Detroit city council delays Red Wings land transfer until February to retain “leverage”

The Detroit city council voted on Friday to approve two of the measures required for a new Red Wings arena, expanding the Downtown Development Authority’s tax-increment financing district and redirecting the money to go toward paying off Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch’s construction costs. They did not, however, approve the transfer of city-owned land for the project, kicking that decision back to February.

The council apparently held off on approving the land sale because it wants to maintain “leverage” to cut a better deal, though it’s not exactly clear what it intends to ask for. (Some councilmembers had previously griped about how much the city would be compensated for the land and what guarantees there would be of local job hiring, so those could still be two possible demands.) Pushing the vote back into the new year, though, could scramble things significantly, as five new members will join the nine-member council in January, so who the hell knows how they’ll vote or what they’ll want in exchange for their vote.

Friday’s votes came after “dozens of people” (per the Detroit Free Press) spoke out against the public cost of the $650 million arena-plus-mixed-use-development project. Downtown Detroit landowner Jerry Belanger, who has emerged as one of the loudest critics of the deal, also hinted at filing a lawsuit against the project, asserting, “There could be several aspects of this contract that could be challenged as unconstitutional.”

We also finally got a cost estimate for demolition of the city-owned Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings’ current home: Detroit Economic Growth Corp. VP Brian Holdwick says razing the arena is expected to cost the state $5 million, bringing the total public cost to $266 million. I hope they voted to put it in money balloons.


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