The jail saga continues with a new offer from billionaire Dan Gilbert that would see the Wayne County Jail and justice complex move up I-75 to East Forest, on the east side of I-75, just a block south of Warren Avenue.

According to press materials from Rock Ventures:

The County estimates the completion of the jail on Gratiot Avenue and modest renovations to the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice will be $300 million. Rock Ventures is prepared to build the County a new, high-tech criminal justice complex (estimated cost of $420 million) for the same $300 million, in exchange for the transfer of the Gratiot Avenue property and a credit for the savings a new consolidated criminal justice complex will provide.

If their estimates are correct, that’d work out to be $120 million for the corner parcel on Gratiot near I-375 a mile and a half down the road, as well as credit for the savings the county would see.

What does Gilbert want with that property downtown? A stadium for the Major League Soccer team that Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Gilbert hope to be awarded, as well as office and residential development. It’s a curveball as many anticipated the next “best” offer was going to be moving the criminal justice complex to a mothballed facility on Mound Road on Detroit’s east side. 

“We have worked hard to develop and deliver to the County a proposal that, we believe, will be the best long-term outcome for the County and for the future of downtown Detroit. Specifically, we will deliver to the County a modern, consolidated criminal justice center with no risk and at the same dollar amount they estimate it would cost them to complete the project on Gratiot,” said Matt Cullen, principal of Rock Ventures.

Visual site plan of the proposed new jail facilities. Via Rock Ventures.

“In addition, we are prepared to build a development on the Gratiot Avenue Site, located in the heart of the sports and entertainment district, that will provide significant economic impact and that Detroiters will be proud to have at the ‘front door’ to the city,” adds Cullen in a statement. “We respect the County’s process and look forward to working side-by-side with Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and the County Commission to do the necessary analysis to validate the assumptions in the offer.”

What are the high points of the offer?

Three buildings would be built: Adult detention facilities, a juvenile detention facility and a criminal courthouse replacing the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice on eight acres at Chrysler (I-75) and East Forest. That’s next to the new Federal Reserve building.

There would be 1,632 beds in the adult facility and 160 beds in the juvenile facility. The courthouse, under the plans, would have 29 courtrooms and five hearing rooms as well there would be room for the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s office.

Wayne County estimates the cost to complete the current county jail at Gratiot Avenue is $250 million, with an additional $50 million to make modest renovations to the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice ($300 million total).

This deal would basically remove the competitive bid process for the project. The fancy wording for this is “eliminates the financial risk the County would have with respect to the bidding and award of construction contracts to complete the jail facility and renovate the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.”

In the deal, Rock Ventures will be responsible for all costs and financial risks associated with the new criminal justice center site located at East Forest Avenue. Additionally, if Wayne County wants, Rock for an additional $43 million will increase the bed count of the project to 2,000 at the adult facility. What they’re saying is that would allow the division 3 facility (that’s the William Dickerson Detention Facility in Hamtramck) to be closed.

Map of the current jail facility area via Rock Ventures

As far the county goes, there’s no immediate word. In a prepared statement, director of communications for Wayne County Jim Martinez said that they’re going to “withhold comment” until they’ve had a chance to review the proposal.

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