The 27.5 mile Joe Louis Greenway is a planned biking and walking trail that extends from the Detroit Riverfront to Highland Park, Dearborn, and Hamtramck. It also includes connectors along Livernois and McNichols. The Joe Louis Greenway will include the Dequindre Cut and portions of the Detroit RiverWalk, as well as portions of the planned Iron Belle Trail and Southwest Greenway.
When completed, it will provide a place for people of all abilities to safely walk, bike, and run while connecting neighborhoods, parks, schools, jobs, historic sites, commercial corridors and public transit.
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. In 2017, Mayor Mike Duggan announced plans to rename the Inner Circle Greenway after legendary boxer and Detroiter, Joe Louis.
The City of Detroit is acquiring 7.5 miles of abandoned Conrail railroad property using grants from Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund and MDOT. This railroad property, formerly the Detroit Terminal Railroad will become the northern and western part of the Joe Louis Greenway loop. For those who have experienced the Dequindre Cut it’s hard not to be super excited about 7.5 more miles of former railroad property becoming a non-motorized greenway.
In 2017, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation awarded $2 million to the City of Detroit to develop a framework plan and construction drawings for the project. In October of 2018 the city sought proposals to produce the framework plan. The City of Detroit announced in March of 2019 that the SmithGroup team was selected for the project. An advisory council has also been created, comprised of community members from each Detroit City Council Districts impacted by the route.
What’s a Framework Plan?
The Framework Plan is way of gathering community input and evaluating existing conditions before creating any final designs. It will:
- Consider at existing land uses in the half-mile corridor on either side of the Greenway.
- Include recommendations for land use, zoning, wayfinding and green infrastructure such as natural landscaping and effective stormwater management techniques.
- Determine the trail’s alignment, access points, connections to nearby destinations, trails, public transit, and the new Gordie Howe International Bridge.
- Identify the best pedestrian and bicycle design practices that make up a signature greenway.
- Determine a phasing and implementation plan.
Community input will be an important part of this framework planning process. The greenway must reflect the needs and desires of the local communities through which is passes. Certainly many communities have issues and priorities that do not include a new trail, e.g. safety, blight, dumping, empty storefronts. This project may be an opportunity to get those issues addressed as well. This project is much more than just a trail. It’s an opportunity to bring additional investment and attention to the neighborhoods.
When will it get built?
The city of Detroit will finalize the design once the framework planning is complete sometime in 2020. The Detroit Strategic Plan for Transportation sets the following benchmarks to be completed by 2022:
- Construct the next phase of the Joe Louis Greenway
- Implement on-street sections of the Joe Louis Greenway through Road Bond Complete Streets projects
Mayor Duggan has committed $20 million to build the first phase of the greenway. The rest of the required funding has not yet been identified, but there are many other potential philanthropic, state, and federal grants available. For instance, the Wilson Foundation has pledged $40 million in funding for regional trail construction, which includes the Joe Louis Greenway.
Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway
City of Detroit web page
Jos Campau Construction
The City of Detroit is resurfacing Joseph Campau between Carpenter Avenue and E. McNichols. This is an on-road section of the Greenway and will get a protected two-way cycle track, as well as improved pedestrian crossings and raised bus boarding islands.
- Inner Circle Greenway brochure, April 2008
- 606 Trail in Chicago, Chicago Department of Transportation, 2012
- TIGER Discretionary Grant Application, City of Detroit, 2015
- Motorless in the Motor City: The Inner Circle Greenway, WDET, June 2016
- #TechTuesday: Apollo 11 Launch a Blueprint for Innovators, a blog post on Detroit greenway projects, USDOT, July 2016
- Inner Circle Greenway: Ambassador and Signage Strategies for Community Engagement, University of Detroit Mercy Master of Community Development, 2016 (49 megabyte PDF)
- Measuring the Impact of The 606: Understanding How a Large Public Investment Impacted the Surrounding Community, Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, November 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
- Coalition wants to expand Dequindre Cut bike path to 26 mile loop, Fox 2 Detroit, June 2018
- An Equestrian Center along the Joe Louis Greenway?, Detroit Greenways Coalition, November 2018
- Remembering Joe Louis, City of Detroit, May 2019.
- City Invites Residents to Meet Consultant Finalists for Planning of Joe Louis Greenway, City of Detroit, January 2019
- Detroit residents fight to remove blight, bring back services by giving tours, WXYZ, October 2019
- The latest updates on the Joe Louis Greenway as end of planning phase nears, Curbed Detroit, December 2019
- Is the Joe Louis Greenway a Pathway to Success?, Hour Detroit, January 2020
- Connecting Detroiters with the Joe Louis Greenways, Second Wave Media
- Can Detroit’s Joe Louis Greenway avoid gentrification?, Planet Detroit, December 2020
- Detroit breaks ground on $200M Joe Louis Greenway, Detroit News, May 2021
- Detroit breaks ground on 27-mile Joe Louis Greenway, Fox 2 Detroit, May 2021