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March 22, 2012 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-03-22

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From his office, David Page can see the

Detroit River. Raising money to see the

riverfront reach its potential is one of

his passions.

Allan Nahajewskl

At age 78, community leader has no plans to slow down.


and spend time with his grandchildren. He
worships at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield
If you're wondering how he finds the
time for it all, "so does my wife he says,
Does he ever think about slowing down?
"I do think about it," he says, "but I
never do anything about it."
He credits the variety in his life as a key
"That's one of the beauties of practicing
law:' he says. "Every day you come to the
office, you confront a new issue and a new
set of people'
He also finds great joy and satisfaction
in giving back. He credits the role models
early in his career for getting him on the
path toward community involvement.
"Until I was here [at Honigman], I really
wasn't focused on helping others:' he
recalls. "I had a number of excellent exam-
ples — Jason Honigman, Jack Miller, Alan
Schwartz — superb lawyers, fully engaged
in practice, but very much involved in giv-
ing back to the community in many ways."
He recalls being asked to serve on the
board at Children's Hospital 40 years ago.
"It was easy to say yes. Our oldest son
had life-threatening asthma, and his life
was saved a couple of times there. I didn't
need a reason other than that. I fell in love
with the place. Everyone from the hospital
president to the chief of the medical staff
to the nurses, to the janitors — they're
all there for the right reasons. They care

8 March 22 • 2012

about kids, and they've really made a dif-
ference in this community."

Riverfront Booster
One particularly satisfying activity
is his involvement with the Detroit
Riverfront Conservancy. From his office
on the 22nd floor of the First National
Building in Downtown Detroit, he can
see the river. He is proud of its transfor-
mation over the past decade.
"Ten years ago, our riverfront was
broken sidewalks and streets, cement
silos spewing dust, vacated industrial
buildings:' he recalls. "Now, on a nice
spring or summer day, you see nice
parks and walkways with people biking,
walking and fishing with their kids."
He remembers how the effort to
transform the riverfront began.
"I was on the board of the Kresge
Foundation," he recalls. "We started to
look at how we could best make a major
difference in the city beyond our sus-
taining contributions. We decided to put
together a public-private partnership to
improve the riverfront."
That group, the Detroit Riverfront
Conservancy, began to raise funds to
develop parks and green spaces along
the 5.5-mile stretch of the river between
the Ambassador Bridge and Gabriel
Richard Park near Belle Isle. The effort
was started with $50 million from the
Kresge Foundation — the largest grant
in its history.

"Our vision was to serve as a catalyst
for development that could really change
the face of Detroit for the next century:'
he says.
The effort began in 2003 with a
focus on the waterfront east of Hart
Plaza. Today, about 80 percent of that
segment has been developed. Gabriel
Richard Park has been refurbished. The
plaza and pavilion at Rivard Plaza is
bustling with activity during the sum-
mer. The Fountains at the GM Plaza and
Promenade are a popular gathering place.
The 1.35-mile Dequindre Cut greenway
is now open to Eastern Market. Just east
of the Renaissance Center is the 31-acre
William G. Milliken State Park and
Harbor, the only urban state park. The
area also includes Chene Park, with its
6,000-seat amphitheater.
Planned this year are improvements
to Mt. Elliott Park to make it more
kid-friendly. Other development in the
area includes a new dock terminal, a
Presbyterian Village senior center, and a
charter high school for science and math.
The riverfront development has attracted
new events, including River Days and the
Red Bull air races.
Page said the conservancy has raised
$106 million of the $140 million needed
for the effort. Most of the funding has
come from foundations, some from cor-
porations and individuals.
"The idea was to encourage people to
want to live on the river:' he says. "And

if the bottom hadn't fallen out of the
economy in 2008, that probably would
have already happened. There were a few
projects that had been announced. But
when the bottom fell out, people couldn't
sell their homes, so they couldn't buy.
"Now there's a huge pent-up demand
for downtown living. All the loft space
here is taken. So the likelihood is that in
the next couple of years, you're going to
see some significant high-rise residential
and mixed-use developments. We're work-
ing to help facilitate that."
Asked when the riverfront will be fully
developed, Page says, "I think by 2020,
our riverfront, which has already been
transformed, will realize its full potential
to the east, and we'll be well on our way to
significant progress on the west.
"There are still hurdles to overcome,
but as several people have said, this is the
most successful public-private partner-
ship that has ever been seen in this state.
We've had full cooperation of the state,
the governor's office, the county execu-
tive and commission, the city council and
mayor, and the philanthropic community."
Meanwhile, fundraising continues, and
Page leads that effort. Asked if he has any
thoughts of retirement, he says, "I was
at the barbershop this morning and my
friend Michael George said when people
ask him when he's going to retire, he says,
`You can come to my retirement party,
which will be at the funeral home.
"I guess [have that same philosophy."

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