Finley: This broken Ilitch promise benefits Detroit

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News
Shot of Little Caesars Arena from parking garage along Henry Street.

My first impulse on hearing the report that the Ilitch organization had broken yet one more promise to Detroit was to express again disappointment the family has seemingly abandoned its grand plans for reviving the neighborhoods around its new Little Caesars Arena.

This time, the Ilitches have backed out of a $1.5 million deal to buy a Midtown building that houses a homeless crisis center, forcing the nonprofit to alter and delay its plans to build a larger facility elsewhere in the city.

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The move conforms to the recent direction taken by the owners of the Detroit Red Wings, Tigers, Olympia Entertainment and Little Caesars pizza. Ilitch Holdings is showing no sign of proceeding with its promised District Detroit, envisioned as five distinct neighborhoods connecting downtown to Midtown.

Instead, most of the 50 blocks of land that was acquired with the help of the city has been cleared and turned into surface parking lots to service the LCA and provide the Ilitches with a steady, risk-free stream of revenue.

It's a betrayal of a city that has treated the organization well. The busted pledge to buy the Neighborhood Services Organization's Tumaini Center is just another blow to the Ilitches' standing in Detroit.

But in reality, this is really good news.

Had the Ilitches' acquired the center's property, it, too, would have likely joined the 27 other parking lots they've created instead of the apartments, restaurants and offices they were supposed to build.

The nonprofit says it has other interested buyers. So there's a chance that instead of another unsightly parking lot, Detroit will see at least a sliver of the pretty picture the Ilitch organization painted for the city when it was seeking $348 million in taxpayer support for the arena.

Everything possible should be done to keep the Ilitch organization from acquiring any additional land in the city that will end up either standing vacant for years or flattened for parking.

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