The Ilitches have promised for years that, in exchange for millions in public dollars, the areas around their developments will blossom with people and businesses like beautiful gardens of economic development.
For years, this has not happened. But in 2020, with public and media pressure building on the family to finally start fulfilling their promises, the Ilitch organization is "insanely excited" to announce the hiring of a development team.
The Ilitch organization has hired about 40 people to figure out whether the family's decades-long goal of reviving dozens of blocks of Detroit property can become reality.
The hiring of a permanent, large-scale real estate team is the first since the organization moved its headquarters from the suburbs to the Fox Theatre downtown in 1989, company officials told The Detroit News.
"We are insanely excited about what we are doing," said Keith Bradford, senior vice president of the Ilitch group's development company, Olympia Development of Michigan. He's a former Disney executive who oversaw the development of Disney Springs, a retail-entertainment district in Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida.
Sounds like some Disney-style optimism will be needed. Downtown development has been slowing over the past year, as the once red-hot areas around the central business cool down somewhat; the latest adjustment in a real-estate project came just yesterday, when Bedrock's much-hyped skyscraper on the old Hudson's site was officially scaled down from a 912-foot tower to something...less than 727 feet, anyway, the height of GM's Renaissance Center a few blocks away.
Bradford said he gets why much of the public has become deeply cynical about the Ilitches' intentions, which over and over have been revealed as being more about enriching the family by any means necessary rather than improving the city of Detroit:
"I also understand the concerns," he said, referring to the criticism about failure to meet development timelines. "I get that maybe (various developments) has not progressed as far as some would like. Do I like the criticism I read? No. But it doesn't deter the commitment we have."
Well, spring is just around the corner. We hear that's the season of optimism.