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Zoning vote on new Red Wings arena, entertainment district delayed

Dennis Allain Renderings

The Detroit City Council has postponed a key vote for the city’s new hockey arena.

Developer Olympia Entertainment asked Council to delay re-zoning for the new Detroit Red Wings arena, slated to open in 2017. Olympia is the development arm of businesses run by the Ilitch family, owners of the Red Wings.

The arena is part of a larger, $450 million entertainment district development along a crucial stretch connecting the city’s downtown and midtown areas. The project has been controversial because it’s more than half publicly-funded at a time when Detroit is going through bankruptcy.

Area business owners and others raised concerns about the plan to City Council on Tuesday.

Mark Jerant, co-owner of Bookie’s Bar and Grille, said he supports the project—but wants more details about things like traffic and parking.

“I think many of the businesses in Foxtown have the same question of: ‘How is our business going to be affected by all this new development across the street?’” Jerant said.

Historic preservationists are also concerned about the fates of two buildings just outside the development’s footprint.

The Hotel Park Avenue and Eddystone Hotel buildings have both been derelict for years. But the Park Avenue is on the national register of historic places, and preservationists argue that retaining the buildings will boost the project and Detroit's long-term redevelopment.

“Re-use of historic buildings is a proven strategy for economic development,” said Lisa Phillips, head of the group Preservation Detroit. “It is a proven way to build the strongest possible neighborhood, a true city neighborhood with a mix of buildings from every era in it.”

Olympia Development asked for Council to delay the vote after members proposed modifications to allay some of those concerns.

"The plan of certain council members to significantly amend our zoning application is fundamentally flawed," said Doug Kuiper, vice president of corporate communications at Ilitch Holdings Inc., according to the Detroit News. "These amendments would jeopardize a transformative project that will connect downtown to midtown at a critical time as Detroit emerges from bankruptcy."

The Ilitches haven’t revealed clear intentions for either of the historic properties.

The matter will now be kicked back to the Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee for further review. It could be brought back up for a vote in January, after Council returns from its winter recess.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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