Downtown Revitalization: Detroit

July 9, 2014 42 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Downtown Detroit was one of the first cities featured in Metro Jacksonville's Learning From series in 2006. Since that initial article, Detroit has lost 200,000 additional residents, Mayor Kilpatrick has been sentenced to 28 years in prison, and being $18.5 billion in debt, it became the largest municipality in U.S. history to declare bankruptcy. Ignoring the negative national press, Metro Jacksonville's Ennis Davis returns to highlight a few successes this city has made with the ongoing revitalization of its downtown.

Book Cadillac

If anyone in Jacksonville believes that restoring the Laura Trio into a Courtyard by Marriott hotel is a daunting task, let me introduce you to the Book Cadillac. Completed in 1924, the 31-story Book Cadillac Hotel was abandoned for 24 years before reopening as the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit in 2008. The $200-million flagship hotel reconstruction project now features 455 hotel rooms and 67 exclusive luxury condominium units.

Detroit International Riverfront

The Detroit International Riverfront has become a major downtown Detroit tourist attraction and landmark. Through the process of incremental expansion, it will eventually stretch 5.5 miles from the Ambassador Bridge in the west to Belle Isle in the east.

The riverfront is home to a cruise ship passenger terminal and dock, a marina, a multitude of parks, restaurants, retail shops, skyscrapers, and the Cobo Convention/Exhibition Center and Joe Louis Arena. The city's tallest structure, the Marriott at the Renaissance Center, is also situated along the International Riverfront.

Dating back to 1960, Cobo Center is a major convention center featuring 732,000 square feet of exhibition space. Located along the Detroit River, it's the home of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), hosted each January, and Autorama, hosted each March.

The 14-acre Hart Plaza is named for the late U.S. Senator Philip Hart. It opened in 1975 and is a major waterfront destination for festivals and concerts.

Rivard Plaza located at the foot of Rivard Street features a covered seating, a carousel, concessions, and bike rentals.

The William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor consists of the former city-owned St. Aubin Park and Marina and an adjacent reclaimed brownfield. The brownfield was redeveloped as restoration wetlands, intended to mimic the riverine wetlands that once bordered the Detroit River. This portion of the park opened to the public on December 3, 2009.

The Dequindre Cut is a new shared-use path on the east side of downtown, on former Grand Trunk Western Railroad Right-Of-Way. The first 1.2-mile stretch was funded by $3.4 million in grants and opened to the public in 2005. It connects the riverwalk to Eastern Market. Construction began in September 2013 on a 0.64-mile extension. This extension is part of the Link Detroit project which is funded through various sources including a $10 million TIGER grant.

The former Parke-Davis and Company Pharmaceutical Plant complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Now known as River Place, it has been converted into offices, retail space, residences, and a hotel.

Detroit People Mover

Similar to Jacksonville's Automated Skyway Express, the Detroit People Mover is a 2.9-mile automated people mover system serving downtown Detroit.

Featuring 13 stations, the elevated transit system began operation in 1987 and has a daily ridership of 5,300.

Subsidized to the tune of $12 million annually, its cost-effectiveness has drawn criticism throughout its history.

The Woodward Avenue Light Rail line, beginning construction in 2013, will serve as a link between the Detroit People Mover and SEMCOG Commuter Rail with access to DDOT and SMART buses as part of a comprehensive network of transportation in metropolitan Detroit.

Currently under construction, the Woodward Avenue Modern Streetcar line was initially proposed as a Detroit People Mover extension.

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