One of my best friends is in the military, and he finds that it is wiser to not speak of politics. I am in the hockey blogging business, and specifically, the Red Wings blogging business, so I find that it is better to keep my opinions of the Ilitches’ real estate dealings as they pertain to Little Caesars Arena to myself.
That being said, going down to the rink for the summer development camp, it was a bummer to still see the parcel of land adjacent to the southeast corner of the rink sit empty and surrounded by construction fencing. The parcel adjacent to Woodward and I-75 is probably one of the most developable (pretend that it’s a word with me) spots in the city, but it just sits and waits for a clearer surrounding-the-rink real estate plan to emerge. One that doesn’t involve just putting up parking lots and charging $20-40 to park for a couple of hours.
Olympia Development just missed a deadline to submit a redevelopment plan for the parcel, and the Detroit News’s Editorial board produced an editorial slamming what is–regardless of your opinion of the Ilitches–clearly a broken promise regarding the organization’s downtown development plans, or the lack thereof:
The latest affront to the city came with the missed June 28 deadline for revealing its plans for a prime piece of real estate on Woodward next to the arena.
The site had been used as a staging area for materials and equipment during the LCA construction, which was completed last year.
Crains Detroit Business reported this week that the Ilitches had not filed a development plan as required with the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. for the site at the northwest corner of Woodward and I-75, even though it had been given a one-year extension by the DEGC to come up with a proposal.
The property was supposed to host a hotel in the grand plan for The District Detroit originally laid out by CEO Chris Ilitch.
The DEGC seems reluctant to call out the Ilitches for yet another missed deadline. It issued no public statement about the delinquency, or what action it intends to take to force the Ilitches to comply with the agreement.
Woodward is one of the hottest real estate strips in the nation, with roughly $8 billion of projects either underway or ready to launch.
The property in question is a prime site. If the Ilitches don’t intend to put it into productive use as promised, the DEGC should take steps to force the sale of the land to developers who will.
I wasn’t blogging at the time that HBO’s Real Sports documentary came out–and they got it all wrong, suggesting that tax money that can’t legally be used for anything but downtown development had been robbed from the schools–but it doesn’t take a harsh critique of the Ilitches to point out that the parking lots, empty lots and deferred developments weren’t what were promised when Olympia Development and the Downtown Development Authority unveiled their plans for the neighborhoods surrounding LCA.
And whatever has gone wrong over the course of the past half-decade, parking lots don’t benefit anyone but the landowners. Even making incremental steps toward building “neighborhoods” would make a tremendously positive difference downtown. At this point, we can only hope.