Time now for a reality check about the goings-on around Little Caesars Arena and related projects in the area hyped with the label on these banners.
A community-level perspective comes from Francis Grunow, former Preservation Detroit executive director, who speaks with Kate Abbey-Lambertz of the Detour Detroit weekly newsletter.
As chair of a Neighborhood Advisory Committee, “Grunow knows the ins-and-outs of the incremental progress around the arena and is trying to hold Olympia Development accountable to the promises it made in exchange for $320 million in public money,” she writes, adding:
The NAC, made up of a dozen residents who live or work in or near the arena’s footprint, was formed in 2014 as part of the city’s land transfer deal for the arena. It has no formal powers, and often isn’t apprised of LCA news before the public, giving them no chance to weigh in.
The committee’s relationship with Olympia has been collegial, but not exactly collaborative. “It seems like we’re a box to check,” Grunow told Detour.
Here’s how he sees things in a nutshell:
“They’re operating like a large entertainment company that needs to pull in a ton of people and then push them out, and that’s what you see. We know its a huge undertaking, but . . . when you’re only doing stuff to create even more of a deficit, then it’s not a good trend line.” . . .
With the arena complete, Grunow laid out three major goals for the next year in his [email] commentary last month: “advocating for real change on three interconnected issues — affordable housing, preservation of existing building stock, and reasonable parking and traffic management.”
The original plan described five new neighborhoods where people could live, start businesses and explore “independent shops, local markets and galleries.”
In reality, Grunow said, there are fewer businesses and residents than when the Ilitiches moved in, with no new housing units or rehabs. Instead, you can see their priorities in what’s being built: the arena, the beginnings of some outbuildings and lots and lots of parking.
To get monthly updates from Grunow, email him.