Detroit Riverfront Conservancy gets $35M to complete projects amid ex-CFO embezzlement investigation

Posted at 11:10 AM, Jun 24, 2024

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has been gifted $35 million to help complete ongoing projects on the East and West Riverfront.

The Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, a nonprofit, announced Monday it established the $35 million fund to pay contractors and support new fundraising efforts.

It comes about three weeks after the now-former riverfront chief financial officer, William Smith, was charged with federal crimes alleging he embezzled nearly $40 million dating back to 2012.

Watch more of our reporting about Smith's alleged embezzlement below

Ex-Detroit Riverfront Conservancy CFO charged with embezzling $40M dating back to 2012

According to The Community Foundation, the funds will support many projects, including the Ralph Wilson Park and final elements of Uniroyal Promenade and Robert Valade Park.

“The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is committed to making our region a desirable place to live, work and play. That’s why we must complete the Detroit riverfront,” said the foundation's president, Ric DeVore, said in a statement. “We are encouraged by how the philanthropic community is stepping up during this critically important time.”

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation made a $10 million grant to the fund, and has authorized the Community Foundation to utilize assets of their endowed funds to establish a $25 million line of credit for future payments.

“Completing the full five and a half miles of the East and West Riverfront is fulfilling a promise to the people of Detroit and Southeast Michigan,” said David Egner, president & CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The revitalization of Detroit’s riverfront has been a collaborative community effort from the very beginning. We are grateful to the board and leaders of the Community Foundation for spearheading the pathway to completion in partnership with the Conservancy.”

As fundraising continues or any money is recovered from the alleged embezzlement, the line of credit will be reduced.

The projects are expected to be complete by the fall of 2025.