Snyder Approves Detroit DDA Funds for Ilitch Complex

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Amid the noise surrounding Michigan's newly passed right-to-work legislation, Gov. Rick Snyder signed several other important pieces of legislation this week. A package of bills addresses the functions of several local authorities in Detroit.

According the Detroit Free Press, a new Downtown Development Authority bill has been passed. The DDA legislation will permit the current Detroit Downtown Development Authority to continue collected money, over $12 million per year, to be used to fund infrastructure needs connected with a project of Ilitch Holdings Inc.

The Detroit News says that the Ilitch group, via its Olympia Development of Michigan company, is looking to build a $650 million complex near the Fox Theater and Comerica Park. Structures will include a multipurpose entertainment and sports facility. This would house an arena for Ilitch's successful NHL Detroit Red Wing franchise. The athletic structure would replace Joe Louis Arena. The development would add residential, retail, and office space, too.

Of the plan, president of Ilitch Holdings Chris Ilitch told the Detroit Free Press, "We're a homegrown, deeply rooted Michigan organization that has made significant investment in the city for over 53 years. It's exciting for us to continue this investment."

Republican supporters of the Detroit DDA bill explained that the nearly $13 million approved isn't a tax increase. It's a repurposing of current income, reports the Detroit News.

There are mixed feelings about Ilitch's 35-acre project. It would create construction jobs, about 8,250 between the arena and the commercial business district. It will boost jobs to 1,100 from the current 660 people employed at Joe Louis Arena. Revenue is expected to jump almost $100 million over the current $125 million generated annually at Joe Louis. However, some state House Democrats from Detroit rejected the DDA bill. Money spent on it would have otherwise returned to the state to be used for educational purposes.

The Detroit Free Press quotes Democrat Robert Ficano, executive for Wayne County, who called the legislation one of the most significant pieces of legislation for Detroit to come from the lame-duck session. Ficano said, "Everyone should be pleased. The economic growth aspect, especially in downtown Detroit, is really exciting."

Other legislation signed Wednesday, December 19, by Gov. Snyder includes a bill to form a new Regional Transit Authority. The RTA will oversee downtown and suburban public buses and the M-1 light rail project in the metro area. Another bill calls for the formation of a new Detroit Lighting Authority, while still another will provide farmers at Detroit Eastern Market with low-interest loans.

A lifelong resident of Michigan, teacher, and community activist, Marilisa Sachteleben writes about issues critical to her state, particularly in its most pivotal city of Detroit.

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