Detroit Riverfront Has Spurred $1 Billion In Total Public And Private Sector Investment With An Additional $1 Billion In Expected Future Investment & Spending

A decade in the making, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy releases economic impact study demonstrating promises made and realized with riverfront development

Jun 13, 2013, 13:35 ET from Detroit RiverFront Conservancy

DETROIT, June 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Detroit riverfront has spurred $1 billion in investment on or along the riverfront over the past 10 years, which also includes projects currently under construction or planned for completion in the next several years, according to an Economic Impact Study released today by the non-profit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.

"The Conservancy was launched in 2003 to not only develop public access to the riverfront, but to also serve as a catalyst for economic development," said Matt Cullen, Chairman of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy Board. "As we mark our tenth anniversary, we think it is the right time to take a deeper look at how the new riverfront is contributing to an improved quality of life for Detroiters and our region, and at the same time driving significant economic development for our community."

The study was commissioned by the Conservancy and conducted by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL), a leading advisory and planning firm. CLS worked closely with the Conservancy throughout 2012, as well as the city of Detroit and with numerous public agencies and private sector entities, to conduct extensive research to better understand the economic impact return associated by the riverfront investment that has taken place over the last decade.

"The impact of the Detroit riverfront development goes beyond the construction completed by the Conservancy and our public and private partners over the last decade," said Faye Alexander Nelson, president & CEO, Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. "We have partnered with others to lay the foundation for an active and vibrant downtown that has and will continue to contribute to the attraction of businesses, residents and visitors to Detroit."

The study prepared by CSL also estimates more than $1 billion in future riverfront public and private investment and annual spending that would continue to add to the transformation of the riverfront area into a vibrant live-work-play environment. These include the future development of the 40-acre Uniroyal site and various east riverfront mixed-use projects. Riverfront improvements have supported 16,700 construction jobs over the course of the project, and provide on-going annual support for 1,300 jobs.

"The Detroit riverfront is perhaps the most valuable waterfront property in the United States that still has significant opportunities for development," said George W. Jackson, Jr., president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. "The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy and its public, philanthropic and private partners have literally paved the way for economic revitalization by building the Detroit RiverWalk and making other infrastructure improvements. The economic impact reported today is only the first wave of results we expect to see as we all contribute to the accelerating momentum here."

More than 3 million visitors enjoy the highly landscaped, well-maintained, secure and active riverfront annually. During 2012, CSL's partner Custom Intercept Solutions (CIS) conducted 1,500 in-person intercept interviews with visitors to the riverfront.  The study reported a number of findings, including:

  • Annual spending by visitors, residents, employees and other operations along the riverfront is estimated at $43.7 million.
  • Tax revenue generation supported by on-going riverfront activity is estimated at $4.5 million annually.
  • 90 percent of visits to the riverfront would not have taken place without the significant riverfront improvements.
  • Approximately 77 percent of respondents indicated that they came to the riverfront from 'home' indicating the riverfront was their destination as opposed to being in the riverfront/downtown area for work or other purposes. Approximately 55 percent of those that came to the riverfront from home traveled more than 10 miles to do so.
  • Approximately 72 percent of "person on the street" respondents indicated that they visit the riverfront on a monthly or more frequent basis – of those frequent visitors, approximately 40 percent do not live or work downtown – illustrating the drawing power of the riverfront as a destination.

The complete Economic Impact Study can be downloaded from the Conservancy's website at

Celebrating a Decade of Transformation and More to Come

The Conservancy was launched 10 years ago by three key partners:  the City of Detroit, which provided valuable riverfront land and significant infrastructure improvements, including the demolition of the riverfront silos all of which are valued at almost $200 million; General Motors, which invested an additional $25 million into its waterfront renovations at the Renaissance Center, including the building of the GM Plaza and the first half mile of RiverWalk, which it donated to the Conservancy along with cash and in-kind support; and the Kresge Foundation, which provided its largest grant ever to a single project – a $50 million challenge grant that served as the economic catalyst to launch the Conservancy's efforts and to attract additional major funding from the foundation community, corporate, the public sector and the community at large. 

"The formation of the Conservancy was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to finally bring together both the public and private sectors to reconnect Detroit and this region to its riverfront," said Cullen. "Ten years later, we have brought the banks of this river back to life and made it a central point of pride for this community and provided a platform for economic development."

While the Conservancy celebrates its 10th anniversary throughout 2013, it will also mark a number of significant development milestones, as construction on the final phases of the three-and-a-half mile east riverfront development are completed.  The first construction phase includes a complete transformation of Mt. Elliott Park, which is scheduled for completion by this fall. And by year's end, the second construction phase, which includes enhancements to Gabriel Richard Park and developing the parcels of land to the west and east of Chene Park, will have been launched, with the construction of public space along the Uniroyal site anticipated to begin in late 2014.

"I want to congratulate the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy for its success in making one of our city's most valuable resources accessible to everyone," said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.  "The progress we've seen in the past 10 years has demonstrated the importance of a strong partnership between business, government and the community."

"With the Conservancy's ultimate vision of developing five and a half miles of riverfront, completing the first phase of this vision, three-and-a-half miles of east riverfront, is a significant milestone that we will celebrate," said Nelson.  "We are focused on finishing the remaining east riverfront construction, and continuing to raise the necessary funds to ensure the perpetual stewardship of this waterfront, as we begin our development journey west."

As the permanent stewards of the riverfront public space, which includes the Dequindre Cut, the Conservancy is responsible for construction, operation, maintenance, security and programming, along with raising the funds to support all components of the project. To date, $121 million has been raised towards a $140 million goal, which includes establishing an endowment that supports the Conservancy's perpetual maintenance and operations responsibility.  

In the fall, the Conservancy will host its annual Shimmer on the River gala at the new Grande Ballroom at Cobo Center on Thursday, September 12th. The event is the Conservancy's largest annual fundraiser celebrating this year, the decade-long transformation that has taken place on Detroit's riverfront.

About The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 with the mission to develop public access to Detroit's riverfront and serve as an anchor for economic development. As the permanent stewards of the riverfront public space, which includes the RiverWalk and the Dequindre Cut, the Conservancy is responsible for raising the funds needed for the construction, operation, maintenance, security and programming of these public spaces. The Conservancy's ultimate vision is to develop five-and-a-half miles of riverfront from the Ambassador Bridge on the west to Gabriel Richard Park, just east of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle. The first phase of the project, three-and-a-half miles along the east riverfront, is 80 percent complete and spans from Joe Louis Arena to Gabriel Richard Park, with the remaining 20 percent currently under construction. In the summer of 2012, the Conservancy launched the final construction phases needed to complete the east riverfront development project and connect the RiverWalk and its associated green spaces, plazas and parks.  Visit for more information.

SOURCE Detroit RiverFront Conservancy