Details of Hudson site plan could be revealed Wednesday

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Details of Dan Gilbert’s long-deferred plans for the site where the former J.L. Hudson store once stood in downtown Detroit could be revealed Wednesday in a public meeting. Or another delay may be sought in what Gilbert has said will be an “iconic building.”

The issue comes up Wednesday afternoon during a board of directors meeting of the Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority, which must approve the plans. A spokeswoman for Gilbert’s Bedrock Detroit said it would provide more information at the meeting.

The latest deadline to show what will be built at the site on Woodward and how much will it cost already passed on Dec. 31.

It may be delayed again, because has Gilbert said tax breaks are needed, or else the plans would have to be changed. Those tax breaks need approval by the state Legislature, and Gov. Rick Snyder. While there is current legislation for those incentives, it’s not yet a done deal. The state Senate could vote as soon as Tuesday on the package of bills. Last year, similar legislation died in Michigan’s House of Representatives.

“I’m not going to say that nothing happens (without the state incentives),” Gilbert said late last year. “But I think you have a chance of it being more substantial, of taking more risks with this kind of state support.”

Developing the empty block-long Woodward site has become one of Gilbert’s most elusive goals in a downtown he continues to transform with ambitious developments.

The name of the Hudson site refers to the famed department store that closed 33 years ago. Opened in 1911, the department store eventually grew to more than 2 million square feet and 32 floors. At one point, it was the tallest department store in the world. The structure was demolished in 1998, and the site has been empty since.

An entity linked to Bedrock gained development rights to the city-owned site in 2010. That’s the year Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc., moved his companies downtown. Entities affiliated to Gilbert and Bedrock have since amassed more than 90 properties and invested more than $2 billion.

Early designs released in 2015 for the Hudson site show a swooping glass-and-metal structure. City documents show the development agreement between the city and the Gilbert entity outlined 250 residential units, 225,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial or retail space, as well as a “programmed civic space.” That civic space makes financing the deal more challenging, Bedrock officials have said in the past.

Construction was slated to begin April 1, according to the development agreement. The goal was to have the site finished by 2020.

Bedrock officials may ask for more time due to the pending legislation. MIThrive – a coalition of economic development organizations, city governments, developers and chambers of commerce from numerous Michigan locations – supports the legislation.

The package of bills will allow developers to capture a portion of new tax revenues generated by “transformational” redevelopment projects. The new legislation, reintroduced by lead sponsor Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, seeks to facilitate redevelopment at large blighted or contaminated “brownfield” sites around Michigan. Minimum investments would be required for a project to qualify, ranging from $15 million in small communities to $500 million in Detroit.

The plan would allow developers to capture up to half of the income tax revenues generated from any new jobs or residents at the completed site for up to 20 years. Project organizers would also recoup sales and income tax revenues generated on-site during the construction period.