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CMF Members Partner to Complete Detroit Riverfront Revitalization

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation have partnered to establish a $35 million fund in support of the completion of the revitalization of the Detroit Riverfront. 

Detroit Riverfront

Excerpted and adapted from a Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan press release. 

The Detroit riverfront is one of our region’s greatest assets, having been named the best riverfront in the nation for three years running. As a collection of public spaces that have generated $2 billion in public and private development over the last 20 years, the riverfront provides access to nature, recreation and programming to all. It helps to create a more equitable, healthy, and vibrant Southeast Michigan. 

To ensure the uninterrupted completion of this essential project, the philanthropic community is coming together and taking action to help finish construction of the Detroit riverfront. 

Last year, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy celebrated the completion of 3.5 miles of the East Riverfront vision. The Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan has established a $35 million fund to pay contractors and support new fundraising as needed to complete the full 5.5. miles of East and West Riverfront projects, which include the Ralph Wilson Park and final elements of the Uniroyal Promenade and Robert Valade Park amid an embezzlement investigation instigated by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Board. The Conservancy’s former CFO, William Smith, has been charged with bank fraud and wire fraud.

“The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is committed to making our region a desirable place to live, work and play. That’s why we must complete the Detroit riverfront,” Richard (Ric) DeVore, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan said. “We are encouraged by how the philanthropic community is stepping up during this critically important time.”

“Completing the revitalization of Detroit’s riverfront has been the Conservancy’s mission from day one,” Matt Cullen, Board Chair of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy said. “We are grateful to the Community Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, and other philanthropic partners who believe in this vision, and whose support has made our goal of building an accessible, beautiful and exciting international riverfront a reality."

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation (RCWJF) is making a grant of $10 million to the fund. Additionally, the RCWJF has authorized the community foundation to utilize assets of their endowed funds at the community foundation to establish a $25 million line of credit for future payments to construction contractors. 

As fundraising continues or recoveries from the embezzlement are received, that line of credit will be reduced. Construction of all remaining capital projects is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2025. In the event the endowed funds need to be utilized, the Wilson Foundation will provide additional grants to their funds to enable the Community Foundation to continue to make community grants from those funds, while dollars continue to be raised. Other funders have expressed interest in supporting this effort, and discussions with them will resume now that this structure has been established.

“Completing the full five and a half miles of the East and West Riverfront is fulfilling a promise to the people of Detroit and Southeast Michigan,” David Egner, president and CEO of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and CMF trustee, said. “The revitalization of Detroit’s riverfront has been a collaborative community effort from the very beginning. We are grateful to the board and leaders of the community foundation for spearheading the pathway to completion in partnership with the Conservancy.”

Want more?

Learn more about this partnership.