Detroit 'making significant progress' on FCA plant land

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
The rendering is of the new Mack Avenue Assembly Complex once FCA invests $1.6 billion to convert the two plants into the future assembly site for the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as an all-new three-row full-size Jeep SUV and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models, adding 3,850 new jobs to support production.

Detroit — City officials said Monday they are still “making significant progress” two days past a 60-day deadline to gather 200 acres of land for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's $2.5 billion plant expansion on the city’s east side.

Tim Carroll, deputy communications director for the city of Detroit, confirmed the status of the project when asked Monday but declined to say anything further.

The city had until Saturday to assemble land under terms the city and the automaker agreed upon in a memorandum of understanding announced in February. As of Monday afternoon, it was unclear if the city had accomplished that goal.

The City Council, meanwhile, will vote on property transfers and sales related to the project on Tuesday, according to its meeting agenda. The council's Planning and Economic Development Committee voted to send to the full council land swap proposals involving Hantz Farms, DTE Energy Co., Detroit Land Bank Authority and property owner Michael Kelly.

Councilman James Tate, who put forth the resolution on behalf of the Planning and Development Department, did not immediately return comment.

FCA officials did not directly address the deadline when pressed Monday.

“FCA has confidence in the city of Detroit,"  FCA spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said. "We have nothing further to add at this time.”

The timeline for land assembly proved to be a tight one with the city saying in mid-April that it had about half of the land it needed. A large missing piece of the deal at that time was the 83.37-acre manufacturing site at 12141 Charlevoix, tied to Moroun-owned company, Crown Enterprises.

Michael Samhat, a spokesman for Crown Enterprises, could not be immediately reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Fiat Chrysler plans to invest $1.6 billion in expanding its Mack Avenue facilities with a new plant and investing $900 million to modernize its Jefferson North Assembly Plant. The investment will bring about a total of 5,000 new jobs to the city and gives the automaker the ability to build the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as new three-row and plug-in hybrid versions of the highly profitable SUV.

The known land assembled includes 40 acres from the closure of St Jean Street, 40 acres from DTE Energy's old Conners Creek power plant site between Jefferson Avenue and the Detroit River and 14.45 acres of leased land from the Great Lakes Water Authority. Agreements have also been made for land from Hantz Farm and property owner Michael Kelly.

The city was required within the memorandum of understanding to submit a community benefits agreement to the Detroit City Council within three business days of the Saturday deadline.

The automaker, the city and a neighborhood advisory council reached an agreement last week after a series of community meetings.

That agreement provides Detroit residents first access to plant jobs as well as FCA’s investment of $13.8 million into workforce training, education, housing and neighborhood revitalization. The City Council is expected to refer the agreement Tuesday to the Planning and Economic Development Committee.

The plan for FCA to build Detroit's first assembly plant in three decades, however, hinges on the city obtaining the 200 acres of land surrounding the complex.

In February, Mayor Mike Duggan agreed to a deal with the automaker to assemble the property in 60 days. City officials have declined to comment on how much property is left to acquire.

FCA also is requesting incentives from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. for the $6.5 billion it is investing into five Michigan plants. The incentive package is expected to go before the Michigan Strategic Fund Board for approval in the coming months.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN