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Detroit's urban beach project wins $225,700 in national grant competition By Dana Afana

The Atwater Beach project, pitched by The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, was named a finalist in the Knight Cities Challenge earlier this year and was announced Monday as a winner of a $225,700 grant.

"We're thrilled," said Marc Pasco, spokesman for the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.

"We're still in process of raising the funds to fulfill this project but the money we're awarded in this grant helps Atwater Beach become a reality."

The beach, which is expected to be ready by 2018, will be located east of Chene Park, on the Detroit River between Atwater Street and Jos Campau.

It will not include swimming, due to strong currents at that location, but the projects still aims to offer the beach experience. 

A large portion of it will be sand, beach and umbrella chairs and a barge floating to serve food and drinks. An interactive play station and sensory garden for kids is also included in the plan.

The idea for Atwater Beach was inspired by two urban beaches: Sugar Beach in Toronto and Spruce Street Harbor in Philadelphia.

"We're confident were going to get there and deliver to the people of Detroit," Pasco said. 

The conservancy developed the proposal with city planners, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and Groundswell Design Group, which worked on Spruce Street Harbor Park.

Atwater Beach is one of many current projects on the riverfront.

In March, the conservancy announced the riverfront will see 8 acres of new park space, two new pedestrian and bike paths and two Dequindre Cut-like greenways to connect neighborhoods to the riverwalk.

A portion of Jefferson Avenue, between Rivard Street and East Grand Boulevard, is expected to include protected bike lanes, buffers for pedestrians and a reduction of the total number of lanes

Other Detroit winners of the Knight grant:

  • Better Buildings, Better Blocks by Building Community Value: $150,000, fostering talent in Detroit, and providing a pipeline for minorities into real estate jobs, by teaching the fundamentals of small-scale property development and providing initial project financing.
  • Design Center in a Box: A Place for Informed Community Exchange by City of Detroit Department of Planning: $205,000, promoting civic engagement by creating "pop-up" city planning offices where residents can connect with city planning staff and others to exchange ideas and become informed about the design and planning work happening in their neighborhood and the city at large.
  • Detroit's Slow Roll by Detroit Bike City: $129,400, leveraging the 25,000 cyclists who participate in Slow Roll Detroit and demonstrating how to engage Detroit's nonprofit sector, drive renewal and smile while doing it.
  • Happy 18th Birthday! Local Citizenship Kit by CitizenDetroit: $101,000, celebrating Detroiters becoming eligible to vote by sending them a local citizenship kit in the mail on their 18th birthday.

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