You know how every time some team owner announces that their new publicly financed venue will come with a “ballpark village” or “arena district,” and I shake my head sadly and warn that accompanying development rarely if ever happens on the expected timetable? Well, this just in from the Detroit Red Wings front:
Nearly a year after Olympia Development announced that a big chunk of $200 million in retail, offices and apartments could be open when the Red Wings’ hockey arena debuts in summer 2017, plans, details and timelines of many of those components remain unknown.
“I don’t even see the majority of that 45-block overhaul starting before the arena is open,” said John Mogk, a Wayne State University law professor who closely follows Detroit development.
“You need to prove a strong market for new residential and commercial, and what is in that area now doesn’t make much of a case,” Mogk said.
So, Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch can’t build the new housing and stores until there’s a market demand for it, and there’s no market demand for it yet. I could be churlish and point out that the whole point of the state giving public money for the arena was that the market wasn’t creating enough demand to get anything built on that site, and so the arena was supposed to jump-start things, and if it’s just a matter of waiting for demand for more housing to materialize then Detroit could have done that without having to give Ilitch $300 million, and — you know what, it’s Monday, I have a right to be churlish. Or at least to point out that when developers make promises about all the stuff they’re going to build, you really want to get it in writing.
(Ilitch can reportedly get another $74 million from the city development authority if he spends the $200 million within five years; whether you consider that a valuable incentive or throwing good money after bad is your call.)