Detroit greenway named after 'visionary' former mayor Dennis Archer

Ben Wilson
The Detroit News

Detroit’s newest greenway is being named after the former mayor who first envisioned the riverwalk that residents will now be connected with.

Dennis Archer joined Wednesday with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to celebrate the dedication of the 1.2-mile parkway now called “Mayor Dennis W. Archer Greenway." Duggan proposed the naming earlier this month and it was approved by Detroit's City Council on Tuesday. 

Archer, who served as Detroit mayor from 1994 to 2001, negotiated the acquisition of land for the construction of Comerica Park and helped keep the Detroit Tigers downtown. He also aided in bringing three casinos to the city's downtown and with the development of One Campus Martius and the riverfront, which led Duggan to propose that it be named in his honor. 

Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer speaks Wednesday July 28, 2021, at a dedication ceremony for the naming of the "Dennis W. Archer Greenway" in Detroit. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan proposed the naming, which was approved by Detroit City Council.

“The idea of a riverwalk was pretty visionary,” Duggan said of the concept Archer proposed during his tenure as mayor. “We have now permanently connected Detroiters to the riverfront and Dennis Archer will be remembered.”

The $4.9 million project began in 2019 and is slated to wrap up at the end of the year. Once complete, it will span from Vernor Highway to the Riverwalk, connecting neighborhoods and providing additional spaces for recreational activities. Benches, lights and security call boxes will line the path.

The route also will connect the Coleman A. Young Recreation Center, local schools, and newly renovated basketball and tennis courts, officials added. 

Archer said he is “incredibly proud” of the honor and that it suits him well since he loves walking through Detroit.

“You could not have named something better for me,” he said Wednesday. “This greenway, in many ways, is the continuation of the work we started two decades ago in improving the quality of life for Detroiters.”

Officials from Archer's administration attended the event, including David Smydra, former executive assistant and group executive, who oversaw investment for the riverwalk and other projects. 

Mayor Mike Duggan announced Friday, July 16, 2021, that he had introduced a resolution to City Council to name Detroit's latest greenway the "Mayor Dennis W. Archer Greenway," in honor of the former Detroit mayor.

“This recognized the lifelong contributions of someone who dedicated his life to making the city better,” said Smydra, who has known Archer for 35 years. 

Detroit resident Agron Berishaj said the greenway is “a great space” that brought investment to the “grassroots” of Detroit. 

“Within recent years, a lot of development in the city was not for the real people who live in the city,” the 23-year-old said. “This is going to be a space where the development is in the grassroots community, for the people that have lived here for generations.”

Fellow resident Marcus Miller, 24, agreed, saying the greenway “Is going to mean a lot to the community.”

“It shows that Detroit is willing to take a step forward to be a better community,” he said. 

The city will host a back-to-school-themed strolling event on Aug. 19 from 4-7 p.m. to celebrate the greenway, beginning at the Archer Greenway and Robert Bradby Drive and finishing at Valade Park. Residents are encouraged to attend. 

“We are excited that this greenway will help even more residents experience the best Riverwalk in the country,” added Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.