A consortium of economic development agencies is soliciting proposals for a “transformative” project in downtown Detroit’s Capitol Park, with an eye toward a walkable district blending retail, residential and dining or entertainment venues.
Such development would serve thousands of new employees working downtown, residents drawn by a downtown living incentive program and a planned light-rail route nearby.
The Capitol Park district, so named because it was home to the state’s first capitol building until 1847, was a thriving office, hotel and retail district through much of the last century, according to the request for proposal. But “abandonment and blight” began to characterize the district during the late 20th century. An influx of affordable-housing projects didn’t stop the decline, and today the district has a number of abandoned buildings.
The document identifies a number of tax credits and other programs that could boost efforts to redevelop the district, such as the state’s Enhanced Historic Tax Credit, the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the West District Brownfield Plan, New Market Tax Credits and the city-specific Neighborhood Enterprise Zone and Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act tax credits. Another potential funding source: the Detroit Investment Fund and the Lower Woodward Housing Fund.
Each of those programs or tax credits has criteria that a development must meet to be eligible.
A downtown retail study suggests that about 60 percent of the shops in the district should be home, cooking, gifts, apparel or accessories, and about 40 percent should be food and drink. The residential component of the project should be a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments and commercial loft space.
The consortium comprises the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., the city of Detroit’s economic development arm; the Michigan Economic Development Corp.; the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority; theWayne County Land Bank; and the Invest Detroit Foundation.
In 2009, the Detroit Downtown Development Authority, staffed by the DEGC, bought the old United Way for Southeastern Michigan building at 1212 Griswold for $1.75 million or roughly $15 per square foot. The DDA also bought 1145 Griswold, called the Capitol Park Building, for $1.9 million, for which the agency was reimbursed by the Lower Woodward Housing Fund.
The state land bank bought the Farwell Building, at 1249 Griswold, for a reported $3.3 million.
Proposals are due Oct. 14. The consortium expects to decide by year’s end, and work must begin or be close to beginning by the end of 2013.