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Olympia breaks ground on $70M office building, takes steps to fix public image

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The Ilitch-owned development company has recently announced projects and begun talking to the media—is it enough?

Michelle Gerard

After weeks of getting hammered by the media and public for not building out District Detroit, the area around Little Caesars Arena, Olympia Development has finally begun to come out of its shell.

Today, the company announced the groundbreaking of a new, $70 million office building—ironically on a former surface parking lot—just north of the arena at 2715 Woodward Avenue. The five-floor, 127,000-square-foot facility will have office space, medical facilities, and ground floor retail.

Olympia entered into a 20-year agreement with the Detroit Medical Center to operate the 50,000-square-foot sports medicine facility, and has already secured another tenant, the law firm Warner Norcross + Judd, to occupy an entire floor.

Earlier this month, Olympia and the city of Detroit agreed to new terms for redevelopment of the Eddystone Hotel, which had sat vacant and unsecured since the company acquired it. The redevelopment will cost an estimated $40.9 million. In exchange, the company agreed to a $33 million performance bond in case the project is not completed.

Rendering a multi-story glass building with black window frames and brick columns. People move in and out of the building on the ground floor.
Rendering of the new office building at 2715 Woodward Avenue
Olympia Development

The company also announced in a press release the hiring of “more than two dozen new employees,” including Keith Bradford, formerly at Walt Disney World Resort, who was hired last year to be the new senior vice president at Olympia Development of Michigan and The District Detroit.

These announcements coincide with Olympia starting to thaw its cold relationship with the media. Christoper Ilitch, CEO of Ilitch Holdings, granted interviews this week to both the Detroit Free Press and Crain’s Detroit Business.

Neither was very revealing. John Gallagher of the Free Press wrote that,

“In a 15-minute interview with the Free Press arranged after several weeks of requests, Ilitch read a short opening statement and answered most questions about District Detroit by returning to his prepared talking points.”

While Ilitch did admit that the timelines for development at District Detroit proved to be “aggressive,” he defended his company’s construction of surface parking lots around Little Caesars Arena.

Ilitch also admitted at a groundbreaking event for the Woodward office building that he’s aware of the recent negative coverage. This month’s flurry of activity by Olympia seems in direct response to that criticism.

An April 23 segment on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel detailed the lack of development in District Detroit, despite the project receiving $324 million in public financing. Renderings suggested a vibrant entertainment district, but years later little of it has come true. Instead, the area is mostly surface parking lots.

Olympia declined to participate in the HBO segment, but instead issued a defensive statement after it aired.