Finalists for West Riverfront Park redesign dreamed big
Last summer, four teams of designers were asked to come up with a potential overhaul of West Riverfront Park, the rather plain 22-acre space on the Detroit River that’s downstream from Joe Louis Arena and Riverfront Towers.
The teams dreamed big. Renderings of the plans released Thursday include several different visions: a new lagoon for canoes, kayaks and fishing; a sandy beach; a curvy pedestrian bridge and a path that juts onto the river; an ice rink; and a grassy amphitheater bowl.
On Thursday, renderings of the designs, along with table-top models, will go on display publicly on the first floor of the 1001 Woodward building that overlooks Campus Martius in downtown Detroit. At 9 a.m. Thursday, presentations begin by some of the designers involved; presentations are expected to last until 5:15 p.m. The designs will then be on display from Saturday through Feb. 22.
A jury this spring will decide on the winning concept. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, the nonprofit group that manages the park, is raising $50 million to make the remade West Riverfront Park a reality.
“We will be seeking funding from all sources, including public funds, as well as donations from individuals, foundations and corporations,” said Marc Pasco, spokesman for the RiverFront Conservancy. “We invite everyone to participate in making this park a reality.”
A detailed timeline for the park’s redesign hasn’t been set, Pasco said.
Each of the four teams have a principal firm and a host of collaborators, including local businesses and design firms. The four principal firms are:
■Gustafson Guthrie Nichol of Seattle. Projects include the landscape for the National Museum of African America History and Culture in Washington.
West Riverfront Park, 1801 W. Jefferson Avenue, is between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Eighth Street. The site held a former newspaper printing plant until 2007, when the joint venture that operates The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, then known as Detroit Media Partnership, sold the property to the conservancy. The park has been open to the public since 2014.
The park is the western edge of the Detroit RiverWalk, the pedestrian/bicycle path that is one the city’s most popular attractions. More than 3 million people use some part of the downtown path each year. The main portion of the pedestrian/bike path spans from Gabriel Richard Park near Belle Isle to Joe Louis Arena. It then veers away from the river to get around the Riverfront Towers complex, and then connects to West Riverfront Park. The RiverWalk, along with the adjoining Dequindre Cut, is overseen by the Riverfront Conservancy.
The park’s planned redesign is one of the steps to overhaul the western edge of riverfront. Joe Louis Arena, former home of the Detroit Red Wings, is headed for demolition, and the plan for what happens to that space is still being decided.
There are plans for a new RiverWalk in front of the privately owned Riverfront Towers. The new path will be built 17 feet from the current water’s edge. If things go as planned, that new link will connect to the revamped West Riverfront Park.
The RiverFront Conservancy’s ultimate vision is for 51/2 miles of revitalized riverfront from “bridge to bridge,” meaning the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle on the east and the Ambassador Bridge to Canada on the west.
“Our vision for the Detroit Riverfront is bold and aspirational,” said Matt Cullen, chairman of board of the conservancy. “This is a special moment for our city. We are working to complete our vision for the East Riverfront, which has become a catalyst for billions of dollars of economic development and is visited by millions of people every year. West Riverfront Park will be a regional magnet for recreation and it will have a profound impact on the lives of Detroiters for generations.”
Once a finalist is chosen this spring, the conservancy will continue “community engagement work” through 2018 to refine the design concepts for the park.