City, Ilitches still negotiating over historic zone

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Three empty buildings in the shadow of the Detroit Red Wings’ future home have emerged as sticking points between the team owners and the city.

The empty William E. Cole apartments is one of the buildings the Ilitches want left out of a proposed historic district.

Representatives for Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch want the buildings left out of a proposed historic district. That request was denied by the city’s Historic Designation Advisory Board late last year. If the structures become part of the historic district, it would be tougher to gain permission to tear them down or significantly change their look.

On Thursday, the city’s planning director again defended keeping those buildings in the proposed historic zone named after nearby Cass Park.

“The challenge is ... we know that development is imminent in the area,” said planning director Maurice Cox, during a City Council committee meeting.

Removing the three buildings would diminish the historical character of the neighborhood, he added.

The committee gave the city planning department and Olympia Development of Michigan, the development arm of the Ilitch organization, another month to find a compromise over what should be included in the proposed Cass Park Historic District. Eventually, the proposal will need City Council approval.

The three buildings are less than one block away from the massive arena, which is scheduled to open in 2017.

A former garage and the former Alden apartments figure in a dispute between Detroit and the Ilitches.

One block away is the future Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business, which will be built at the southwest corner of Woodward and Temple.

The three empty buildings are the former Wil-Mar garage at 131 Temple, the former Alden apartments at 145 Temple and the former William E. Cole apartments at 2753 Park.

The three buildings are owned by entities linked to Ilitch’s Olympia Development.

The proposed Cass Park Historic District area is a jigsaw-puzzle-shaped area that would help protect 22 buildings clustered around Temple Street and Cass Park.

Cox said on Thursday that his office has been meeting with Olympia Development officials for the past two months over the proposal and other issues.

Cox said the widening of Temple Street between Cass and Woodward — an earlier concern brought up in previous meetings — isn’t part of Olympia’s plan.

The new arena is expected to transform its 45 surrounding blocks into a densely populated area that will include hundreds of new residences, stores and offices.

The leading driver of that plan, called District Detroit, is the Ilitch family. Led by Mike and Marian Ilitch, their 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.

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