DETROIT (WWJ) – Billionaire Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures has made an offer to build Wayne County a new criminal justice center in exchange for the much-contested downtown jail site — but his offer isn’t sitting well with one county commissioner.
Under Gilbert’s proposal, the county would transfer the Gratiot Avenue jail site to Rock Ventures for a planned $1 billion commercial development, which would potentially include a Major League Soccer stadium. In exchange, Rock Ventures would build the county a “new, state-of-the-art, consolidated criminal justice center” that includes the construction of new adult and juvenile detention facilities as well as a new criminal courthouse.
Wayne County Commissioner Ray Basham, a democrat from Taylor, says Gilbert’s “pie in the sky” plan sounds pretty good until you get down to the details.
“What about the traffic? Having a Tigers stadium, a football arena and then to put this right at the same place, too? Traffic is horrendous now and this would add to the problems,” Basham told WWJ’s Charlie Langton.
Ultimately, Basham said the taxpayers have simply paid too much already to just abandon ship on the Gratiot Avenue jail site.
“This is a complex issue. It makes for good media and all those sorts of things, but there is no good solution and listen, at the end of the day, the taxpayers pay for this. We need to finish what we started at the current location, that’s my opinion,” he said. “That’s what was started, there’s millions of dollars poured into it already, and those are taxpayer dollars, and we need to finish it.”
Another commissioner, Glenn Anderson, says it’s too early to tell whether or not Gilbert’s plan is even feasible.
“It’s certainly better than the first offer but as they always say, the devil’s in the details, and we have not received all the details,” said Anderson. “It really all comes down to what’s the best deal for the taxpayers. If Gilbert’s offer comes through with a sufficient amount of dollars and the agreement will protect the investment that the taxpayers have made already, then I think it’s certainly worth considering and I’m sure it will be.”
The unfinished 2,000-bed jail is an eyesore in Detroit, located on Gratiot near I-375 across from the county courthouse. Construction stopped in 2013 because the project was wildly over budget, with cost overruns totaling more than $90 million. County officials have said they plan to complete the jail, despite speculations that the project might be scrapped in favor of more desirable projects.
Last April, billionaire Gilbert revealed sparkling plans for a brand new professional soccer stadium on the downtown Detroit site. Gilbert’s plan included restaurants, offices and hotels, in addition to the 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium.
The proposed site of the new criminal justice complex is located at E. Forest Ave., east of I-75, approximately 1.5 miles north of the current Gratiot Avenue site.
Commission Chair Gary Woronchak, a democrat from Dearborn, plans to meet with County Executive Warren Evans about Gilbert’s proposal on Tuesday.