$616 million in ‘brownfield’ funding sought for District Detroit

Work would begin on the office building at 2200 Woodward this year, if the requested public incentives are finalized.

The District Detroit, since it was announced in July 2014, has been slow to materialize, and some of the projects announced in the more than eight years since have either not been built, remain half-built or took years longer than originally anticipated to start.

Keith Bradford, president of Olympia Development and The District Detroit, said the two buildings next to Little Caesars Arena that are partially built are among those being discussed by the development team although no firm plans have been finalized.

However, some new construction and redevelopment has taken place, including construction of the Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business, a new office building at 2715 Woodward Ave. and the new Little Caesars Global Resource Center.

And in an era when the office market has been soft due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bradford said Olympia and Related are optimistic about the new space envisioned because of companies wanting to be near the Detroit Center for Innovation when its built, as well as what he said is demand for new office product in a market that is dominated by rehabbed, historic buildings.

The Detroit Center for Innovation — a proposed second anchor for the District Detroit, with Little Caesars Arena being the first — was originally slated to go on the Gilbert-owned former site of the half-built Wayne County Consolidated Jail project.

However, after announcing the effort in October 2019, Gilbert’s team and Ross’s team ran into development disagreements. Where Ross and Gilbert split at the jail site were fundamental development issues like building orientation, sight lines, site entrances, interconnectivity and accessibility and other issues — and how all of those impacted the remaining Gilbert land, according to a source familiar with the discussions speaking with Crain’s at the time.

Ross began searching for other locations to put the development.

By the summer of 2021, it was reported that Ross and the Ilitches were in negotiations to relocate the Detroit Center for Innovation to the District Detroit area on property west of the Fox Theatre.

In December 2021, the two companies, plus state and local officials, announced that the building would be moved to a nearly four-acre site that also includes the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge building. The DCI is expected to be developed by Related and then donated to the university, which would not pay taxes on the property.

In May, Ross and Ilitch revealed an expanded vision for the area around the DCI, which included a host of new and redeveloped buildings — including many which had long been on Olympia’s drawing boards but which hadn’t yet come to fruition.

How much of the vision laid out by Ross and Ilitch in recent months becomes reality, and when, is contingent on factors ranging from construction costs to financing, market demand, forging partnership agreements and fundraising for the DCI, among a host of others.

Some, all or none of it could ultimately end up being built.


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