Committee seeks District Detroit community benefits

The CBO process — which voters approved in 2016 — requires that developers proposing development projects with a $75 million price tag receiving $1 million or more in property tax abatements or $1 million or more in city land engage with a Neighborhood Advisory Council to establish community benefits. Those can include things like jobs, local hiring, environmental protections, land use programs and local small business and resident inclusion.

As part of a new vision for the Ilitch family’s District Detroit area, Related and Olympia have proposed a series of 10 projects totaling an estimated $1.5 billion with 1.25 million square feet of office space, 695 residential units (with some affordable at rates as low as 50 percent of the Area Median Income), 467 hotel rooms and about 146,000 square feet of commercial/retail space across new and redeveloped historic buildings.

With those projects comes a request for $797 million in public incentives and reimbursements, including a $616 million request for so-called “transformational brownfield” funding; $133 million in commercial and residential tax abatements up to 10 and 15 years, respectively; $23.75 million in loans for affordable housing from the Downtown Development Authority across three projects; and up to $25 million in reimbursements for infrastructure upgrades like road improvements, utilities, security and public space upgrades for the area, also from the DDA.

In all, the $616 million transformational brownfield funding request equals some 41 percent of the total development proposal cost and the overall funding package amounts to 53 percent of it.

Executives with Olympia and Related, plus the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., have said that if none of the projects are completed, none of the public incentives are received.

In July 2014, the Ilitch family put forward a vision for the District Detroit area that included some 45 to 50 blocks of new and redeveloped space with residential, office, commercial, bar and restaurant and green space.

The area has been slow to materialize into the massive entertainment and residential district that was pitched 8 1/2 years ago, with one apartment building opening and another under construction, but much of the area remains surface parking lots and vacant buildings. Large public subsidies were also granted for Little Caesars Arena, home to the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons.

There has been new office and educational space built, in addition to the arena, but not close to the scale as was proposed in 2014.

This new vision would be anchored by the Detroit Center for Innovation, a new $250 million University of Michigan graduate school campus that would be built west of the Fox Theater on what is largely a surface parking lot. That project has received a $100 million earmark from the state plus a $100 million personal funding commitment from Ross, a Detroit native who is a major University of Michigan donor and the owner of the Miami Dolphins.


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