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Detroit City Council approves tax subsidies for $1.5 billion District Detroit

Detroit skyline

Detroit City Council has approved more than $615-million in tax incentives for new development downtown that will include residences, hotels and office space.

The usual Tuesday council session lasted over six hours between public comment, regular council agenda and the negotiations for District Detroit’s Community Benefits Agreement.

In real-time, developers helped draft a resolution that could address the council's concerns. The community benefits agreement was adjusted during the meeting, to include $3.5 million for the city’s housing fund.

Detroit City Councilmember Mary Waters.

“We will ask all future developments, I will, to contribute to the Housing Trust Fund. And the minority business development. It is critical that we do that,” said Detroit City Councilmember Mary Waters.

The developer also made a commitment for 30% of the construction work to be done by Detroit businesses. They also agreed to prioritize longtime Detroiters who have lived in the city for 10 years or more for 20% of the development apartments, which will be at below-market-rates rents.

Councilmembers voted 8-1 to advance the transformational brownfield redevelopment plan, which will now need state approval. The tax captures for that project are $616 million over 35 years.

Council President Mary Sheffield was the lone no vote.

“Again I support development. I support the vibrancy of our city. But I also support equity, ownership and inclusion of minority and Detroit-based businesses as well,” she said during the meeting.

Developers say the project will bring 12,000 short-term jobs and 6,000 permanent jobs.

Sheffield says the annual salaries of the hospitality jobs will make $28,000. She says the developers did not honor a request for 25% of the retail space to be set aside for minority-owned, disadvantaged, Detroit-based or businesses owned by a Detroiter.

The $1.5 billion District Detroit proposed projects include 10 new and renovated buildings for over 1.2 million square feet of commercial office space, 695 mixed income residential units and 400 hotel rooms.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.
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