Plans to turn the abandonded Ford Auditorium, for instance, once the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, into an aquarium, like the one in Baltimore, always went awry. There were little spots of activity along the route, but it was not integrated functionally in anyway. It was very depressing to see other cities with waterfronts use the areas so creatively.
Windsor, across the water, developed their riverway in a series of small parks and sculpture gardens, but Detroit wanted a slightly different focus. One of the major concerns in Detroit is always how to bring people into the city. It seemed important to make the riverwalk more than a spot for a Sunday afternoon stroll. It needed to be a destination for many rather than a time-filler for conventioneers and nearby residents.
The dream of a riverwalk is finally becoming a reality.
The Detroit RiverWalk is a 5½-mile promenade along the Detroit International Riverfront running from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle. The path is located directly on the river, sometimes bridging it. The path is 62 feet (18¾ meters) wide in most places, with separate lanes for pedestrian and wheeled traffic. Pavilions, fishing piers and benches are located at intervals along the path.
The east RiverWalk connects various riverfront developments, including Hart Plaza, the Renaissance Center, GM Plaza and Promenade, Tri-Centennial State Park, Stroh River Place, Chene Park, and Gabriel Richard Park. The RiverWalk is designed to supplement new retail and residential development. Architect Eric J. Hill aided in its design.
The first 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of continuous RiverWalk and two of the four planned pavilions opened to the public on June 6, 2007. Rivard Plaza located at the foot of Rivard Street features a covered seating, a carousel, conecessions and bike rentals. Richard Plaza located in Gabriel Richard Park features covered seating, conessions and a butterfly garden. The west RiverWalk development is not expected to be completed before 2012. It will eventually connect to River Rouge in the southwest side. There is also a spoke, the Dequindre cut, which will take the walkway north soon.
Check out more My Town Monday posts at the wonderful Travis Erwin's blog: http://traviserwin.blogspot.com