Public comment split on whether new arena, entertainment district in Detroit is good idea

Project will cost estimated $650 million, would go north of I-75 between Cass Avenue, Woodward Avenue

DETROIT - Detroit residents and business owners seem split about the possibility of a new $650 million Red Wings hockey arena and entertainment district coming to the city.

The 18,000-seat arena would be built along Woodward Avenue near Comerica Park in what is currently an empty lot.

Aerial video: Site where new Red Wings arena will be built

The project is being headed by the Downtown Development Authority.

During a public hearing Thursday before the Detroit City Council and representatives from the DDA, commenters laid out what they saw as the pros and cons of the project.

Gerald Belanger owns the building that houses Cliff Bells, the Park Bar and Bucharest Grill.

He blamed Ilitch Holdings Inc. for buying up properties in the city and the leaving them blighted for years.

"Their policy is clearly to put a wall around their items," Belanger said. "This whole thing is a sham ... They are representing an entity and they're asking me to pay for the exact people that I think have hurt Detroit for a long time."

Thomas Stevens, who identified himself as a homeowner, taxpayer and representing "Detroiters resisting emergency management," said it all boils down to a single argument.

"The issue of public funding for a professional sports arena is not a new one. It's been controversial for decades. It hasn't worked here or anywhere else," he said. "The suggestion that there should be public funding for a new professional sports arena in a bankrupt Detroit, packed with public tax payer dollars, has appropriately been greeted with a great deal of public skepticism and even outrage."

Those who spoke in support of the project said it would become a source of revenue for the city and brings jobs.

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