Detroit International Riverwalk Wins Best Riverwalk — Now, Check Out What's Next
The results are in — Detroit's International Riverwalk was named the best riverwalk in the United States by USA Today. As an ongoing design and engineering partner, Albert Kahn Associates couldn't be happier for the national recognition this award brings to our great city.
“The Detroit Riverfront is a very special place for our city and we are honored by this recognition,” said Matt Cullen, board chairman of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to MLive. “We have a tremendous year ahead and will continue to set the bar even higher as we finish up the East Riverfront and move to the west.”
Kahn is still working to expand the Detroit Riverwalk, and we'd love to share the newest phase that our teams have been working on at the Uniroyal site.
The Uniroyal site was the last piece to connect the Detroit International Riverwalk to Belle Isle. Now, your bike journey on Belle Isle can safely continue along the river to the heart of downtown Detroit.
Kahn recently designed a 2,250-foot riverfront promenade that stretches from Mt Elliott Park to Gabriel Richard Park. Construction began in February 2021 and is scheduled to be completed by November 2022.
Prior to designing what you see today, the site had to undergo extensive remediation as it was one of the most contaminated lot along the river. Existing underground infrastructure, such as large, disconnected stormwater outfalls, created significant challenges for the design team. They also had to address steep grade changes along the site while respecting the nearby wetland.
The team designed a sensitive solution to cross over the wetland without causing undue damage and is one of the few places along the riverfront where users can physically access the water. Sections of the promenade are constructed of durable concrete of different textures and colors, creating visual and sensory interest. An asphalt bike path diverges from the promenade, runs along the north side of the site, and connects to Mt Elliott Park's bike path.
Accessibility played a big role in the team's design. The promenade diverges into grade-separated, universally accessible walkways. This change in grade creates a large, central, terraced seating area perfect for event gatherings or individual use. Universally accessible seating is available along the promenade in the form of benches and continuous concrete seat walls. Large grassy areas create versatile areas for picnics, sports, and recreation.
Along the way, Kahn created an enhanced sense of security. The team incorporated ornamental light poles with LED lighting, security cameras, and emergency call boxes to provide security along the promenade. Stainless steel guardrails and a concrete knee wall along the river's edge provide additional protection to users.
Kahn's design ties into the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy's sustainable initiatives. Native trees and plants stretch along the entire site creating a consistent visual vocabulary while providing shade for users, habitats for wildlife, and reducing the heat island effect. The site is irrigated with a sustainably designed, high-efficiency irrigation system. And, litter and recycling receptacles are located along the promenade as part of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy's waste and recycling program.
Since the late 1990s, Kahn has been working with the city, the conservancy, and multiple organizations to rehabilitate, restore, and reprogram sections of the riverfront to create a one-of-a-kind destination. What you experience today is the result of many talented individuals and devoted firms each working to make our city better. We couldn't be more proud of our hometown.
Heading out to the Riverwalk soon? Explore some of our projects on our Riverwalk Tour in the interactive map. This map continues to evolve and more projects are added, so check back often.