Big Redevelopment Plan for Detroit Neighborhood, But Little Progress

The Detroit project was slated to become a massive sports and entertainment district. After five years, little has changed.
October 11, 2018, 10am PDT | Camille Fink
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Tom Perkins reports on the current status of the District Detroit, a 50-block area near downtown that includes Little Caesar's Arena. Detroit's wealthy Ilitch family owns the arena along with many of the derelict properties in the area. In 2013, the family proposed a plan to turn the neighborhood around. "The Ilitches promised $200m in development around the arena, claiming new housing, stores, restaurants, bars and offices would bloom," says Perkins.

Even with a big tax break from the city, very little has happened in the last five years. "Instead of gaining luxury lofts, [the District Detroit] lost housing, and the Ilitches have only renovated a small fraction of the hundreds of properties its companies purchased here," according to Perkins.

Not only has the area failed to improve; in some ways its condition has deteriorated even more, says Perkins:

On blocks where historic buildings once stood, they have laid dozens of surface parking lots. Those are controversial because the Ilitches charge up to $50 per spot, and a vast stretch of once-dense downtown real estate is now a sea of Ilitch-owned parking spaces.

While the project did not draw upon the city's general fund, Perkins notes that the Detroit did give up substantial tax revenue from arena operations–what could have amounted to more than $336 million for the general fund.

Critics say the city cut a bad deal, with little oversight or accountability, implying that the lack of progress in the District Detroit is not necessarily a surprise. Residents and business owners are now skeptical after seeing little action, but they are still hoping improvements will come.

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Published on Monday, October 8, 2018 in The Guardian
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