Will Wayne County trade inmates for condos in downtown Detroit?
11:39 PM, Oct 30, 2013
1:05 AM, Oct 31, 2013
(WXYZ) - Will Wayne County trade inmates for condos in downtown Detroit?
That's what Dan Gilbert wants to do, and he's offering the county $50 million for the site of the controversial jail project and nearby buildings.
As 7 Action News first reported, Wayne County officials say Gilbert's Rock Ventures submitted the best bid to buy five properties in downtown Detroit.
After spending more than $154 million on a new jail at Gratiot and St. Antoine, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano pulled the plug on the project after learning it was estimated to be $91 million over its $300 million budget.
Governor Rick Snyder now wants the county to build the jail and the Circuit Court Criminal Division at the state's old Mound Road Correctional Facility on Detroit's East Side.
After receiving five bids, county officials told Wayne County Commission and Building Authority members today that Rock Ventures is the best option.
Gilbert's $50 million plan includes turning the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice into condos and lofts, complete with commercial retail space. The old Division II jail would become a hotel. Rock Ventures then wants to convert the Division I jail into a residential tower and turn the Juvenile Detention Facility into Brownstone-style homes.
And on the site of the controversial new jail, an entertainment venue and parking structure would replace the half-built concrete walls and jail cells. It's all just steps away from Gilbert's own Greektown Casino and not far from his dozens of other downtown Detroit properties.
The catch now--does Wayne county have enough left from the $300 million in potential bond money to finance converting the Mound Road prison into a jail facility with enough beds?
"We have preliminary numbers that show its very possible to build a down scaled version to stay under that $300 million allocation to build a 2600 bed facility and some courtrooms," said Wayne County Building Authority Member Jim Saros.
Despite the promise of reinvention -- the commission pushed back aggressively – saying they don't want to commit to any plan without knowing what went wrong with the original jail project.
"Today you bring us pretty Disney drawings and renderings and ask us to vote on something next week, I think some commissioners have alluded to the fact that getting thrown a piece of paper and saying vote on this is what got us into this in the first place," said Commissioner Shannon Price.
"Thirty-million dollars doesn't fix the 150 or 160 million already in the project," said Commissioner Laura Cox.
The CEO wants the commission to agree to this 90 day option agreement with Rock Ventures – saying it gives both the county and Gilbert the time to make sure this deal really makes sense. If the county can't make the Mound Road plan work, they don't have to accept Gilbert's proposal.