The nonprofit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy envisioned a park and promenade to extend continuously along the city's three-mile riverfront, revitalizing a patchwork of abandoned factory sites and drawing residents and tourists back downtown.
The group tapped SmithGroup to lead not only the planning and design of the RiverWalk, but also its storytelling. Using artwork, ornamental pavings, native landscape and other amenities, the esplanade weaves a story about the life and times of the Detroit River and how it shaped the city. Visitors come for the story and stay for the varied offerings: beautiful landscapes with seasonal plantings, four pavilion/plaza areas, a custom carousel, and ample space for fishing, walking, biking and inline skating. A carefully engineered, pile-supported walkway extends beyond the existing seawall to deliver an uninterrupted promenade.
The result is a widely admired and heavily used public space that has reinvigorated the city's riverfront. It's also a model of how public/private partnerships can revitalize moribund urban zones to improve a city's image and quality of life.
Urban Parks & Public Spaces,
Parks & Promenades,