Detroit — The head of the family-run conglomerate that owns or controls about 60% of the properties within 50 city blocks gave a vague upbeat answer when asked why most of the area remains undeveloped despite promises made years ago. 

“I’m aware of the coverage that’s been out there, but I’m so focused on what we’re working on," said Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings. "There’s so much to do."

His comments were made after The Detroit News published a review of property records, state records, interviews and tax assessments that showed the Ilitch family enterprise has a dominant interest in the languishing 50-block area called the District Detroit.

They also come after an HBO sports show in April was critical of the still-unfulfilled promises by the Ilitch family to build five new neighborhoods around the arena as part of the District Detroit. The segment on the "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" was billed by the cable channel as a look at "whether government officials in Michigan gave a sweetheart arena deal to the wealthy Ilitch family despite Detroit facing an $18 billion bankruptcy — the largest of any city in U.S. history."

Ilitch made the comments Thursday as he attended the start of construction for a $70 million sports medical center and law office space on Woodward Avenue, which will be built on Ilitch-owned property. 

The medical facility will be next to Little Caesars Arena, the $863 million sports and entertainment complex. The Iltich group operates the venue that's named after the family's main business, the global Little Caesars pizza company. The arena is home ice to the Ilitch-owned Detroit Red Wings

The arena that opened in 2017 was intended to be the catalyst for 50 blocks of development around the venue. That plan is called The District Detroit. But a Detroit News analysis found that more than a dozen blocks are now more vacant than when the plan was launched in 2014.

Keith Bradford, vice president of operations for the Ilitch's Olympia Development of Michigan, acknowledged the group has made some missteps. 

“We’ve had a very tight vision for the district and I believe maybe the plan was a little aggressive early on and .... maybe it’s hard to decide what this place should be," Bradford said at the Thursday event.  

Details of more development plans by the Ilitch group are pending, Bradford said. 

“We have a ton of plans that we are going to be announcing in the coming weeks and look forward to sharing those," Bradford said.  

Here's an interactive map of the properties linked to the Ilitch group in the District.

Twitter: @Louis Aguilar_DN 

Read or Share this story: