Last week, it was announced that the $1.5 billion redevelopment project called District Detroit was ever closer to actually happening. According to the developers of the project, they would build or redevelop “10 properties in and near downtown”. The developers even agreed to a $167 million community benefits agreement. Who are the developers exactly? Well, one of them is Olympia Development, the company owned by the Ilitch family. You know, the same family who begged and received almost $400 million taxpayer dollars from the city of Detroit to build the Red Wings new arena and then simply ignored all the promises made to the public. The same company who promised to buy a homeless shelter in downtown Detroit but then reneged on it with no reason given.
Back in 2014, the Ilitch family was telling the world about a brand-new Detroit that would grow if they could build this new arena with taxpayer help. This new arena would change the downtown area with new housing, offices, restaurants, bars, retail and green spaces….the Ilitch’s just needed $400 million from the city. They ended up getting it and building the new arena.
What about all of the other things? Let’s ask the Detroit Free Press:
“(The Ilitch’s) vision included renderings of sidewalk cafés, people strolling in the evening, and buildings old and new filled with new tenants…..Virtually none of that has happened.“
Outside the arena, nothing was built except for parking lots.
Back to today, these same people are now asking for “nearly $800 million in local and state tax incentives and reimbursements”. Not to worry though, the Ilitch’s say that they will come through this time because they…..hired more people or something? Back to this so-called Community Benefits Agreement. Do people not remember the last time they agreed to this type of agreement? After getting the money from taxpayers in 2014, they refused to sign a hard CBA because it required them to do things like following through on signed agreements.
When a CBA was eventually signed, it was laughable how little was actually in it. We quickly saw why when people started to realize that the Ilitch’s were not using locals to build the arena….as they promised to when asking for taxpayer money. All the city could do is fine the Ilitch family. Nothing more. As the Detroit Free Press recently wrote, doesn’t this feel like déjà vu?