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DETROIT-Ground was ceremoniously broken this week along the Detroit River, immediately west of the Renaissance Center, for the new Dock of Detroit, an $11.3-million port terminal that is viewed by city leaders as a key element in the reclamation of the city’s riverfront. The project is being funded by $7.5 million from the federal government and $3 million from the state, with the remainder coming from county and city resources.

Construction is to start on the facility later this summer and is expected to be completed by mid-summer next year. A builder and design firm has not yet been named.

Arthur Blackwell, a former chairman of the Wayne County Commission and current chairman of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, says the terminal will be used by cruise ships and other vessels that ply the Great Lakes. Blackwell says at least six cruise ships now operate in the Great Lakes, but Detroit has no facility to lure those ships in to make a port call. Now, he adds, many ships dock in Windsor, which raises customs issues. He also says the Windsor dock area does not have the access to city facilities and entertainment venues the way the Detroit dock will.

“We think we can lure 10 to 12 cruise ship stops a year here, that’s 400 or 500 people on each ship,” he tells Globest.com. Blackwell adds the dock will be ideal for visits by tall ships, US Navy vessels, dinner cruise ships or other uses.

Blackwell also says some are even talking about a regular ferry service between Detroit and Windsor or a hydrofoil service between Detroit and Cleveland. However, no specific contracts have been signed with cruise ships to dock in the city. “We are going to be aggressively marketing what Detroit has to offer,” he says.

The terminal is part of a larger vision to recreate the Detroit waterfront from the Belle Isle Bridge to the Ambassador Bridge. Next to the terminal, General Motors says it plans to create a promenade area between the Renaissance Center and the river will be completed by this fall, ahead of schedule. Construction on a greenbelt walk-way that will connect the terminal area to the Belle Isle bridge will begin this fall. A small state park with dock space for small boats was completed a few blocks east of the Ren Cen and dedicated last month.

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