Detroit RiverFront Conservancy


Detroit RiverWalk

Detroit, Michigan

2.3 mile corridor, 3.7 km corridor

Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Science, Landscape Architecture, Master Planning, Programming, Urban Planning and Design

Honor Award, Park/Walkway/Recreational Design, National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation

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“The riverside has never been this inviting. Detroiters have a new front porch. There could hardly be a finer place to invite the rest of the world to stop by.”

—Detroit Free Press


The nonprofit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy envisioned a park and promenade to extend continuously along the city's three-mile riverfront, revitalizing a patchwork of abandoned factory sites and drawing residents and tourists back downtown.

The group tapped SmithGroupJJR to lead not only the planning and design of the RiverWalk, but also its storytelling. Using artwork, ornamental pavings, native landscape and other amenities, the esplanade weaves a story about the life and times of the Detroit River and how it shaped the city.
Visitors come for the story and stay for the varied offerings: beautiful landscapes with seasonal plantings, four pavilion/plaza areas, a custom carousel, and ample space for fishing, walking, biking and inline skating. A carefully engineered, pile-supported walkway extends beyond the existing seawall to deliver an uninterrupted promenade.

The result is a widely admired and heavily used public space that has reinvigorated the city's riverfront. It's also a model of how public/private partnerships can revitalize moribund urban zones to improve a city's image and quality of life.

Related Content

Link to The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy Website
Learn more about Detroit's riverfront revitalization and view videos, photos, updates and events.

The Result of Great Planning and Design on Detroit's Riverfront
Video highlighting why Detroit Riverfront Conservancy won 2014 APA Award for Implementation