Detroit breaks ground on $200M Joe Louis Greenway

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city's $200 million Joe Louis Greenway took a step closer to becoming a reality Monday after officials broke ground on the project. 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, government officials and community leaders launched the project's first phase of construction for the nearly 28-mile loop of pedestrian and bike paths.

"Well, this is the day we've all been waiting for, isn't it," Duggan said. "We are taking 27 and a half miles of the most blighted and neglected land in the city of Detroit, and we are turning it into 27 and a half miles of beauty known as the Joe Louis Greenway."

John Louis Barrow, left, hugs his brother, Joe Louis Barrow II, while looking out Monday over what will become a Detroit greenway named after their father, Joe Louis. The greenway will span more than 27 miles and connect Dearborn, Hamtramck and Highland Park.

Duggan made the remarks during a morning news conference at a lot on Joy Road between Wyoming and Livernois avenues on the city's west side. He was joined by elected federal and state officials as well as representatives of neighborhood groups and members of the boxing great's family.

"You can't put into words how much this city meant to my father and how much my father loved this city," John Louis Barrow, Joe Louis' youngest son, said at the event. "Our prayer is the Joe Louis Greenway will do the same thing as Joe Louis Arena — bring this community together."

Two of Barrow's siblings, Joseph Louis Barrow II and Joyce Louis Barrow, and George Joseph, the husband of Candice Joseph, the boxer's daughter, also spoke at the event.

John Louis Barrow, son of boxing legend Joe Louis, at the announcement of the construction of the Joe Louis Greenway in Detroit on Monday.

The first phase of the project will stretch about 2.7 miles on the land of a former Conrail railway line that ran from Warren Avenue to Fullerton Avenue. Money for the project will come from $22 million in bond funds, $2.5 million from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation for design and construction plans and $4.5 million from the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Department of Natural Resources for the acquisition of the railway. 

Duggan said the entire project will take about 10 years to complete.

The groundbreaking comes about two years after the city announced it was naming the greenway after the boxing legend. Louis, who was born in Alabama, moved to Detroit with his family when he was 12 and became heavyweight champion in 1937 at the age of 23. He held the title for a record 12 years.

Officials said the greenway will enhance Detroiters' quality of life by providing increased mobility and transportation in the region as well as housing development.

Workers begin to clear a section of the Joe Louis Greenway, in Detroit, May 17, 2021.  The Greenway will span 27 miles through the city, connecting with Dearborn, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.

In addition, the 27.5-mile greenway will connect neighborhoods in Detroit, Dearborn, Hamtramck and Highland Park. It will include the Dequindre Cut and parts of the Detroit Riverwalk, as well as parts of the planned Iron Belle Trail and Southwest Greenway.

Georgetta Jackson, 83, who has lived in the neighborhood where Monday's groundbreaking was held her entire life, said she's looking forward to the day the greenway is completed.

"I think it's a fantastic thing," the retired postal worker said. "And I'm glad they asked the people who live around the neighborhood what they thought and what they wanted.

"Now I'm trying to figure out if I'll be able to ride a bike if I've got 10 more years to wait," she said. "I'll be 100 and I'll be out there."