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City Council delays Red Wings arena rezoning request

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The City Council on Tuesday delayed a decision on a controversial rezoning request for a planned Red Wings arena amid debate over traffic, parking and historic preservation of adjacent buildings.

The panel pulled the item from its formal session agenda at the request of the Ilitch family's development company, Olympia Development of Michigan. Olympia asked for the delay after a council committee proposed rezoning modifications that call for public gather spaces, parking limitations and the inclusion of the vacant Park Avenue Hotel in the planned district.

Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez said members are being "sensitive" to Olympia's needs. They could have moved forward with a vote and didn't have to honor the request, she noted.

"... Keeping the doors open and negotiating is totally fine," Castaneda-Lopez said after the meeting, noting several of the requests will require revisions in Olympia's plan. "That is our commitment to the project and making sure that it is successful."

From here, the request will return to the council's Planning and Economic Development Committee for review. Members could take it up again in January.

Marcell Todd, a senior city planner for Detroit, asked the council to suspend its decision on behalf of Olympia and the Downtown Development Authority, which is a co-petitioner for the rezoning plan.

Todd told members that the proposed changes present "a number of obstacles" that the developer is not yet prepared to address. Among them is a modification submitted by Castaneda-Lopez that would limit parking to 600 spaces, rather than the proposed 1,200.

"The plan of certain council members to significantly amend our zoning application is fundamentally flawed," said Doug Kuiper, vice president of corporate communications at Ilitch Holdings Inc. "These amendments would jeopardize a transformative project that will connect downtown to midtown at a critical time as Detroit emerges from bankruptcy."

It's unclear what, if any, impact Tuesday's postponement could have on the construction schedule. The arena is slated to be completed in the summer of 2017.

"At this point, they haven't said this is going to impact the timeline of the project," Castaneda-Lopez said.

Earlier Tuesday, business owners, residents and activists pleaded with council members to consider the fate of the Park Avenue and Eddystone hotels before approving the plan.

The Ilitches have not made public their plans for the hotels, which are just outside the footprint of the $450 million arena in the Cass Corridor.

Councilman Scott Benson proposed a modification that would require the historic Park Avenue be included in the planned development and utilized for affordable housing. He also factored in the provisions for a public seating plan and reduced parking spaces.

Renderings show the Park Avenue hotel building, at the southwest corner of Sproat and Park, is right next to the arena. Olympia has been vague about its plans for the building, which it owns.

If the hotel is added into the district, it would mean the council would have to sign off on any future plans to demolish it.

Member Mary Sheffield is also requesting that the council vote on a separate, "Plan B," modification that would omit the hotel, incorporating only the parking and public gathering space components.

Olympia's rezoning request was previously approved by the city's Planning Commission with several conditions.

cferretti@detroitnews.com