City council approves District Detroit tax incentives in 8-1 vote

Promised hotel, hundreds of residential units, tens of thousands of square feet of retail, office space on the table

DETROIT – After weeks of back and forth with postponed votes, the Ilitch’s Olympia Development and billionaire developer and Detroit native Steven Ross just got the first chunk of tax incentives they were looking for, more than $600 million of the $800 million they want to expand upon District Detroit.

The pitch is for 10 properties, six new builds, and four renovated buildings; A hotel with more than 600 residential units and tens of thousands of square feet of retail and office space.

The pushback on the ask from the Detroit community was immediate.

Some are just ideologically opposed to those kinds of tax breaks, but others point to the original build-out of District Detroit as disappointing.

Homemade banners hung on the Lodge freeway exhorted, “No more $ for Ilitch.”

After demanding stronger language in the development agreement and $167 million in community benefits, the Detroit City Council voted eight to one in favor of the deal.

The lone no vote was Council President Mary Sheffield.

“There was one thing that I wanted, and it was clear goals and targets around spending with disadvantaged businesses,” said Sheffield.

The rest of her colleagues in the council say expectations of Olympia are clear.

“Remember, if they do not build, the incentives go away, “said Councilman Coleman Young II. “I think we have the right regulatory framework as well as the right accountability.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan came out strong for the project, spending time at his State of the City address to discuss tax policy and how those incentives were needed and didn’t impact Detroiters’ tax bills.

He rallied influential Black pastors to support the project publicly.

Whether Sheffield made the right call is something only time will tell.

About the Authors:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.