Developers detail $1.5B District Detroit mixed-use plan
Posted By: The Detroit News on November 29, 2022. For more information, please click here to read the source article.
Community members who met with developers Tuesday evening to hear about the proposed $1.5 billion joint venture between the Ilitch family organization and developer Stephen Ross had key questions about the mixed-use development plan including affordable housing, jobs and if the plan would materialize.
The meeting at Cass Technical High School Tuesday was the first of 10 meetings planned under the city’s Community Benefits Ordinance since Olympia Development and Related Companies announced their plans. The meetings are a legal requirement in Detroit for large developments seeking tax breaks and similar incentives.
The firms outlined the previously announced 10-project, mixed-use development plan including the timeline. The hope is to have every component completed over the course of five years, said Keith Bradford, president of Olympia Development of Michigan.
“If we can get the right incentives lined up, create the right demand, meet the education component, make sure the pitch works right for the office tenants and which by the way, we’re very bullish on that, we’re hoping we can get this accomplished over the next five years,” he said.
The meeting comes two weeks after the firms released details about the project they say builds on plans for the Detroit Center for Innovation, a $250 million, three-building satellite campus for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, as well as other development in the area. Olympia is building the center in partnership with New York-based Related Companies, owned by Ross, an UM alumnus and benefactor.
Plans call for 695 mixed-income residential units, 1.2 million square feet of commercial office space, 100,000 square feet of retail and 467 hotel rooms across the 10 properties in downtown Detroit, according to the developers. The project involves the construction of six buildings and the renovation of four buildings. Two of the projects were previously announced when plans for the innovation center were unveiled in December.
Among the project plans highlighted Tuesday were the previously announced plans for new residential housing at 2250 Woodward Ave. and 2205 Cass Ave. and the historic preservation of 408 Temple St. and 2210 Park Ave.
No existing residents will be displaced, said Andrew Cantor, president of Related Michigan.
“I think that’s a critical piece of the project, that we’re building urban infill downtown,” he said.
Cantor also noted that the residential housing will be mixed-income.
“These are very nice apartments that we’re planning,” he said. “They are going to be no different if they are a market-rate unit or an affordable-rate unit.”
Residents asked numerous questions of the developers including the affordable housing plan, how interested contractors could seek work on the project and if small businesses would be part of the retail mix. Others implored the developers to advocate for transit options as well as inclusion in its proposed hotel, such as offering adjoining rooms for those that may need separate amenities for a caregiver.
Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch, who spoke as an area resident, expressed concerns during the meeting about the impact additional traffic it would bring to the Brush Park neighborhood, which sits across the street from Little Caesars Arena.
“We have consistently been made promises and these changes have come without giving us advance notice as to how it would impact our community,” he said. “More specifically as we talk about these new developments that will be taking place that were just presented today, we see a lot of development taking place on vacant lots that are currently used for parking. Right now in Brush Park we have a parking problem and I’m just wondering how it will be alleviated. I absolutely understand that there is a need for housing, but we also understand there is already a distressed community being overrun with traffic issues.”
Kinloch asked that the developers keep the community updated when plans change.
“It is important for you all to understand that when you come and lay out these promises that you keep us informed when they change,” he said. “And also give us some sort of clear understanding of when these developments will actually really come online.”
The Ilitches have faced criticism after the opening of Little Caesars Arena in 2017 with some saying that development in the district was slow to materialize. When asked by an attendee why people should believe in the latest plan, Bradford said the current effort continues the vision of previously announced plans.
“What is the benefit of the vision?” Bradford said. “Jobs and housing. Those things are all happening here with the residential that we talked about, with the housing that we talked about.”
Bradford notes that it takes time to plan and move through the development process. He noted the projects completed within the past couple years: the Little Caesars headquarters, the Eddystone apartments and the construction of 2715 Woodward, the home of Boston Consulting Group.
“We’re going to continue that, plus the plan that we laid out here today,” he said. “How it changes, it’s morphed with this new master plan we’re laying out here today is what I would ask you to think about as we go forward … I can’t predict the future, I had no idea, none of us did that COVID would happen. All that development I just described happened during COVID. That’s complicated things. I do feel great about what we’re laying out for this vision.”
Renita Branford, a resident in the nearby Woodbridge neighborhood, said she attended the meeting to learn more about the project. She said was most interested in seeing shopping come to the area.
“I don’t want to have to go to the suburbs to do my shopping,” she said.
When complete, the project will support more than 6,000 jobs and generate more than $500 million in wages annually in the city, officials said. The development will create 12,000 temporary construction-related jobs and generate more than $800 million in wages.
There will be at least 10 meetings scheduled through February.
The nine members in the project’s impact area will be appointed or elected to a neighborhood advisory council. The group is tasked with negotiating with the developer for benefits for the neighborhood, including hiring preferences, recreational amenities and funds for home repairs.
The members will include two appointed by the community, four appointed by the city’s Planning and Development Department and three appointed by Council Members Coleman A. Young II, Mary Waters and Gabriela Santiago-Romero. Nominations will take place during the next community meeting on Dec. 6.
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