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By Alex Ebert
The Wayne County Executive struck a deal with developers seeking nearly $300 million in state incentives to develop a mixed-use office and soccer stadium where an unfinished Detroit jail languishes unused.
A key part of the plan is state approval of tax incentives for “brownfield eligible expenses” worth $295 million. With the state’s blessing, the complex could recoup demolition and parking costs through a 17-year tax-increment-financing agreement that captures property tax revenue increases.
In return for the land, Rock Ventures agreed to build the county a new criminal justice center worth an estimated $533 million. Rock Ventures will take $380 million for construction of the project, as well as $30 million in parking revenue. However, the company pledged to cover any cost overages, according to a statement from Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans.
“This eyesore of a partially-built jail has been sitting since 2013 with everyone knowing it would take hundreds of millions of dollars to solve this fiasco,” Evans said in the statement. “It’s been an albatross around the County’s neck weighing us down both financially and mentally.”
The deal, which still needs approval of county commissioners, may be integral to Detroit’s bid to receive a Major League Soccer expansion team. The league has said it will give preference to cities that can provide a soccer-specific stadium, and a 20,000-seat stadium was a highlight of Rock Ventures’ proposal.
However, without much movement on the land swap since October 2017, Gilbert, also the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, said in November 2017 that the expansion team would play in the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field. Rock Ventures declined to comment on whether the deal announced March 7 would impact the expansion bid and whether the soccer-specific stadium is back in play.
If a soccer stadium is still in the cards, it could join Little Caesars Arena as a venue that received some form of taxpayer support. The $863 million stadium that now hosts the National Basketball Association’s Pistons and National Hockey League’s Red Wings received roughly $324 million from the county and city. Part of that funding—the city’s $34.5 million portion—is the subject of two federal lawsuits.
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