Detroit's West Riverfront Park design renderings revealed

Expected to be completed in 2022

By Kayla Clarke, Nick Monacelli - Reporter

DETROIT - West Riverfront Park is expected to undergo some major changes in the coming years.

The park is a 22-acre site located along the Detroit Riverfront. For nearly 100 years it was privately owned and closed to the public. That was until the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy opened the park to the public in 2014.

In April, New York-based landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates was chosen as the winning firm in a competition to choose a designer for the park.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy hosted several community meetings through the process and even brought together an advisory team made up of people from Detroit. Those individuals visited public places in cities like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia and then reported back on their experiences.

Watch the special promotional video here: 

$200 million investment announced

Wednesday, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced a $200 million investment in parks and trails in Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The gift honors the Foundation’s namesake, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. The funds will be split evenly, dedicating $100 million to each region to help develop signature legacy parks, advance the vision of completed regional trail systems, and support the sustainability of these public spaces.

“We are proud and honored to celebrate Ralph’s birthday today with a lasting gift that matches in scale the passion and pride he had for his hometown of Detroit and ‘adopted’ hometown of Buffalo, where he founded and owned the Buffalo Bills,” said Mary Wilson, widow of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. and life trustee, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “Ralph was committed to exercise, staying active and enjoying life. It would make Ralph so happy to see people of all ages enjoying these enhanced parks and trails for years to come.”

“Parks and trails have an incredible impact on communities - inviting usage from all ages, neighborhoods and people – promoting inclusiveness and breaking down barriers. They not only connect people to each other, but to other destinations and assets across a region,” said Jeffrey Littmann, life trustee and board chair, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “These projects also take collaboration from all levels of community to be realized. It’s this teamwork and hard work that Ralph valued so much.”

“Through the years, there have been many organizations and funders who’ve worked hard to develop these parks, trails and waterfronts in both Southeast Michigan and Western New York. We’re honored to join with them in the continuation and acceleration of that work,” said David Egner, president and CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The signature parks mirror each other in many ways, with both situated at the ‘front door’ to each city and region along an urban waterfront and international border. Each park also serves as an anchor to a larger, more robust and burgeoning regional greenway system, connecting to other parks and neighborhoods, encouraging access for all.”

The signature parks will be created at both West Riverfront Park in Detroit and LaSalle Park in the City of Buffalo. Each will be renamed Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park.   For both locations, the Foundation is committing $40 million for construction activity and $10 million to support the broader efforts for long-term sustainability. In addition, to help achieve the vision of a completed and connected regional trail system in both communities, the Foundation will invest $50 million in trails in each of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. For each, $40 million will be allocated toward yet-to-be determined projects that close physical gaps in each region’s trail systems and $10 million will be designated toward helping operate and maintain the trails for decades to come.

“The commitment that the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is making to the city of Detroit and Southeast Michigan is profound and marks another step forward for the region,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “Our state is known for incredible natural resources and this generous investment will have a lasting and positive impact for all those who call Southeast Michigan home or want to spend the weekend experiencing its reinvention.”

Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park

In Detroit, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park will be at the current site of West Riverfront Park, a 22-acre site along the Detroit Riverfront. The new park is part of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy’s overall vision 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.

"With this incredibly generous gift, the Wilson Foundation will help us create a spectacular riverfront park and recreational opportunity that will be enjoyed by Detroiters for the next 100 years," said Mayor Mike Duggan. "Equally important is making sure that residents in our neighborhoods have easier access to their city's riverfront through projects like the Joe Louis Greenway. The Wilson Foundation was an early supporter of this effort and we are thrilled that the other half of the foundation's gift will go toward filling gaps in regional trails connecting the city and region." 

The entire project is expected to be completed in 2022.

West Riverfront Park renderings

West Riverfront Park aerial rendering.

West Riverfront Park play garden rendering.

West Riverfront Park sports house rendering.

West Riverfront Park the cove rendering.

West Riverfront Park at night rendering.

West Riverfront Park winter rendering.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation made a $50 million commitment to the park, which will be made through a $40 million lead gift (grant) to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. In addition to that a $10 million grant will be provided to the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to help and support long-term sustainability of the park.

The Conservancy plans to rename the park "Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park."

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