Detroit Fairgrounds Debate
New Board, New Game
Published: April 10, 2013
There are a few things we here at the Hits don’t quite get:
One is the urgency expressed by Smith.
We understand that conditions in some of the neighborhoods around the fairgrounds really are desperate, and that the right project could help lift them up. But the crime, abandonment and despair have long existed there. In the long term, would it really make that big a difference if the Landbank Authority reopened the process?
It is hard to see how taking another three to six months to reevaluate the situation — especially in light of the RTA being created — would be worth the long-term consequences of rushing ahead.
Here’s the other thing that we think is bewildering:
The deal currently being pursued by the Landbank Authority is for the entire 157 acres. Magic Plus would own all of it. Meaning that, if the RTA did try to pursue placement of a multi-modal transportation hub at the site — and there’s good reason to believe that federal money would be available to fund such an endeavor, say advocates — then the RTA could well find itself in a position where it will be forced to pay a private developer for property that is currently owned by the public.
We asked Smith at the meeting if, from a public policy point of view, that made much sense.
“I wouldn’t say it’s good public policy,” he replied. Then he returned to the notion that the cost of delay is too great for the people living around the fairgrounds. The current process has to keep moving forward, he insisted.
Coalition member Karen Hammer, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood who is opposed to the Magic Plus development, said whether the goal is compromise or restarting the process, building a broad base of support for the group’s alternative vision is crucial.
What’s important for the public to realize, she said, is that as long as the property remains in the hands of the Landbank Authority, the opportunity to make changes remains.
“People think this is a fait accompli, and that nothing can be done at this point, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said.
News Hits is written by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com.
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