DETROIT – Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has launched a bidding war – with an offer of $1.1 million more than what the state of Michigan offered the city of Detroit – to gain control of 301 parcels of municipal land required for the new bridge.
A real estate company under Moroun’s control – Real Estate Purchasing LLC – would pay $1.5 million for the properties, donate an additional $1 million to the city for redevelopment of the lands, then hand the parcels back to the city of Detroit for redevelopment, according to a written offer sent to Detroit city council by Dan Stamper, president of the Ambassador Bridge.
The lands were priced at $1.4 million just last week when the city’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr requested Detroit’s council approve the sale of the properties – which are largely vacant parcels acquired through non-payment of taxes.
Under that plan, the state of Michigan would be the new owner of the properties with the Canadian government reimbursing the $1.4 million purchase price to the state.
Ottawa has budgeted $631 million over the next two years for the planned Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) project to be used to fund the land purchase.
The bridge would link the downriver industrial communities of Brighton Beach and Delray with a scheduled opening of 2020.
Should Detroit’s council approve Orr’s request it would be the first properties acquired on the U.S. side for the DRIC project.
But on Monday, the bridge company threw a wrench into Orr’s plan with its much higher offer.
Stamper said there were many benefits to the Ambassador Bridge’s proposed deal, in an emailed statement to the Star. He said Detroit would be able to keep joint control over the 301 parcels of land and have “a real opportunity” to rebuild and improve the Delray neighbourhood. He added the city would be able to collect taxes on the parcels of land, “unlike the State offer to remove all property from the tax rolls in perpetuity.”
“This is an opportunity for our companies to work collaboratively with Detroit and residents of Southwest Detroit in a sincere effort which benefits both parties,” Stamper said.
The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) is the newly formed local entity to oversee construction of the bridge project, but its top official referred questions about the proposed land sale to the office of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder since it is a proposed deal between the state and city of Detroit.
“The WDBA continues to work with our Michigan colleagues to advance this important project,” said MIke Cautillo, CEO for the authority. “We look forward to a resolution so that the project, which is so important the communities and the economies on both sides of the border, can proceed.”
Despite the higher bid, Snyder’s office is confident the city will do what’s best for residents in that area.
“The city is not obligated to select the highest bidder, but rather the option that is in the city’s best interest,” said David Murray, spokesman for Snyder.
Despite the better financial offer from the bridge owner – who has fought to stop the DRIC bridge project to protect $60 million in annual toll revenues – the new DRIC crossing offers “important benefits” for Delray, he countered.
“The state has worked closely with Mayor (Mike) Duggan and the community to draft a comprehensive Neighborhood Development Agreement that states numerous commitments will be made to both residents of Delray and Detroiters more broadly,” said Murray, who sits on the DRIC project team.
State Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) has been fighting hard to ensure both job opportunities and improvements to the Delray community are guaranteed by agreements before construction gets started on the DRIC bridge.
Nearly all property required on the Canadian side for the project has been acquired by Transport Canada.
In total, there are roughly 1,000 residential and commercial properties that need to be expropriated and purchased for the bridge, plaza and feeder roads in Delray.
It is anticipated the overall cost for those properties will be about $300 million – roughly the same price spent in Windsor to buy lands necessary to make room for the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway.
Originally posted by: The Windsor Star