Ilitch organization may build new Detroit events center

Ilitch organization may build new Detroit events center

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Detroit skyline (Credit: Fox 2 News) Detroit skyline (Credit: Fox 2 News)

By Alexis Wiley
Fox 2 News

DETROIT (WJBK) -- "The amount of people that are downtown.  The amount of people that are riding the bikes and running around the city these days is amazing compared to 18, 20 years ago when there was tumbleweeds," said Sean Harrington.

Mike Ilitch could soon give us yet another reason to come downtown.  The organization announced Tuesday they're looking at building a state of the art events center that will include retail, residential space and, of course, a sports arena.

Harrington owns Centaur, Hot Taco and the Town Pump, and John Lambrecht owns Bookies Bar and Grill.  They say it's no secret.  Mike Ilitch has wanted to build a new arena for a very long time.

"We've heard it so many times that I don't want to become too like over the top excited," Harrington said.

"Almost five years ago I've been hearing these rumors fly around," said Lambrecht.

However, this is a lot more than a rumor.  A representative from Ilitch Holdings, Inc. went to Lansing Tuesday to personally push for a bill that would allow Detroit's Downtown Development Authority to continue tapping into existing funds to support development in the city.

Sources tell me the Ilitch organization is working with an architecture firm called HKS to design an arena for the Red Wings, and sources say architects are now being told to go back to the drawing board and design something even bigger.

"A new ice arena down here, entertainment venue, will be amazing for the city," said Lambrecht.

Where would the center be built?  The Ilitch organization won't say, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill.  Insiders say it will most likely be built in the Cass Cooridor west of Woodward and just north of I-75 creating traffic for the nearby Motorcity Casino, which is owned by Mike Ilitch's wife, Marion Ilitch.

"Wherever they put it... there will be so much development that happens around it.  It will be like a domino effect," Lambrech said.

The Ilitch organization would not comment on anything beyond the press release nor say exactly when this project will become a reality.


Full press release from the Ilitch organization:

DETROIT, MI The Ilitch organization today announced it is taking a step forward with the public sector to explore the viability of a partnership to support the development of an innovative district in Detroit's downtown core comprised of residential, retail and office facilities, anchored by a new state-of-the-art, multi-purpose events center. The Ilitch organization is supporting House Bill 5463, as amended today, that allows the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to continue capturing existing funds that would support a catalytic development in Detroit.

"It's always been my dream to once again see a vibrant downtown Detroit," said Mike Ilitch, chairman, Ilitch Holdings, Inc.  "From the time we bought the Fox Theatre, I could envision a downtown where the streets were bustling and people were energized.  It's been a slow process at times, but we're getting there now and a lot of great people are coming together to make it happen.  It's going to happen and I want to keep us moving toward that vision."

The Ilitch organization is now preparing to make another substantial investment in the development of a new residential, retail, office and entertainment district in downtown Detroit, adding to the more than $1.9 billion the Ilitch companies have already invested.

"We have a tremendous opportunity through a large-scale project to make a positive impact on our community," said Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc.  "A project of this magnitude requires continued due diligence and a strategic partnership with the public sector.  Working together we can ensure this opportunity connects Detroit's existing set of initiatives and assets strengthening the downtown core and enhancing the image of our city, state and region."

The sum of the total mixed-use development in the district, including residential, retail, office facilities and events center, is approximately $650 million, which incorporates a significant private investment supplemented by existing dollars currently collected by the DDA supporting economic development and requiring no new taxes.

"This plan makes good business sense for two reasons," said George W. Jackson, Jr., president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.  "First, it's not a plan for an isolated, single-use structure.  Instead, it builds on the clear successes we've already had downtown integrating districts that feature entertainment, and support commercial, retail and residential development around them.  Second, it doesn't impose any new tax burdens; it simply continues a program for retiring debt related to economic development.  It's hard to argue with that."

The building of the new district is anticipated to create approximately 5,500 jobs for the events center alone and approximately 8,300 jobs for the entire residential and commercial mixed-use district. Michigan can anticipate an estimated economic impact of $1.8 billion from the completion of this district.

Case studies throughout the country reveal the most successful districts include a public-private partnership that support a balance of residential, business, education, cultural, sports and entertainment activities embedded with public spaces.

 "Leadership in communities such as Columbus (OH), Los Angeles, San Diego and Indianapolis have shown how prudently created partnerships can create new downtown neighborhoods and spur growth in the population and increase the levels of activity and vitality in central cities," said Professor Mark S. Rosentraub, University of Michigan. "In those cases, districts anchored by events centers led to the creation of financially viable and successful new neighborhoods that are economically and socially integrated."

While the exact location of the district has not been determined, it will be strategically located to serve some of the most underutilized areas in Detroit's downtown core, strengthening the link between Detroit's existing assets through a continuous, walk able environment connecting one district to the next and serving to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

Passage of House Bill 5463, sponsored by Representative John Walsh (R-Livonia), will allow the public and private sector partners to begin the next steps in the process to develop the structure, scope and timeline of this economic development project.

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