Jul 14, 2022 - News

Detroit City Council to weigh parkland swap near bridge

People hang out at a skate park at night, with the Ambassador Bridge visible in the background.
Riverside Park next to the Ambassador Bridge. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

City Council remains under pressure to sell the park land needed to build a new Ambassador Bridge — even though those plans are on the brink of collapse.

Why it matters: This could be a sign that the Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the aging Ambassador Bridge, is holding out hope for a new build.

Between the lines: City Council is weighing more than just a simple land transfer. The Moroun family, which owns DIBC, is politically influential and has a tumultuous history with residents.

  • Despite Mayor Mike Duggan's support, the council already rejected the land transfer last year. Doing so again could expose the city to litigation, Conrad Mallett, head of the city's law department, tells Axios.

What's happening: DIBC is looking to bring the matter back to city council for a re-votel, but it's not clear when that could occur.

  • If approved, DIBC would pay the city $2 million for improvements to Riverside Park, just west of the bridge, in exchange for 3.8 acres on the eastern end of the park.

What they're saying: Council Member Gabriela Santiago-Romero, whose district includes the bridge, told Axios she's working on residents' behalf in talks with DIBC.

  • "The residents feel as if they need more from this deal," she said last week.
  • Last fall, some who live nearby said they're against transferring the pivotal parcel because it's the final bargaining chip that could be used to secure needed assurances on pollution prevention and local job creation, for example, in new bridge construction.

The other side: DIBC spokesperson Esther Jentzen told Axios the city must approve the deal because it was part of the initial 2015 agreement.

  • "The city is required to fulfill its side of the bargain by transferring the property to DIBC," Jentzen wrote in an email. "That is a promise the city made and one it is obligated to keep."

Flashback: Under the 2015 deal, DIBC got land and agreed to pay a total of $5 million — including the $2 million dependent on this second land transfer — for improvements at Riverside.

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