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2 downtown deals hinted

Mayor plans renovated Statler, retail outlet center

November 5, 2003



A retail outlet center and a renovation of the vacant Statler Hotel into apartments may be next for downtown Detroit.

Both deals were hinted at Tuesday as Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick launched his ambitious program to clean up downtown in time for the 2006 Super Bowl. Known as the Lower Woodward Improvement Program, the undertaking aims at erasing 40 years of blight.

Kilpatrick promised listeners that the program will bring back upscale shopping, dining, and a lively pedestrian scene.

"We have built tremendous momentum," he said. "We will realize the type of downtown, the type of Detroit that all of us want."

In an obvious reference to the Statler, an 18-story vacant hotel built at Washington Boulevard and Grand Circus Park in 1914, Kilpatrick reminded listeners that the vacant Book-Cadillac Hotel is undergoing a renovation into an upscale hotel. He then said that his development aides were working "on the other end of Washington Boulevard," where the Statler stands.

"We won't scoop ourselves, but they're working," the mayor said. The mayor has used similar language in the past about deals like the Book-Cadillac renovation not long before a formal announcement.

Later, development insiders confirmed that a series of meetings is planned for this week to discuss a redevelopment of the Statler into residential apartments.

Meanwhile, Greg Garland, executive vice president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., said after Tuesday's announcement that the city is talking to three outlet mall developers interested in a retail project downtown.

"We are going to bring them into the city, show them around and try to convince them to open an upscale outlet mall in downtown Detroit," Garland said.

The developers are looking at sites on Woodward, Washington Boulevard, and in the east riverfront area, said Mary Grace Wilbert, a DEGC staffer.

Neither would name the developers, but said they hoped to have a deal early next year. One developer toured the city two weeks ago, Wilbert said. They other two plan to visit the city soon.

The main event Tuesday was the launch of the Lower Woodward Improvement Program, which includes:

Streetscape improvements. The city will redesign and install new sidewalks, lighting, signage, plantings and other improvements along Washington Boulevard, Woodward Avenue, Broadway, and other downtown streets. As part of this effort, the red streetscape framework that had defined Washington Boulevard since the 1970s is being demolished and the street will be remade with a landscaped median.

Facade improvements. The city will make available matching funds to owners of downtown buildings for painting, repairing, and otherwise cleaning up the facades of their buildings.

Business attraction. The city hopes to attract 50 new storefronts by 2006. George Jackson, president of DEGC, said the opening next week of a Hard Rock Cafe and Borders bookstore in the Compuware headquarters will boost efforts.

Residential conversions. The city hopes to add 1,000 new residential units to downtown by 2006 by converting older buildings like the Statler.

Removal of derelict buildings. The city hopes to speed demolition of vacant eyesores.

Contact JOHN GALLAGHER at 313-222-5173 or [email protected].

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