District Detroit community benefits pact moves toward city council vote

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

The developers behind the $1.5 billion District Detroit project are another step closer to building or redeveloping 10 properties in and near downtown.

Detroit City Council's planning and economic development committee on Thursday unanimously moved for a full vote on a $167 million community benefits agreement as well as elements related to the project by Olympia Development and The Related Cos. The full council could vote as soon as Tuesday.

Conceptual rendering of future residential, retail and office developments along Park Avenue in the District Detroit.

The committee forwarded the agreement without a recommendation to approve or deny it.

City residents posed numerous questions regarding the community benefits agreement during the panel's 4-hour long meeting Thursday. Those questions included seeking clarity on how Detroiters would benefits from jobs created by the project as well as how a proposed $100 million development budget would be spent to benefit disadvantaged Detroit-based businesses.

Councilman Fred Durhal, one of the committee members, made a motion to move the items forward for a vote before the full council on Tuesday, noting the developers' desire to seek incentives from the Michigan Strategic Fund board in the spring.

“I’m sure there are a number of questions that I'm sure that members are going to pose and put forward,” Durhal said. “However, one of the things that always concerns me is that timeline. I've sat on the state level in the legislature and I know they're in budget season now. I know that they're discussing the Michigan Strategic Fund and I do believe timing is of the essence. But that being said, I'm very respectful of colleagues and some of their recommendations and their questions that they still need to be answered for Tuesday. ... But I don't look to hold that up.”

Plans for the District Detroit include 695 mixed-income residential units, 1.2 million square feet of commercial office space, 100,000 square feet of retail and 467 hotel rooms across the 10 properties in and near downtown Detroit, according to the developers. They are seeking nearly $800 million in local and state tax incentives and reimbursements.

In the community benefits package, Olympia Development and The Related Cos. have pledged affordable housing; workforce development; education; transit and parking benefits; local business incubation; cultural placemaking; and green space creation. The city requires a community benefits agreement as Olympia Development and The Related Cos. seek incentives for the mixed-use development project.

If approved on Tuesday, the establishment of neighborhood enterprise zones and commercial rehabilitation zones within the project would allow the developers to follow up with requests for related tax incentives.


Twitter: @CWilliams_DN