Red Wings officials push arena approval

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — Officials for the Detroit Red Wings touted what they call a one-of-a-kind arena to the city Planning Commission on Thursday night in one of the final pieces of bureaucratic approval needed for the $450 million new home ice.

"This is the first of its kind," said Richard Heapes, one of the key designers of the new venue. Heapes outlined the "deconstructed" design, which refers to the concept that the actual venue is a separate building surrounded by other structures that include offices, retail and housing.

"We really shouldn't call this a hockey arena. It will be a music entertainment venue," Heapes said. Up to 200 events that attract 12 million people a year could be held there, he said.

Further, the venue is expected to be the linchpin of a 45-block, $650 million district created north of downtown. That new district will be larger in size than the current downtown.

The Planning Commission will either recommend approval of or deny the zoning changes. .

More than a dozen people commented Thursday, ranging from praise for its economic impact to scorn for the use of taxpayer money to help build the arena.

Jason Gappa said he was concerned there were six buildings that appeared to be in danger of being razed to make way for the arena.

Jeffrey Jones said the economic impact will reach a broad range of Detroiters.

"This is often called a game-changer. We just hope that many people are part of the game," Jones said.

Detroit City Council member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez stressed in remarks during the public comment period that the project needs to be as inclusive as possible, and "amp up" efforts to make the area as walkable as possible.

Next week, Olympia Development of Michigan is going to "launch" the arena district, according to an invitation sent out last week. Olympia Development is the real estate arm of Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch.

This week near the site, red railroad containers were being stacked up. The bowl-like arena is expected to be finished in summer 2017.

The arena district is the first of five "new neighborhoods" planned.

The arena district is bounded by Woodward on the east, Henry on the south, Clifford to the west and Sproat to the north. Renderings show a glass-roofed concourse and a roof emblazoned with the Detroit Red Wings logo.

Earlier this week, new details released of the arena district included everything from the footprint of the venue to the number of residences that could be around it and types of businesses not wanted in the area — topless clubs, bail bonds and tarot card readers. Those restrictions apply to just the buildings next to the arena.