After receiving nearly $400 million in direct taxpayer assistance to develop the area around Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit’s Lower Cass Corridor, the developer, Illitch Holdings, which owns Little Caesar’s Pizza, the Detroit Redwings, the Detroit Tigers, and Olympia Entertainment as well as managing Detroit’s Fox Theatre, City Theatre, and Comerica Park, is facing brutal backlash after requesting more funds and missing multiple deadlines for development. The Detroit Economic Growth Corp (DEGC), which approves district development plans for the area, recently confirmed to Crain’s that there are still no submitted plans for Illitch-owned land in the area despite granting the group a one-year extension in June of last year.
Lots of Parking but Few Residential Options
So far, development has mainly consisted of parking lots and parking garages, complain local critics. The promised retail and residential properties to be housed in currently blighted buildings have not yet materialized, they say. The District Detroit is intended to be a nightlife hub as well as a mixed-use district, but many of the buildings owned by the family and its subsidiary companies remain blighted. For example, Hotel Eddystone, a currently vacant, 13-story building next to Little Caesar’s Arena, has had three launch dates for an estimated $40.9 million remodel and renovation. However, thus far, none have resulted in work beginning.
Locals have begun to call for penalties for the lack of development, although, so far, none appear to be forthcoming. DEGC spokesperson Charlotte Fisher stated simply, via email, “There is no plan before the Downtown Development Authority for the development of this parcel, but we are currently in ongoing discussions with the developer to identify next steps.” In the case of the specific parcel in question, a vacant property envisioned as residential or hotel space, Illitch-owned Olympia Development of Michigan is presently managing development. Olympia Development only stated, “We continue to be in discussions with the city on this matter.”
“Aggressive” Timelines for Development
The Illitch family initially debuted its vision for The District Detroit five years ago, and parking decks, some office space, and the Wayne State University Mike Illitch School of Business have gone up in the interim. Some might argue this is substantial progress for five years, particularly at a cost of $862.9 million. However, the lack of residential and hotel space, in particular, is troubling local investors and residents who expected The District to provide a boost to property values and bring in new business much sooner. Illitch Holdings, Inc. CEO, Christopher Illitch, said this past May that his company’s residential development timelines “proved to be aggressive.” Initially, for example, the company had projected Hotel Eddystone would be redeveloped and occupied by September 2018.
Tell us what you think:
- Is the Illitch family up to no good?
- Are these types of arena-anchored developments good for local communities and investments?
- Do you think Detroit should stop being so patient?
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