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Detroit — On an empty patch of Woodward Avenue, a groundbreaking took place Thursday afternoon for the Red Wings' future home ice and the promised start of a prosperous new section of Detroit that would be bigger than downtown.

Hundreds of people filed into a makeshift arena-like space with walls of stacked red shipping containers. At the center was a stage bordered with big banners with names of current Detroit landmarks along with some of names of "new neighborhoods" that could be created within five years .

"Today is day of a celebration. The ultimate comeback story," said Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc. His father Mike owns the Detroit Red Wings.

Thursday was the groundbreaking of a $450 million new arena intended to be one of the sparks for a 45-block, $650 million district that would create up to 2,000 new residential units, dozens of retailers and offices.

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Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc., leads the celebrations for the groundbreaking of the new Red Wings arena and surrounding district.

The Ilitches unveiled the location of the new arena in 2013 after years of secrecy about where they would build and what their plans would be.

The arena district is one of five new neighborhoods planned. The arena district is bounded by Woodward on the east, Henry to the south, Clifford on the west and Sproat to the north.

The overall district stretches from Grand Circus Park to the south to Charlotte to the north.

The arena is slated to open in the summer of 2017. The Ilitches have vowed to speed up the other $200 million in mixed-use development so that much of it can be complete around the time the arena opens.

The Ilitches have also said it intends to expand its investment to include tens of millions of dollars in public infrastructure improvements such as lighting, sidewalks, green spaces and streets concurrently with arena construction.

Mike and Marian Ilitch co-founded Little Caesars Pizza. Mike owns the Wings and the Detroit Tigers, whose home ballpark is a few blocks from the planned development. Marian owns the MotorCity Casino Hotel that is just a few blocks from the intended development.

Mike and Marian were not present at the Thursday launch.

laguilar@detroitnews.com

Twitter: LouisAguilar_DN

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