Joe Louis Greenway groundbreaking planned for mid-spring 2021, Detroit to release framework plan

This article is part of Inside Our Outdoors, a series about Southeast Michigan's connected parks, greenways, and trails and how they affect residents' quality of life. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

Good things, including a groundbreaking ceremony, appear to be in store for Detroit's Joe Louis Greenway (JLG) in the not-too-distant future.

When completed, the JLG will be a 27.5-mile biking and walking trail reaching fromJLG rendering Detroit's Riverfront through the city and connecting to Highland Park, Dearborn, and Hamtramck. It will also feature connectors along Livernois and McNichols and incorporate the Dequindre Cut, sections of the Detroit RiverWalk, the Iron Belle Trail, and the planned May Creek Greenway.

Detroit Chief Parks Planner Meagan Elliott expects the city to break ground on the first phase of its non-motorized loop in late April or early May. City officials plan on releasing the framework plan for the JLG at a public ceremony during the groundbreaking. 

That plan —which includes recommendations on future land use, signage, green infrastructure, and public art—was developed with resident and stakeholder input gathered at nearly 200 community meetings. 

"Initially, we had planned to release the framework plan on the website given COVID restrictions," says Elliott. "But we think it will all be a lot more fun, given the year we've had, to come around with something we can all celebrate when the weather gets a little bit better and a lot more people have their vaccinations." 

The first phase of construction on the JLG will take place on a three-mile section of former railroad between Warren Avenue and Fullerton Avenue on the city's west side. Detroit officials chose this part of the city to kick off the JLG, due to the enthusiasm they heard for the project from the Midwest and Littlefield neighborhoods there. 

The design of this first portion of the greenway will be fully off the street, featuring 
"We think it will all be a lot more fun, given the year we've had, to come around with something we can all celebrate."
two separated paths for fast and slow users (like cyclists and pedestrians). It will also offer safe street crossings and neighborhood connections. 

There are plans for several trailheads, including a wide one at Warren Ave. that will offer a playground and parking. The city is also planning on establishing a security headquarters for the greenway at a city-owned building at Oakman Boulevard and Grand River Avenue. Officials are working with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation to find local businesses interested in starting up brick-and-mortar operations in the area, which are likely to benefit from new foot and bike traffic.

In addition to working on the rollout of the first phase of construction, city planners held an online meeting on March 18 to gather public input as part of the process of applying for a couple of $300,000 Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grants linked to the project. Funds from the grant would be used to build a portion of the greenway and revitalize Patton and Romanowski parks in Southwest Detroit. 

Ownership of a planned section of the JLG in northeast Detroit recently became the subject of a lawsuit between the city and Dexter Doris LLC. But it's unlikely to impact the first phase of the project, which is located along a different part of the greenway.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mentioned that phase one of the JLG would begin on Detroit's east side. The area is actually on the city's west side. 

Map of planned JLG route