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Skillman gives $1.1 million grant to Riverwalk

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Skillman gives $1.1 million grant to Detroit RiverWalk

By Sherri Begin

Jan. 18, 2005 3:34 PM

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has received a $1.1 million grant from the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation to support the development of children

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To date, the conservancy has developed the riverfront between Joe Louis Arena up to and past the Renaissance Center, said Char Yates, director of communications and community outreach.

Not exactly. There is a small stretch between the first precinct and the Ren Cen (where diamond Jack's river boat tours launch from) that is not only not developed, but there isn't an easy way to get to the other parts. It's fenced off with a chain link fence and forces you to walk through a parking lot and onto a road the doesn't have a sidewalk! When is this little part going to be done?

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I know we're not supposed to cut and paste complete articles but it doesn't make much sense to post a link that will be useless in a few days. If this is unacceptable (due to legal issues or such) please let me know.

____________________________________________________________________

$17 million a sign of faith in Detroit

Grants to revive areas near riverfront

BY TOM WALSH

FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

December 2, 2005

Two of the nation's largest philanthropic foundations are donating a total of $17 million to spur job creation and boost the economic fortunes of Detroit neighborhoods near the city's big RiverWalk project that stretches from downtown to Belle Isle, south of Jefferson Avenue.

In a move that signifies that Detroit's revival momentum won't end with the Super Bowl, the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation plan to announce grants today of $7 million and $10 million, respectively.

The idea is to launch projects that attract private investors to build housing or retail shops and pay for improvements in public safety or transportation in low- and moderate-income areas north of Jefferson, so nearby residents will share the benefits of the riverfront makeover.

"When I visited Detroit in 2003, I was intrigued by the ambition of it," Ford Foundation President Susan Berresford said of the bold plan to transform Detroit's shabby industrial riverfront into vibrant public space with the $140-million RiverWalk, new housing, port facilities and a state park. "This is one of the largest urban revitalization programs in America right now."

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said the Ford and Kellogg grants are the latest in a series of crucial donations by foundations that have been "puzzle pieces that made major residential and retail projects possible in Detroit" by supplementing private investment and tax dollars.

Evelyn Johnston, 73, a retired schoolteacher who lives a few blocks north of the riverfront, has been hoping her neighborhood might get a new grocery store. "We want to attract younger people to come into our community," she said.

The Ford and Kellogg grants come on the heels of major downtown renovations tied to Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5, along with a spurt of loft housing construction and the start of construction on new casino-hotels.

It's not known yet exactly how many projects the grants will fund. But look for five or six major projects rather than 20 or 30 smaller ones.

The specific ideas will be chosen after six to nine months of research and community meetings. The money will be spent within 3 years, most likely in an 8-square-mile area between Jefferson Avenue and I-94, stretching from Woodward Avenue to Belle Isle.

"People ought to feel a difference right away" from the neighborhood projects, said Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan, based in Detroit, which will receive and manage $15 million of the money.

The Ford Foundation earmarked $2 million to go directly to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, for construction of public pavilions along the 3 1/2-mile RiverWalk and programming for events.

Berresford and Kellogg trustee Howard Sims told the Community Foundation board about the grants Thursday.

The Ford Foundation is the second-largest U.S. foundation, with $10.7 billion in assets in 2004, behind only the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Kellogg was the nation's sixth-largest, with assets of $6.8 billion, according to the Foundation Center.

William Richardson, president of the Kellogg Foundation -- which earlier donated $4 million to the RiverWalk -- said the new $10-million grant is aimed at making sure people in the area north of Jefferson share in the benefits of the riverfront's development and have a say in what happens next.

"Our experience is that community people have a very good idea of what's good for them," Richardson said. "We're looking for these projects to be informed not just by experts, but by the people who live there."

In public hearings about the RiverWalk project during the past three years, residents of nearby neighborhoods have stressed that showpiece developments along the Detroit River should be interwoven with the fabric of the community, not walled off as a district for the well-to-do and visitors.

Some neighborhoods on Detroit's east side are attractive, stable areas. Others have median household incomes below $30,000, lots of children in single-parent homes and a heavy concentration of seniors.

In some pockets near the riverfront, more than 30% of the households have no motor vehicle, compared with less than 10% in metro Detroit as a whole.

Transportation has often been a key concern of residents in communities near the riverfront, so the foundations are already mulling the possibility of trolleys or other means of helping residents get to and from the public spaces and amenities of a redeveloped waterfront.

Faye Alexander Nelson, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, said that $85 million of the $140 million needed to build the RiverWalk and provide for long-term maintenance and programming in the public spaces alongside it has now been raised.

The Troy-based Kresge Foundation launched the RiverWalk project in 2002 with a $50-million pledge over 5 years, the largest single grant in its history.

The Ford and Kellogg foundation grants are among the largest that those groups have made in a single city.

What's unusual is to see two huge national foundations collaborate on a project in a city that is neither foundation's hometown.

Kellogg is based in Battle Creek. And the New York-based Ford Foundation, though created in 1936 with a gift from Edsel Ford of the Ford Motor Co. family, no longer has any Ford family directors or owns any Ford stock.

Nelson said about 80% of construction work on the RiverWalk should be completed by the end of next year. That will include two of the four pavilions, which will provide shelter, restrooms, concession areas, bicycle rentals and other amenities.

The Ford and Kellogg grants provide a welcome boost for Detroit's development efforts during a bleak economic stretch for the city.

"This couldn't have come at a better time," said Eugene Miller, the former chief executive officer of Comerica Inc. who is now chairman of the Community Foundation board.

It's a tough time for Detroit and for the philanthropic community. The local United Way campaign is falling short of its 2005 fund-raising target, for example.

"But sometimes, it takes people from the outside to see opportunity when it's not so clear to people at home," said John Marshall, president of the Kresge Foundation. "It's a huge endorsement for two big national funders to come in like this on a Detroit project."

Contact TOM WALSH at 313-223-4430 or [email protected]

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Not exactly. There is a small stretch between the first precinct and the Ren Cen (where diamond Jack's river boat tours launch from) that is not only not developed, but there isn't an easy way to get to the other parts. It's fenced off with a chain link fence and forces you to walk through a parking lot and onto a road the doesn't have a sidewalk! When is this little part going to be done?

I'm not sure when it's going to be done (it's months behind schedule), but it's the Port Authority Terminal project

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How is the work progressing? Last I saw in October there was crane in area installing steel I'm guessing for the new seawall/riverwalk

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