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Joe Louis Greenway funders, partners entrust Community Foundation with $100M endowment

July 14th, 2023 Back to Browse Stories

The 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway will connect the award-winning Detroit riverfront with 23 communities throughout Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck and Dearborn.  It was designed, with input from neighboring residents, to create healthy green spaces and inclusive economic opportunities. 

A historic public-private partnership is breathing life into the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway that will connect the award-winning Detroit riverfront with 23 communities throughout Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck and Dearborn.

The accessible, paved loop collectively known as the Joe Louis Greenway will be comprised of a portion of the Detroit riverfront, the Dequindre Cut, the newly opened Southwest Greenway and additional stretches that are under construction now or scheduled for completion within the next decade.  

The Joe Louis Greenway will bring people together to enjoy parks, bike paths, music venues, arts, programming and economic opportunities for all. Connector spurs, like the ones from McNichols and Livernois, will allow residents deep within the city to access beautiful green spaces all the way to the Detroit riverfront. The pathway will create a healthy, walkable urbanity to improve the quality of life for Detroiters and make the region a desirable place for young people to live, work, play and invest as the state faces a daunting population decline. 

The Unified Greenway Campaign an unprecedented collaboration of corporate, philanthropic, and governmental funders has raised $229 million in less than two years toward its $350 million goal for the project, making it one of the most successful campaigns in the country. The funds will be used to build the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway, complete the Detroit riverfront and create an endowment at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan that will support their maintenance and operation for future generations. 

Understanding both the needs of the community and endowment-building uniquely positions the Community Foundation to support transformational public space projects like the Joe Louis Greenway from start to finish and beyond. The foundation holds approximately $1 billion in permanently endowed funds and has more than 30 years of experience supporting public spaces. 

Development has national significance 

The Unified Greenway Campaign includes the City of Detroit, which owns and is designing and constructing the greenway; the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, which manages public spaces along the Detroit International Riverfront and the Dequindre Cut; and the Joe Louis Greenway Partnership, a nonprofit that will steward the trail’s development and programming in perpetuity.  

Private foundation funders to date include the: 

  • Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation 
  • William Davidson Foundation 
  • Gilbert Family Foundation 
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation 
  • Hudson-Webber Foundation 

The $229 million raised so far also includes approximately $150 million in public funds from the State of Michigan, Wayne County and the City of Detroit.  

Previously announced commitments to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, Ford Motor Co., and Huron-Clinton Metroparks support the Unified Greenway Campaign’s goals, as well. 

“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,” says Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Chairman Matt Cullen, who envisioned the Unified Greenway Campaign and serves on the Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees. 

Community Foundation manages endowment 

The $350 million Unified Greenway Campaign 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 

“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,” Community Foundation President Richard (Ric) DeVore says. 

“Beautiful public spaces and connected, vibrant communities have a tremendous impact for Detroit residents,” he says. “Turning this vision into reality is the result of a deep, long-term collaboration between our partners and proves that, when we work together, positive change is possible.” 

This story first appeared in the Summer 2023 REPORT Newsletter