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Big plans revealed for Temple Street near new arena

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Owners of the Detroit Red Wings want to double the width of a street near the massive arena being built in Cass Corridor, and hinted they plan to redevelop three empty buildings near the venue.

The former Hotel Fort Wayne, later renamed American Hotel, on the northwest corner of Temple and Cass, could be redeveloped.

The Wings’ owners want to widen Temple Street between Cass and Woodward avenues in order to accommodate traffic flow in the arena. That stretch of Temple — a block east of the Masonic Temple — is one block north of the 650,000-square-foot sports/entertainment venue under construction. The venue is slated to open in 2017.

The plans were revealed Thursday evening to the Detroit Historic Designation Advisory Board by representatives for Olympia Development of Michigan, which is the development arm for Ilitch Holdings.

But the effort already is at odds with efforts to make the area an official city historic district. On Thursday, the historic advisory board rejected Olympia’s plan to remove from the proposed district the stretch of Temple between Cass and Woodward, along with three buildings. At least one member of the advisory board is concerned Olympia will want to raze at least three buildings on or near Temple in order to widen the street from 50 feet to 100.

Olympia wanted the advisory board to change the borders of the proposed historic Cass Park district to exclude the stretch of Temple it wants widened. It also does not want the three vacant buildings, which face an unclear future, to be part of the historic district.

The advisory board rejected Olympia’s request to alter the borders of the proposed historic district. But the process of determining those boundaries is far from over. The Detroit City Council eventually must approve the proposed historic district.

If the buildings and Temple become part of the historic district, the process to get permission to alter the street or raze the structures becomes more complex and lengthy.

A spokeswoman for Olympia Development said she could not provide any more information on the Thursday presentation.

The Temple Street plans are the latest development in the epic attempt to transform 45 blocks of Detroit into a densely populated district that will be anchored by a state-of-the-art sports venue and surrounded by hundreds of new residences, stores and offices. The leading driver of those plans is the billionaire Ilitch family, led by Mike and Marion Ilitch, whose holdings include Little Caesars Pizza, the Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, Motor City Casino and a good chunk of the property in the 45 blocks targeted for at least $200 million in new investment.

“They seemed to hint that some major development could occur near Temple and Cass,” said Michael Boettcher, a member of the advisory board working on the Cass Park historic district.

The advisory board helps shape local historic districts in the city. It’s currently working on a historic district proposal named after nearby Cass Park. That proposed historic district includes the stretch of Temple where Olympia Development has big plans.

Representatives for Olympia gave a presentation to the advisory board that indicated Olympia hopes to redevelop three buildings near Temple and Cass, said Amy Elliott Bragg, president of the nonprofit Preservation Detroit. She attended the Thursday meeting. One of the buildings is at 2900 Cass, on the northeast corner of Temple and Cass, which is next to the Temple Bar, a longtime fixture in the area. The other two buildings mentioned were the former Hotel Fort Wayne, later renamed American Hotel, on the northwest corner of Temple and Cass; and the former Alhambra apartments on Temple. All three are on the north side of Temple.

But the fate of two buildings on the south side of Temple and another on Park seemed unclear, said Boettcher and Elliott Bragg. That includes a former parking garage on Temple, the former Alden apartments at 145 Temple and the former Cole apartments at 2753 Park.

“My sense is those buildings could be demolished so that Temple could be widened,” Boettcher said.

Twitter: LouisAguilar_DN

Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.