Hero or Villain: Matty Moroun on His Detroit Holdings
Next to former mayor Coleman Young and Kwame Kilpatrick, I can't think of a more controversial Detroit figure than Manuel (Matty) Moroun. He is our “Billionaire Next Door,” the man who owns property across Detroit, including the infamous Michigan Central Station and the Ambassador Bridge.
Fantastic article in Sunday's Detroit Free Press with a very, very, very RARE interview with Moroun about his properties, his views on city development and his responses to criticism about his business behavior.
Any mention of the man will spark debate among Detroiters – is he is hero who will save buildings that would otherwise be demolished? Or is he a villain who lets his properties decay while he sits on an ever-growing empire?
Here is a highlight from the Freep story – kudos to John Gallagher and everyone else there for getting Moroun on the record. The Freep traced Moroun's holdings to find he has at least 625 parcels in the city, mostly in areas where there is transportation or other investments.
I know some reporters who have tried literally for years to get the man on the phone or in person. This is a major coup to hear from Moroun about these topics…Anyway, some of Moroun's comments from the story:
"For me to own land in Detroit, it was a badge of honor, and it was support for the city," Moroun said. "Our fortunes are linked to the city. If the city doesn't have any prosperity, we don't have any value in the land, right?"
"I'm a benefit to the city. I'm not a detriment," he said.
"It's called accumulation in order to have something in which you can develop something nice, mostly for the automotive industry," he said.
"We want the city back on its feet. We want to have jobs for the city," he said.
My personal favorite stuff is what Moroun and his spokesman had to say about the train station -- a fabulous piece of architecture that both shames and defines the city.
"What would you suggest I do with it?" he asked. "I can't keep the thieves out until I put something in it, but what can I put in it? I'm willing, anxious. Where is the fairness? Where is the reasonableness? Give me something that I could put in it."
Patrick Moran, Moroun's corporation counsel, said someday people would appreciate the fact that Moroun did not demolish the station.
"Matty takes a lot of heat," Moran said, "and in years to come, he's going to be seen as a preservationist."
Read the whole article here.
Here is a link to a photo essay about Moroun's properties. Also a must-see part of the piece.
"We're not just buying it waiting for someone else to come along and want it and then get a price out of it," Moran said. "We're buying it because we have a game plan. Some of them are short term, most of them are long term, for the redevelopment of Detroit. In the meantime, we try and be as good a neighbor as we can. We pay taxes, and we help the city coffers."