Detroit is mourning the loss of a self-made icon this week, as Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesars Pizza, owner of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, and Chairman of Ilitch Holdings, died Friday at age 87. A full obituary can be found here. Ilitch’s impact on development in downtown Detroit can be seen now and for decades to come.
As Little Caesars grew into an international giant, Ilitch and family started investing more in Detroit. They renovated the Fox Theatre in the late 1980s, then moved the Little Caesars Headquarters into the office space above. The development arm of the company, Olympia, bought an enormous amount of land behind the theatre, north of 75, and all the way to Grand River in the following decades.
Olympia is currently developing the District Detroit, a massive undertaking connecting midtown to downtown that will include an arena, retail, residential, and hotels. Mike’s son Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, has led the operations of Olympia Development for years, including the work on the District Detroit. While the entire district will reflect the family and company, a few prominent developments currently in the works will bear their name.
The Little Caesars Arena will open this fall and be the future home to both the Red Wings and the Pistons. Not without controversy, construction began on the arena in 2014. The price has risen to well above $700 million, with $250 million coming from public financing. The arena is the centerpiece of the district, and it will include retail, restaurants, and a public plaza outside the arena with a large screen to watch the games.
The Little Caesars World Headquarters is rising across Woodward from Comerica Park and across Columbia Street from the Fox Theatre. The nine-story office building will feature 14-foot tall glass “slices” on the facade facing Woodward. The LCHQ will be ready in 2018.
The Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University broke ground in July 2016 and will be open for students in 2018. It’s located on Woodward and Temple just down the street from the new arena. Mike Ilitch donated $40 million for the project, with $35 million going toward the building and $5 million going to an endowment fund.
Memorial services this week include a public memorial at the big tiger at Comerica Park starting today (February 13). On February 15, there will be a public visitation from noon-8 in the Fox Theatre lobby.