DETROIT (WXYZ) — Officials from the city of Detroit and around the state broke ground on the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park along Detroit's West Riverfront on Tuesday afternoon.
The 22-acre park is expected to transform the riverfront into a world-class public space and is a $75 million investment in the community.
It's named after the late Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., an entrepreneur, veteran and philanthropist from the City of Detroit.
His widow, Mary Wilson told 7 Action News, “Obviously, I wish Ralph were here. I wish his father were here. He grew up here. He loved it here."
"He was very successful. He worked really hard and to have something that’s so impactful with his name on it it is truly beyond belief," she added.
The park is expected to feature a water garden, the William Davidson Sport House, the Delta Dental Play Garden and the DTE Foundation Hill.
According to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the sport house will include a raised canopy and skylight in a multi-use flexible space for different programs and events.
“Great public spaces are at the heart of any great city,” said Darin McKeever, president & CEO of the William Davidson Foundation. “Ralph Wilson Park will be a thriving, wonderful place where generations of Detroiters and visitors can gather, play, exercise, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors alongside Detroit’s incredible waterfront. We are thrilled to partner with the community in this exciting effort.”
The play garden will be four acres and feature a 20-foot bear play structure and other animal-related features including otters, beavers and more.
“The Delta Dental Play Garden will be a safe, fun and educational space for the children and families of Detroit and southeastern Michigan,” said Goran Jurkovic, president & CEO of Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. “Beyond fun and exciting, we fully expect the West Riverfront projects to drive economic development and energy just like the Riverwalk has done on the east.”
Plus, the Foundation Hill will be an expansive lawn for special events.
New York-based landscape architect firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will design the park. Other designs they have done include the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City and Maggie Daley Park in Chicago.
Mayor Mike Duggan told 7 Action News, “The Detroit I grew up in we didn’t know we have a Riverfront. It was cement silos and abandoned industrial spaces, and really in a space of 10 or 15 years you now can go from Belle Isle Bridge to the Ambassador Bridge and have full use of the waterfront.”
The park is expected to be complete in 2024.