The University of Michigan (U-M) Board of Regents finally approved advancing a major development in Detroit. This week also saw the last stretch of the east RiverWalk opened, plans submitted by the owner of the partially collapsed building in Eastern Market to save it and Chinese Americans continuing to seek recognition of the historic Chinatown neighborhood.
U-M regents approved construction of the $250 million Center for Innovation in downtown Detroit last week. The university has until the end of the year to break ground and submit a final plan, or it risks losing the $100 million earmarked for the project in the state budget. Olympia Development of Michigan, owned by the Ilitch family, is donating the 4-acre property and selling U-M another nearby parcel for $9.5 million to build a parking structure — the regents approved both items. The $1.5 billion District Detroit project being developed by Olympia and Stephen Ross’ Related Companies will have residential and “incubator” components connected to U-M’s center. Construction of the entire project is expected to take around three years. Regents also approved accepting a $100 million donation from Ross. (Detroit News, Axios Detroit)
Check out our previous reporting on how U-M quietly sidestepped a community benefits agreement.
A fully connected riverfront
A long-awaited connection of the Detroit RiverWalk to the MacArthur Bridge and Belle Isle finally opened last week. It is also the last piece of the East Riverfront, a project that began 20 years ago, cost $180 million and spans 3.5 miles. The latest RiverWalk section is a paved path called the Uniroyal Promenade. As for the rest of the 42-acre Uniroyal site, it is still undeveloped. Various plans for it have been floated over the years, including a self-contained “town,” an amusement park and a Donald Trump-owned casino. Former NFL player and Detroit native Jerome Bettis owns the property now, but an estimated $400 million mixed-use development he’s planning there may be over a decade away. (Metro Times, Crain’s Detroit Business, Detroit News)
Chinese Americans continue to press for greater recognition of Detroit’s historic Chinatown in the wake of the city’s sudden demolition of the Chinese Merchants Association building in July. State Sen. Stephanie Chang said discussions are taking place around a potential garden space honoring the neighborhood’s history at the site of the demolition, which is owned by the Ilitches. A descendent of the family that owned the Shanghai Cafe — located in the building until the restaurant closed in 1981 — wrote a moving history of her family’s immigrant experience and what the restaurant meant to them. American Community Developers, owner of the former Chung’s restaurant building nearby, said it is committed to opening a Chinese restaurant after it’s redeveloped. (Axios Detroit, Eater Detroit)
We interviewed a descendant of a different family that owned the Shanghai Cafe who talked about their history with the building and hopes for the neighborhood.
Detroit environmental activists say the state is allowing a company to manipulate air quality data in order to gain approval for a cement facility in Southwest Detroit. Edw. C. Levy Co. is planning a slag grinding facility in an area near Zug Island, where particulate matter levels are barely below federal limits. When the company applied for a permit, instead of using data from air quality monitors closest to where the facility will be located, it pulled data from Allen Park where particulate matter levels are lower. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy approved the permit nonetheless, saying pollution from Levy is expected to be “extremely small.” Exposure to particulates is linked to a variety of health issues. (Planet Detroit)
Development news quick-hitters
Scot Turnbull, owner of the partially collapsed building in Eastern Market, submitted plans to the city to save it last week. If approved, he will have seven days to begin work. (Detroit Free Press)
Construction is complete on the art deco-inspired Cambria Hotel inside an Albert Kahn building downtown. (Urbanize Detroit)
The building that houses the Anchor Bar, a legendary hangout for Detroit journalists, is up for sale for $3.5 million. (Crain’s Detroit Business)
The city’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund is seeking a third round of funding to continue its support of the same 10 commercial corridors it spent money on in the past. (Axios Detroit)
A new statewide fund will provide monthly rental stipends of between $300 and $500 to recently relocated immigrant families for up to 12 months. The program is being funded with $4 million from the state and U.S. Department of the Treasury. (BridgeDetroit)