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Speculation Builds as Detroit/H-Town's American Axle Crumbles

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[Authored by Serena Maria Daniels]
With today being Paczki Day many a Metro Detroiter have likely already begun making their annual trip to any number of Hamtramck bakeries for a taste of that calorie-laden, gooey pastry. If you take Holbrook into town, you will likely notice something decidedly missing on the landscape. Yes it's true, much of that behemoth blue fortress that was the 2.5 million square-foot American Axle plant has been reduced to a pile of twisted metal and bricks.

The Detroit News reported that American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. finalized the sale of its former 108-acre manufacturing complex on Feb. 13 to California-based Industrial Realty Group LLC, which plans to redevelop the land for "industrial purposes." Stuart Lichter, president and chairman of the board for California-based Industrial Realty Group LLC, told Crain's he has "at least one tenant lined up for a build-to-suit building" but would not identify who it is.

While Lichter has so far stayed quiet about the specifics of development plans -- we put in several calls to Lichter and the brass at AAM on Friday morning -- the constant hum of bulldozers chipping away at the sprawling complex that straddles both Hamtown and Detroit has many Hamtramckans buzzing with speculation about what should take its place. Top of the list, what better to fill that big box of vacant land than a big box retailer like Target? Residents of Hamtramck, like Detroiters, are now relegated to traveling out of town for staples like pet food, office supplies and discount grocers. A Target just off the Chrysler Freeway, a stone's throw away from potential customers in vibrant Midtown or affluent Boston Edison or Arden Park would alleviate that. Some, like Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski, argue that a major retailer would bring in a much-needed tax base that has been absent since AAM left town.

When Majewski posted MLive photos of the demolition taking place at AAM last week to her Facebook page, dozens of residents chimed in with questions of what's to come.

Whoever lands there, she said, will have plenty of options to choose from. "I'm hearing people want an Ikea, an urban Target, a race track for go-carts, even... Really the possibilities for that space are endless," Majewski said. The mayor said she is familiar with IRG's track record of "turning around former industrial sites" across the country. Examples include the redevelopment of the former B.F. Goodrich's first rubber plant in Akron, Ohio, first constructed in 1871, according to the IRG website. Lichter and his crew set to work to transform the obsolete site into a modern industrial complex, with tenants that include Time Warner and Donna Karan. So what do you think should go up after all that big, blue debris is swept up? Feel free to put in your two cents in the comments section below.
· Meet Big Blue: The Detroit Home of McClure's Pickles [Curbed]