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Volume 24 No. 113
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Red Wings' Plans Include "Deconstructed" Arena, Large-Scale Entertainment District

The Ilitch family yesterday unveiled plans for a new Red Wings arena and surrounding entertainment district in downtown Detroit, including "as many as 2,000 new residential units, dozens of shops, walkable European-style streets and perhaps the nation’s most innovative multipurpose arena," according to John Gallagher of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The "large-scale development, overseen by the Ilitches’ Olympia Development, will be integrated with the planned M-1 Rail line, Comerica Park, Ford Field, the Fox Theatre, MotorCity Casino Hotel, the Detroit Opera House and other attractions." The arena "will be built in a 'deconstructed' fashion with the souvenir shops, team offices, restaurants, ticket offices and similar spaces being built outside the arena but linked by a glass-topped interior street that will serve as a year-round venue for events." Ilitch Holdings President & CEO Christopher Ilitch said, "Our vision is to build out a sports and entertainment district that is world-class and rivals anything in the country, perhaps the world." Gallagher reported the still-unnamed arena and a big portion of the entertainment district "will be built at the same time." The Ilitches "decided to do it all at once: A large part of the infrastructure and construction associated with the retail and residential projects will rise out of the ground along with the arena -- and be ready" by '17. The arena and various buildings and residential projects will "be built on what are now mostly vacant lots." The plans "also call for five new district neighborhoods, offering housing." Some parts of the new neighborhoods will "be built by the Ilitches and others by private developers" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 7/20). In Detroit, Bill Shea reports companies "involved in the Ilitch family's arena district project" include Michigan-based Barton Malow Co., Detroit-based White Construction, Indianapolis-based Hunt Construction Group, K.C.-based 360 Architecture and New York-based Street-Works (CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS, 7/21 issue).

NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE: Christopher Ilitch said that the arena will "seat about 20,000, rather than the 18,500 previously disclosed." He added that the construction cost "may exceed the previously disclosed" $450M estimate, and if it does, the family "will pay for it." CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS' Shea reports ground will be broken on the development this fall "with light demolition and other preparatory work getting underway." Heavy earth-moving will "begin in March with the goal of having the arena open" by summer '17. The arena's lighted roof "will be capable of showing images." Olympia and Red Wings team offices will be "connected to the arena, as will apartments, restaurants, retail, parking garages and other to-be-decided development." Concessions will be "under a glass-covered ceiling around the venue, and a special emphasis in restaurant planning is a push for up-and-coming local chefs, including minority chefs." The designers are "attempting to keep the loud and intimate atmosphere of city-owned Joe Louis Arena." Ilitch said of the arena design, "We’re in love with the detached structure concept." He called the design "revolutionary." He added that it "may influence arena design in the future." Ilitch said that it is "too early to discuss whether naming rights to the arena will be sold or not." Olympia under its agreement with the Detroit Downtown Development Authority can "sell the naming rights to the building, and keep all revenue from any such deal." Ilitch said that his family is "now promising to spend 'tens of millions' more for infrastructure improvements" in the district "to create mixed-use neighborhoods" (CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS, 7/21 issue).

DOLLARS & SENSE: In Detroit, Louis Aguilar reports of the $650M district project, about $367M, or 56%, of the entire project would "come from private investment." About $283M, or 44%, in public investment would "come through existing economic development money, requiring no new taxes." Olympia group will "pick up" 42% of the new arena’s construction cost. The rest will "come from a financing arrangement using school and local property tax revenue to pay off state-issued bonds." The DDA will "own the arena and lease it to the Red Wings for an initial 35 years" (DETROIT NEWS, 7/21).

CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC: In Detroit, Stephen Henderson wrote the Ilitches "deserve credit for laying out plans that rival the coordinated development you’d see in anticipation of Olympic games." Yet it is the execution of the vision that will "make or break it." Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer in '94 "sold a vision that Comerica Park would create Detroit’s 'Wrigleyville,' invoking the vibrant neighborhood around Chicago’s north side ballpark," but that "didn’t happen" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 7/20).