Detroit Riverwalk becoming Michigan destination

The Detroit News

Detroit — With the eastern part of the Detroit Riverwalk nearly done, its developer is casting its eyes westward. Work on the western section broke ground in May.

What once was a mishmash of gravel piles and abandoned buildings is now a place for 5K races and playground dates.

The number of visitors has grown from approximately zero to 3 million people a year, according to its developer, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

USA Today readers voted it the best Riverwalk in the country for the past two years.

“It’s great,” said Tom Morris, 52, who, having grown up in Detroit, remembers what the riverfront used to look like. “It gets all kinds of people. It’s a nice place to come to.”

The riverfront conservancy has been assembling the various pieces of the Riverwalk since 2003.

Looking west from Cullen Plaza, photo of people walking on the riverfront. Detroit Riverfront. June 29, 2022, Detroit, MI.

The ultimate plan is to create a 5.5-mile path from the Ambassador Bridge to Gabriel Richard Park just east of the Belle Isle Bridge. It connects eight parks, and will include plazas, pavilions and green spaces.

Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the conservancy, said the transformation has turned the riverfront into one of the most diverse gathering places in Michigan.

“The events here are amazing,” he said. “People can really come down and find out whatever fits for them.”

Like Morris, Tom Woolsey remembers the bad old days of the riverfront. He owns Andrews on the Corner, a bar and grill on Jos Campau.

The city’s plans to place three casinos in the area in 2000 pushed everyone out, said Woolsey. He kept his business alive by shuttling customers to Red Wings games.

Now the customers come to him, he said. The Riverwalk attracts an assortment of pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders.

It’s a welcomed sight he never saw he would see.

“It’s a great thing,” he said. “I could only imagine what my family members would think.”