Palace of Auburn Hills to be razed; redevelopment in works
The former home of the Detroit Pistons soon will be demolished to make room for the homes of technology companies and corporations.
A joint venture between Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Livonia-based Schostak Brothers & Co. Inc. have purchased the Palace of Auburn Hills to be redeveloped into 1 million square feet of mixed-use office and research and development space, the Pistons said Monday. Neither financial terms nor a timeline were disclosed.
“We promised the people of Auburn Hills and Oakland County that we would find a solution that would be good for the community and make a positive economic impact,” Gores said in a statement. “Partnering with a proven, well-respected developer like Schostak Brothers is an important step in delivering on that promise.”
Gores announced in 2016 that the Detroit Pistons were returning to the city of Detroit in the newly built Little Caesars Arena. The team played its last game at the Palace in April 2017. The arena also was a popular venue for concerts, hosting performers such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift and U2 in its 29-year stint. A Bob Seger concert in 2017 was the final public event at the venue.
The Pistons' remaining operations there will move to the new Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center headquarters in Detroit's New Center this fall. At that time, the tear-down of the NBA franchise's former venue is expected to begin, which would make it one of the fastest sports arenas to be demolished in Metro Detroit after it closed.
Real estate experts previously forecast that the Palace's 80 buildable acres sitting off Interstate 75 and in a growing part of northern Oakland County would be prime for redevelopment as a business or industrial park. The Detroit News reported in April that Schostak Bros. was in talks to buy the Palace.
“Schostak Brothers is ready to take the lead and use our expertise in complex redevelopments to create a new and exciting next chapter for The Palace and its surrounding property,” Jeffrey Schostak, president of the affiliated Schostak Development, said in a statement. “We are looking forward to working with Tom Gores’ organization and our partners at the City of Auburn Hills, Oakland County and the State of Michigan on this project, and we’re excited about the prospects for this site.”
The redevelopment plans suit Auburn Hills, a center point for research and technology projects, said Fred Liesveld, executive vice president in the Detroit office of real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank. He said the Schostak Brothers bring to the project local experience and knowledge of the subcontractor base and resources.
"I think the way (the redevelopment) is designed and then marketed is probably best done locally," Liesveld said. "Schostak just seems to perform when it comes to design and function. I think (Gores) had to make a good decision like that."
It was unclear immediately if the joint venture would pursue any incentives. Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel said it has not come up in conversations.
The mayor lauded the partnership as a step forward in making due on promises to the community. The city had launched an internal planning activity to establish the best use for the land to rezone the property for high-tech and research companies. The area around the Palace is home to a number of auto suppliers, manufacturers, and research and development firms.
"It is a win for all of us involved," McDaniel said. "It's going to allow us to foster innovation, which we fully expect will lead to a great number of jobs in our community."
Gores' Platinum Equity real estate firm purchased the Pistons and the Palace for a reported $325 million in 2011.
The Palace opened in 1988 at a cost of $90 million — all privately funded by late owner William Davidson, who moved the team from Detroit to its temporary home at the now-demolished Pontiac Silverdome for a decade before settling in Auburn Hills for 29 years.
When it was built, The Palace was regarded as one of the best sports and concert venues in the country, with a wide array of luxury suites and amenities, which became a template for future complexes.
In 2016, the Oakland County government rejected a $384 million offer to buy the facility. Oakland University considered purchasing the arena last year.
Plans to demolish the Palace two years after its closure contrast sharply with the teardown of other Metro Detroit sports arenas such as Pontiac Silverdome and Detroit's Tigers Stadium.
Opened in 1975, the Silverdome was once home to the Pistons (1978-1988) and Detroit Lions (1975-2001). After both teams left by 2002, the Silverdome never recovered.
The city of Pontiac sold it at auction in 2009 amid its financial emergency to Canadian investment firm Triple Properties Inc. that made a few attempts at staging events. The firm auctioned off parts of its interior, including seats, and shuttered it in 2014. A court agreement led the stadium eventually to be imploded in December 2017 a second time after a first failed attempt. The 127-acre property still is on the market.
Tigers Stadium, likewise, took years to be demolished as preservationists fought to keep the stadium and find another use for it. Detroit city officials maintained that never made financial sense.
The stadium hosted the Detroit Tigers (1912-1999) and the Lions (1938-1974). After the Tigers moved to Comerica Park downtown in 2000, it wasn't until 2008 that the old stadium began to be demolished. The site previously was known as Navin Field and Briggs Stadium.
Today, the 9½-acre site is home to the headquarters of the Detroit Police Athletic League’s, which is anchored by a baseball diamond. A mixed-use development with retail and housing called The Corner also is under construction there.
Joe Louis Arena may be the one other exception. Demolition began on that venue where the Detroit Red Wings played from 1979 to 2017 this spring, though the tear-down is far behind the original timetable of it happening within 90 days of its closure. Demolition is expected to be completed by early 2020, though the deadline for a project plan has been extended from January 2020 to 2021.
The fourth-generation Schostak Brothers has held a footprint in Michigan for nearly a century. Since its founding in 1920, it developed Livonia's Laurel Park Place and Macomb Mall as well as one of Metro Detroit's first Kmart stores. The company also is managing the construction of Woodward Corners by Beaumont in Royal Oak with Bloomfield Hills-based AF Jonna Development LLC and has mixed-used projects across 30 states.