The Joe Louis Greenway (formerly know as the Inner Circle Greenway) is a planned 26-mile trail through the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park and Dearborn. When completed, it will provide a place for people of all abilities to safely walk, bike, and run while connecting neighborhoods, parks, schools, historic sites, commercial corridors, public transit, and much more. The Greenway uses and connects with existing trails, such as Dequindre Cut, Detroit RiverWalk, and Southwest Detroit Greenlink. It’s also part of the Iron Belle Trail between Belle Isle and the city of Ironwood in Upper Peninsula.
This Greenway will eventually connect with the biking and walking trail on the Gordie Howe International Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. This bridge will connect with a similar 26-mile bike trail loop being developed by the city of Windsor.
Detroit has also added linkages to the Greenway to expand its reach. This includes connections to Marygrove College, the University of Detroit-Mercy, the Avenue of Fashion, Palmer Park, Jayne Playfield, and the city of Ferndale.
This greenway concept began with the Friends of the Inner Circle Greenway in 2007 and became part of the Detroit Greenways Coalition Network Vision in 2009. Using other existing trails and plans, the Coalition modified the routing, advocated for its development, and worked closely with the city of Detroit. Department of Public Works Deputy Director Jose Abraham became an early champion for greenway. Years of successful grant funding and advocacy has helped move this project from a long shot concept to a priority.
The Coalition is continuing to work on the greenway. We recently received Ralph A. Wilson Legacy Funds to design bike lanes in Highland Park along the entire length of Hamilton Avenue. Those will connect with the greenway as well as nearby Palmer Park and Boston-Edison.
The Coalition has also received grant funding from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Doppelt Family Fund. The funding is being used to (1) update our old Inner Circle Greenway map/brochure and (2) do additional community engagement in Highland Park. We anticipate the map being printed by the end of 2017.
What are some next steps?
2017: Acquiring Railroad Property
The largest gap in the Greenway is the 8-mile abandoned Conrail railroad property that was part of the old Detroit Terminal Railroad. Like many other railroads in Detroit, they no longer have enough customers to justify their cost. The Detroit Terminal Railroad used to serve the former Ford Model T Plant in Highland Park as well as the Hudson and DeSoto car companies. Converting the property to a trail is a good use for these types of properties as proven by the Dequindre Cut.
The Detroit Greenways Coalition with the city of Detroit and other partners are working to acquire this Conrail segment. The Coalition wrote grants for the City totaling $4.5 million which equals the appraised property value. With the help of additional funding from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Kresge Foundation and the EPA, the city is completing the due diligence on the property and negotiating its acquisition from Conrail. We expect that acquisition to be complete by the end of 2017.
2018: Developing a Framework Plan
The city received $2 million in funding from the Ralph A. Wilson Foundation that will pay for a Framework Plan and trail design. The city expects to issue a request for proposals in November 2017 and hire a consulting team to develop the framework. This plan will share some similarities with one developed for the 606 Trail in Chicago, though that trail is much shorter and had a more predetermined route.
This framework plan be a great opportunity to become more involved in the design and implementation of this Joe Louis Greenway.
We would like to see this plan answer many questions, including: How will the trail connect the communities through which it passes? What barriers would discourage current residents from using the trail and how can those be reduced or eliminated? How can public safety be addressed? What other open space opportunities exist along the trail? How will the greenway manage storm water and reduce flooding?
2019: Designing the Trail
The design of the trail is expected to begin in 2019 after the framework plan in complete.
Additional funding is still required to pay for its construction. The city did submit a USDOT TIGER grant in October 2017 for $18 million. That is being matched with an additional $10 million in funding. We should know by early 2018 if the TIGER grant is successful.
In the meantime, some of the road bond funds are being allocated to improve the trail’s road crossings.
The city expects construction to begin by 2020.
- #TechTuesday: Apollo 11 Launch a Blueprint for Innovators, a blog post on Detroit greenway projects, USDOT, July 2016
- City to Acquire Conrail Railroad Property, the Largest Gap in Inner Circle Greenway, City of Detroit, June 2017
- City Awarded $2 Million Wilson Foundation Grant For Inner Circle Greenway Design and Pre-Construction, City of Detroit, July 2017
- Family of Boxing Legend Joe Louis Join City Leaders to Officially Announce Plan to Name 26-Mile Citywide Trail the Joe Louis Greenway, City of Detroit, October 2017