DETROIT (WWJ) – The Detroit City Council has approved a land transfer deal, paving the way for a new downtown hockey arena for the Red Wings.
The 6-3 vote came after a packed public hearing on the proposal on Monday.
Council President Brenda Jones, who voted no, says city residents still have concerns.
“The concerns that the people have with the land deal is that no one has come forth indicating that they wanted to purchase that land,” said Jones, “so the land has been sitting there and no other entity has come forth to say, ‘I want to purchase that land’.”
Also voting no were council members Raquel Castaneda Lopez and James Tate.
“I am wholeheartedly behind the development,” said Tate, who added that he opposed the proposal because it is “extremely important” to have a more defined commitment to employ Detroit residents in the project.
Unlike an earlier proposal, the new contract includes a guarantee for security and policing in and near the stadium and a neighborhood advisory council.
Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said the deal isn’t perfect but is an improvement over the previous proposal.
“It’s much better than what we had originally and certainly better than what sits in that space right now, which is nothing,” Jenkins said.
During public comment, Cliff Bell’s restaurant owner Jerry Belanger spoke out against the arena project, taking aim at billionaire Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch.
“We’re now taking money from our schools; we’re taking money from food stamps; we’re taking money from public assistance, and they’re called the moocher class?” he said. “What class are these people who are wearing million-dollar suits from?”
“A billionaire, and he can’t even buy his own restaurant because he doesn’t feel he can compete,” Belanger said, “because he can’t go toe-to-toe with me on a fair playing field, because he can’t win without public money!”
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, council already approved a tax financing plan and expanding the boundaries of the Downtown Development Authority district where the project could be constructed.
The 18,000-seat arena would become the new home for the NHL team, which now plays at aging Joe Louis Arena.
The city’s Downtown Development Authority would own the arena and event center complex. Olympia Development would have exclusive rights to use, manage and operate it, and hold naming rights.
The Ilitch family owns Olympia Development as well as the Wings.
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