Mar 28, 2024 - News

City leaders respond to District Detroit delay

A rendering (left) for a tower planned with nearly 500,000 square feet of office space in front of Comerica Park, and a 261-unit residential building (right) planned adjacent to the U of M Center for Innovation.

A rendering (left) for a tower planned with nearly 500,000 square feet of office space in front of Comerica Park, and a 261-unit residential building (right) planned adjacent to the U of M Center for Innovation. Renderings: Courtesy of District Detroit via public documents

Since District Detroit developers delayed construction of their 17-story office building, city leaders have reacted with a mix of understanding, optimism and a touch of "I told you so."

Why it matters: Previous development plans around Little Caesars Arena have a history of delays and unmet promises.

State of play: The city is banking on the $1.5 billion megadevelopment from the Ilitches' Olympia Development and billionaire Stephen Ross' Related Cos. to help downtown grow and attract new businesses.

  • The office building has been put on hold due to ​​difficulty financing office space.

Between the lines: Given the Ilitches' reputation for overpromising and underdelivering, some public skepticism is expected, Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, tells Axios.

City Council President Mary Sheffield called the news of the office building's delay unfortunate, but said in a statement that she's excited about the developers' plan to focus on hotel and residential space instead, as they're a "critical need."

  • "Quite frankly, a significant part of my hesitation surrounding the District Detroit deal, and ultimate vote against it, was my understanding of the state of the office space leasing demand in Detroit and around the country."

Council member Gabriela Santiago-Romero tells Axios, "We did not think that there was going to be that much of a need for office space. So to hear them change their plans, it was kind of expected."

  • "One of the main reasons why I ultimately felt OK with supporting the project was noting that they will not receive any [taxpayer] funds until the project is complete. So it's ultimately on them, and I hope that they move forward because it is not going to look great if we continue to support developments for the Ilitch company that aren't being completed."

Mayor Mike Duggan said at a city event this week that the developers' decision to prioritize apartments over office space "made perfect sense."

  • "You're seeing it all over downtown, with the exception of the Huntington headquarters. Pretty much everything that's going up right now is apartments and hotels. And I love that … I'm thrilled with what Stephen Ross is doing."

What's next: Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch told Axios he would like for the project's Neighborhood Advisory Council to hold a public meeting to update nearby residents about the latest timeline.

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