If the stars align for three powerful forces in the Detroit scene, the new criminal justice complex for Wayne County might just be Michigan Central Station.
There have been piecemeal rumors around town, but it’s been taken to another level as it was made public by Detroit News editor Nolan Finley on Sunday.
I can’t say for sure how serious the idea is. But I heard the same thing from several people last week: Discussions are underway with the county, city of Detroit and Matty Moroun, the billionaire owner of the Central Depot, as well as the rail companies that own part of the site, to replace the partially completed jail on Gratiot in downtown Detroit with a new facility behind Central Depot.
The piece says that county courts would be moved into the old depot.
Now, those who have been around the city a minute will remember that this isn’t the first time that a criminal justice complex has been floated for the site.
Back in 2003, then mayor Kwame Kilpatrick wanted to turn the site into Detroit Police headquarters, going so far as in a speech to say that he had reached an agreement with the Marouns, but that $100-$150 million dollar dream died a relatively quick death.
Maroun has owned the old Michigan Central Station since 1996.
The land flanking the station, as you can see in the map above, is mostly empty.
But Corktown in 2003 is quite a bit different from Corktown in 2016. It could be argued that the same reasons you don’t want a jail and justice complex downtown – new investment and energy – is the same reason that maybe you wouldn’t want it in Corktown, undoubtedly one of Detroit’s hottest neighborhoods.
But, the difference is here the jail and courthouse wouldn’t be in the way of Dan Gilbert’s new investment and energy, namely that around a Major League Soccer stadium Gilbert and Pistons owner Tom Gores want to put on the current jail construction site.
This is the kind of deal that could happen very quickly, and has lots of pros and cons. It is, after all, a way to activate a building and plot of land that hasn’t seen much action beyond a few movie shoots and some windows put in.
The other question is what the courts and jail locating there would do to area property values. The area sports popular establishments like Two James Distillery & Tasting Room, Katoi, Slow’s BBQ, Mercury Burger Bar and property values have been going up in the area, with some lofts renting for near $2,000 a month.
Another option, albeit expensive as well, is to move the criminal justice complex (including jail) to a site on Mound Road.
Wherever the complex is located, someone isn’t going to be happy. What do you think?