This year has produced no shortage of stories on the Ilitches and their lack of development around District Detroit. A recent investigation into properties in another part of town provides more evidence that it’s likely part of a larger development strategy by the family.
The Detroit News looked into the area around MotorCity Casino Hotel and found 52 empty properties—mostly lots and some vacant buildings—owned by entities linked to the Ilitch family. Writer Louis Aguilar described it as a “dead zone” around the casino.
This investigation coincides with the Ilitch-owned Detroit Entertainment LLC looking to build another parking deck near the casino to accommodate 700 additional spaces. Their request to the City Planning Commission has been delayed several times since its originally scheduled hearing on April 4.
The districts around Little Caesars Arena and MotorCity Casino mirror each other in many ways: investment in one major entertainment property, sitting on dozens of nearby undeveloped properties, and construction of hundreds of parking spots to accommodate that one venue.
The result is a lack of synergy with the surrounding areas and little to no spillover spending at other businesses.
District Detroit has faced the bulk of the criticism to date. In April, HBO aired a segment on its show Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel titled “Motown Blues” that showcased the extent of disinvestment in the area around Little Caesars Arena, which received over $300 million in public subsidies. Olympia Entertainment declined to participate but later released a defiant statement that included the claim, “We exceeded our commitment.”
In recent months, the family has taken modest steps to fix its public image and possibly begin redevelopment of the Eddystone Hotel. But as recently as July 1, Olympia Development of Michigan missed a deadline to submit a development plan for an empty property at Woodward and I-75.
It’s clear the Ilitches still have a long way to go to stem the public outcry over their development practices.