A year and a half ago, a land swap agreement was reached between the city of Detroit and the Detroit International Bridge Company to expand riverside park in exchange for land under and next to the current Ambassador Bridge.
In the deal, there were to be new windows put on Michigan Central Station (which happened) as well as commitment to demolish the former Detroit News Warehouse by late 2018 and to transfer a 5-acre waterfront parcel to the city to expand Riverside Park.
Today, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and DIBC Vice Chairman Matthew Moroun announced that demolition of the warehouse is already underway and title to the 5 acres will be turned over to Detroit two years ahead of schedule.
Construction will begin on the 5 acres next spring, adding a riverwalk and other park amenities (more on that later, as well as a timetable)
City officials say they have worked closely with the Riverside Park Community Advisory Council in designing the park enhancements, funded by an initial payment from the DIBC of $3 million.
The 27-acre park already has work underway, including a new basketball court, softball diamond and soccer field, comfort station, playground, and pavilion.
At the time there was a lot of controversy around the park deal, as the land swap was expected by many to be used for the DIBC, owned by billionaire Matty Maroun, to strengthen a claim to build a second bridge span over the Detroit river instead or as a third span in addition to the Gordie Howe International Bridge. There were also concerns the community didn’t have enough input.
In the interim, the government of Canada on the other side of the river has been steadfast in denying any traction to Maroun to make progress on his proposed bridge project, even floating the idea of buying the current bridge from him.
There’s also one more step in this process. The transfer of the three acre parcel under the bridge requires approval from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). The Mayor’s office says the city has already submitted a request for preliminary approval of the land swap to the MDNR and will host a public hearing on its request in anticipation of seeking formal support of the Detroit City Council for the partial conversion.
Upon MDNR approval, DIBC will pay an additional $2 million to the City for more Riverside Park improvements.
Here’s the timeline as it stands now, according to the city, on the Riverside Park improvements:
Starting Fall 2016
- Basketball Court
- Softball Diamond/Soccer Field
- Comfort Station
- Expected Completion: Spring/Summer 2017
Starting Spring 2017
- Bike Paths
- Walking Paths
- Skate Park
- Dog Park
- Expected Completion: Spring/Summer 2018