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Ilitches double down following HBO segment critical of District Detroit

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“We exceeded our commitment”

A swinging gate leads to an empty concrete parking lot. A nearby screen says “$30.” Many buildings are in the distance. Michelle and Chris Gerard

District Detroit has come under great deal of scrutiny in recent months. Multiple critics have noted how devoid the area is of development despite hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to build Little Caesars Arena and promises by Ilitch Holdings that it would create an area lively with businesses and residents.

Instead, there’s mostly a sea of surface parking lots.

On April 23, HBO got in on the action with a segment on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that looked at the failed promises of District Detroit. Ilitch Holdings declined to participate in the piece.

The company did, however, issue a defiant statement the following day, which stated that “we exceeded our commitment.” Here it is in its entirety:

Our organization has six decades of dedication, commitment, and positive impact throughout the broader Detroit community. We are exceptionally proud of our accomplishments, including the creation of thousands of jobs, the restoration of various historic buildings, and the development of a downtown sports and entertainment district which has surged since the opening of Little Caesars Arena. It is unfortunate when a media outlet emphasizes the voices of the critical few and not the voices of many who would present the positive story that is taking place across our city. The result was a self-interested, sensationalized, and inaccurate report designed to attract viewers instead of a balanced report on the rebirth of Detroit and our contributions to the city’s turn around.

Public funds for the arena came from specific tax dollars allocated to fund a catalyst development project that would drive economic growth in the city of Detroit. Our commitment to the city was to develop a $450 million arena, and, within five years, deliver $200 million in additional development directly or by others. The reality is that we exceeded our commitment and also know that this catalyzed numerous other development projects in and around the arena, including a variety of residential. We invested over $863 million in a state-of-the art, award winning arena and are on track to have over $200 million in private development completed this year, roughly five years ahead of schedule.

We remain undeterred in our commitment to the city and its bright future. We will continue to invest in successful projects that will drive job creation, economic growth, and enhance, for years to come, the quality of life for Detroiters.

Of course, the statement doesn’t actually refute anything from the supposedly “inaccurate” segment. It also conveniently leaves out mention of the enormous public subsidies for the project, and doesn’t bother to justify building almost exclusively surface parking lots.

It’s a terribly disappointing response from a company and family that claims to be dedicated to the city, but which has done little beyond develop projects beneficial to itself.