June 5, 2009 at 1:00 am

Cobo Center

Conyers presses Detroit ownership of Cobo

Cobo Center has been home to the auto show for decades. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

Detroit -- City Council members say they'll only give up control of Cobo Center if Detroit receives more money and retains ownership of the facility that's home to the North American International Auto Show.

"Our position hasn't changed. We want to retain ownership of Cobo Hall and the parking structure," Monica Conyers, council president pro tem, said.

"It's important to all of the residents in Detroit that we retain ownership of Cobo Hall. In the original deal, we didn't own anything (and) they was taking everything away from us."

The initial Cobo deal, which state lawmakers crafted, would have made $288 million in improvements to the aging facility and created a five-member authority to own and run the convention center. The governor and Detroit, along with Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, would have appointed those members. The authority would have needed unanimous agreement for decisions.

Detroit was set to get $20 million to pay off parking debt and the deal would have eliminated $15 million a year from the city's coffers to maintain Cobo. But opponents argued Detroiters deserved more for paying into the facility, and its residents should have job preferences.

"If they can come to some agreement on that, we would be ready to go the following day," Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said about the city's need for more money for Cobo.

"I voted initially (for it) because at the time that was the only thing on the table and we were led to believe there were no renegotiations going forward," Kenyatta said.

"We're starting all over and a number of things have changed since that time. It should work from Detroit up ... not from Lansing down."

Wayne County Circuit Judge Isidore Torres facilitated discussions for nearly two weeks. Ultimately, negotiations broke down and Oakland County would not agree to job preferences for Detroiters.

Since taking office last month, Mayor Dave Bing has had meetings with several council members, and said he's confident a deal can be reached. But even if Bing gets a consensus, anything that's worked out must be reintroduced in a bill from Lansing.

State Rep. Shanelle Jackson, D-Detroit, and state Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, have offered a substitute plan for Detroit to retain ownership of Cobo and lease the convention center to a regional authority for 30 years for $20 million.

The plan also calls for the regional authority to make a "good faith effort" to employ Detroit residents if the unemployment rate is 25 percent higher than the state average.