Detroit Rink City: Ilitches' grand plan to supersize the entertainment district
A gargantuan 3-year plan: 5 new neighborhoods, a $450 million hockey arena and an accelerated timeline to complete it all
A DRAMATIC TRANSFORMATION OF THE HEART OF DETROIT will begin in September, when the Ilitch family breaks ground on the construction of a $450 million Detroit Red Wings arena concurrently with another $200 million in apartments, restaurants, office buildings, parks and shops over 45 blocks. This is the city’s entertainment district, super-sized.
By Bill Shea. July 20, 2014
Planned is a gargantuan three-year construction project to create five new neighborhoods intended to stitch together the city where it’s divided by the trench-like Fisher Freeway underneath Woodward Avenue.
The 650,000-square-foot hockey and events center and the new neighborhoods — including hundreds of apartments to be built both outside Comerica Park and the new hockey arena — are scheduled to be ready by summer 2017.
A 2013 deal between the Ilitches, through their Olympia Development of Michigan, and the city’s Downtown Development Authority to build the arena at the largely vacant and blighted area of Woodward at I-75 obligated the family to spend at least $200 million in ancillary development within five years of the venue’s opening.
But the Ilitches are accelerating that timeline, and upping the ante.
The Ilitches, the Little Caesars pizza chain founders who have owned the hockey team since 1982, told Crain’s last week that their construction timeline has been radically moved forward so the investment can have a maximum catalytic impact for the city.
“We think the impact on our community will be exponential if it’s all done at once,” said Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings and son of Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch. “This project takes on a much bigger scale. There is nothing like this going on in our country.”
Ilitch said cost isn’t the first consideration as the planning has evolved for a project with a very large vision for the whole entertainment district.
“This is more than a development; this is our passion,” he said.
Additionally, the Ilitches are now promising to spend “tens of millions” more for infrastructure improvements in the district, mainly around Cass Park west of the arena site to create mixed-use neighborhoods, Ilitch said, but he declined to specify a total.
“This is not part of our agreement with anyone. We’re just doing it,” he said, adding that Olympia has been in talks with the mayor’s office on the necessary approvals.
The additional spending will be used to fix roads, streetlights, landscaping and other aesthetic work within a 45-block area aimed at creating a clean, desirable slate from which to build five neighborhoods with unique identities.
“It frees the city up to spend its resources on other priorities,” Ilitch said.
DTE Energy Co. and other utilities will be asked to make any fixes or upgrades in the area while Olympia has the streets torn up, he said.
“This is an investor’s playground,” Ilitch said.
All together, the area stretches from Charlotte Street, the street north of Temple Street, south to Grand Circus Park, east to the existing stadiums and to a northwestern boundary abutting MotorCity Casino Hotel, owned by Marian Ilitch.