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Detroit’s West Riverfront Park was the recipient of a major philanthropic gift this week. The park received a $50-million endowment from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. Mark Wallace is the CEO and President of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. He spoke with WDET’s Eli Newman about the new funding and its impact on future development.
Who was Ralph Wilson?
“[He] was an amazing businessman. In this chapter of his [posthumous] life, he’s become an amazing philanthropist. He worked in Detroit and [Buffalo, New York] and he owned the Buffalo Bills. As part of his legacy, he would spend the proceeds of the sale of the Buffalo Bills and invest in really fascinating and smart ways.”
The scale of Wilson’s donation
“The foundation announced $100-million dollars in the city of Detroit and the Detroit region. Of that, $50-million will go to the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, which was previously known as West Riverfront Park. $50-million will go to the parks and trails network that’s around here in Southeast Michigan.”
The impact on Detroit’s Riverfront
“It’s hard to overstate how much impact will have on our community. Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park is 22-acres; it’s enormous. It will have an amazing sports facility. It will have an amazing place where people can swim and learn how to swim. It will be an iconic space within our city and it will be a place that draws people from all neighborhoods, all parts of town and the entire region. It’s done a lot to complete the riverfront vision. We’ve always wanted to go from the Belle Isle bridge to the Ambassador Bridge. This park is a major investment in that connection.”