A crucial economic development board has approved public subsidies for the District Detroit project. The Michigan Strategic Fund unanimously approved a brownfield plan for the site Tuesday, allowing developers to capture nearly $615 million in taxes.
The approval comes after Detroit City Council authorized the redevelopment plan last month.
The project is led in part by billionaire real estate mogul Stephen Ross, who is also funding a new University of Michigan campus nearby.
Chris Kolb, a government liaison for U-M, is in favor of the tax breaks.
“We believe our successes will be greater with a successfully District Detroit.”
Ron Beebe sits on the board and asked why the state was already giving so many tax breaks to downtown Detroit.
“We’ve approved $2.7 billion in the last 12 years for the Detroit MSA and $1.2 billion of that is going to the city. So this is a pretty big deal.”
Officials also questioned developers’ promises to create thousands of jobs in the city. An official with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation said the agency would not monitor the number of jobs created by the District Detroit.
Tonya Myers Philips called into the state board’s meeting to oppose tax breaks for the developer.
“The Ilitch company has a horrible record of doing business and keeping its commitments,” Philips said. “This proposal is asking tax payers to provide another bundle of public incentives to a company [who] has yet to finish what they promised to do more than 10 years ago with the last bundle of public incentives.”
Others against the subsidies raised concerns about other projects in the state. Marjorie Steele opposes the Gotion electric vehicle plant in Big Rapids, which recently received $175 million in public funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
“Congratulations MEDC for being the entity that brings the west side and the east side together at last,” Steele commented.
Ford’s publicly-funded battery plant in Marshall, which plans to convert 2,000 acres of agricultural land into an industrial mega site, was also criticized.