Jul 5, 2022 - News

Detroit City Council president pushes for Hudson's benefits

Three council members sit at a table in a row during a meeting, with President Mary Sheffield in the center speaking.
City Council President Pro Tem James Tate, President Mary Sheffield and member Coleman Young II during a recent council meeting. Photo: city of Detroit via Flickr

Feeling pressure from residents mired in a housing crisis, City Council wants more community benefits before approving the $60 million tax break at Dan Gilbert's Hudson's site development.

Why it matters: The council has six new members this year. Its refusal so far to approve the tax break for Bedrock, Gilbert's development company, could indicate how the new group approaches future requests for tax breaks and other developer incentives.

What they're saying: Rejecting the tax break could send the wrong message to companies and nonprofits considering an investment in Detroit, Council Member Coleman Young II told reporters last week.

Context: Detroit's high construction costs make incentives a necessity, developers often contend.

  • Residents have questioned whether Gilbert, a billionaire, actually needs the tax break to complete the $1.4 billion project.

State of play: Council President Mary Sheffield wants to make sure all residents benefit from downtown development, she wrote in a statement last week. On top of Bedrock's existing community benefits agreement, she has five commitments for the company to make "in writing" before council considers approving the tax break:

  • Make 30% of all Bedrock residential units designated "affordable," up from 20%.
  • Keep 20% of ground-floor retail for small local businesses and "community programming."
  • $1 million for small business development.
  • $5 million for Sheffield's Neighborhood Improvement Fund.
  • And an "annual transparency report" by the Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity Department to make sure Bedrock meets its obligations.

The other side: Nicole Small, a community leader who ran unsuccessfully for council last year, tells Axios that Sheffield's list of benefits is inadequate, especially considering the city's past problems with corporate accountability.

What's next: Mayor Mike Duggan told the Detroit News he's encouraging both council members and Bedrock to reach an agreement on a new community benefits package.

  • "We have to get this project done," the mayor said. "The last thing we need is for Bedrock to scale down a development, but we also have to show what the benefit is to the community. I think we'll do that and I think it will be fine."
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