Detroit’s renovated waterfront emerges as a revitalization and diversity hot spot

While some have been critical of the lack of progress on major downtown revitalization projects, many see hope along the river.

The riverfront may be one of the most diverse places in southeast Michigan, with visitors of all races and income levels. On any given day you can spot athletes, families on bikes, women wearing saris and hijabs, businessmen in suits, and children playing.

The public space is a multicultural mecca within a city that’s still one of the most segregated in America.

And while the past decade has seen about $1 billion in investment there and the city anticipates doubling that in the next 10 years, officials are also mindful of maintaining that welcoming atmosphere.

According to a January Detroit Free Press report on plans to continue developing another 400 underutilized acres, “leaders want to avoid making the east riverfront a gated enclave for the wealthy. Instead they insist that the east riverfront become an ‘inclusive’ district that includes significant affordable housing and that ‘looks like Detroit.’

John Marshall, onetime CEO of the Kresge Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Troy, Michigan, says the riverfront park “rivals the Emerald Necklace in Boston the High Line in New York City and waterfront access in the Bay Area.”

Before & after photo of Detroit waterfront by Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (

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