Business owners in Sandwich Town believe Canada's government has made a "deal with the devil" by granting the Ambassador Bridge Company permission to build a new span.
Retirement home owner Mike Cardinal has lived and worked in the shadow of the current bridge for 25 years. Now he fears for his community.
"Quite frankly, it seems the Trudeau-Liberals have betrayed the neighbourhood," he said.
The company that owns the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit announced Wednesday it plans to replace the iconic span now that the Canadian government has approved the "final permit" necessary to begin construction.
Officials on both sides of the border say some conditions still need to be met, including a stipulation from the Canadian side that states the company must demolish the old bridge no more that five years after the replacement span opens.
Bridge company president Dan Stamper credited a strong relationship with the Canadian government for the "rewarding" news, but Cardinal said he and others in Sandwich believe officials surrendered their strongest leverage to ensure the company respects the wishes of the community.
He cited the long and troubled relationship with Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Maroun as evidence the people behind the bridge don't have Sandwich's best interests at heart.
"It's been deceitful, it's been destructive, it has been harsh on the neighbourhood and the local economy" said Cardinal. "However, we are resilient and there are a lot of people who love the village of Sandwich Town and will continue to be there."
A 'sucker-punch' for Sandwich
Mary Ann Cuderman described the Moroun family's business practices as "atrocious." The Olde Towne Bake Shoppe owner said news of the final permit was a "sucker-punch" for Sandwich after a long fight with the Moroun family and a blow it might not recover from.
"We've lost the bank, we've lost schools, we've lost 130 homes that could have held families that would have been supportive of the community," she said. "It's partly due to them that we're the worst end of the city ... I don't know how they can continue if they have a consceince."
Cardinal said the landmark bridge forms an unofficial border between his community and the rest of Windsor. Any new bridge will "float" above the road and won't make much difference to people in the community. It could even come with some positives compared to its 87-year-old predecessor.
"It's part of our identity ... so we're good with living with the bridge as long as it's maintained properly," he explained. "If this means an end to concrete falling onto our streets … that would be good."
But increased traffic and the possibility of a truck plaza being built at the former J.L. Forster Secondary School site would further cut the community off from the rest of the city.
No matter what the future holds for his neighbourhood, Cardinal said he's confident it will continue to be a pleasant place to live.
"It has that community life that quite frankly other cities and towns are trying to get back," he said. "We've lived with the bridge for generations. We'll continue to do so."
Cuderman, meanwhile, fears the worst is yet to come.
"What part of our community is going to be sacrificed to feed this monster?"