Hotel, housing aim to debut with new Red Wings arena

Louis Aguilar The Detroit News

A new hotel and about 150 residential units are part of $196 million in planned development that aims to be up and running when the new Detroit Red Wings hockey arena debuts in September 2017, said Olympia Development of Michigan, the real estate arm of the billionaire Ilitch family.

On Sunday, Olympia released updated details and renderings of its upscale vision surrounding the future home of the Red Wings. More than 200,000-square-feet of restaurant, retail and office space will be built adjacent to the arena, which borders Woodward. The hotel could have up 350-400 rooms, which would make it a major downtown hotel.

According to development plans Harry's bar will remain where it stands at the corner of Clifford and Henry.

The new renderings show the Ilitches effort to create a dense, walkable area, which includes giving several blocks of the 1-75 service drive a huge makeover. Overall, four-story buildings surrounding the arena help diminish the street profile of the massive arena, where center ice is 40 feet below street level.

“Less than 20 months from now, new offices, retail and restaurants will flourish on long underutilized sections of Woodward and Henry,” Steve Marquardt, vice president of Olympia Development, said in a statement. Olympia soon will select its hotel and real estate partners for the residential units, officials said. The projects will be privately financed, though it’s too soon to tell whether the developments will apply for various tax credits that many developers rely on.

Most of the new buildings announced Sunday are bordered by Henry Street to the north and the I-75 service drive to the south, with Woodward to the east and Clifford Street to the west. The projects will be on land controlled by firms linked to Olympia.

On the southeastern corner of Henry and Clifford is Harry’s sports bar and restaurant, an independent business not part of the Olympia development. The hotel will be built just east of the sports bar, between Henry and the service drive.

Across the street from Harry’s on Clifford will be an L-shaped building, part of the planned residential rental units. The apartments will be a mix of market-rate and affordable housing, Olympia renderings show. Further north on Clifford, facing Cass, will be more residential units that appear to be attached to a multi-story parking garage.

Another parking garage is planned next to the hotel along the service drive, between Woodward and Clifford. On the northwest corner of Woodward and the service drive, plans call for a separate office building. Hotel, office and residential buildings have been experiencing high occupancy rates and rising rents in the downtown part of Detroit for several years now, and demand is expected to stay strong. That’s fueling unprecedented development in the 7.2-square-mile area of “greater downtown.”

All of the buildings will be four stories and will offer a total of more than 55,000 square feet of retail and more than 160,000 square feet of office space. Some of the space on Woodward Avenue will be occupied by the Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment, another branch of the Ilitch empire, while other parts will house local and national retailers and offices.

It’s the latest step in the Ilitches’ quest to transform 45 blocks of Detroit into a densely populated, attractive set of new neighborhoods. If successful, the plan, called District Detroit, would create an area bigger than the current downtown. Patriarch Mike Ilitch owns the Red Wings, the professional hockey team, and firms linked to Olympia Development own a big chunk of the 45 blocks where the development is planned.

There remain a handful of empty historic buildings controlled by the Ilitches in the 45-block district, and plans for those buildings remain unknown. Historic preservationists and others have clashed with the Ilitches over the fate of those buildings, as well as the many downtown parking lots Olympia controls.

Another source of criticism is that taxpayer money is being used to help build the arena. About $250 million in taxpayer-backed bonds were issued to pay for construction costs.

The arena sits in the middle of nearly 13 acres, located west of Woodward and east of Clifford, with Henry to the south and Sproat to the north.

Twitter: LouisAguilar_DN