New half-mile Southwest Greenway in Detroit opens

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — The new half-mile Southwest Greenway bike/pedestrian path opened Wednesday, which links two of the city's widely heralded developments: the downtown RiverWalk and Ford Motor Co. Michigan Central campus in Corktown, and featured an announcement of more money to complete the Detroit riverfront.

The debut of the greenway set the stage for the news of a collaborative effort to help raise the $350 million to complete the Detroit riverfront, fund construction of the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway and help maintain both projects. That effort is called the Unified Greenway Campaign.

On Wednesday, organizers said $229 million had been raised toward the $350 million goal. That includes more than $70 million in new funding, with lead gifts from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation of $35 million; William Davidson Foundation with $20 Million;, Gilbert Family Foundation at $15 million; and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation donating $5 million.

The Southwest Greenway path runs from Bagley Street to Jefferson Avenue along the historic site of May Creek and a former railway corridor, connecting Corktown, Mexicantown and communities throughout southwest Detroit directly to the riverfront.

Politicians, the public and community leaders attend a news conference at 4th Street and Bagley in Corktown for the grand opening of the Southwest Greenway on Wednesday.

From the riverfront, the Southwest Greenway will link to the future Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, on West Jefferson near Rosa Parks Boulevard, that is expected to open in 2024. In the southwest, the path ends near the former Michigan Central train station and Roosevelt Park.

Michigan Central is now the anchor of a 30-acre, nearly $1 billion campus Ford is developing in Corktown. It includes the renovation of multiple buildings, office space for thousands of workers from Ford and elsewhere, and 14 acres of public outdoor areas. Many of the spaces are still being worked on. Roosevelt Park, in front of the former train station, is going through a $6 million renovation and is slated to reopen this summer. The former train depot, which had been empty and blighted for decades, was originally targeted to open this year but Ford officials have not verified that date recently.

The Southwest Greenway will play a big role in transforming the relationship many communities in southwest Detroit have with the riverfront, said Mayor Mike Duggan at Wednesday's grand opening.

People walk on the Southwest Greenway after the ribbon cutting, Wednesday afternoon, May 24, 2023.

"For more than the 100 years, the people of southwest Detroit experienced the riverfront negatively," Duggan said. "Talk to somebody about the riverfront, what do they think about? It is noise. It is odor. It is traffic."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan addresses attendees, Wednesday afternoon, May 24, 2023.

The renovated Riverside Park, the Southwest Greenway and the future Roosevelt Park will change that relationship, he said.

"It is almost indescribable the way the future is going to be shaped," Duggan said. The mayor also credited Ford CEO Jim Farley for telling him the train station is the "gateway to southwest Detroit" and public spaces should be inclusive to the area.

Frank Venegas, Jr., chairman of Ideal Group, waves, Wednesday afternoon, May 24, 2023.

Frank Venegas Sr., chairman of the Ideal Group in southwest Detroit, said he remembers the site of the new greenway as a child.

"This was one of the places they found bodies," he said Wednesday. "It's all changed. When I moved into southwest Detroit 25 years ago, it was horrible. Now it's the safest police district in Detroit," Venegas said.