Major changes are coming to downtown Detroit soon.Most of the big projects on tap have been announced and some are even under construction. But the cumulative impact may not have sunk into the public’s consciousness yet.In all likelihood, by five years from now, the quickly reviving downtown and Midtown district will sport a new light-rail system, a new hockey arena, hundreds (if not thousands) of new residential units, at least one new hotel, and multiple new recreational venues including the remade Detroit Dry Dock building on the east riverfront.These projects will change downtown in significant ways — increasing the density, filling up some of our eyesore vacant lots, enhancing the street-life aspect that already is attracting lots of young people. The changes coming in the next five years may rival the dramatic changes of the past 10 years downtown.Here’s a rundown:First, expect the new M1-Rail line to start construction within a few months and be open for riders in a couple of years. Staff has been hired, a general contractor was named last week, design is largely complete, approvals and funding are all in hand. The 3.3-mile line will run along Woodward from Jefferson Avenue to New Center.If the record of other cities’ rail lines is an indication, new development will spring up along the route. That could be the most important aspect of all.Then, too, the new arena for the Detroit Red Wings and the surrounding entertainment district seems to be closer to reality than ever. The state has approved a bond sale to pay for the arena, and the Ilitch family, owner of the Detroit Red Wings that will play in the arena, has reached a tentative agreement with city and state officials on the terms of the project.The deal won’t be final for a few more months as details continue to be negotiated. And the vague promise of the entertainment district that will rise near the arena is even murkier and lacking details for now. But it looks like this project is more likely than not to get built — and to have a major impact on downtown.A new hotel? The David Whitney Building is now undergoing renovation construction to include a boutique hotel, along with rental apartments and retail stores. Expect it to open near Woodward and Grand Circus Park next year.The Detroit Dry Dock project? Construction crews have been selectively demolishing parts of this structure (portions of which date to the late 1800s) in preparation for turning the Dry Dock Building (also known as the Globe Trading Building) into a Michigan Department of Natural Resources education and recreational center. It will complement the adjacent Milliken State Park along the Detroit RiverWalk.The biggest question right now is what will happen to the troubled Wayne County Jail site downtown. If the county, as it is considering, sells the site to somebody like QuickenLoans founder and chair Dan Gilbert for redevelopment, the criminal justice complex could be replaced by new commercial, retail and recreational development. Given the size of the site and its importance as a gateway to downtown, it could become the most significant redevelopment project of all.Big changes coming!.
Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or firstname.lastname@example.org