At a crowded meeting yesterday evening, developers MagicPlus LLC and Redico unveiled the long-awaited second edition of their $200M redevelopment plan for the 157-acre State Fairgrounds site. The new design addresses some of the concerns raised about Plan 1.0, which was released in 2012 and widely criticized as an outdated, auto-centric strip mall mess. So what have developers cooked up this time?
Those hoping for a major departure from the first design will be disappointed. The new one is essentially a prettier-looking version of the original plan, but with the apartments, senior housing, and commercial space moved around just a little bit. Here are the main elements:
Housing: Tons of 1-2 bedroom townhouses and apartments aimed at the beloved "young professional" demographic. Some of the "cornerstone" locations (busy corners) would have ground-floor retail. Also a pair of senior housing buildings.
Saving Historic Stuff: The feel-good idea of converting the Colosseum into an 8-10 screen movie theater was stressed again and again, along with a similar plan to save the Poultry Building for something residential.
Shopping: In addition to the big-box spaces, we now have "Town Center Retail," described at the meeting as "boutiques, local breweries; it's clothing stores, artisans...more than your typical retail."
School: After expressing strong interest in a building satellite campus on the site, Wayne County Community College now has a spot in the site plan right off State Fair Ave.
Green Space: Developers stressed the idea of an open, park-like development with green space aplenty. The Town Commons parks are the "centerpiece" of the development.
Transit: The State Fair bus station has been moved south to the corner of Woodward and State Fair. The Amtrak Station (or where it could hypothetically go, if someone else wants to build it) still has a spot near the big retail.
· The architect, SmithGroup, presented a modern, contemporary theme said to be inspired in part by the existing fairgrounds architecture.
· Developers stressed the plan's walkability, saying the design included many pedestrian paths. They also mentioned that common areas (parks, etc) won't be fenced off.
· College grads tend to move to "downtown Detroit or way into the suburbs," said Redico, explaining the proposed housing offers a unique spot right in the middle. Are we not counting Ferndale or Royal Oak?
· Craig Willian from Redico seemed almost annoyed or defensive at times during his presentation of the plan. "You can't just have mixed-use," he said, later adding that cars would be king in Detroit for a "long, long time."