Jail land-swap plan draws critics

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News
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A proposal from Dan Gilbert to build a criminal justice complex, which would include a jail, on city Department of Transportation property near Interstate 75 and Warren drew neighborhood critics to a community meeting Thursday.

About 60 residents voiced concern about housing inmates near their neighborhood and having children pass a jail to get to school. Some were fearful of prisoners escaping or being released into their community.

“My biggest concern … is human trafficking,” said Mignon Lott, whose children attend the nearby University Preparatory Academy and Golightly Education Center. “And the crowd that a jail is going to bring to come and see the people that are in the jail or that are being prosecuted. What kind of community are we trying to have here?”

Wayne County officials announced earlier this month that they struck a tentative deal for a land swap with Detroit that gives the county a portion of a Detroit Department of Transportation property near I-75 and Warren in exchange for the shuttered American Motors Corp. headquarters on Plymouth near Schaefer on the city’s west side.

The land swap is a key piece to the $520.3 million proposal by Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans Inc., to build the jail on the DDOT property under the condition that Wayne County acquires the land from the city.

Gilbert’s plan calls for a 2,280-bed jail, courthouse, prosecutor offices, sheriff administrative offices and a juvenile detention facility

In exchange for the complex, Gilbert’s Rock Ventures wants to use the county’s unfinished jail site in Greektown for a $1 billion mixed-use development anchored by an Major League Soccer stadium and high-rise buildings.

The land swap will need approval from the Detroit City Council and Wayne County Commission.

Nicholas Miller, who lives on East Ferry, organized the community meeting because, he said, city and county officials had not considered residents when negotiating the deal.

Miller said about 2,400 residents live in the neighborhood bounded by Woodward, Warren, I-94 and I-75.

“There hasn’t been a lot of transparency about this deal so far,” Miller said. “There’s been no outreach. I think the city or county should have been having an informational (meeting) for us.”

Renee West, who lives on East Palmer, said she believes officials are not concerned about the neighborhood and how the jail will disrupt its quality of life.

“They want to get all that away from downtown because they wanna make it all pretty,” West said. “Ya know ... screw the rest us.”

Resident Robert Johns said proximity to the school needs to be considered

“The kids from their playground can literally look over at the jail,” Johns said. “So how does that give them inspiration to grow up and be something.”

Mayor Mike Duggan said earlier this month that the location was “ideal” for the criminal justice center and that restaurants and other new development would likely follow.

He referenced plans to meet with neighbors.

Sen. Coleman Young II, who is challenging Duggan in the November election, dismissed the land swap proposal during Thursday’s meeting. He said the city’s leadership should be more focused on criminal justice reform.

“We don’t need to be building more jails,” Young said. “We need to be creating jobs and opportunities for people in the city of Detroit to be able to feed themselves and feed their families.”

Councilwoman Mary Sheffield said during the meeting that she received a copy of the proposal this week and told the crowd she currently does not support the land swap.

“There has not been enough engagement,” Sheffield said. “The traffic and issues around education and schools, I have those similar concerns.”

A council vote would likely take place on Oct. 31, she said.


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