New Detroit River beach to be called Robert C. Valade Park

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Atwater Beach is getting a new name.

The public space opening this fall on the east riverfront will be named Robert C. Valade Park, in honor of the Detroiter who was former chairman of Carhartt Inc.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy made the announcement Thursday with the Molly and Mark Valade Family Fund, which made a undisclosed donation to the nonprofit Conservancy.

A rendering of Robert C. Valade Park, which will open on Atwater along the Detroit River this fall.

The renaming comes as the park in the final stages of construction at 2670 Atwater. The park will feature the city's only floating bar, a sandy beach, food options and a playground.

“My dad loved the city of Detroit and I know he would be proud to have his name associated with a part of this cultural and recreational development on the Detroit River,” Mark Valade said in a statement Thursday. “He loved being outdoors on the riverfront and participated in numerous activities – from sailing to power boating to ice skating – and we hope that families across metro Detroit and throughout Michigan get to create as many special memories out here as my father did.”

Construction on what was known as the Atwater Beach project began nearly a year ago. The man-made beach is part of the city's mission to transform its riverfront. The park is one of a series of family-oriented parks within 10-minute walking distance from the next.

The 3.2-acre parcel was formerly a buoy storage yard and cement factory. 

Valade Park will include a bridge along the Riverwalk connecting Stroh River Place to Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre.

The park will also have a floating bar. Bob’s Barge, a 120-foot-long venue, will span two boat slips in the Detroit River. It will have multiple seating areas and planters made of recycled truck tailgates.

Bob's Barge will be open Thursday through Sunday during the spring, summer and fall seasons, said Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

"It's fun to take something that has such an industrial heritage and turn it into a public space," he said. "Almost everybody living in Detroit has seen a barge move down the river, but I would guess fewer than 5% of Detroit residents have ever had a chance to set foot on a barge."

Park features will include:

  • A beach area with chairs and umbrellas, and a community pavilion with barbecue grills.
  • Playground houses with areas for children to climb, slide and jump.
  • An interactive musical garden that will teach children about how different objects make sounds and tones. 
  • A 3,600-square-foot shed with garage door-style openings. A patio features an overhang to provide visitors with shelter from the elements.
  • Food will be available in the Shed and the space will also used for special events and occasional retail.

Supporters of the project include the William Davidson Foundation, Walters Family Foundation and the Mona and Richard Alonzo Fund. The Conservancy received a $225,000 grant for the beach from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s 2017 Knight Cities Challenge.

The Conservancy also received a $50,000 grant for the project from Gannett/USA Today Network as part of the “A Community Thrives” initiative.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN