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May 7, 2007: Michigan Contractor & Builder


The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) recently demolished three Detroit River cement silos to pave the way for a host of new riverfront projects, including the expansion of Tri-Centennial State Park and Harbor, operated by the state of Michigan and the first urban state park in Michigan's history. Another project is the city's RiverWalk, a five-mile-long promenade that ultimately will span from the Ambassador Bridge eastward to beyond MacArthur Bridge and into Gabriel Richard Park.

Demolition of the 175-foot Cemex-Medusa cement silo, the 125-foot Lafarge silo and 175-foot Holnam Detroit River silo was an important step in redeveloping Detroit's East Riverfront. Their demolition will enable public access to the river and will make way for new private developments, setting the stage for what eventually will be one of the most comprehensive riverfront developments in the United States.

Many local agencies are contributing to the Detroit Riverfront Promenade Project. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, a nonprofit organization, is spearheading the redevelopment and raising $140 million to fund construction and operation, along with an endowment to fund operation in perpetuity. MDEQ has appropriated $2.2 million for demolition and cleanup of the silos and is playing a key role in site restoration and disposal management. Also, the city of Detroit has negotiated buyout agreements with the companies that owned and operated the silos and has relocated one, LaFarge Corporation, to a new, more efficient site in Southwestern Detroit near Zug Island.

Demolishing the huge structures took more than a wrecking ball: Pre-demolition assessments were required because, over the years, the area was home to many industries including shipbuilders, lumber yards, construction companies, and cement plants. Working closely with MDEQ and various municipal agencies to see the project through to completion, MACTEC Engineering and Consulting of Michigan Inc. (MACTEC) addressed challenges of demolition scheduling and managed the sequencing of the demolition activities, including:

  • Obtaining site access
  • Coordinating correspondence with the state of Michigan, city of Detroit Departments of Environmental Affairs and Building and Safety Engineering, as well as the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation to obtain approval for the scope of the work
  • Conducting pre-demolition assessments and reporting
  • Developing specifications
  • Advertising and providing bidding assistance
  • Working with the contractor on pre-work submittals (the work plan, the health and safety plan, and the scheduling)
  • Beginning field observations and documentation
  • Conducting weekly progress meetings

MACTEC's responsibilities involved four major tasks:

  • Identifying potential areas of environmental concern (contaminated concrete or soil)
  • Quantifying the amount of potential contaminated media requiring special handling and disposal
  • Categorizing and quantifying waste such as floor debris, asbestos, fluorescent lights, vapor lights, light ballast, mercury switches, waste and process fluids (oils, grease, coolants), transformers, and other materials requiring special handling and disposal
  • Categorizing and quantifying building materials such as concrete that can be recycled and construction/demolition debris that will require disposal at a landfill — over 80 percent of the demolition debris was recycled, not including the recycled steel

Other key tasks involved:

  • Conducting an asbestos survey to identify any potential asbestos-containing materials on each of the promenade properties, categorizing and quantifying the amount, and sampling each category to confirm whether or not the material contained asbestos. The survey was essential so any asbestos could be abated prior to demolition of the silos.
  • Preparing and providing pre-demolition assessment results and demolition specifications to demolition contractors to assist them in preparing their bids for the project
  • Assisting with client procurement required by the state of Michigan (since it held the contract)

Now that the silos have become part of Detroit's history, construction is under way on a number of riverfront projects, including the plazas and pavilions at Rivard Street and Gabriel Richard Park, the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, and Harbortown properties.

Completion of the Detroit Riverfront Promenade Project is expected by 2010 and will ultimately result in a vibrant waterfront — another example of how public-private sector partnerships help communities turn abandoned industrial areas into thriving, beneficial developments.


Project: Cement silo demolition in Detroit

Cost: $2.2 million

Demolition contractor: Adamo Demolition Company, of Detroit

Return to: 2007 Feature Stories