Property acquired for Willow Run driverless car site

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

A site for testing driverless cars at the former Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti took a step closer to reality with the purchase of land for the project.

RACER Trust — the entity tasked with maintaining and selling former General Motors Co. land that was not part of the new company created out of bankruptcy — sold 311 acres at the site for $1.2 million.

RACER and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. said Monday they sold the property to the Willow Run Arsenal of Democracy Landholdings Limited Partnership, which will lease the site to the American Center for Mobility, which has grand plans for what would be a 335-acre autonomous car-testing site.

“This is a major milestone in making ACM a reality,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of MEDC, in a statement. “This facility will be a global leader in interconnected technology advancements, and a major economic driving engine for the entire state. The whole project represents a multi-layered partnership between many groups, and getting the agreement in place toward the purchase of the land is a giant step forward.”

The state of Michigan has already pledged $3 million for the purchase and operation of the site, and officials expect approval later this month for an additional $17 million in state aid. John Maddox, CEO of the American Center for Mobility, is also pitching federal agencies for an additional $60 million.

“The ability to build out Willow Run with its deep historic innovative roots to now create a center to safely validate connected and automated technology is an incredible opportunity for not just the state of Michigan, but also our country,” Maddox said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said he’d continue working to build support for the site.

“With our automakers, suppliers, universities and talent, Michigan is poised to take the lead in shaping the future of mobility,” Peters said in a statement.

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Twitter: @MikeMartinez_DN