Billionaire trucking magnate and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun famously started building a second bridge to Canada without permission from anyone, and spent a night in Wayne County Jail (in isolation, and with meals catered by the Detroit Athletic Club) for his trouble. This week, the city inched closer to helping Moroun and his Detroit International Bridge Company construct this longed-for second bridge linking Detroit to Windsor, finalizing a deal granting the Moroun family three acres of Riverside Park. The Morouns traded five acres of Bridge Co property immediately adjoining Riverside and $5 million the city will use to rehabilitate the southwest Detroit park, closed to the public since 2012.
As Curbed Detroit reported in April, one provision of the deal is that the Morouns replace 1,050 of the Michigan Central Station's windows by year's end. While the Morouns are notoriously tricksy, Bridge Co vice chairman (and Matty's son) Matthew Moroun, told the Detroit Free Press that the windows have already started going in, and we can believe it because there's photographic evidence to that effect. Moroun the younger told the Freep he knows his family's rep for intractability created friction in the past. "I believe it was our history that was the issue, and that's what I'm hoping to get over. I'm hoping this is the first step," he said, describing the work on the train station.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan insists that the deal represents a win-win for the Morouns and area residents. "The children and families of Southwest Detroit are going to get a beautiful waterfront park," Duggan said in an official statement. "Detroit City Council deserves great credit for conducting a very thorough and professional review process. We will start moving as quickly as possible to build the kind of Riverside Park the community is now expecting," he added.
Riverside Park, once a source of great civic pride, has languished in disrepair for nearly 15 years while Moroun and Bridge Co used a variety of colorful tactics to leverage the park into their plan for the second bridge to Canada. These included illegally fencing off parts of the park to deny visitors access, claiming that the park had a chemical contamination problem, and filing series of lawsuits aimed at declaring the public park somehow Moroun property. The park has 20 acres of waterfront land, and once offered Detroiters playgrounds, a baseball diamond, and a boat launch. Perhaps this deal will see the park reborn as a city asset, much like Clark Park, also in southwest Detroit, has been. Despite the park's sorry state, fishermen still angle for crappie and walleyethere. This deal will either be a serious catch for Mayor Duggan and Detroit, or the ultimate one that got away.
·Bridge owner Moroun to spend night in jail [Detroit Free Press]
·Riverside Park Expands and Upgrades With Moroun Swap [Curbed Detroit]
·Detroit Parks Watch: Riverside Park [WDET]
·Riverside deal new chapter for Detroit, Morouns [Detroit Free Press]