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    Parks And Demolitions: What’s Happening On West Jefferson?!
    Featured image by jpowers65 via Flickr

    Think about how much the downtown area has changed in the last five years: businesses have opened, lofts and apartments have been built, we have a new hockey arena, and the QLine now connects the People Mover to the Amtrak Station in New Center! Detroit is experiencing a period of growth, and earlier this month, exciting projects on West Jefferson have been unveiled.

    Projects on the Horizon

    Some of the things that are starting to happen have been in the works for a while. But we’re going to start the story in 2013-14 when Detroit filed for bankruptcy.

    As part of the bankruptcy agreement, there was a deal made regarding Joe Louis Arena and its property on West Jefferson. At the time, the city owned it, but they agreed to give future development rights to a former bondholder as part of the agreement

    Around the same time, the newspaper printing plant for the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press was going through a transformation. After the plant shut down in 2007, the site was sold to a group called the RiverFront Conservancy. The Conservancy turned the land into a park on West Jefferson, and they opened it to the public in 2014, naming it the West RiverFront Park. This park has hosted music events, festivals, and movie nights in addition to providing a pleasant place to walk or bike.

    Joe Louis Arena on West Jefferson

    A photo of Joe Louis Arena and the People Mover from 2009 // Image by jpowers65 via Flickr

    Planning a Demolition on West Jefferson

    It’s now been a few years, and some ideas for new developments on these sites have started to surface.

    There are plans to build a hotel where Joe Louis Arena, its parking structure, and its collective five acres are located. Because they’re right next to Cobo Hall, the building will be designed to provide lodging as well as space for offices and retail ventures (up to 30 floors of them). But one huge thing is standing in the way of construction: the arena itself.

    The agreement the city made with the bondholder, Financial Guaranty Insurance Co., was that the city would demolish the property 90 days after the arena’s lease with the Red Wings expired. It seems both parties have been flexible about the time frame, but Freep.com estimates the demolition on West Jefferson (or at least the staging) could begin very soon.

    Designing the Perfect Riverfront

    While all this is going on, there has been some exciting progress with the West RiverFront Park.

    In the summer of 2017, a challenge was issued to redesign the property. One reason they seemed eager to do so was that Joe Louis Arena is nearby, so it would behoove the Conservancy to begin construction around the same time. In addition, the park is also located on the western edge of the Detroit RiverWalk, another project overseen by the Conservancy.

    Four design firms have just unveiled their proposals for what they’d like to do with the park on West Jefferson (and the $50 million that will be raised for the project). Their concepts are currently on display on the first floor of 1001 Woodward where they’ll remain until February 22. If all goes according to plan, the Conservancy will have revitalized the riverfront from “bridge to bridge” (referring to the bridges connecting Detroit to Belle Isle and Canada, respectively).

    Constructing a Bustling Future

    Detroit is a city that has seen a lot of changes. From starting as part of a French outpost, to an industrial hub, prevailing through unrest, sharing its own personality through music (and Coney dogs) … It seems that each generation sees Detroit change at least once in their lifetime.

    Not so long ago, our city filed for bankruptcy, and today, we get to watch it blossom.

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