Gilbert Breaks Ground for 'City Within a City;' Chants Decry 'Corporate Welfare'

December 14, 2017, 2:44 PM by  Ben Duell Fraser

No ground was broken at a groundbreaking event on the site of the former Hudson’s Department Store in downtown Detroit. Mayor Mike Duggan, Bedrock founder Dan Gilbert and other shovel holders stood on frozen concrete as clawed excavators ripped into cinder block as a symbolic gesture of progress.


"Today downtown Detroit is officially going vertical," said Dan Gilbert. "Not only do we need projects like this one to meet the significant demand for office, residential and retail in downtown, but this development becomes the 21st Century version of what Hudson's was to metropolitan Detroit for so many decades in the 20th century."

The 1 million-square-foot development will include Michigan’s tallest building, with approximately 400 apartment units. A separate 12-story building will contain a retail market on the first floor and exhibition space for events. 

"Ever since Hudson’s closed its doors in 1983, Detroiters have waited and wondered what would come next and what could possibly live up to the incredible history of that block," said Duggan. "It's taken nearly 35 years to get that answer, but when people watch this incredible new building rise and see all of the jobs and opportunity it brings, it will have been worth the wait."

Bill Sharples, Principal of SHoP Architects, stated that the unnamed development “is not just about design and aesthetics, but it’s about what will happen on the site… . . . This city is about making things. What are we going to see in the new Hudson's? We’re going to have kids come and make and play with robots in the makers' space.

"We'll potentially have chefs in the market hall creating new ideas and new foods. Artists having eureka moments in the galleries and studios… we’re going to have music, dance and Ted Talks in the flex hall space… This is going to be a 24-7 community, a city within a city."

Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Laborers’ Local 1191 Business Manager Michael Aaron and former Hudson’s CEO Joe Hudson Jr, expressed optimism that the development would be a boon to Detroit, offering skilled trades opportunities.

Dan Gilbert fields questions from reporters.

Gilbert thanked Randolph Technical High School Principal Krista McKinney-King for her efforts to train young workers: "We're going to be short tradesmen. What a shame that anybody should be unemployed in Detroit when we have a need for skilled trades." The project will create about 1,000 construction jobs.

Not everyone at the groundbreaking was happy about construction at what Gilbert referred to as "retail holy ground."

Hundreds of people inside the tent -- the first phase of the event -- turned their attention to approximately 25 sign-holding demonstrators outside, who shouted slogans, including: "Hey hey, ho ho, corporate welfare has got to go." The Hudson's project is funded in part by millions of dollars in brownfield tax incentives that were created this year by the state legislature, and backed by Gilbert.

Event emcee Paul W. Smith of WJR called the protesters "Luddites" and quipped that “we’re running a little late, and members of the Flat Earth Society have the floor after us.”

Protesters dispersed before the attendees and speakers moved outside the tent to stand in the cold with their ceremonial shovels. Deadline Detroit doesn't know if the protesters dispersed of their own volition. 

When asked about the protesters referring to the project as "corporate welfare", Gilbert said "I don't think they understand it, and I think they should do their homework."

Here's a promotional video:



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