DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s official: Wayne County will not be completed the half-finished jail on Gratiot near Greektown in downtown Detroit.
County officials made the announcement Friday, as they and developer Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures move closer to reaching an agreement that would result in a new $520 million criminal justice complex, including a new jail, near I-75 and Warren Avenue.
Negotiations continue, and tentatively include having Rock Ventures pay a previously approved $500,000 stipend to Walsh Construction for submitting a response to the Request for Proposals (RFP) to finish the partially constructed jail.
“The stipend ensured we received a proposal so we could fully evaluate finishing the jail at Gratiot,” Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said in a statement. “As we dug into the project with an actual proposal, the more we recognized it had too much inherent risk for the County at too high a price. We’re negotiating a deal with Rock that caps the County’s costs and creates the best solution available to our jail problem.”
Friday’s decision to reject a bid by Walsh Construction to finish the jail on Gratiot came a week after Detroit City Council approved a deal for the county to acquire the land needed to proceed with the criminal justice center.
The land swap deal with the City of Detroit will require approval by the Wayne County Commission and the Wayne County Land Bank.
The county is also awaiting a decision from the IRS regarding the use of jail bonds at a site other than Gratiot, and specifically, Rock Ventures’ proposed site
“We’re making progress and moving toward a deal with Rock. But there hasn’t been a simple step in this entire process, nor will there be,” Evans said. “We’ve had to vet two proposals, are working to acquire land from the city, need to settle an issue with the IRS and are negotiating a half a billion dollar development deal – it all takes time, but we’re confident we’ll get there.”
The unfinished 2,000-bed jail is an eyesore across from the county courthouse in Detroit. Construction stopped in June of 2013 because the project was wildly over budget, with cost overruns totaling more than $90 million. The idled site is reportedly costing taxpayers about $1.2 million a month in bond payments, storage and security.
Evans has repeatedly said he wants to do whatever makes the most sense for taxpayers.
If the Rock deal goes through, Gilbert’s company would bulldoze the failed jail, and build a mixed-use development on the site. The development initially was proposed to include a Major League Soccer stadium, but new plans call for MLS to be played at Ford Field if the league chooses Detroit.
Reaction to the news was mixed among Detroiters speaking to WWJ’s Mike Campbell about these latest developments.
Audrey Harris said an MLS stadium was always a bad choice. She would’ve rather have seen the jail completed. “A soccer field around here, with so much crime going on and that? Nah. (We) need a jail, need a jail.”
Harry Mehaus believes it’s a good thing the jail wasn’t finished.
“You shouldn’t have the jail be the entry point of Detroit,” he told Campbell. “This is the gateway to the entertainment district, and the sports district.”
Local attorney Diana McClain agreed that the Gratoit site wasn’t the appropriate place for a jail. “As long as the county doesn’t lose money in the end and they’re going to have a new facility, I’m OK with that,” she said.