Should a concrete company along Detroit Riverfront be allowed to stay permanently? Some residents say no

Company sits between two parks

DETROIT – A temporary concrete company that sits between two Detroit Riverfront parks wants to remain permanently, but some residents say the business is out of place and is polluting their community.

According to a USA Today reader’s choice contest, the Detroit Riverwalk is America’s best riverwalk. Millions of visitors to Detroit have enjoyed the riverfront’s green spaces, events and businesses.

Residents say one business doesn’t belong there -- Hercules Concrete. The company has been mixing, crushing and storing concrete under a temporary license. But now, the Matthew Moroun-owned company said it wants a permanent agreement with the city for its riverfront location and many people in the community are furious.

“When you see the trucks coming in and out, you’ll see the tire tracks. You’ll see the dust picking up. That’s all fugitive dust right before your very eyes,” Raquel Garcia said.

Garcia said all the fugitive dust could be toxic. She’s the executive director of the community group Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision.

“If you look at cement production it’s got up to 21 toxic chemicals and, for example, silica is worse than asbestos,” Garcia said

Hercules Concrete is located between two parks and is owned by the same people who own the Ambassador Bridge, Matthew Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Company.

Residents said Moroun could do anything else with the piece of land, but it looks like the concrete company has no plans to leave and residents say that doesn’t make any sense.

The company has been operating under temporary city permits since it started up in 2020. Permits describe the company’s “use” as a “concrete batch plant for the bridge.”

But the bridge company recently informed Detroit City Council that its “plans for a new bridge have ended.” Yet Hercules Concrete applied for a permanent permit at its riverfront location.

Deb Sumner has lived about a mile from the Ambassador Bridge for more than 40 years.

“We’ve all been waiting for over 20 years to realize the plan,” Sumner said. “It’s time for the city and business owners to understand that Detroit’s evolving.”

Sumner and Garcia have added their names to a letter signed by about 120 people, businesses and organizations. The letter asks Detroit’s leaders to deny Hercules Concrete’s request for a permanent permit on the riverfront.

“My plea is to Matthew Moroun to do the right thing, not establish this permanently here,” Sumner said.

In an emailed statement, the Moroun Company said its Hercules Concrete company has expanded to several locations and supplies concrete to third-party projects around the city.

”When you look at every other city that has a riverfront, it is shared with the residents, it is designed to be enjoyed. It is an attraction and, so, we need all parties involved to do what’s best for the City of Detroit and its residents. We want this to be a park,” Garcia said.

Detroit’s Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED) said it has a “collaborative” relationship with Hercules Concrete. BSEED said Hercules Concrete has done nothing wrong, but hopes the concrete business will relocate.

Esther Jenzen, the spokesperson for Ambassador Bridge/Hercules Concrete released the following statement:

The Moroun family started Hercules in April 2020 in connection with a significant maintenance project at the Ambassador Bridge involving the re-decking of the entire bridge span. We owned the property just east of the bridge, so it made sense to set up the operation there. Soon thereafter, Hercules expanded to providing concrete to third parties. Since then, Hercules has experienced incredible demand and has expanded to seven different facilities throughout southeast Michigan. All of our truck drivers are union employees with union pay and benefits. We are excited about Hercules, its growth, and its role in many significant projects in southeast Michigan, including:

  • Ambassador Bridge re-decking: part of an effort to invest over $100M in the historic Ambassador Bridge
  • GM Lake Orion project: 200,000 yards of concrete for what is the largest battery project in GM history
  • 2nd street bridge over I-75
  • GM design studio at the Warren Tech Center
  • Ford lighting facility at the Rouge

We are also proud to continue our long history of creating good paying, jobs right here in Detroit. Currently the Moroun companies collectively employ over 2,000 workers in the City.


About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.