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Ilitch Holdings Proposes Downtown Detroit Development

Ilitch Holdings proposed today a new downtown entertainment district, Including a "Multi-purpose events center"


News out of Detroit today indicates that Mike Ilitch and Ilitch Holdings are presenting details to lawmakers about a proposed $650 million downtown entertainment district to include what will very likely be the eventual replacement to the Joe Louis Arena.

Paul Egan of the Freep has more details:

"It’s always been my dream to once again see a vibrant downtown Detroit," said Mike Ilitch, chairman, Ilitch Holdings, Inc., in a press release. "From the time we bought the Fox Theatre, I could envision a downtown where the streets were bustling and people were energized.It’s been a slow process at times, but we’re getting there now and a lot of great people are coming together to make it happen. It’s going to happen and I want to keep us moving toward that vision."

The Senate committee is considering changes to the Downtown Development Authority Act to provide for the development. More details are pending.

While the exact location of the district has not been determined, it will be strategically located to serve some of the most underutilized areas in Detroit’s downtown core, strengthening the link between Detroit’s existing assets through a continuous, walkable environment connecting one district to the next and serving to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike, the press release says.

WXYZ in Detroit touches a bit on the financials involved:

The proposal would involve significant private investment that would be supplemented by existing money collected by the Downtown Development Authority.

"This plan makes good business sense for two reasons," said George W. Jackson, Jr., president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. "First, it’s not a plan for an isolated, single-use structure. Instead, it builds on the clear successes we’ve already had downtown integrating districts that feature entertainment, and support commercial, retail and residential development around them. Second, it doesn’t impose any new tax burdens; it simply continues a program for retiring debt related to economic development. It’s hard to argue with that."

Meanwhile, CBS Detroit talks more about the reason why we're talking about a $650M district rather than a $300M or so arena.

Case studies throughout the country reveal the most successful districts include a public-private partnership that support a balance of residential, business, education, cultural, sports and entertainment activities embedded with public spaces.

"Leadership in communities such as Columbus (OH), Los Angeles, San Diego and Indianapolis have shown how prudently created partnerships can create new downtown neighborhoods and spur growth in the population and increase the levels of activity and vitality in central cities," said Professor Mark S. Rosentraub, University of Michigan. "In those cases, districts anchored by events centers led to the creation of financially viable and successful new neighborhoods that are economically and socially integrated."

As for the unknown location of the new development? WXYZ pointed to hints about planned stops on the Woodward Light Rail Project in vacant areas last August:

New additions to the planned train stops could provide clues. Vacant properties along Woodward Avenue have long been deemed eyesores, but despite the stigma, a new train stop is planned for Temple Street.

City leaders say the stops aren’t just about where the city is now, but also in the future.

It’s the kind of clue that has sparked speculation that Ilitch Holdings, led by Mike Ilitch, could build a new hockey arena near the area.

"Since a lot of land is being purchased and cleared, and it’s right on Woodward, it would make sense," said Charles Pugh, Detroit City Council President.

The process is still in its infancy, and it would be several years before a project of this scope nears completion (insert lockout joke here), but a downtown arena surrounded by a district that's there to mutually support and be supported by it seems a promising future for the city and the Wings. While the idea that it will be financed privately and through public money that's already been collected is promising, the process can be very slippery when it comes to lawmakers and their designs on public money. I'm excited about the prospect. The Joe has a charm all its own, but it also has an age that is very badly showing.