Fairground developers to meet with community Thursday

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

The city of Detroit will hold a community meeting Thursday night to update residents on development plans for the former state fairgrounds site on the northwest side.

The meeting marks the first time in over a year any new information on the massive redevelopment project has been made public. In early 2015, news broke that Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s development company, Magic Plus LLC, was moving forward with plans that including the reactivation of the site’s existing three historical buildings: the Coliseum, which could be turned into a theater; the Field House building; and the Dairy Cattle Building.

Johnson’s plans also called for housing, retail, restaurants, breweries, parks, transit, office space and room for satellite buildings for Wayne County Community College.

The project is a partnership between Redico, a Southfield-based commercial real estate agency, MagicPlus and Lansing-based Ferguson Development LLC.

Joel Ferguson, president of Ferguson Development, said he didn’t want to talk about the plans ahead of Thursday’s meeting. He and the other developers want the community to be the first to see the new plans.

“We’re all excited (to) show them what we’ve been working on,” Ferguson said.

The $200-million project was billed as the sparkplug for a “live, work and play” community at Eight Mile and Woodward. Johnson’s development group bought the 157-acre property from the state for $4.65 million in October 2013.

Johnson said last year he got involved with the project because Detroit is his home.

“I want to help bring Detroit back too,” he said during a leadership conference in the city.

Last year’s plans mixed in calls from the public to see more park space and transit options at the site. Developers and city officials haven’t released plans ahead of Thursday’s meeting. The public meeting will start at 6 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Northwest Activities Center located at 18100 Meyers on Detroit’s northwest side.

The fairgrounds closed in 2009 because of state budget cuts under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Gov. Rick Snyder in 2012 signed legislation to spur the sale of the vacant land.

Plans have been through multiple iterations since then. The most recent draft in 2015 called for between 150 and 250 units of housing and up to 600,000 square feet of retail.


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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau