Wayne County approves land swap for Gilbert's $533 million jail complex deal

County Commission voted Thursday

Rock Ventures proposal for new Wayne County Criminal Justice Center. This would be built at the DDOT property at I-75 and East Warren Avenue.
Rock Ventures proposal for new Wayne County Criminal Justice Center. This would be built at the DDOT property at I-75 and East Warren Avenue.

DETROIT – The Wayne County Commission voted Thursday to approve a land swap deal with the city of Detroit that will allow billionaire Dan Gilbert to build a new county jail complex. 

County Executive Warren Evans announced in March a deal with Gilbert's Rock Ventures will provide the county with four state-of-the-art buildings as a solution to its long-stalled Gratiot jail project. As part of the deal, the county would invest $380 million with Rock covering the remaining costs and any overruns. 

Evans announced that under his deal with Gilbert the county will transfer to Rock the existing Division I and II jails, juvenile detention facility and Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. Upon approval and execution of the deal, these parcels will be leased back to the county for $1.00 per year until the criminal justice center is complete and the county has transitioned to the use of the new facilities. Rock will also, in a separate transaction, purchase the property where the unfinished Gratiot jail is located.

Gilbert has expressed interest in building a mixed-use development on the Gratiot site, which at one point included a professional soccer stadium.

Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans released a statement after the deal was approved:

“The proposed Criminal Justice Center is a very complex deal. We have worked very hard for a long time to get it right. Simply put, it is what Wayne County needs. The tentative agreement we have reached with Rock Ventures is a good deal for the citizens of Wayne County and it is the best deal we could have hoped for given the circumstances. In that spirit, I am pleased that the Wayne County Commission voted in favor of the land exchange between Wayne County and the City of Detroit which gets us a step closer to finalizing this project.” 

Details of deal

Wayne County would acquire part of the Detroit Department of Transportation property bounded by the I-75 Service Drive and East Warren Avenue, where Gilbert would build the jail complex in exchange for the Gratiot Avenue site where the county's jail construction failed.

In exchange for the DDOT property, Detroit would acquire the former American Motors Corp. (AMC) headquarters near Plymouth Road and Schaefer Highway on Detroit’s west side, which is currently owned by the Land Bank. 

In November, Detroit City Council members unanimously voted in favor of swapping land with Wayne County to move the failed jail site out of Downtown and into Midtown. 

Wayne County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak released this statement after Evans' announcement in March:

"Today the County Executive announced a huge step toward replacing outdated jails and courthouse facilities in what could be the best solution for both Wayne County taxpayers and the continued revitalization of downtown. The Wayne County Commission is prepared to carefully examine all aspects of this proposal and decide whether it is in the best interests of the people we represent. I am encouraged that an agreement finally has been reached between Rock Ventures and the county administration, and I appreciate the intense and detailed work it took to get us to this point."

Commission Vice Chair Pro Tempore Jewel Ware released this statement:

"The announcement that Wayne County Executive Warren Evans has reached an agreement with developer Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures on a potential new site for the proposed Wayne County Jail is important news for all Wayne County residents, especially for those in my district – where the new jail would be located. I want to remind everyone that the final decision rests with the Wayne County Commission. I also want to assure everyone that I will be doing my due diligence with regard to this agreement and make the best decision I can for the residents who would be most affected."

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