Nov 16, 2022 - News

District Detroit plans, incentives to get closer look

A rendering shows a bustling street with shops in District Detroit.

Conceptual rendering of an avenue next to Little Caesars Arena. Photo courtesy of Ilitch Companies

Plans for the $1.5 billion District Detroit development will soon be examined through the city's community benefits process.

Why it matters: Several prominent real estate developments, like Amazon's, haven't triggered the Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO), designed to provide benefits for residents living near big new projects.

Catch up quick: The plan from billionaire Stephen Ross and the Ilitch family, if it materializes, would be anchored by the University of Michigan Center for Innovation.

  • The wider vision features nearly 700 residential units, including in a new mixed-use building on current parking lots between Comerica Park and Woodward, and a new hotel attached to the Fox Theatre, according to a release yesterday.

The latest: The Ross-Ilitch team is requesting approval for city tax breaks for commercial and residential building development, the developers and city tell Axios. That request for public buy-in triggers the CBO.

  • Public CBO meetings start at 6pm Nov. 29 at Cass Tech, leading to negotiations with community representatives for developer-funded benefits like job training or housing assistance.
  • The deal requires City Council approval.

Details: The Ross-Ilitch team is also seeking incentives through a state program for transformational projects — which Dan Gilbert previously secured.

Flashback: We recently saw controversy over approval of city tax incentives for Dan Gilbert's nearby Hudson's site.

What they're saying: The CBO is "something we are very proud to have … We are the largest city that actually has a CBO process in play," city planning director Antoine Bryant tells Axios.

Yes, but: It remains to be seen who's at the table in these CBO negotiations, Linda Campbell of the activist group Detroit People's Platform tells Axios.

  • She says there's not the same "racial equity lens applied to these projects when you're dealing with the representation for Midtown and downtown" as in other neighborhoods.

Plus, skepticism remains about the new plans after the Ilitch family failed to keep previous promises it made for developing languishing property around Little Caesars Arena.

Details: Developers say they have facilitated 250 engagement meetings to "make sure these plans echo the needs and desires of Detroiters," Rian English Barnhill, VP of government and community affairs for Ilitch real estate company Olympia, tells Axios.

  • Andrew Cantor of Related Michigan, Ross's real estate operation, also pointed to new tax revenue the projects will create in an interview with Axios.
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