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Is the State Fairgrounds Project Finally Gaining Momentum?

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Is the Michigan State Fairgrounds redevelopment finally ready to leave its "early phases" behind? Don't get too excited, but there are signs that the mixed-use development is gaining momentum. The vague project has always had a core of residential units, big box retail, a movie theater, and a fuzzy site plan with little actual substance. But in the last week, specific names, dates, and plans are starting to surface. There's even an unexpected enthusiasm to preserve the Fairgrounds' old landmark buildings.

BIG NAMES:
·Whole Foods: A possible second Detroit location (hinted at last year) could end up here. Developers add that WF is "one of several grocers" to express interest.
·Dan Gilbert: Rock Ventures might be interested in co-developing 200+ of the residential units*, reports Crain's.
· McCormack Baron Salazar: These are the guys behind the Orleans Landing development in Rivertown. Turns out, they're planning the residential buildings at the fairgrounds. The current schedule calls for 200 units in phase 1, with up to 500 units total.
· Wayne County Community College: Hints of a WCCC campus are solidifying into an "expected" presence at the site.

PRESERVATION: Developers are suddenly enthusiastic to preserve the fairground's historic buildings. The Dodge Automotive Pavilion and the Joe Dumars Fieldhouse are mentioned, along with the idea of turning the Coliseum into a movie theater.
DATES: Big developments almost never give realistic timeframes, but the latest rosy estimate hopes to begin construction early next year. If that happens, buildings could begin to open in 2017.

*UPDATE (2/20): Developers deny any Gilbert involvement at this point.)

· Stores, homes, movie theater for old state fairground? [Freep]
· Will Dan Gilbert join in the developer power play at the state fairgrounds site? [Crain's]
· State Fairgrounds are Magic Johnson's Fairgrounds Now [Curbed]