Historic Train Station Site Could Be New Jail Location In One Of Detroit’s Hottest Neighborhoods

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Michigan Central Depot on August 14, 2016 - Daily Detroit Photo

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.

Purple marks the station. Map via Loveland.
Purple marks the station. Map via Loveland.

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?

  • I think a new jail would call for over policing to feel that jail. Instead of trying to lock everyone up you should invest in something more positive like rec center.

  • The area is very sparsley populated and as I understand it Detroit are not supporting new housing around it – so the use needs to be sustainable – the restaurants will be fine, they are not relying on local business – in the UK there are jails in the middle of affluent cities eg Winchester – no massive over policing and no problems – make the whole area a no gun carry zone and be empathetic to the poor people having to visit. Make sure people are not just thrown out at the end of their terms but are taken to proper half way houses where they have a chance of not re offending and educate feed and exercise them properly while they are inside. Make jail a chance for people to get straightened out and spend some money supporting them when they leave. It is not rocket science. Be human to the poorest in society and society will improve.

    • So we can propose putting this jail in your neighborhood, right? I mean, if it works here, then it would work next to your home. The problem is three white men, trying to take advantage of a city only holding their profits accountable and building at taxpayer’s expense. This is absolutely ridiculous. Also, a thought: jail in itself should exist to rehabilitate and educate, you assuming all criminals are poor and on drugs in itself is a misleading point. Lastly, bringing up another countries system, especially the UK (remember, brexit), to justify the point you outlined shows your lack of understanding for the complexity and sensitivity of this proposal. “As I see it”, ignorance is bliss.

  • This is terrible, why not turn it into something useful, make it a historical site with shops and restaurants. Something that will bring people down there. Who ever came up with this jail idea has no heart. Total negativity for the city that needs love right now.

  • The Mound Road site is already a jail! I cannot believe it would be more expensive to add courts and offices suitable for the justice system there than to rehab this deteriorating ancient building. The real reason for not wanting to leaving downtown for Mound Road is all those
    $500.00 an hour attorneys and judges could not hang out at all the fancy new restaurants and entertainment hot spots in Detroit, while they make deals and treat one another to shrimp cocktail. Maybe at Mound Road they would have to work for 8 hours each day eliminate the 2 hour lunch break and 4 hour work day, instead focusing on the job!

  • Clarence Johnson I cannot believe that it would be less expensive to rehab that ancient, deteriorating building. The Mound Road site in Detroit is already a jail adding needed courtrooms and office space there, would logically seem to be a better solution. The real reason for opposing this option is it removes judges, attorneys and office staff from the heart of Detroit’s emerging restaurant and entertainment district! No more 3 hour power lunches with $500 an hour attorneys footing the bills. At Mound Road maybe the court workers including judges could concentrate on what they are paid to do maybe even work a 8 hour day. Bag lunches are not a bad idea!

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