Wayne County To Move Forward With Downtown Jail Project

DETROIT (WWJ) — Plans to continue construction on the Wayne County jail site that was halted in 2013 amid cost-overruns are moving forward.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said Friday that Walsh Construction will receive the request for a proposal on February 10 to complete the unfinished jail — which sits on the corner of Gratiot Ave. and St. Antoine St.

“It’s an albatross that wasn’t ours to start,” Evans told WWJ Newsradio 950. “We inherited [it], but we would like to get something moving. We’ve been working, really, for the past 18 months to get this RFP developed.”

Evans said that the county is paying interest on the unfinished jail to the tune of over a million dollars a month.

“The issue for me is the cost,” Evans said. “It’s been my contention all along that finishing the jail on the existing site was going to the cheapest cost to the Wayne County taxpayers.”

Evans said anyone who wants to submit an alternative proposal should do so by February 10. Billionaire Dan Gilbert and an investment group — which included Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores — proposed that the land be used for a billion-dollar major league soccer stadium last April.

The plan included restaurants, offices and hotels. Before work on the pro soccer project could begin, a deal would need to be made between Gilbert and Wayne County officials.

No deal has been made and the stadium plans are not imminent. Regardless, Gilbert said he’s ready to go — even releasing detailed renderings at a lavish presentation last year.

“The real question though for the county and the community and the people of Detroit is, you know, do we want a jail at the foot of downtown and the front door?” Gilbert said. “Or do we want a major development that’s gonna create economic, great economics for job creation, for, you know, tax roll creation and for overall optimism as you move through the city?”

Gilbert said he met with Evans, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and others to discuss a possible deal, offering $50 million for the jail site earlier last year.

“What was economically feasible for Wayne County has been very clearly finishing on the jail site,” Evans said after the presentation. “Not because it’s the best place, not because anybody’s heart’s in it — but because it’s the only feasible option that Wayne County had for the cheapest amount of money to the taxpayers.”

Gilbert said there was “no Plan B” if plans for proposal go south.

“It is at the entrance to downtown and with Detroit growing and things happening we don’t want an eyesore sitting there unfinished,” Evans said Friday. “Whatever the final use of it turns out to be it shouldn’t be an abandoned, partially-finished jail.”

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