If the city of Detroit and the Ilitch organization were a squabbling couple, Chris Ilitch just showed up with some sorta-OK flowers and a sheepish expression, ready to acknowledge at least some fault in the soured relationship.
Crain's Detroit Business reports that the Ilitches want to make "a fresh start" amid the growing criticism over their failure to deliver their District Detroit plan, which they agreed to in exchange for hundreds of millions in taxpayer support for LIttle Caesars Arena.
In interviews last week with Crain's and the Detroit Free Press, Ilitch Holdings Inc. President and CEO Christopher Ilitch acknowledged that the timeline outlined in 2014 to build it all at once was too aggressive, and was stymied further by business relationships with developers going sour. Going forward, with a new in-house development team, the Ilitches plan to re-assess their district master plan and rely on market demand by third-party developers to drive the project timeline.
... Five years later, the Ilitches have delivered on the arena — it is widely praised — but the rest of the district is a couple of parking garages and office buildings.
That's it in a nutshell, and it's not as though it hasn't happened before; the area around Comerica Park was also promised to blossom in exchange for public dollars. This time, though, the drumbeat of discontent has been much louder, with major reporting projects in Crain's and the Detroit News, as well as a segment on HBO Sports, detailing the family's betrayals. The organization's response has been to stonewall with "no comment" and then complain later that it was treated unfairly.
That could be changing, Crain's reports, although it won't be easy:
Much will depend on the organization getting over a steep learning curve in a business that is complicated even for veteran developers — and moreso for a company that has never built an apartment.
What happens next will be worth watching. More apology flowers? Or at least some housing?