(WWJ) Billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert’s offer to swap the failed jail site for a new criminal justice center and world-class soccer stadium is being met with cautious optimism from some Wayne County leaders.

“They must really want this soccer team,” Wayne County Commission Vice-Chairman Alisha Bell told WWJ’s citybeat reporter Vickie Thomas.

She went on to say it sounded interesting at first blush, but added “the devil’s in the details.”

County Executive Warren Evans is reviewing the proposal that 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, Gilbert’s 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.

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.

While some say the entire deal is “pie in the sky,” Bell said only that she was surprised by the offer.

“We’re close to picking a company and completing (the jail) where we are,” Bell said.


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