Any conjecture that downtown empresario Dan Gilbert is in talks to build a housing development at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds is “wild speculation,” said one of the developers of the fairgrounds plan.
“We are not having discussions with Mr. Gilbert or his team,” said Marvin Beatty, a Detroit-based developer who is part of a group that plans to overhaul the Michigan State Fairgrounds. “He hasn’t been part of our conversations and we have not approached him.”
Media reports this week said that that Gilbert’s Rock Ventures LLC had expressed interest in the development project, but Beatty said those reports are inaccurate.
The former fairgrounds closed in 2009 due to state budget cuts. In 2013 a development team that includes former NBA player Earvin “Magic” Johnson signed a $4.7 million purchase agreement and were scheduled to take control of the 157-acre property this year. They have begun to seek tenants for a major development expected to include retail, townhouses and a senior living complex, a grocery store and a small park.
The developers also include Joel Ferguson, a Lansing developer and chairman of the Michigan State University board of trustees. Another partner is Redico, a Southfield firm that developed the adjacent Gateway Marketplace along Eight Mile and Woodward, which includes a Meijer anchor store, Marshalls and K&G fashions stores. Beatty is also involved in that development.
Gilbert hasn’t been the only big name that’s been dropped amid speculation of who will be build at the fairgrounds. Last week, Whole Foods was mentioned by a member of the fairground’s development team. Last year, Wayne County Community College District was said to be interested in the site.
But it’s still too early to tell what may happen at the site at Eight Mile and Woodward Avenue and any potential development that could end up there, Beatty said.
A formal development plan for the fairground site hasn’t been filed yet by the group.
Whole Foods says it doesn’t comment on speculation as a matter of policy. Nor do officials of Gilbert’s Rock Ventures LLC.
A spokesperson for Wayne County Community College District said the institution is interested in the project, but it’s too early in the process to make any predictions.
“If the project moves forward, our interest would move forward,” said Tina Bassett, a WCCD spokesperson. “We are always looking for ways to reach our students. The site is interesting but in terms of details and specific plans, it’s far too soon.”