Dequindre Cut Greenway
Landscape Performance Benefits
- Reduces auto trips by an estimated 15,218 round-trip weekday commutes annually, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 38,250 lbs each year.
- Used 80% less concrete by repurposing 31,685 sf of concrete retaining wall blocks on-site, saving an estimated $8.9 million in materials as compared to using all new cast-in-place retaining walls.
- Provides access to recreational activities and more, with more than 263,260 trips taken on the Cut annually. 92% of 101 surveyed users agreed that the Cut provides access to diverse recreational activities.
- Represents the cultural and historical context of Detroit according to 94% of 99 surveyed users. 99% of users agreed that the Cut improves their perception of the City of Detroit.
- Improves quality of life and sense of well-being according to 94% of 99 surveyed users. 53% of 109 surveyed users reported exercising more often after the Cut’s opening.
- Provides an estimated $106,430 in cost of illness savings annually based on increased physical activity for users. 35% of 104 surveyed users reported noticing a decrease in physical ailments such as stress, asthma, and/or general poor health since they started visiting the Cut.
- Supports positive perceptions of the appearance of the Cut, with 99% of 102 surveyed users rating the corridor’s appearance as “very good” or “good”.
- Helps support adjacent businesses. Of the 91% of 107 surveyed users who reported visiting nearby businesses/restaurants, 18% visit businesses and/or restaurants each time they visit the Cut and 34% often visit businesses and/or restaurants when they visit the Cut.
At a Glance
Former Land Use
Dequindre Cut Greenway
Detroit, Michigan 48207
1.65 miles long
Phase 1 - 2006; Phase 2 - extension completed 2016
Once a below-grade corridor for the abandoned Grand Trunk Western Railroad, the Dequindre Cut is a 1.65-mile, non-motorized urban greenway that connects the people of Detroit to the city’s natural resources, cultural destinations, jobs, and healthy food options while catalyzing adjacent development opportunities. The Dequindre Cut passes below grade through a dense urban environment, connecting nearby neighborhoods with Eastern Market, the East Riverfront District, and several parks and plazas. The Phase 1 portion of the Cut goes from Jefferson Avenue to Gratiot Avenue, and Phase 2 is a half-mile extension that runs from Gratiot Avenue to Mack Avenue and connects to Eastern Market. Home to the work of renowned graffiti artists, the Cut celebrates Detroit’s social and cultural heritage by preserving the existing displays of contemporary urban art and encouraging new additions. Serving as a springboard for the future development of the 31-mile Joe Louis Greenway, the Dequindre Cut aims to make the Motor City a dynamic and safe biking and walking community.
- The Dequindre Cut Greenway is located on a previously abandoned, contaminated, grade-separated rail corridor. The creation of the greenway required the cleanup of hazardous chemicals and petroleum-based products above ground.
- A continuous 15-ft-wide path for multiple non-motorized modes is divided into two 5-ft-wide bike lanes for two-way traffic and one 5-ft-wide pedestrian lane. There are many entrance ramps located along the length of the Cut, as well as small plazas with benches and bike racks.
- Vegetated swales were created along the entirety of the site during Phase 2 to facilitate stormwater infiltration. Swales include alternating high points and catch basins to improve water quality and manage water runoff from the site. This sustainable stormwater management solution also minimized construction costs and minimized sewer line length.
- The Cut includes four-season plant species appropriate for the site. Tree species include honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), and green hawthorn (Crataegus viridis). Shrubs and flowers include weeping forsythia (Forsythia suspensa), daylilies (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus “Chicago Apache” and “Chicago Gold Coast” ), and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica).
- The Cut celebrates cultural heritage by preserving and encouraging contemporary urban art in the form of graffiti. Graffiti artists are recognized for their contribution to the aesthetics of the site either through personal signage or professional signage for works by groups.
- The Cut introduced safety features to the area including 24/7 surveillance cameras every 500 ft and energy-efficient LED lighting systems.
- The Cut supports new Detroit businesses. The Freight Yard, which is built from 9 repurposed shipping containers, features an outdoor beer and wine garden, retail space, and a DJ booth. It is used as an outdoor entertainment venue and is easily accessible for community members because of the greenway.
- Embrace and preserve Detroit’s culture and history through encouragement of graffiti expression and art to enhance the unique cultural character of the Greenway.
- Create a safe and inviting space within the previously unsafe abandoned rail corridor and reduce crime rates in the area.
- Incorporate sustainable strategies into the greenway system while creating an attractive and inviting pedestrian environment.
- Improve the business climate and activate adjacent streets and public spaces with a variety of uses that support the identity of Eastern Market, Midtown, and other districts located along the greenway.
- Maximize accessibility by exceeding ADA and universal design guidelines.
- Catalyze future opportunities for expanding the site’s amenities including parks, plazas, concessions, and programming to enliven the surrounding area.
Prior to the development of the Dequindre Cut, a prominent feature of the abandoned below-grade corridor was graffiti art which displayed the culture and talent of creators in Detroit. Embracing the long history of graffiti art was an original design goal for the project, and areas of the Cut have been preserved for these contemporary art expressions. Refurbished areas of the site, including overpasses and abutments, were left as a blank canvas for new artistic statements. Renowned artists of the area also contribute to the art culture along the Cut. One of these artist groups is the Hygienic Dress League, a group known for their public artworks in the Detroit area, who created a pair of murals on the Cut.
More formalized art installations have also been featured along the Cut. The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) program “Inside|Out”, in partnership with the Detroit River Conservancy, features replicated pieces of the DIA’s collection. The pieces are clustered within walking distance of each other along the Cut after the event for continued viewing by the community. Also within the Freight Yard lies the “Hub”, a centerpiece that contains colorful works of by local artists.
- The initial project area was projected as being 60-80 ft wide, but it was ultimately designed to be 50-60 ft wide. The site and trail were restricted in size and form to accommodate any future modes of motorized transit. Existing railroad tracks on the site were removed and space for plantings and lawns was located adjacent to the pathway, but some additional space was left for the potential implementation of a future transit corridor.
- The historic dumping activities on-site were eliminated during construction and site development due to an increase in security and activity. As the space was improved, the public’s care for the site followed suit. Because of the redevelopment and more active uses for the site, dumping of waste on site has been reduced drastically.
- Prior to construction, permeable pavement was selected for the pathway that goes through the Cut. However, samples from the site showed that the silty clay native to the area that lies below the topsoil would not allow infiltration. This would have reduced the efficiency and feasibility of permeable pavement. For this reason, along with additional cost, labor, and construction time, permeable pavement was not included as part of the site design.
- With the previous use of the site as a dumping area, soil pollution and contamination was anticipated; however, early review of the title records and soil samples from the property revealed no serious environmental issues or concerns below the topsoil on site. A review of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality records showed that nearby sites had contamination in the near-surface soil. However, because of the clayey soils and lack of shallow aquifers in the area, these surrounding conditions were not expected to affect the site.
- The existing bridges on the site were in poor condition and would have required repair to make them fully functional. After a structural assessment revealed that remedial measures would not be sufficient, some bridges were demolished and one was replaced with a new bridge. Protective netting was placed on some of the remaining bridges to maintain at-grade pedestrian connectivity.
Site Furniture: Landscape Forms
Multi-modal Counters: Eco-Counter
Keystone: Riteway Fence
Retaining Wall: Redi-Rock
Landscape Edging: JD Russell Company
Tensile Structure: BirdAire
Welded-wire Trellis: Riteway Fence
Asphalt: Ajax Materials
Concrete: McCoig Materials
Lighting: CREE, KW Industries
Signs: Huron Signs
Security Systems: Talk A Phone; CommScope, Panasonic
Landscape Architect of Record/Lead Designer: SmithGroup
Bridge Engineer: Wade Trim
Geotechnical: Somat Engineering
Environmental Assessment: NTH Consultants, Ltd.
Construction Engineering Inspection: Parsons Brinckerhoff
Electrical Contractor: Rauhorn Electric
Bridge Contractor: E.C. Korneffel Company
Landscape Contractor: Marine City Nursery Co
Partner: Detroit Economic Growth Corporation
Partner: Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan
Partner: Detroit Greenways Coalition
Role of the Landscape Architect
The landscape architect helped the community imagine a new purpose for the Cut through planning sessions and site walks. By providing a clear vision of the potential, the landscape architect helped to establish a funding strategy for the site. The landscape architect played a significant role in establishing site design unification, ensuring a consistent image for any future phases.
Case Study Prepared By
Research Fellow: Salvador Lindquist, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Research Assistant: Kyle Riley, BLA student, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Firm Liaison: Neal Billetdeaux Principal, Senior Landscape Architect, SmithGroup
Lindquist, Salvador and Kyle Riley. “Dequindre Cut Greenway.” Landscape Performance Series, Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2022. https://doi.org/10.31353/cs1800