Detroit City Council Approves Sale of State Fairgrounds to Amazon

Amazon is purchasing 138 acres for $16 million to develop a four-million square-foot fulfillment center. City officials say the deal will generate $77 million in tax revenue, but opponents are concerned about lack of transparency in the deal.

The sale of the former Michigan State Fairgrounds site in Detroit to Amazon was approved by the Detroit City Council on Tuesday.

Amazon is purchasing 138 acres for $16 million to develop a 4-million square-foot distribution center. 

About $7 million in proceeds from the sale will help fund a new indoor transit center near the intersection of Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road. City officials say the deal will generate $77 million in tax revenue over the next decade.

“The direct economic impact, specifically tax revenues, expected to be given to the city through this development over the next 10 years amount to approximately $42 million,” says Arthur Jemison, Detroit’s chief of services and infrastructure. “Roughly $4 million a year through tax revenue.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who helped guide the city’s purchase of the state property in 2018, thanked Council leadership for approving the $400 million redevelopment project.

“Construction is expected to begin in the coming weeks,” Duggan said in a statement. “Attracting large employment centers like this is a major part of our strategy to lift more Detroit families out of poverty and rebuild our city’s middle class.” 

Though the fulfillment center is expected to create 1,200 hundred jobs, Amazon is not seeking tax incentives for the development and in doing so bypasses requirements to hire Detroit residents. The deal also changes the zoning classification of the properties to “Light Industrial.”

Opponents Voice Frustration Over Deal

City council members voted six-to-two on the deal. Some public officials would have liked to see more community input before the sale.

Detroit City Charter Commissioner Nicole Small spoke out against the deal in committee, saying the transaction lacks transparency. “This is more than just about Amazon and so we need to have a public hearing to flesh this out to see if both the Council and the members of the community impacted can come to a more meaningful agreement.”

Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez voted against the deal. She says the city needs to create a standard for doing industrial development, especially as it relates to environmental and public health protections. We would like to actually see a commitment to doing a health impact assessment which is different than just doing air quality monitoring,” says Castaneda-Lopez.

Resident Frank Hammer also spoke out against the deal in committee. He says it breaks with the city’s sustainability plan: “That agenda mentions a 2020 transportation master plan aimed at reducing impacts to public health and ending environmental justice inequities. Yet hundreds more diesel 18-wheelers will flood the fairgrounds 24/7, 363 days a year.”

City officials say the Amazon facility is expected to be operational by Spring 2022.

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  • 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.