Ilitches to reveal more arena details Thursday

Louis Aguilar and Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit —The Ilitch organization returns to the City Council Thursday to address concerns from council members months ago regarding massive development plans surrounding the future home of the Detroit Red Wings.

Representatives for Olympia Development of Michigan, the real estate arm of the Ilitch organization, will appear Thursday before a council subcommittee to provide added details on where thousands of arena patrons will park and how traffic will impact the Cass Corridor neighborhood. Also expected to be revealed is the fate of two empty historic buildings in the shadow of the new venue, which is planned on Woodward Avenue just north of downtown. Some council members wanted both vacant buildings saved. It appears the Ilitches want one razed, while converting another into residential space.

Olympia needs a zoning change approval from council so construction can begin on the $450 million arena. The multipurpose venue is expected to open summer 2017. The zoning request centers on four blocks between Woodward and Cass that includes the arena, two above-ground parking garages and mixed-use space connected to the arena.

The zoning change was initially sought late last year but several council members wanted modifications to Olympia’s original plan. Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez wanted Olympia to reduce by half the number of parking spaces around the arena. Olympia originally proposed 1,200 and Castaneda-Lopez suggested 600 parking spaces. Other council members wanted more public gathering spaces and the inclusion of the Park Avenue Hotel in the planned district.

It appears the former Park Avenue Hotel will be razed while the adjacent former Eddystone Hotel will be revived, according to sources. Olympia intends to propose the building for residential use, including a section reserved for affordable housing. The former Eddystone Hotel is a 13-story Italian Renaissance-inspired structure on the northwest corner of Park and Sproat. The 90-year-old former Park Avenue Hotel is across the street on the southwest corner of Park and Sproat.

Olympia wants to demolish the former Park Avenue Hotel because it is so close to the new arena that it violates Homeland Security protocols followed by the National Hockey League, sources said.

The new arena is expected to be the catalyst for the transformation of a 45-block, $650 million district north of downtown that would create up to 2,000 new residential units, dozens of retailers and offices. If things go as planned, the Ilitches' vision would create an area bigger than the current downtown Detroit, New York City's Greenwich Village or Washington's Georgetown.

The boundaries of that new "District Detroit" stretches from Grand Circus Park to the south to Charlotte Avenue to the north, to Grand River to the west and Woodward and Ford Field to the east.

The venue is expected to be ready for the Detroit Red Wings' season opener in 2017. The professional hockey team is owned by Mike Ilitch, whose Olympia Development of Michigan is part of the Ilitch family's billion-dollar collection of businesses that includes Little Caesars Pizza, the Fox Theatre and the Detroit Tigers.

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