Faye Alexander Nelson has spent the last eight years turning a strip of Detroit, once an industrial no-man’s-land, into a beautiful riverfront park. Once completed, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy will boast 5 1/2 miles of gardens, bike paths, and promenades. Nelson’s work has brought over $100 million to the area and renewed interest in the once-struggling neighborhood, becoming not just a beautification project, but a rallying point for the community.

Faye Alexander Nelson is making history … converting what was once a bastion of urban blight into a community meeting space. As president and CEO of the conservation project, Nelson expertly navigates legal red tape, zoning laws, and environmental issues to create a park that is revitalizing the area and bringing an influx of new investments, businesses, and residents to the neighborhood.

A former attorney, Nelson has been praised for her ability to maneuver the interests of many conflicting partners — public and private investors, government officials, and local citizens — focusing their energy and resources to construct over three miles of park already. Where once there were abandoned warehouses and empty parking lots, Nelson’s work has filled the area with greenery, art, recreation, and life.

What’s next for Faye?

With much of the initial development completed, the park is home to music festivals, fitness classes, fireworks, and canine clubs, attracting thousands of city residents to enjoy the river air. Nelson continues to raise funding to improve and expand the beautification of Detroit.

In her own words …

“In just a few short months, the landscaping along the riverfront has changed dramatically, opening up all sorts of new possibilities for development,” Nelson told Environment News Service as construction kicked off in 2006. “And now the work begins to transform this wide open space into residences, retail, and green spaces that reconnect people to the riverfront.”

A favorite quote …

“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” — Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A little-known fact …

According to British researchers, spending as few as five minutes in a green space can generate significant improvements in mental health and self-esteem.

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