City Gives Ilitches a Break on Parking Lot Rules Near Arena

From the get-go, critics have complained that the city gave away too much to the Ilitch organization when it came to building Little Caesar arena.

Now, questions are raised about favorable treatment for its parking lots around the arena, Joe Guillen of the Detroit Free Press writes in a sizable investigative report:

The Ilitch organization can make as much as $1 million more annually  from its Little Caesars Arena parking operations thanks to favorable rulings from Detroit’s buildings department.

The Detroit Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department approved permits dating to 2016 allowing the Ilitch family’s parking companies to build or renovate 18 parking lots throughout the Cass Corridor without including any landscaping inside the lots, which is required under the city’s zoning code.

By approving the parking lots without interior landscaping, the city allowed the Ilitch organization to maximize the number of spaces in their parking lots in a way other downtown parking lot owners could not, a Free Press investigation has found. The newspaper examined property records, site plans and building permits of the Ilitch family’s parking operations as part of its review.



City officials say the organization didn't get special treatment and that the landscaping ordinance is open to interpretation. However, the city can't cite other lots getting breaks.

Guillen's in-depth special report includes a look how Royal Oak and Rochester enforce stricter standards. "They actually require interior landscaping to be inside the lot," he writes. 

Jerry Belanger, who recently sold the Park Bar near Detroit's arena, tells the paper: 

"There never have been the same rules in this town for the wealthy than the others — ever. If you are in the billionaire class, you are asked to comply with a completely different set of rules."

Online reactions include a two-word tweet by the publisher-editor of Crain's Detroit Business: "C'mon, Detroit."

Read more:  Detroit Free Press

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