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Duggan says Fiat Chrysler negotiations "on schedule;" community benefits package approved

City of Detroit
City of Detroit

The city of Detroit is racing toward a Saturday deadline to finalize a deal that would bring a major Fiat Chrysler investment to the city.

Fiat Chrysler wants to invest $2.5 billion to expand and update its Jefferson North Assembly plant, and revive its idled Mack Avenue Engine facility.

The automaker wants 200 acres of land for the whole project. Back in February, the city agreed to a 60-day deadline to wrap up a deal.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said this week that negotiations are still “on schedule.” He has three teams putting it all together.

One helped negotiate a community benefits agreement. Another one is working on a development agreement with Fiat Chrysler. And a third is negotiating for the final pieces of real estate.

“I’m hopeful they’re all wrapped up by the end of the week, and up to City Council for action in the first half of May,” Duggan said Wednesday.

The city has already worked out land swap deals with DTE Energy and other landowners in the area. Its final obstacleis an 80-acre former industrial site owned by the Moroun family, owners of the Ambassador Bridge and one of the city’s major landowners.

A city spokesman confirmed that talks on the real estate side were still ongoing as of Thursday.

Meanwhile, a nine-member Neighborhood Advisory Council approved a $35 million community benefits package for the area surrounding the plants this week.

The plan calls for the city and Fiat Chrysler to invest in everything from jobs training programs for area students and residents, to a new wall that would shield residents of neighboring Beniteau Street from plant noise and traffic. It also includes grants for community revitalization projects, traffic improvements and demolitions.

Despite the time crunch, neighborhood resident and NAC member Henry Williams said the community benefits package is the result of a true negotiation process between residents, the city and FCA.

“The things the community asked for, I believe we truly captured,” Williams said. “Would we all want more dollars? Yes. But what I believe what we received was fair, it’s a starting point, [and] it opened up a partnership with Fiat Chrysler.”

Developers are expected to honor deals struck under Detroit’s Community Benefits Ordinance, but those agreements are not necessarily legally-binding.

Williams said he’s excited about the prospect of up to 5000 new jobs coming into the community. The community benefits agreement includes a provision that gives area residents an early application period for open positions.

Williams said having jobs in the neighborhood is crucial, especially in an area where many people lack reliable transportation.

“So if you can walk to your job, or bike to your job, or catch one bus to your job, that’s a win for this community all day long,” he said.

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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