Proposed RiverWalk link sits near the Joe

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

A proposed new link for the Detroit RiverWalk near Riverfront Towers would jut onto the river; a design that gets around the privately owned waterfront and connects West Riverfront Park with the larger portion of the 3.5-mile pedestrian/bicycle trail.

The proposed link for the RiverWalk would bypass Riverfront Towers property by building over the river.

Preliminary designs of the link show a 15-foot-wide path built six feet in front of the waterfront property owned by the towers, a rental and condominium complex just west of Joe Louis Arena. The plans include an adjacent new marina that would be built by the owners of the residential complex, said officials of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the nonprofit that manages the RiverWalk.

The waterborne path in front of Riverfront Towers is just one piece of the new link that would go through three separately owned properties at the site. The proposed trail, about a half-mile in total length, would span from West Riverfront Park east to the RiverWalk near Joe Louis Arena. It’s near the arena where the current riverfront path veers onto West Jefferson to get around the residential complex before it winds back to the water’s edge along West Riverfront Park.

This architectural drawing shows the proposed marina pathway.

“Our goal is to start construction in 2018,” said Mark Wallace, president and CEO of Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. He later added the start is planned next fall. Completion could take up to two years, he said, noting the conservancy has arranged the funding for the project and all of the property owners involved are on board.

Officials have always aimed to link the east and west paths of the popular RiverWalk. Now the early details of the design and plan are emerging.

The conservancy has “early ballpark estimates” on the cost of the proposed addition, but Wallace declined to give a figure, saying it is too soon in the process. The proposal was presented last week at a meeting of owners of condominiums in Riverfront Towers.

An architectural drawing shows the proposed marina that is part of the proposal for an extension of the RiverWalk that will be built on water.

The project would require formal approvals from a number of government entities. Beyond the usual city agencies, the plan also would need approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Wallace said.

Riverfront Towers, 250 Riverfront Drive, comprise three buildings; two contain rental units and the third, condominiums. New York-based Image Capital LLC bought the rental towers, which contain 577 units, and controls the marina. The third is owned by the condominium association.

Calls to Image Capital were not returned.

The other two properties the RiverWalk addition would traverse are owned by Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Platform, a private real estate group. The DDA owns the unused land between West Riverfront Park and the Riverfront Towers. The Platform owns a surface parking lot next to Joe Louis Arena and the Riverfront Towers.

The owners of the Platform have agreed to let the RiverWalk path go through its property, a spokesman for the Detroit-based group said, though no formal deal has been worked out.

Citing standard policy, the DDA would not to comment on a deal that’s still being negotiated, an agency spokesman said.

More than 3 million people a year use the RiverWalk. The main portion of the pedestrian/bike path spans from Gabriel Richard Park near Belle Isle to Joe Louis Arena. It’s one of downtown’s most popular attractions.

The new path is just one of the changes planned for the downtown riverfront’s western edge. “The Joe” is now closed following the move of the Detroit Red Wings to Little Caesars Arena, which debuted this month. The riverfront venue is slated for the wrecking ball. No date has been set for the demolition, but it’s expected to be soon.