Michigan Republicans approve plan to hold caucuses, along with presidential primary

Report: Wayne Co. jail project can restart construction

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
The half-finished jail has sat unused in Greektown at a cost of $1.3 million a month, county officials estimate.

Detroit — An evaluation of the condition of Wayne County’s unfinished jail in downtown Detroit shows the structure is sound and construction to complete the project can start next year, officials said.

On Wednesday, the county said a report from Mannik & Smith Group, which officials hired to assess the condition of the jail, revealed the jail has no structural damage to the steel, concrete and masonry work that’s already been completed.

Its inspection also revealed no issues of cracking or leaking joints with the installed sanitary and storm sewer lines.

The evaluation was the first such testing done on the site, located at Gratiot near Interstate 375 in Greektown, since the project was halted in 2013.

“The site is in very good condition for construction to start again,” said Francis J. Biehl, the senior project manager for the evaluation group, in a statement. “Our assessment revealed no structural concerns, which speaks to the quality of work.”

The company conducted its evaluation of the site between Oct. 5 and Nov. 4. It submitted its final report to the county Wednesday. The cost for the assessment was not to exceed $43,604 and the final cost is expected to be less than the contracted amount, officials said.

“The report is clear — the jail site is structurally sound. Construction can restart next year,” County Executive Warren Evans said in a statement Wednesday.

“We are doing our due diligence to make the best possible decision for Wayne County and move this project forward. These results strengthen the case for completing the jail and will be included in the information we provide prospective bidders on the project.”

Evans said the report highlighted some cosmetic issues, such as discoloration and oxidation of exposed steel or hairline cracking in some concrete surfaces that were normal for concrete work, but affirmed the jail’s overall structural integrity.

Construction on the $220 million project began in 2011, under then-County Executive Bob Ficano. The 2,000-bed project near the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice was later halted in June 2013 after $100 million in overruns and charges of corruption.

About $151 million was spent in construction, acquisition and design of the jail, with much of the work done underground, according to officials.

The half-finished jail has sat unused at a cost of $1.3 million a month, county officials estimate. The site is bounded by Gratiot, the Chrysler Service Drive, Macomb and Beaubien.

In April, Detroit business giant Dan Gilbert and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores announced their desire to build a Major League Soccer stadium on the jail site.

Their plans call for a 25,000-seat stadium as well as retail and residential units, a hotel, covered parking and plazas.

On Monday, Gilbert told The News “there’s ongoing negotiations and talks. We are hopeful still. It’s complex.”

Gilbert has been trying to buy the 15.5-acre jail site from Wayne County since 2013. Three years ago, Gilbert offered the county $50 million for the unfinished jail, the current jail and the adjacent juvenile detention center. County officials have said that the Gilbert offer wasn’t enough money to cover the taxpayer’s losses.

In September, Wayne County officials issued a request for quotation, or invitation for contractors to submit bids for completing the project as a jail. The deadline for response is Friday.

Officials said the county hopes to issue a design-build request for proposals no later than January. Once issued, the county will not consider any alternative to the Gratiot site, they said.

“There’s been no shortage of speculation about this project, but we’re continuing to move forward with the Gratiot site,” Evans said. “Once we issue the RFP, we’re not looking back. It’ll be full speed ahead on the Gratiot site.”


Staff writer Jennifer Chambers contributed.