Warren Evans Discusses the Deal for Wayne County’s New Criminal Justice Center

Wayne County, the City of Detroit, and Rock Ventures agreed to funding and land swaps to make the $533-million jail complex possible.

Jake Neher/WDET

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans is set to deliver his State of the County address tomorrow. In the days leading up to his speech, Wayne County announced plans to build a new $533-million criminal justice center. It’s a complicated, and long-sought deal involving funding and land swaps between Wayne County, the city of Detroit, and Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures. The new deal marks the end of an earlier plan, which left a partially built jail on Gratiot Avenue near the Greektown Casino. As Evans tells WDET’s Eli Newman, previous decisions left Wayne County in a tough spot.

Interview Highlights

How the ‘fail jail’ site came to be

The county decided to build another jail, picked the site [on Gratiot.] It had significant cost overruns, I think almost $100-million, so the county stopped the project in 2013. It’s been sitting there unfinished, getting beat by the weather since then.

On Wayne County’s ability to complete the project

Wayne County was in a terrible financial state. You could make the argument that the county wasn’t really in the financial stability to build in the first place. Now that we’ve had three years under this administration to look through it, the County’s financial position wasn’t such that we could really borrow the money to complete that existing jail, or anything else.

Moving county employees to a new campus

The idea of having a criminal justice campus with all of the facilities in a contained space is really important. Getting away from the density and the parking problems downtown is probably good for employees, not bad. 

Striking a deal with Rock Ventures

The biggest issue, is that we get five new buildings for a capped price, and Rock Ventures is responsible for any cost overruns. You know what got the last jail into terrible shape was the cost overruns in the building. Being able to keep a capped price for the jail allows me to budget and do all the things necessary to keep us moving fiscally in the right direction.

It’s a business transaction. The county is only paying $380-million. There’s equities there to help this deal work well for both parties.


  • Eli Newman
    Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.