Wayne County Exec Unimpressed By Soccer Stadium Impact Study

DETROIT (WWJ) – They’re no closer to a deal.

A new study on the economic impact of erecting a Major League Soccer stadium on the site of an unfinished jail in downtown Detroit is not swaying Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.

Billionaire developer Dan Gilbert’s company Rock Ventures, which has proposed the stadium — as part of a $1 billion commercial development — says the University of Michigan study shows the proposed project at the jail site and a new criminal justice complex would create a nearly $2.4 billion economic impact along with more than 32,000 temporary and 2,100 permanent jobs.

[View a copy of the U-M study]

“This study is a continuation of our efforts to provide the county and other stakeholders with the necessary analysis and information to fully evaluate the proposal we submitted on February 6,” said Matt Cullen, Principal of Rock Ventures.

“The Gratiot site is a critical gateway to downtown Detroit and we are excited about the opportunities a project of this scale and quality would provide for our entire community. This development will be a real catalyst for the city and county and we need to make sure we get it right.”

In a statement, Evans says the study moves both sides no closer to answering the fundamental question: “Is Rock prepared to build the County a criminal justice complex in a timely fashion, with buildings that meet our needs, at a price Wayne County can afford?”

If they can’t meet that standard, Evans says, everything else is irrelevant.

Rock Ventures has basically offered to swap the high-profile site of the current jail under construction for a new, state-of-the-art, consolidated criminal justice center that Rock 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].

During his state of the city speech last month, Evans made it clear the county is closer completing the jail where it is — despite continuing negotiations with Gilbert and company.

What he needs to know, Evan said, is what’s in the best interest of residents, reiterating that point on Tuesday.

“I represent Wayne County taxpayers who continue to pay $1.2 million a month on a stalled jail they were promised years ago. I also have a responsibility to the employees, inmates and visiting families who suffer through deplorable jail conditions that continue to decline, due in large part, to that fact the County never completed the Gratiot jail after spending more than $150 million,” Evans said.

“If the benefits of one project over another are so overwhelming, it’s on those who stand to gain from it to create an alternative option to Gratiot that best protects Wayne County taxpayers. And they need to do it with the urgency and focus that takes into account the impact this project has already had on our residents, just six months removed from a consent agreement necessitated by a deep fiscal crisis.”

The partially built 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.

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