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Swath of Ilitch-owned land in Detroit goes empty soon

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Starting next week, entities connected to the powerful Ilitch family will own yet another swath of empty Detroit land. But plans about what happens to the property next are wrapped in mystery.

Family-run Advance Plumbing & Heating Supply Co. accepted $2.8 million for its site on Grand River, and next week reopens in Midtown.

The land is a triangular three-block area across the street from the MotorCity Casino Hotel, owned by Marian Ilitch. The land is bordered by Martin Luther King Drive, Grand River Avenue and the John C. Lodge Service Drive. It’s just a few blocks north and west of the future Little Caesars Arena, the $627.5 million hockey arena being built for the Detroit Red Wings, owned by Mike Ilitch.

The Ilitches are also in talks with the owners of the Detroit Pistons to move the NBA team from Auburn Hills to downtown. And there’s the possibility of the Pistons placing a new practice facility somewhere near Little Caesars Arena, presumably on land controlled by the Ilitches.

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Earlier this month, Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc., said, “We’ve got about 52 projects right now on the board” for the area around the arena. Ilitch also upped the ante of how much the Ilitches may invest in the area.

“We are on track to be at about $2 billion,” in Detroit investment, Ilitch said. “We’ve announced about $1.2 billion and got about another billion yet to be announced.”

The last business standing in the Ilitch-owned triangular area closes this week. Advance Plumbing & Heating Supply Co. is a family-run business that’s operated at the West Grand River site for 97 years. In January 2015, the family accepted $2.8 million from an entity connected to the Ilitch’s Olympia Development of Michigan. Next week, Advance Plumbing opens a bigger Midtown location.

“We are grateful for the opportunity and we think the Ilitch family has a great plan for Detroit,” said Jeff Moss, president of Advance Plumbing & Heating. “Though, I don’t know what those plans are for the property.”

Once the West Grand River store shuts, it completes a series of sales dating to 2011 that leaves the area without any operating businesses. One of the first purchases was the former Carl’s Chop House, a once legendary Detroit steakhouse. An entity linked to Olympia Development bought the property five years ago for $766,000, after the restaurant already had closed.

The Ilitches have never publicly disclosed the purchases, nor their plans for the land. Olympia Development had no comment.

The triangular area is just part of the area around the MotorCity Casino Hotel where the Ilitches have spent more than $10 million in at least 15 different sales since 2011, according to Detroit News research. The total footprint of the properties rivals the 650,000-square-foot new home of the Detroit Red Wings, which is being built six blocks from the casino.

Public records show the Ilitches paid handsome prices for empty warehouses, small businesses and vacant lots.

The area of land-buying activity is clustered around West Grand River and is bordered by Interstate 75 to the south, Martin Luther King Drive to the north, the Lodge Freeway to the west and Fourth Street to the east.

“We think the Ilitch family has a great plan for Detroit,” said Jeff Moss, right, president of Advance Plumbing & Heating. “Though, I don’t know what ... plans are for the property.”

Twitter @LouisAguilar_DN