting the city of Detroit and its neighboring communities. We are proud to have been a supporter from the initial framework and community engagement to the capital support and sustainability.”
“The William Davidson Foundation is proud to be among the many partners involved in this transformational effort to further enhance the community we call home,” said Darin McKeever, President & CEO, William Davidson Foundation. “This Detroit community raised the bar for welcoming, world-class public spaces when it set the ambitious vision for the Detroit Riverfront 20-plus years ago. We believe the Joe Louis Greenway and the Unified Greenway Campaign will raise that bar even higher – demonstrating once again how great public spaces improve quality of life for neighborhood residents and drive broader economic development for our city and region.”
With today’s announcement, the campaign has raised a total of $229 million toward the $350 million goal, with generous support from government, philanthropic, and business leaders. This total includes approximately $150 million in public funds from the State of Michigan, Wayne County, and the City of Detroit.
Previously announced commitments to the Conservancy from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, Ford Motor Company and Huron-Clinton Metroparks support the goals of the Unified Greenway Campaign. The transformational project consists of a connected system of public greenspaces that will link Detroit’s revitalized riverfront to 23 Detroit neighborhoods and the cities of Highland Park, Hamtramck, and Dearborn, and internationally to Canada.
This $350 million investment in landmark public spaces will include:
- $200 million to build the Joe Louis Greenway
- $50 million to complete the Detroit Riverfront
- $100 million to establish the Unified Greenway Endowment at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
In addition to the Gilbert Family Foundation gift of $10 million to the campaign, the foundation has committed an additional $5 million to establish an accompanying economic development strategy.
“Strong communities begin with stable housing, but come to life in vibrant, connected public spaces,” said Laura Grannemann, Executive Director of the Gilbert Family Foundation. “This unprecedented partnership and investment into the Joe Louis Greenway will create more connectivity for Detroiters – connectivity to public space, jobs and each other.”
The results of the campaign will deliver quality-of-life benefits, turn blight into beauty, catalyze new and equitable economic development opportunities, and improve access and transit options citywide.
Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
Since 2003, 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 Conservancy is continuing its transformation of 5.5 miles of revitalized riverfront and bridge-to-bridge vision, with 90 percent of the East Riverfront complete. Ongoing projects include the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park (opening in 2024), and the Uniroyal Promenade (opening Fall 2023), which will complete the East Riverfront.
“The coalition that came together to create the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy demonstrated the impact that public spaces can have on our city,” said Mark Wallace, President & CEO, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “People love the Detroit Riverwalk, which has become a huge source of community pride. The Joe Louis Greenway will have a similar impact on our community, bringing pride to neighborhoods that have not seen much change in decades and making it easy for all of our neighborhoods to come together.”
Each year, 3.5 million people visit the Detroit Riverfront. The Detroit Riverwalk has been named the Best in the U.S. three years in a row (2021, 2022 and 2023) by USA TODAY.
Joe Louis Greenway
The 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway will expand recreational opportunities by connecting parks and neighborhoods across the city, allowing residents to travel safely from McNichols to the riverfront—all without a car—through a combination of new trails, on-street protected bike lanes and links to existing trails like the Dequindre Cut and the Detroit Riverwalk.
The first Joe Louis Greenway segment opened this past fall, with construction phases expected to continue annually through 2026. The Joe Louis Greenway will serve as the anchor for continued equitable and meaningful investments.
“The Joe Louis Greenway Partnership is proud to serve Detroiters and visitors to our great city along with the City of Detroit, the Riverfront Conservancy and Michigan Central with the opening of the Southwest Greenway as we continue to connect the amazing riverfront to our beloved neighborhoods throughout the city,” said Leona Medley, Executive Director, JLGP.
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Supporting Partner Quotes:
“As an early supporter of the Detroit Riverwalk, the Hudson-Webber Foundation has long championed the importance of investing in greenways and public spaces as economic catalysts for neighborhoods and communities. By coordinating strategies through the Unified Greenway, this project will unite the work of many to elevate the quality of life for all Detroiters, while bringing together the city’s neighborhoods through the expansion of walkable, bikeable coordinated green spaces and reimagining the city’s built environment as one of inclusivity, diversity, accessibility and connectedness.”
Melanca Clark, President and CEO of the Hudson-Webber Foundation.
“I have been anticipating the opening of the Southwest Greenway, connecting communities and creating scenic opportunities for Detroiters and visitors to experience every pocket of our great city. I am grateful for all of the donors and partners that worked tirelessly and invested the funding to bring this amazing vision to life. It will truly become one of Detroit’s crown jewels for generations to come.”
Mary Sheffield, Detroit City Council President
“One of my favorite parts of this job is investing in our parks because when we invest in our parks, we invest in ourselves,” said Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans. “In 2022, we completed millions of dollars’ worth of investments in our parks system and its overall statewide connectivity. It pleases me to continue our investment and partner in the Southwest Greenway Opening and see the progress being made toward this long-term vision for a better Wayne County.”
Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans
“The Walters Family Foundation is thrilled to support the development of the Southwest Greenway and expand the vitality of the Riverfront to better serve the neighborhoods of Southwest Detroit.”
Carol Walters, President, Walters Family Foundation
About the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 with the mission to develop public access to Detroit’s riverfront and serve as an anchor for economic development. As the permanent stewards of the Detroit 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 ultimate vision is for the Conservancy to develop five-and-a-half miles of riverfront from the Ambassador Bridge on the west to Gabriel Richard Park, just east of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle. Visit www.detroitriverfront.org for more information.
Joe Louis Greenway Partnership
The Joe Louis Greenway Partnership is a Detroit-based nonprofit conservancy established in 2022. As a 501(c)(3) entity, the group will work in close partnership with the City of Detroit to augment programs, services, beautification and stewardship of the Joe Louis Greenway, a walking and biking trail and system of public spaces that is currently being built to connect 23 neighborhoods in the heart of Detroit. The City owns and is designing and constructing the Greenway, and the two entities will jointly ensure the quality and value of the Greenway for residents for decades to come. Leona Medley was hired in April 2023 as the first Executive Director of the Joe Louis Greenway Partnership.