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Detroit — The City Council has agreed to buy 142 acres of the long-neglected state fairgrounds site.

The $7 million acquisition from the state moves the property along Woodward one step closer to development after the council voted 8-0 on Tuesday to buy and market it for development. Councilman Scott Benson was absent from the meeting. 

City officials say the property offers a prime opportunity to bring jobs to the area, which is vastly surrounded by blighted homes and empty lots. 

"We are currently determining next steps, but the state fairgrounds site is one of the largest develop-able parcels of land in Detroit and represents an opportunity to create a major employment center for Detroiters, economic growth and continued community development," city spokesman Tim Carroll said in an email.

"The purchase of the land will allow the city of Detroit to lead the redevelopment process, and do so with participation and input from the community."

Officials said earlier this year they were exploring options in research-and-development facilities, light industrial and advanced manufacturing. Mayor Mike Duggan has also said he wants the fairgrounds site to serve as a regional transit hub that connects residents to jobs at that location.

Meanwhile, Magic Plus LLC — Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s development company — is buying 16 acres of the property. Officials expect mixed-use development with commercial and residential units to go up on that portion. 

Councilman Roy McCalister Jr., who serves District 2 where the fairgrounds site is located, said he wants to see development that will attract visitors to the area, such as a museum. 

"We are very much excited because since 2009 that property has just been vacant," McCalister said. "My objective is to have something that's going to be attractive to not only people coming from outside the state of Michigan, or the country, but also help with the relationship of the three counties in southeast Michigan." 

The fairgrounds site has been in limbo since the state closed it in 2009 because of budget cuts after hosting the fair there for 94 years.

In 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing for the transfer of the site to the Michigan Land Bank to be returned to productive use. Since then, the Land Bank has been working to redevelop the site.

In 2013, the Michigan Land Bank entered into a purchase agreement with Magic Plus LLC. Magic Plus LLC later pitched proposals calling for housing, retail, restaurants, transit and parks at the site.

In an interview with The Detroit News earlier this year, residents expressed concern that they would be priced out by rising property values. 

Councilwoman Janee Ayers said city leaders will consider that feedback from the community. 

"We need to be able to hear the ideas of people that live in your Palmer Woods, your Sherwood Forest, your Green Acres," Ayers said.

"But we also need to hear from the voices of the people that live directly behind the fairgrounds. So everybody needs to be involved in that conversation." 

nterry@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-6793

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