On the Detroit River, a faded dream at a city-owned marina Death, even sudden death, is a time for settling accounts and closing books. Business left unfinished by fate may be carried on by descendants; but for the dead, we ask only that they rest in peace.
Porterfield Wilson's death in 1989 came suddenly, at 55, but the epitaph on his black granite headstone in Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery suggests a to-do list with one big item unfinished: May my vision of Porterfield's Marina Village on the Detroit River be fulfilled.
Wilson, well-known in Detroit as a leading African-American car dealer, sought to leave his mark on the east-side skyline with a residential tower overlooking a new marina, on city-owned land, all marketed to affluent African-Americans who could enjoy a yacht club life in a newly majority black city.
Residents' boats would be as close as their cars, and the sparkling river beyond the marina seawall beckoned them the way it did sailors in nearby suburban communities. It was a dream not only for Wilson, but of his friend, then-Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.
Today, the parcel Wilson once hoped would bear his name has a less dazzling one — Riverside Marina — and no apartment tower. There are two banquet facilities, a pool, store, gas dock and 372 boat slips. But some customers say docks have fallen into disrepair, making many unusable.
As Detroit seeks to recover from a decadeslong decline, some of its assets, from Belle Isle to Eastern Market to selected parks, have benefited from more focused management dedicated to their improvement. But the city-owned marinas, which give city boaters access to the same water as other communities up and down the waterway, haven't done as well in private hands.
Under management since 2013 by a company with a contract up for renewal soon, patrons complain about a facility that city of Detroit officials acknowledge was once beleaguered, but now suggest is steadily improving.
Representatives of Riverside Marina didn't respond to calls for comment, and wouldn't allow Bridge onto the grounds, referring all inquiries to the city.
Mayoral spokesman John Roach forwarded a memo from the city's parks and recreatio....