Rails to trails: Work begins on the Southwest Greenway

What’s happening: Work is officially underway on the Southwest Greenway, as project stakeholders recently held a ceremonial groundbreaking on Wednesday, April 6. Construction of the city’s latest abandoned railway-turned-public park project will run through the summer with an estimated autumn opening.

The Southwest Greenway connects the neighborhoods surrounding Michigan Central to the riverfront.What it is: When imagining the Southwest Greenway, think Dequindre Cut. Located below street level, the Southwest Greenway makes use of an abandoned rail line, transformed as a shared-use bike path. Approximately one mile long, the Southwest Greenway will run from Corktown’s Bagley Street to Jefferson Avenue at the riverfront. Two massive developments bookend the project, with Ford’s Michigan Central at one end and Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park at the other. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy plans a groundbreaking ceremony for the latter project on Tuesday, May 10.

The Southwest Greenway will also link up with the larger 27.5 Joe Louis Greenway throughout the city.

[Read “‘Not too fast, not too slow’: Todd Scott explores the city on two wheels” as part of the Model D Explorer Series.]

Why it’s important: “Southwest Detroit is full of amazing neighborhoods and amazing families,” says Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “When you look at the demographics of Mexicantown, Corktown and the other communities in Southwest Detroit, you see that they are full of children, families, and seniors. This trail will make it very easy for them all to get to the Detroit Riverfront.”

Project partners: The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is leading the $8 million project, with help from project partners at the City of Detroit, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Michigan Central, Michigan DNR and Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Walters Family Foundation. It was announced on the day of the groundbreaking that Michigan Central committed $5 million to the project.

What they’re saying: “The Southwest Greenway will make it easy and fun for people living and working on the west side of Detroit to get to the Detroit Riverfront,” says Matt Cullen, chairman, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “The Southwest Greenway will provide a similar experience to the Dequindre Cut. We are tremendously grateful for Michigan Central’s partnership in this project and all of our partners for working together to make this a reality.”

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.