DETROIT (WWJ) – Wayne County Executive Warren Evans seems to be leaning away from an offer by developer Dan Gilbert to build a jail in exchange for some prime downtown real estate.

Gilbert’s company Rock Ventures weeks ago submitted an offer to Wayne County to basically swap the high-profile site of the current jail under construction for a new, state-of-the-art, consolidated criminal justice center Rock Ventures would build for the county on Forrest Ave., east of I-75. It would include a new adult and juvenile detention facilities and a new criminal courthouse that would replace the current Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

Wayne County would give Rock Ventures $300 million — the estimated cost to complete the jail at current construction site. The developer would bulldoze the failed jail, and build a $1 billion commercial development, which would potentially include a Major League Soccer stadium. [More details].

However, during his State of the County Speech Tuesday night, Evans appeared to favor completing the jail where it is.

While, he said, research and negotiations are ongoing, Evans said it’s becoming clear that it makes more sense to finish building the jail at the Gratiot site than to accept the Rock proposal.

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.

“None of our facility issues are more visible than the unfinished Gratiot jail,” he told a crown gathered at the Dearborn’s Ford Community and Performing Arts Center. “It’s an inherited mess that continues to be a black eye to the county.”

“…I’ve instructed my team to take the same thoughtful, deliberate approach in vetting the Rock Ventures offer as we did with the county’s fiscal crisis,” Evans said. “And while we negotiate the Rock Ventures option, Walsh Construction is completing its response to the county’s RFB, to finish the jail at the Gratiot site.”

Evans said he expects to have a proposal from Walsh by May.

He said he just hasn’t seen enough information from Rock as of yet to know if what they’re proposing will suit the county’s needs, and he would need a lot more detail from Rock by then in order to weigh the options.

“Let me be clear about one thing: timing is important,” Evans said. “While the Rock proposal remains worth considering, it doesn’t change the fact that we are closer to building on Gratiot than at East Forrest.”

“…The Rock proposal is going to have to get better and move faster,” Evans added. “Rock has a lot to do to meet our timetable. This isn’t posturing, or hyperbole, and it’s not anti-soccer. It’s just where we are today.”

Evans said what sometimes get lost in all this debate, is that the county desperately needs a new jail.

“I need to see this through to completion, and I will,” he said.


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