Delta Dental Donates $5M to Detroit Riverfront Conservancy for West Riverfront Playground

Delta Dental has donated a $5 million corporate investment for a five-acre playground on the West Riverfront in what will be the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy announced. Construction is slated to begin in 2020, and the park will open in 2022.
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Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park Play Garden
Delta Dental has donated $5 million to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to create a playground on Detroit’s West Riverfront. // Rendering courtesy of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

Delta Dental in Okemos has donated a $5 million corporate investment for a five-acre playground on the West Riverfront in what will be the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy announced. Construction is slated to begin in 2020, and the park will open in 2022.

“Delta Dental is grateful for the opportunity to provide benefits to nearly 6 million people in southeast Michigan. In return, we believe that we must be a force for good in the region every day,” says Goran Jurkovic, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. “This space will engage families downtown and in Detroit’s neighborhoods and surrounding communities in fun and healthy activities for decades to come and help us achieve our purpose of building healthy, smart, vibrant communities.”

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Monstrum, a creative firm in Copenhagen, is designing the space. The designers met with elementary school students from Detroit in workshops to imagine animals they would like to see as play equipment in the Play Garden. It will feature a 20-foot bear play structure as well as otters, beavers, and a dragon.

“This gift from Delta Dental reflects their commitment to public spaces and programs that build a healthy community in Detroit,” says Matt Cullen, chairman of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Board of Directors. “This incredible Play Garden will spark a connection with nature and will help young Detroiters to develop a life-long love for active living and recreation.”

The overall project is estimated to cost $60 million and will include a swimming cove in the river that will turn into an ice-skating rink in the winter. West Riverfront Park is a 22-acre site along the riverfront that sits at the intersection of Detroit’s Mexicantown, Corktown, and southwest Detroit neighborhoods. The site was owned and closed to the public for nearly 100 years until the conservancy opened it in 2014.

Last year, the conservancy received support from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation to start a community-driven international design competition for the park. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates was selected to lead the team, with Sir David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates designing the Sport House and the Park House structures within the park.

In October, the foundation announced a commitment of $50 million toward the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park on the West Riverfront; $40 million will go to construction costs and $10 million will support sustainability.

The conservancy will continue to raise funds through public and private support for the project and completion of other connections on the West Riverfront. Its goal is to develop 5.5 miles of riverfront from the Ambassador Bridge in the west to Gabriel Richard Park, which is just east of the MacArthur (Belle Isle) Bridge. More than 85 percent of the 3.5-mile East Riverfront is complete, with Atwater Beach opening this summer and construction starting on the Uniroyal parcel this fall.

The Delta Dental Play Garden is the largest company investment in the provider’s 62-year history. It has Michigan offices in Okemos and Farmington Hills.

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