DETROIT (WWJ) – Wayne County Executive Warren Evans has announced a tentative agreement with Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures to build a new $533 million criminal justice center with a new jail, sheriff and prosecutor offices, criminal courthouse and juvenile detention facility.

In exchange, the county will transfer to Rock Ventures the existing downtown jails, juvenile facility and Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. Rock Ventures also will buy the site where the vacant, unfinished jail sits along Gratiot Ave., in the area of I-75 and I-94.

The long-expected agreement comes after well over a year of study, evaluation, negotiation, contemplation and debate on the subject.

It took so long because, as Evans has stressed, he wanted to make sure he got the best deal possible for taxpayers.

“This has been an extraordinarily complex process involving over half a billion dollar development deal with land acquisition from a third party. I couldn’t be prouder of my team, for all the work it took in reaching the best possible solution,” Evans said. “I’m also pleased that building the new jail will allow us to close the county’s three existing jails, leading to improved efficiency, cost-savings and addressing the long-standing poor conditions.”

The deal remains tentative, however, as the Wayne County Board of Commissioners and others still need to officially approve it.

For their part, Rock Ventures calls it a historic day for people in Wayne County, the city of Detroit and for future generations.

wayne county jail Wayne County, Dan Gilbert Strike Deal For New Jail Complex, Old Jail Site

The failed Wayne County Jail project in Detroit (credit: Mike Campbell/WWJ Newsradio 950)

“The solution here not only fixes significant mistakes of the past, but at the same time delivers to the County a completely new, ground-up criminal justice center, in addition to resulting in a large, mixed-use development on the former proposed jail site,” Glibert said.

It took so long because, as Evans has stressed, he wanted to make sure he got the best deal possible for taxpayers.

As part of the agreement, Evans said Rock will employ at least 51 percent Wayne County residents in the jobs required to redevelop the county parcels. In addition, the company will contribute $500,000 to county parks and $250,000 to support career and technical education programs for residents.

The county will kick in $380 million to build the new jail complex and Rock will cover any cost overruns.

The unfinished 2,000-bed jail is an eyesore across from the county courthouse in Detroit. Construction stopped in 2013 because the project was wildly over budget, with cost overruns totaling more than $90 million.

The planned new jail will be slightly larger, with 2,200 beds; but is that enough?

“I’d like to see 1,200,” Evans said. “And I say that because I don’t like to see people in jail. Twenty-two hundred is a number that we have the auxiliary services to work in the community, use tethers, if we use the court…I think we’re going to be OK with 2,200.”

Gilbert back in 2016 stunned county leaders when he announced a sparkling, $1 billion plan to build a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium at the site of the unfinished jail — when he didn’t even own the land. Although that plan eventually led to this one, pro soccer dreams have since been revised with hope of a new MLS team to form and play at Ford Field sometime down the line.


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