City of Detroit Breaks Ground on 27-mile Joe Louis Greenway

The city of Detroit has started work on 27.5-mile-long loop of publicly accessible space called the Joe Louis Greenway that will connect Detroiters and their neighborhoods.
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Joe Louis Greenway Rendering
Work has begun on the first phase of the Joe Louis Greenway, a 27.5-mile-long loop of publicly accessible green space. // Image courtesy of City of Detroit

The city of Detroit has started work on 27.5-mile-long loop of publicly accessible space called the Joe Louis Greenway that will connect Detroiters and their neighborhoods.

The greenway, named after the legendary heavyweight boxing champion, is designed to open new opportunities for recreation and economic activity as the city recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.

Phase One of the project will reactivate a nearly three-mile stretch of abandoned railroad easement in the Midwest neighborhood. When completed later this year, it will be a new place for residents to walk, run, or ride a bike safely as the greenway expands to new areas.

“The Joe Louis Greenway is about two things: honoring one of our city’s greatest and most loved citizens and creating opportunity for Detroiters,” says Duggan. “Not too long from now, residents living right here near Joy Road and Greenlawn will have a safe and beautiful recreational trail that will connect them to our beautiful riverfront and to other great neighborhoods and commercial corridors across our city.”

Phase One also will include purchasing an existing scrap yard immediately north of Joy and converting it into new greenspace for the trail.

The first phase of the project will transform 2.73 miles of a former Conrail railway line from Warren Avenue to Fullerton Avenue into a path for walkers and runners or for people riding bikes, and with safe street crossings and connections to surrounding neighborhoods.

It will be paid for through $22 million in bond funds, $2.5 million from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation for design and construction plans, and $4.5 million from MDOT and MDNR for the Conrail acquisition. A strategy is underway to govern and manage continuing phases of the greenway, and to raise funding from philanthropic organizations, donors, and from regional, state, and federal sources, with details planned to be announced later this summer.

The beginning of the $211.8 million total project is the culmination of a years-long community planning process and dozens of meetings engaging and bringing communities to the table. An estimated 46,000 Detroiters do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and a quarter of all residents do not have reliable access to a vehicle. The Joe Louis Greenway will bring recreational space accessible within a 10-minute walk of 10 percent of all city residents, presenting a once-in-a generation opportunity to empower and unify neighborhoods, the city says.

When completed in the next 10 years, the Joe Louis Greenway will connect with more than six miles of existing greenway along the Riverfront and along the Dequindre Cut. An additional 4.6 miles of connecting greenway are under development by a partnership of municipal and private groups, including the Southwest Greenway by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. The goal is to complete the 27.5-mile loop by the end of 2030. The Community Foundation for South East Michigan has agreed to hold an endowment for the future maintenance and management of the Greenway, opening the door new fundraising efforts.

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