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Detroit News’s Aguilar: Land to be used in Wings follow-on rink, surrounding developent cost $48 mil

As the Ilitches have amassed land behind the Fox Theatre and are now gobbling up mostly empty lots southeast of the Masonic Temple, Michigan sports fans have been asking a question for a good twenty years now: "I wonder what they're going to build here, and I wonder how much all of this stuff cost them?"

We know the former answer--the Wings' follow-on rink will stand north of I-75 near Woodward Avenue and Temple Street, but the heart of the Cass Corridor and the vast tract of empty properties behind the Fox Theatre will be developed as part of the bargain, and this morning, the Detroit News's Louis Aguilar reports that there's a tally for the real estate:

Owners of the Detroit Red Wings have paid at least $48 million in land deals and own nearly half of the 45-block area where the Wings’ new home ice and an entertainment district are planned, according to a city document.

It’s the first time a price has been revealed in the years-long acquisition of property by Olympia Development of Michigan (ODM) for a project that could reap huge financial rewards. It’s also the first time Olympia has divulged how much land it has bought; many land deals in the area have been shrouded in mystery, their buyers in question.

ODM is the property development arm of Mike and Marian Ilitch’s $2 billion business empire, which includes the Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Little Caesars pizza chain.

“For informational purposes, ODM has indicated it has paid at least approximately $48 million for the land,” according to a document written by the Detroit City Council’s legislative policy division staff. It adds: “ODM suggests it owns almost 50 percent of the land in these areas.”

That “land” is everything from blighted buildings and parking lots to historical buildings Olympia has bought and let sit idle for years — much to the frustration of area businesses and residents.

Much of the property is in the Cass Corridor neighborhood, just north of downtown. Other parcels are clustered behind the Ilitches’ Fox Theatre, which also is headquarters of Little Caesars. In June, it was announced the Cass Corridor and parts of the area behind the Fox are part of a proposed $650 million entertainment district that would be anchored by the arena and surrounded by $200 million in additional development.

This afternoon, the City Council may consider whether to literally expand the borders of downtown Detroit so the project can reap the tax dollars set aside for Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA), an entity separate from the city of Detroit. The project will use tax dollars from a budget and revenue stream that is not part of the city’s general revenue fund, which means it’s not money impacted by the city’s bankruptcy filing.

The special tax pot by the DDA has been in place for more than two decades and legally can’t be used for anything other than economic development in the designated area.

Continued with an outline of the project's rink and non-rink aims, and as you might expect of anything involving the City Council, there will be yelling and screaming and heated exchanges as a City Council that is often otherwise powerless under the City's Emergency Manager attempts to align itself with organizations that can line the pockets of the largely lame-duck council members and possible business partners.

Update: For the record, the Detroit News's Darren A. Nichols reports that the City Council will go into holiday recess on Wednesday, marking the last day in office for many of the at-large representatives, so you can sure as *#$%@& believe that they're going to yell, scream and holler their way onto the evening news tonight. If there is anything that is true in the City of Detroit, it's that its pre-bankruptcy government never let governance go before self-aggrandizement and spotlight-stealing hysterics for the sake of enriching one's pockets ahead of representing one's constituents.

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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