Rock Ventures, Wayne County continue debate over unfinished jail site

Rock Ventures, Wayne County continue debate over unfinished jail site
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The conversation between Wayne County and Rock Ventures on a proposal to build a commercial development on the unfinished county jail site continued Tuesday as the two debated the financial impact of such a project.

Rock Ventures said Tuesday afternoon that it presented the Wayne County Executive and County Commission the findings of a study examining the economic impacts of moving forward with a planned commercial development on the 15-acre site of the unfinished Wayne County jail on Gratiot Avenue and constructing the proposed Wayne County consolidated criminal justice center on East Forest Avenue.

Warren C. Evans

Conducted by the Center for Sport & Policy at the University of Michigan, commissioned by Rock Ventures and supported by the Downtown Detroit Partnership, the study estimated an economic impact of $2.39 billion from the construction of the combined project. By contrast, the total economic impact of completing the jail on the Gratiot Avenue site is estimated at $352 million, or over $2 billion less than the impact of Rock Ventures’ proposal.

In addition, the planned development on the Gratiot Site will generate long-term economic impact upon completion, including an estimated 2,106 permanent jobs within the commercial and entertainment complex. These jobs are estimated to generate $6.4 million in local and state income tax revenue every year, including $4.9 million in State of Michigan income taxes, and $1.5 million in City of Detroit income taxes.

“This study is a continuation of our efforts to provide the county and other stakeholders with the necessary analysis and information to fully evaluate the proposal we submitted on February 6,” Matt Cullen, Principal of Rock Ventures, said in a statement. “The Gratiot site is a critical gateway to downtown Detroit and we are excited about the opportunities a project of this scale and quality would provide for our entire community. This development will be a real catalyst for the city and county and we need to make sure we get it right.”

Shortly afterward, Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans released a statement in response the economic impact study commissioned by Rock Ventures and provided to the County.

“This study does nothing to sway my thinking. My standard for Rock’s proposal has been absolutely clear: Is Rock prepared to build the County a criminal justice complex in a timely fashion, with buildings that meet our needs, at a price Wayne County can afford? If they can’t meet that standard, everything else is irrelevant. This study moves us no closer to answering that fundamental question,” Evans said in a statement.

“I represent Wayne County taxpayers who continue to pay $1.2 million a month on a stalled jail they were promised years ago,” Evans continued. “I also have a responsibility to the employees, inmates and visiting families who suffer through deplorable jail conditions that continue to decline, due in large part, to that fact the County never completed the Gratiot jail after spending more than $150 million. If the benefits of one project over another are so overwhelming, it’s on those who stand to gain from it to create an alternative option to Gratiot that best protects Wayne County taxpayers. And they need to do it with the urgency and focus that takes into account the impact this project has already had on our residents, just six months removed from a consent agreement necessitated by a deep fiscal crisis.”

Photos provided by Wayne County (Evans) and Rock Ventures (jail site proposal). 

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