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Detroit — Construction workers broke ground on the Joseph Campau Greenway Thursday morning, a 1.2-mile-long pathway that will connect Vernor to the city's Riverfront.

The $4.9 million project will include a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists, new benches, updated storm water infrastructure and recreational features such as playgrounds.

The project is part of a larger effort to make the city's waterfront more accessible to residents in the area, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy President Mark Wallace said. 

"This is part of a big system. What we've discovered on the riverfront is that the system of parks and greenways is much more powerful than any individual park would be on its own," Wallace said. "For us to add additional opportunities for residents to get down to the waterfront will really build the strength of that system."

The conservancy worked with residents through public meetings to ensure the project was a community effort, he said. 

"Opportunities for great sidewalks, opportunities for great greenways just enhance the experience for our residents," Wallace said. "It's an easy way for us to improve the property values for folks who live close to places like this and also just get healthier."

Funding for the greenway will come from two sources — municipal bonds and a federal Community Development Block Grant given to the city in 2014 after flooding in the area.

Project Manager Betsy Palazzola said one of the project's major goals is to encourage residents to explore the Riverwalk and their own neighborhoods. 

"As Detroit gets prettier and more fun to be in, we want to make sure everyone has fun doing those things," Palazzola said. "Sometimes it's more fun to get on your bike or push your stroller down than it is to try to get on a bus or in a car and find parking."

While the project is not expected to be completed until fall 2020, segments will open as they are completed. The first segment will run from the Riverwalk to Robert Bradby Drive and is expected to open this fall, Palazzola said.

The segment near the intersection of Joseph Campau Street and Jefferson Avenue will be the only entirely new segment. Much of the project will focus on updating existing greenway and installing new recreation and security fixtures.

Making the pathway safe was a priority of the project, Palazzola said. Cameras and emergency call boxes will be installed every 500 feet along the pathway and will be monitored 24 hours a day by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and the Detroit Police Department.

Vallery Hyduke, co-owner of a bridal shop near the greenway's beginning on East Jefferson Avenue, said the greenway will bring increase foot traffic and exposure for her store. 

"I think it's going to be a nice drawing card for our business, to put it out on social media and tell people what's going on in the city of Detroit," Hyduke said.

slubbers@detnews.com

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