New beach, public spaces planned for Detroit riverfront

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Three sites right on the riverfront were initially slated for private development  but that's no longer the case. Instead you're going to see public parks and even a sand beach.

It's said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when it comes to the Detroit riverfront's looming facelift, people living in nearby neighborhoods may like what they see.

Development plans for the riverfront will center on three new green spaces along Atwater. Two new greenways in the mold of the Dequindre Cut will connect them to neighborhoods north of Jefferson Avenue.

"This framework will ensure that the Detroit riverfront stays a public amenity in perpetuity," said Maurice Cox.

Cox is Detroit's director of urban planning, says there will be limited space for new condos and high rises on the outer edges of the riverfront.

"It welcomes private development but it wants it to define what is going to be a central park on the riverfront," Cox said.

"I just think that it is great," said resident Sunni Jones. "It has been a long time coming. I feel there are a lot of families that live downtown, we should be more like Chicago."

But there are concerns the riverfront's facelift includes revamping Jefferson with protected bike lanes.

"I am curious to see how E. Jefferson turns out," said Kimberly Delks. "I like the wide street. I don't want the flow of traffic to get congested, because of Chene Park and people coming and going."

"I think we can accommodate other modes of transportation on Jefferson without impeding automobiles from getting where they are going," Cox said.

The plan to make the riverfront more accessible to most Detroiters living in neighborhoods comes at a cost---the city could've added more tax revenue to its coffers by focusing on commercial and residential development.

Moddie Turay from Detroit's Economic Growth Corporation weighed in.

"In every situation you have to balance social and economic returns," he said. "It was more important for us at least on these particular parcels to have social return."

The Riverfront Conservancy will break ground on the extension of the Riverwalk from Mt. Elliot to the Belle Isle Bridge this fall. Work on Jefferson Avenue for protected bike lanes will begin at that time as well.