Detroit Riverfront Clears Another Hurdle for Development


The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. says the western portion of the Uniroyal site by Belle Isle is nearing completion following a two-year remediation process, which clears another hurdle in plans to redevelop the 43-acre site for mixed-use development, says George Jackson, president and CEO of the DEGC and a board member of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.

The polluted site, once home to a Uniroyal tire production complex, among other industrial uses, has sat vacant for more than two decades due to environmental challenges. Jackson says the DEGC is negotiating with Michelin, which acquired Uniroyal in the early 1990s, to clean the eastern portion of the property. There was no timetable for completing the negotiations, though Jackson says the east side has fewer remediation challenges.

“Our goal is to get that site cleaned and turn it over to a development team (that includes former Detroit football and NFL star Jerome Bettis),” Jackson says. “We envision residential and retail, along with extending the RiverWalk. It will be quite a project once completed.”

The cleanup and development of the Uniroyal site would allow the Conservancy to complete the last segment of the three-mile stretch of the RiverWalk extending from the Renaissance Center to the MacArthur Bridge at Belle Isle. The Conservancy continues to extend the RiverWalk from the RenCen to the Ambassador Bridge.

Last week, the Conservancy released a 10-year economic impact report that estimates the renovation of the Detroit Riverfront will generate $700 to $950 million within a decade.

“Companies are choosing to relocate; small and large,” says Marc Pasco, director of communications at the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. “People are doing business here, and the businesses are doing well.”

The Economic Impact Study of the Detroit Riverfront 2013 also shows the area’s real estate value is expected to rise as a result of the growing development of business and residential spaces. Using the renovation of Cobo Center as an example, Pasco says the revitalization of the riverfront is the inspiration behind such investments.

“(Cobo) wouldn’t be spending that kind of money if the Riverfront wasn’t a revitalized, engaging place,” Pasco says.

In total, the Conservancy has received $1 billion to transform 5.5 miles into a RiverWalk connecting residential and retail areas to the Detroit Riverfront, the renovation of which began 10 years ago.

West RiverWalk  — which stretches from Joe Louis to the Ambassador Bridge — will be open this fall. Improvements to the East RiverWalk  — which begins at Joe Louis Arena and continues to the McArthur Bridge on Belle Isle — are expected to be completed within the next couple of months.