Toledo, Detroit Take it to the River

It's probably been awhile since the deindustrializing Detroit riverfront was featured as an entertainment or recreation destination. But the Weekend Preview in today's Detroit News says the waterfront is the place to be. That's because the city is set to kickoff a six-day party on its new riverwalk this Friday.

Two years after bulldozing three ugly cement plants, the city is celebrating the opening of a 3.5 mile promenade, the first phase in a $144 million rehab plan for the banks of the Detroit River. The celebration, billed as the biggest waterfront festival in the city's history, also drew an above-the-fold headline in the News that reads Riverfront REBORN.

"This is one of the most important projects our city has experienced," Faye Nelson, president of the RiverFront Conservancy, told the News. "It brings people together."

There's a similiar story unfolding just a short ride south down I75. Civic leaders in Toledo, OH recently announced that funding is nearly in place for a new $25 million public park fronting on the Maumee River. The park is expected to help catalyze and anchor a proposed $320 development that will include restaurants, retail, market-rate housing, and an improved marina.

The promising news coming out of the cities of Detroit, MI and Toledo, OH - two poster kids for the economic and ecological decline of the greater Great Lakes region - is the latest sign that waterfront revitalization increasingly is viewed as a popular strategy to reshape the Rustbelt as a more attractive and prosperous place in the 21st century.

The picture of the Fountain at GM Plaza comes courtesy of photographer John Martin, General Motors, and the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.