Ficano sends Memo of Understanding with Rock Ventures to Commission for review

DETROIT - Selling off the site of the failed Wayne County Jail project is one step closer to reality.  It took two weeks longer than expected to finalize an agreement, but Dan Gilbert's Rock Ventures signed a Memo of Understanding with the county.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has sent the agreement to the Wayne County Commission, which will review the proposed purchases of the five county properties in downtown Detroit.  Commissioners will discussed the plan in a meeting on Tuesday, November 19.

Instead of the 90 days Rock Ventures initially wanted to explore the feasibility of the project, this deal gives both sides 180 days.

Ficano stopped building the new jail in June after learning it was projected to be $91 million over its $300 million budget.  The Governor wants the county to move the jail and circuit court to the old Mound Road Correctional Facility on Detroit's East Side. 

In a written statement, Ficano said, "There's a lot of work to be done to make sure Mound Road is feasible for the County's purposes.  At the end of the 180-day period we expect to have a plan, including tight cost-estimates, to present to the County Commission."

Gilbert wants to create an entertainment district, which would be just steps away from his Greektown Casino.  Rock Ventures offered the county $50 million to redevelop the stalled jail, the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, the Juvenile Detention Facility, and the nearby old Jail Division I and II buildings.

At a Commission meeting last month, commissioners gave Ficano's team a lot of push back about selling the properties. Ficano staffers assured the Commission at that point, they only wanted to enter into a 90-day option agreement to allow both the County and Rock Ventures the chance to do their due diligence on the properties.  Both sides could walk away without a commitment to buy or sell.

Deputy County CEO Jeffrey Collins told the Commissioners on October 30 th they would have the deal from Rock by November 1, 2013.  It's not clear what caused the delay.

The county has already spent more than $150 million on the jail construction in downtown Detroit.

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