Editorial: One more unmet Ilitch obligation

The Detroit News

The arrogance of the Ilitch organization in ignoring its obligations to the city of Detroit is breathtaking.

The family that owns the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, Olympia Development and Little Caesars pizza continues to renege on the promises it has made to develop downtown property that the city helped it obtain. 

Taxpayers, who contributed $344 million to help the Ilitches build the new Little Caesars Arena, expected to see neighborhoods rising around the sports and entertainment facility. The family promised housing, offices and restaurants as part of a 50-block project called The District Detroit.

A dilapidated and unsold duplex sits amid parking lots and parking garages that surround Little Caesars Arena in the area known as 'The District Detroit.'

Instead, the Ilitches have delivered mostly parking lots, without saying when, if ever, they intend to build on their vast and vacant downtown land holdings.

The latest affront to the city came with the missed June 28 deadline for revealing its plans for a prime piece of real estate on Woodward next to the arena.

The site had been used as a staging area for materials and equipment during the LCA construction, which was completed last year.

Crains Detroit Business reported this week that the Ilitches had not filed a development plan as required with the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. for the site at the northwest corner of Woodward and I-75, even though it had been given a one-year extension by the DEGC to come up with a proposal.

The property was supposed to host a hotel in the grand plan for The District Detroit originally laid out by CEO Chris Ilitch.

The DEGC seems reluctant to call out the Ilitches for yet another missed deadline. It issued no public statement about the delinquency, or what action it intends to take to force the Ilitches to comply with the agreement.

Woodward is one of the hottest real estate strips in the nation, with roughly $8 billion of projects either underway or ready to launch.

The property in question is a prime site. If the Ilitches don't intend to put it into productive use as promised, the DEGC should take steps to force the sale of the land to developers who will. 

The ongoing negligence of its obligations by the Ilitch organization has to come to an end. Detroit is moving rapidly forward with its redevelopment. The Ilitches should either come aboard or step aside. And the city should stop excusing their foot-dragging.