Warren Evans: MLS Proposal for Gratiot Site Needs to Improve

Proposed Detroit MLS stadium

During an annual address on Tuesday, Wayne County executive Warren Evans said the proposal that could lead to an MLS stadium on Gratiot Avenue has to “get better and move faster.” 

The issue for Wayne County is whether to resume construction of an unfinished jail at Gratiot Avenue in Detroit, or accept an offer from Dan Gilbert‘s Rock Ventures that could lead to an MLS stadium at that location. Rock Ventures has proposed constructing a new criminal justice complex–estimated to cost $420 million–at another site, in exchange for $300 million from the county, the parcels needed for the stadium and related development, and credit to be paid for savings generated by complex.

Gilbert and Tom Gores are eyeing the Gratiot Avenue site for a new facility for an MLS expansion franchise. As part of his remarks during the State of County address on Tuesday, Evans emphasized that while negotiations are still ongoing, that the proposal from Rock Ventures has to improve. More from Crain’s Detroit Business:

“The county is making good progress with Walsh toward finishing Gratiot. The Rock proposal is going to have to get better and move faster,” Evans said during an hourlong address to an invitation-only crowd of 700 people at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.

Evans suggested that Gilbert’s proposal to build the county a $420 million jail, county courthouse and juvenile detention on Forest Avenue east of I-75 may not be as fast of a solution to the county’s jail needs as restarting the Gratiot Avenue project, which has sat idle since the summer of 2013.

“At the end of day, Dan Gilbert may have good intentions and be willing to adequately fund the three new buildings the county will need if we move to an alternative site,” Evans said. “But the question remains: At the end of which day?”

Gilbert’s Rock Ventures has offered to build the county the criminal justice complex for $300 million — roughly the cost of finishing the Gratiot jail — in exchange for the entire Gratiot site, the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, two old county jails and the existing juvenile detention center.

“We respect County Executive Warren Evans’ sense of urgency and have been working diligently with his team to ensure our proposal is a win-win for all stakeholders,” Rock Ventures Principal Matt Cullen said Wednesday in a statement. 

Gores and Gilbert are leading the MLS expansion bid for Detroit, which is one of 12 markets in the mix for the four franchises the league is expected to add. The first two teams from this round of expansion are expected to join the league by 2020.

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